Review: Turning Point: Fall of Liberty (Sony PS3)


Turning Point: Fall of Liberty
Developer: Spark Unlimited
Publisher: Codemasters
Genre: Action First Person Shooter
Release Date: 02/26/08

Thematically, it seems all first person shooters of recent can easily be placed in one of two categories: those based on historical wars, and everything else. History is quite literally running rampant through the genre, and with critically acclaimed series’ like Call of Duty and Medal of Honor, it’s doubtful that developers will tire of such concepts anytime soon.

Taking this into consideration, I found the idea behind Turning Point: Fall of Liberty pretty interesting on a surface level (taking historical events and rewriting them in a “What If” fashion). It’s unfortunate that a clever premise is among the only attributes of note that Turning Point has to offer… and that’s when one compares it to FPS games dating back a decade or more.

Story:

Though there is little detailed or embellished beyond Turning Point’s base concept, the concept in question is definitely a unique and interesting one. Especially considering the wealth of historically based FPS’s that do little more than quote passages from an 8th grade social studies book as means of plot and premise.

Imagine if you will that the great Winston Churchill didn’t survive that fateful day in December, 1931, when a taxi stuck him. Turning Point depicts a believable alternate history brought about by the demise of the British diplomat. Hitler’s army mobilizes to conquer the majority of the globe, including England. It’s through this historical rewrite that America finds itself on the receiving end of World War II. The writers certainly did their research in regards to developing the concept, as the “What If” idea is further strengthened by the inclusion of advanced Nazi war machines and weapons, which are allegedly based on actual blueprints recovered from the Axis.

One could easily imagine the developers writing in some stereotypical soldier type as the main protagonist, but fortunately such is not the case. The events that unfurl during Turning Point revolve around a construction worker named Dan Carson. Carson adapts quite quickly to the situation, and before you know it, he’s tossing Nazi soldiers off of hi-rises and shooting them with their own guns. Under normal circumstances I can imagine how many a player might find the role of the main character cheesy, but I actually thought Carson both simultaneously fortified the concept by personifying the idea of every American being a victim in such an attack, as well as giving the game this obscurely amusing “B-action movie” vibe. Though it’s a tad difficult to put full belief into Carson instantly becoming a war hero that would rival the exploits of William Wallace, I found the everyday Joe (or in this case, Dan) role to not only add to the story’s framework, but give it a little something extra as well.

As mentioned earlier though, very little is done as far as story is concerned beyond the concept. We unfortunately don’t learn much about Mr. Carson, and the damn guy never speaks. What follows is merely surface level plot progression that deals more with the idea of depicting situations that would occur amidst such a sudden war from a foot soldier’s perspective. A political “What If” is incorporated towards the middle of the game for good measure, as are the expected overtones of hardcore patriotism, which is somehow easier to swallow given the dystopian history the game is working with. This bare bones, “you are the story” approach is used in pretty much every historical FPS on the market, but taking into consideration Turning Point’s clever concept, I was somehow hoping they’d run with the concept a little more than they did. All in all though, the story isn’t bad, it’s just a bit disappointing considering the book has such an interesting and thought provoking cover.

Story: Good

Graphics:

While aesthetically fitting for most parts, the visual presentation in Turning Point does seem a bit dated, especially when compared to most other current-gen FPS games. The environments are acceptable in most cases with the exception of some blurry and overly washed out textures. There are a few epic setups you’ll encounter, at least, such as a heavy artillery fight amidst the collapsed Sears Tower, and the initial Nazi attack while Dan is several stories above ground on steel girders, but these are few and far between.

The frame rate suffers when the surroundings are exploding, and when there are more than a few enemy soldiers on the screen at once; for the former, these spurts only tend to last for a few seconds, but the latter can result in some less than acceptable slowdown over longer periods. The character animations leave a bit to be desired as well. The enemy models in particular come off as being a bit silly when one sees them in action. Their bodies often spring towards you when they’re shot, and it’s not unusual to see a Nazi’s helmet quite literally pop off their head and fly straight up into the air, sometimes a whole second after they’ve been eliminated and gone limp. Things like this can be amusing, but for obviously the entirely wrong reasons.

