Hired Team Trial was first released in Germany last year, and has allegedly shifted a million copies since then. Quite how they achieved this feat we're not entirely sure, as this is quite possibly the worst first person shooter we have seen since .. well, I can't remember ever seeing anything quite this bad to be honest.
I Have Devised A Cunning Plan
The idea was simple enough - take a team of Russian developers working for slave wages and get them to pump out a game which shamelessly rips off Quake 3 Arena and Unreal Tournament. Give them a substandard graphics engine which seems to have come through a time warp from 1997, and kick the result out the door without bothering to beta test the abomination. Then leave it to fester for several months before releasing a poorly translated version of it in the UK, complete with such tasteful built-in taunts as "die you faggots".
Controls are imprecise and unreliable compared to any of the games that Trial is designed to replicate, and coupled with poor physics and unimaginative weapons this makes for an utterly unrewarding experience. Results are almost random as the starting weapon causes virtually no damage, making it all too easy to die over and over again without ever reaching a gun. In one match I went from 12 : 4 ahead to a dead heat in under a minute, somehow managing to suicide in the process by falling off the edge of a ramp which was all of about six inches high. And for some reason I had started that particular match with -2 frags before even spawning - don't ask...
The back of the box claims that the game features "fabulous level design", but then it also says it has an "original backround story" [sic]. The truth is sadly rather different, with a lack of architectural detail, second rate textures, poor item placement, excessive use of crates and lava pools, and the usual selection of clichéd techno castles, military bases and floating platforms in space making up all too many of the nineteen levels.
But if the rest of the game is uninspired, the artificial intelligence is truly in a class of its own, making the bots in Quake 3 Arena look like MENSA candidates by comparison. They wander around aimlessly, ignore targets and pick-ups alike, can't climb ladders or use lifts properly, and frequently get stuck on scenery. You will often see them falling off platforms, getting confused walking up a flight of stairs, or even hanging gracelessly in mid-air while magically super-glued to the side of a crate. It's almost worth playing for sheer comedy value. But not quite.
It's little surprise then that the bots also show absolutely no aptitude whatsoever for the various teamplay modes which have been cloned from Unreal Tournament's DNA as part of some hideous experiment in removing all trace of soul or originality from a game. The now familiar Capture The Flag, Team Deathmatch, Assault and Domination modes are all here, but without any of the gameplay finesse or graphical prowess found in Epic's meisterwerk.
Of course, Hired Team Trial was intended to be a multiplayer game first and foremost. Can the online mode save it from ignominy? Sadly not, as nobody is playing it. Well, actually that's not entirely true; I once saw as many as six people playing the game. In Russia. The server must have been running over a 9600 baud modem though, because even with my cable connection I was seeing a 999 ping in the built-in browser and couldn't even connect to the server, much less play on it at a competitive level.
The bottom line is that this is a hideous piece of derivative pap which will be filling bargain bins across the land come next Tuesday. I feel ripped off having been forced to play this rubbish - I hate to think what I would have felt like if I had actually had to pay £24.99 for it. Avoid at all costs.