WET Reader Review
This was an unexpected delight. It was largely overlooked at retail on release. I picked it up months ago for about £10 at an online retailer and it has sat on the shelf, it's prospects of ever getting played looking increasingly shaky. I decided to give it a spin last week and it impressed me immediately. It has a vivacious energy, right from the off. No-one is going to be commending it for its originality. I have never seen such a magpie of a game. It steals though expertly from other games and melds together many of the core mechanics of other franchises that helped to make them successful. So you get the 'bullet time' of Max Payne and Stranglehold, Tomb raider or Prince of Persia style acrobatic exploration and navigation of the environment, Mirror's Edge style time trials around your hideout and third person shooting and swordplay.
The visual style heavily references Kill Bill, as does the main protagonist, the entertainingly surly Rubi. She has a pleasing array of moves with which to activate the slow motion mechanic. She can leap or dive, slide, launch herself off adversaries or wall run. All of these give you a few seconds with which to pick off your head-shots or despatch the enemies with your lethal Katana. The combat is generally thrilling although it was sometimes difficult to tell if your shots were connecting with the enemies. The weapons generally would have benefitted from a little more heft in their feel.
The game soon settles into a steady rhythm of exploration, arena battles, rage encounters, static gun emplacements and time trials. This helps to keep the game varied and interesting. The rage encounters in particular are very striking aesthetically with the normal visuals being replaced by a filter that consists of just a handful of colours - mainly red. It was a little reminiscent of 'Killer 7'.
The boneyard challenges were particularly compelling. These task you with acrobatically navigating Rubi's hideout whilst picking off targets with your weapons. These take place against the clock with medals awarded depending on your performance. Some of the higher medals would be very challenging to achieve as it doesn't take much to mess up your time. Occasionally Rubi will be a little awkward to control. Largely due to the camera changing to an unexpected location and it not being immediately apparent which direction your movement will take you next. These challenges are interspersed throughout the game, usually as a way of introducing a new weapon. They are a very effective way of teaching you how to improve your combat performance. My enjoyment of the main game increased a lot once I had a few of those under my belt.
The difficulty level was largely well judged on normal. I started to struggle a little with some of the more heavily armoured enemies later in the game but that is only because I had not noticed the upgrade tree for the weapons hidden on a different page of the upgrade shop. Once the weapons were suitably powered up progress resumed. There are one or two difficulty spikes in the arena battles - these were largely due to not exploiting some facet of the environment that had been overlooked. Just occasionally it is not clear where to go to next, leading to a some leaps of faith. This is largely avoided by a Mirror's edge style runner vision. On occasions when progress was slowed by a difficulty spike, the long reloading pauses grated somewhat.
The soundtrack was well judged and perfectly suited to the atmosphere of the game and visual style. It was full of relatively unknown bands who were no doubt grateful for a bit of exposure.
The bad guy roster was full of larger than life characters with names like 'Tarantula' or 'Ze Collektor'. The main bad guy 'Pelham' was voiced by Malcolm Mcdowell although it probably took him about 20 minutes and a mobile phone top-up to fulfil his obligations. Tarantula was the star of the show out of the baddies. She was great fun to face off against at the end. The major boss fights were in the form of quick time events and were thankfully not too taxing. In fact, this game did away with boss fights and I can't say I missed them at all.
I would wholeheartedly recommend that you give this game a chance if you see it staring forelornly at you from a game store shelf. It can probably be picked up for less than a tenner now and it will definitely give you that back and more in entertainment should you give it a chance.