Graphics: Poor

Sound:

Turning Point is scored by the very accomplished Michael Giacchino, who is known for his music work in the show Lost and the film Mission Impossible 3. Next to the clever concept, this is easily one of the best elements Turning Point has to offer the player. The soundtrack resounds with a classic early era feel, reminiscent of Ennio Morricone’s score for the film The Untouchables. This is truly high quality stuff, that at a good many points throughout the game, soars higher and hits its mark more frequently than what we are actually seeing on the screen.

Sound effects are of standard fair; gunshots, fighter planes overhead, explosions. The usual. Nothing struck me as anything better than the sounds heard in the competition, but the FX all certainly work within their contexts. The voice acting is acceptable as well; though not superb, it does its job without ever being cheesy or awkward.

Sound: Great

Gameplay:

The actual gameplay in Turning Point is, without a doubt, the area of the game that really lacks the polish an FPS would need to survive nowadays in this overcrowded genre. The only exception to the norm in Turning Point, and your mileage may vary, is that of a decently intuitive “grapple” system, which allows you in combination to relieve a Nazi soldier of his firearm or utilize him as a human shield before dispatching him altogether. The only real time you’re ever going to take advantage of this mechanic, however, is when you get the drop on an enemy, which isn’t too often, as the Nazi’s usually pinpoint you before you do them. The results of these situations are always worth it though, as grappling an oblivious enemy will have you sending them over the edge of a building or drowning them in a toilet, which is generally amusing.

The other gameplay elements are nothing more than your standard bare-bones fare that has been the framework for just about every FPS released in the past decade. In a lot of respects these base elements come off as even more archaic when coupled with the usually straightforward level design, and the average-to-downright stupid enemy A.I. (enemies will at times blow themselves up with their own grenades, for instance). The player movement often feels flighty, as if you are ice skating across the stages, and the only option of cover one has besides standing behind obstructions, is to duck behind obstructions. You would have to be either new to the FPS genre or a gamer who is very easily satisfied to not quickly realize that there is just something missing in regards to Turning Point’s FPS action.

Another major complaint with Turning Point pertains to the heart and soul of any game in this genre: shooting bullets at enemies. To be frank, the hit detection is quite ludicrous. It’s possible to kill an enemy by shooting him in any combination of his torso, head, and your choice of appendages. In other words, you cannot take a Nazi soldier down with a single well placed shot to the cranium, which makes Turning Point the first FPS in quite a long time that does not favor the abilities of a sharp shooting player. It’s also important to mention that the hit boxes on the enemies tend to be pretty small, and require you to hit just the right place to be effective. This can definitely be annoying whilst engaged in a long or even semi-long distance firefight. Since there’s no depiction of blood and gore in Turning Point, it’s difficult to see if you’re even hitting the enemy you’re shooting at in said firefights. Your only option, really, is to keep firing until you see his helmet pop off his head (about five seconds after he dies).

These things, believe it or not, aren’t enough to render Turning Point unplayable. You can still have an acceptable FPS experience with the game all in all. It’s just unforgivable to see a full priced entry in this genre play so primitively, and the whole problem with the hit detection begs two questions: first, “How did someone think this was acceptable?”, and second, “Why was it not fixed for the retail release?”

I would have liked to comment on Turning Point’s multi-player mode, but every time I attempted to log in, the game informed me that the servers were down. After investigating various forums, including Codemasters’ own, for the console versions of Turning Point, I found that this has been a problem for almost everyone. I’m not certain if Codemasters have already closed downed the servers for Turning Point due to lack of interest, or if other technical issues are afoot, but the point stands: there is no multi-player to report because there is no multi-player to play. I can report that if one was to ever get Turning Point online, Death Match and Team Death Match are the only available modes of play, with players assuming the roles of either the Americans or the Nazis. I’m taking a shot in the dark and guessing the two basic multi-player modes wouldn’t have blown the socks off my feet upon playing them, but still, it would have been nice to have the option to at least find that out.

Gameplay: Bad

Replayability

When compared to most other FPS games, Turning Point’s eight missions seem lengthy enough. There are 3 difficulty levels to play through the game with, and beating the game on the normal or hard difficulty will grant you access to play through the game with unlimited ammo and grenades (or, alternatively, you can spend about $6 online through Codemasters website, and have the access codes for the cheats e-mailed to you). Playing through once, I believe, would be more than enough time than anyone to want to devote to Turning Point, as the desire to play again rests solely on the gameplay, which as mentioned, can be questionable. There are no secrets or items to collect, and nothing new to experience through additional play-throughs. Even with its limited formula, it’s possible the multi player modes might have increased the replay value of Turning Point to some extent. But alas, I cannot comment on that.

