Release Date: April 12, 2004
Developer: People Can Fly
Metacrtic Score: 81
As i’m sure is true for a lot of you, I am a huge fan of The Escapist’s “Zero Punctuation” and have been looking forward to playing this ever since I watched Yahtzee’s review and heard the words “shurikens and lightning”. Now that I played through the game I can honestly say….i’m not as huge a fan as he is. While the game isn’t bad, I feel that it could have been a lot better and the area’s where it falls flat are kind of baffling.
You play as the recently deceased Daniel Garner, who finds himself in Purgatory while his wife (who died with him) was allowed into Heaven. An angel named Samuel tells you that if you find and defeat Lucifer’s five generals then God will forgive you and allow you to enter heaven and be with your wife.
The story here is not very good. Sure, it’s only there to give the breast context as to why you’re killing waves of demons, but you wouldn’t know it by the way the cut scenes drag on and on. The fact that all the story bits are kept between levels should have made this more tolerable, but even that doesn’t help. Part of this is due to how little the story really matters to the game. For example, after the first level you find out that the demon armies are moving and that you aren’t quite sure where the next general is. But when you start the next level you are simply plopped down where you need to be. Then the story tries to make a mystery out of why Daniel is stuck in purgatory, but the levels have nothing to do with his past, so that’s kind of pointless.
The best way to express how annoying the story telling is, go get your favorite fantasy novel and start reading it. When you come up to an action scene put down the book, run into another room and slap some one then keep reading, then do this again and again but going to a different room or building each time you have to put the book down.
More than anything, the story here is simply pointless. It only exists because it has too, and the absolute apathy towards doing anything interesting with it shows through. While I can’t say I hated the story segments, I can say I was bored. And in a game like this, being boring is even worse than being bad as “bad” can still be entertaining.
Here things improve drastically. While the landscape of shooters was changing in 2004, with the released of games like “Half-Life 2” and “The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay”. People Can Fly chose to keep the focuses on old school run and gun game play. What does that mean? Lots of interesting and fun weapons, a lot of circle strafing and if you go more than 30 seconds without killing something, you’re playing the game wrong.
And I mean that last part pretty literally. There are no puzzles or anything of the like here: it’s all killing all the time. The closes thing to a change of pace the game offers is when you clear out the arena you’re in and are looking for the red pentagrams that tell you where you are meant you go next. While this kind of non-stop action could swiftly become stagnant the missions are almost always short enough that I found that when I finished one or two, I had my fill and would go off until I felt like playing again. If you play the game as more of a time killer or stress reliever I think you’ll have a lot of fun with it. Why? Because there is a gun that shoots shurikens and lightning. While i’ve played many games with more interesting weapons, the selection here is still very nice. The mentioned shuriken gun words as your assault rifle, but you also have a shotgun that can freeze enemy as well as a gun that fires stakes that can pin enemy to walls. While the game may lack substance it has no shortage of style. The one major issue with the shooting is that there is no quick select for guns, meaning I and to movie my hand from the “WASD” keys to “1-5” in order to change guns, stopping me dead in my tracks while a swarm of foes came marching to eat my face off. I would also suggest playing on one of the harder difficulties, as the easier ones offer little to no real challenge.
Some thing else that bothered me was the disconnect between missions. Each level has a few missions each. Normally this would mean each level had some kind of theme, but here it feels like the level designers made a bunch of levels then stuck them together with no forethought. For example, in the last level you are headed strait into Hell itself, but the first mission is set in a city reminiscence of Venice, then the next level you are on a war torn battle ground from World War 1 or 2. As much as that annoys me however, it is almost all swept under the rug when I remember the fun I had blowing up tanks with a shotgun. The fact is, the game is fun. It’s a hell of a lot of fun. What it’s not is substantial. It’s a game i’ll play more when I had a bad day at work, but other than that, it may just sit in my Steam library gathering metaphoric dust.
Game Play: 3/5
Music and Sound:
For what it’s worth the voice acting isn’t too bad, but with how forgettable the games story is, it might as well have been delivered through text boxes. The enemies all sound good, but the same and the weapons them self don’t have quite as much punch as I would like either. I want to believe this is just the games age sowing but “Half-life 2” came out the same year and its sound design still holds up. Overall, there’s nothing prays worthy here, but nothing is really broken either. Listening to the game wont ruin your enjoyment of it, but I would suggest putting on some Heavy Metal and turning down the games volume.
Music and Sound: 2/5
Overall Score: 2/5
Who is this game for:
If you want a fun game for those bad days where you just want to punch someone, this is for you. Skip the story, play something music with blast beats and have a ball. One thing I should mention is that the Black Edition of the game also comes with the expansion “Hell and Damnation” witch I did not play when reviewing this. Maybe the expansion added something that made the game better (or maybe even worse) but at the time of this writing I’m not sure.