I’m in a quandary with games of the adventure genre. I get obsessive enough that I want to play things straight through whenever possible. When I was a single 23 year old, this wasn’t a problem. As a married 29 year old with an 8 month old son, I have to prioritize a bit.
Still adventure games are among the richest, most interesting, and exciting games out there, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t take some on. That and I really do like adventure games. My first review was on an adventure game. I’m a professed Zelda fan (and yet I still got an Xbox instead of a GameCube. Draw your own conclusions) and so, to avoid being labeled the wrestling game guy or the sports game guy or the really-frickin’-crotchety racing game guy who doesn’t like anything, let’s do this.
Game: RTX ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬” Red Rock
You are E.Z. Wheeler, a Radical Tactics Expert (RTX) and a bad ass with a cybernetic eye and arm. You have a computerized assistant named Iris who’s hot in a 1024×768 kind of way. You are the only person who can rid Mars of the alien invaders (who already got their asses kicked trying to take over Earth).
You get to Phobos, and they tell you your backup is being delayed, so stay put and observe. Great fine. Except that there are colonists alive down there that need your help. Oh, and now the Phobos base is under attack. Well, so much for staying put.
You start out with a rather lengthy cutscene setting up the story. Apparently the L.E.D. (Light-Emitting Demons. I’m not kidding) have just been repelled from their invasion attempt of Earth, and have been spotted taking refuge on Mars, where humans have been colonizing for some time. Your job is to go in and clear em out, rescuing any colonists you find along the way.
The controls were a little more involved that what I was used to. You move with the left stick, but the left pad activates a little palette of items and abilities you can use. But you can use select to get to that palette too, only it’s a more detailed version and the game time stops when you do it, so you won’t run out of air as you’re trying to activate the next bottle. There was also a button to pull and fire a gun (or any other attachment for your cybernetic right hand) and another to stow it, which was a little strange to me, don’t ask me why.
It takes a bit to get used to all of the controls, but soon enough you’re flipping through the options. I did notice some trouble sometimes with selecting weapons. I’d thought I’d selected on, and then two minutes later I found I was still on the old one. Not so much a problem as a minor annoyance.
At times, you can control different vehicles and robots. You are prompted clearly how to swap control between Wheeler and the machine in question. I have to admit, I liked this aspect. It was just another little bit of control they give you, rather than getting to the robot or machine and having the game take over for three minutes as some task is completed. That and it played perfectly into the guy’s M.O. It, and some other things along storyline, demonstrate that this guy has resourcefulness coming out of his pores. Not quite MacGuyver level (and why isn’t there a MacGuyver video game?), but getting there.
Well, it’s LucasArts. If nothing else, this is going to look good. I thought the opening movie was wonderful. They went for more of a good cartoon look than a semi-bad realistic look, and I appreciate that. The animation was smooth, even with multiple targets in the arena.
Movement looked realistic, whether it was human, robot, or alien bug, it didn’t look like anyone violated Newtonian physics. Transitions of your character from walking to doing something else, like climbing a ladder, were almost seamless. I was very impressed with the jumping and grabbing animations (and it’s amazing how much you use that skill in this game). Usually if you get in the ballpark you get shifted over to where you’re “supposed” to be to climb. In this game you had to get a little closer to your target than in most, but the trade-off was that jumping, grabbing, and climbing looked real. . . . except for the fact that you could steer yourself in midair. 1 demerit on the physics engine for that.
The environments were good outside and really good inside. I’m impressed with the inside environments a bit more because it wasn’t readily apparent what you could interact with and what you couldn’t (aside from the big, glowing computer terminals in every other room). In the first base, I ended up trying to open every section of wall in the crew quarters. I then discovered that one of the special visors you could use specifically showed you what you could and couldn’t interact with in each room, and felt quite stupid.
Also, they went the extra mile to make the inside of the space stations look like . . . space stations. Airlocks, open conduits, open ducts, stuff scattered about; it looked like something NASA would throw together. Okay, they lifted a lot of it from Aliens, but Aliens was a fine movie. If you’re going to rip something off, at least rip off something good.
Just so you know, I thought Iris was cute, and cute in a very Fifth Element near-future kind of way. I half expected Chris Tucker to pop out of the woodwork at some point. Milla Jovovich hasn’t been nearly as attractive in any movie she’s done since Fifth Element. Maybe it was the hair. Maybe it’s because they started making her read real dialogue after that. I don’t know.
Speaking of Iris, I have to applaud some little things done with regards to Iris’ voice work in this game. There are parts where she’s talking on her own and the speech is smooth. There are other times, however, where she is working to accomplish some task and her speech begins to get a little stiff. Just like she’s using some clock cycles on something more important than talking. Also, the canned phrases encountered when accessing the random terminal made her all the more believable. “Check your map, please,” is a simple line, but was delivered in such a way to remind you that this isn’t a person, it’s a program. At this level, it’s the little things that distinguish games.
The other voice acting was well-done as well. I think the difference between a script being “tired” and being “tried-and-true” is the amount of believability that the cast puts into it. This was definitely a “tried-and-true” story.
The game sounds were good. They didn’t miss anything, but didn’t impress me either. There were footsteps, there were door noises, the weapons noises weren’t obnoxious, the cutscene sound didn’t take away from suspension of disbelief. It was a solid effort.
The first main drawback to this game is how long it took me to figure out basic game functions like the map view or how to use an oxygen bottle or a first-aid kit. Of course, I was playing on a rental, which had no printed documentation, so I was probably working a strike down there. Still, it got a little frustrating when I kept running out of oxygen on the surface of Mars when I had JUST picked up an oxygen bottle, dammit! Once that learning curve had been climbed, the game really started to flow a lot better, since I could concentrate on the game and the graphics instead of using half of my brain’s clock cycles trying to figure out why I kept dying.
With the distractions of learning the game behind me, I really grew to appreciate the attention to detail and the realism of the game. You’re not plowing through millions of the enemy horde; sure, you encounter the enemy everywhere, but it’s a lot more of the clear-area then complete objective action rather than the clear-area TO complete objective. That’s not to say the enemy isn’t dangerous. You can’t take a lot of damage, so each enemy you encounter is pretty darn dangerous. Getting a group of 3 or 4 is getting into some serious trouble. So you’re running around, trying to save people, trying to accomplish your tasks, but you have to keep one eye peeled at all times for some L.E.D. sneaking up behind you and doing you in. There gets to be a real tension when playing this game, and I mean that in a good sense. A couple of times, when I would suddenly encounter L.E.D.’s I’d physically jump out of surprise. Even with all of the crawling through ducts and turning things on and off, there was real suspense going on in the game. Not quite the claustrophobia of Aliens but getting there.
It was a fun adventure. The characters had feeling, and the game mechanics were impressive. Fans of the sci-fi adventure genre should give this a rent at least.
Fun Factor: 6.0