Replayability: Poor

Balance:

Turning Point is generally consistently balanced, (though a tad too easy)- pretty much through-out. Every few missions or so, a new kind of Nazi soldier will appear to quench your patriotism and desire for more of a challenge, but even against the likes of tanks and zeppelins, nothing tips the scales of balance drastically in either direction. The only element that seems to be implemented to increase the difficulty of later missions is the amount of enemies one will encounter at once. But given the at times moronic AI, the real challenge in these situations usually comes from dodging bullets as you dash around for ammo, rather than planning strategy and aiming shots.

Balance: Decent

Originality:

A very creative and clever premise is about the only really original element in Turning Point. The derivative gameplay, even if it were executed better than it is, has been the bare bones formula for just every FPS in the past decade. The fish out of water archetype for the main character is neat, but has been done with greater effect in many other FPS’ as well. This is kind of sad, since nothing truly interesting or unique is done outside of the premise. The result is that one can simply read about the idea of Turning Point, which most have probably done prior to reading this review, and take away all one needs to; by doing as such one has literally experienced the most creative element Turning Point has to offer.

Originality: Poor

Addictivness:

I didn’t have to force myself through Turning Point, which is to its credit to some extent, as the strong premise actually did make it easier for me to deal with the game’s many shortcomings. Even though I could tell the narrative wasn’t living up to the concept a few missions in, I was still interested in seeing how the story would conclude itself. Unfortunately, after completing the single player game, I didn’t have much of a desire to see it through again, for the reasons detailed in the Replayabilty section of this review. The gameplay is simply too derivative and/or flawed to make the actual act of playing Turning Point for the hell of it an option when there are far better FPS games to be had. Once again, the multi player, though I imagine not by much given only two game modes, might make some spend more time with Turning Point. But alas… I digress.

Addictivness: Poor

Appeal Factor:

Out of the gate, I can imagine a good number of people actually getting excited about Turning Point. The FPS genre is as big as it ever was, and the history theme is a very popular premise nowadays. Given this game is current-gen FPS, available on both PS3 and Xbox 360 as well as PC, I’m sure enough word of mouth is going to go around about it to begin with, and the “what if” concept, again out of the gate, certainly got my attention when I first read about the product some time ago. Codemasters has a nice website dedicated to the game, and I’ve seen ads in many gaming magazines and game related websites for the product. The game is pretty much available to anyone who would want to check it out, which is good.

Appeal Factor: Good

Miscellaneous:

Even with its caveman, bare bones gameplay that’s marred with a handful of technical issues, Turning Point is a reasonably amusing FPS, with an interesting concept and one heck of a soundtrack. I’m not sorry for playing through the game, and I could certainly guarantee you could “rent” worse products at your local video store. I put rent in quotes because I really can’t recommend that anyone, even FPS fans, even gamers who only play historically-based FPS games, actually spend sixty dollars for Turning Point.

First off, there simply is not enough game to warrant full retail for this product, and second, what is there is so dated and questionable in certain respects that the actual game associated with Turning Point almost seems like it was developed to be a budget title.
That being said, if Turning Point debuted at thirty or maybe even forty dollars, I believe I could swallow most of the game’s shortcomings and recommend it as a flawed but tolerable look back to a simpler time in the genre, with a great premise, and a terrific soundtrack. Such is not the case, and as such Turning Point collectively comes off as a shallow game in the wake of its dystopian concept. A giant what if that could have been something a whole lot better than it is.

Miscellaneous Rating: Poor

The Scores
Story: Good
Graphics: Poor
Sound: Great
Gameplay: Bad
Replayability: Poor
Balance: Mediocre
Originality: Poor
Addictiveness: Poor
Appeal Factor: Good
Miscellaneous: Poor
FINAL SCORE: MEDIOCRE

Short Attention Span Summary:

Turning Point is a mediocre game wrapped in a strong premise. The orchestrated tracks are fitting and the idea behind the game is fantastic, but the gameplay is archaic, the actual plot is mediocre, and there’s nothing special about the game BUT the concept. There’s little reason to play the game once and no reason at all to play it again, and with the multiplayer not accessible it’s even harder to find anything to do once the single player is complete. Diehard FPS fans might find this worth a rental but that’s all it’s worth.

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