Jack Of All Trades
Nomad Soul (the game formerly known as Omikron) is downright weird.
The game starts with a psychedelic swirly thing™ appearing on your screen, out of which appears a stocky police officer called Kay'l who invites you to transfer your soul into his body through your computer.
You see, this isn't just a computer game, it is actually a link to a parallel dimension, where your soul will occupy other people's bodies and help save their world... No, really.
Once you arrive in Omikron though, things start to look up. The futuristic cityscape is impressive, with long winding streets, tall buildings looming out of the fog, neon signs and banners, and literally dozens of people and cars moving around.
Unfortunately all those people look the same, they all drive identical looking cars, and none of them actually seem to be going anywhere, which rather spoils the effect. A little variation would be nice - the city looks like it is populated by clones with no sense of direction.
After another lengthy cutscene showing you round the city and featuring music by David Bowie (yes, the David Bowie, the thin white duke himself), you are finally given control of Kay'l and the game begins for real.
At first sight Nomad Soul appears to be a standard third person adventure game, though admittedly with a nice 3D environment and no end of dramatic camera angles.
You visit various locations around the city, talking to other characters and collecting clues, equipment and weapons. A device called a "SNEAK" stores up to 18 items at once, and if you run out of space you can put any surplus items into a "Multiplan virtual locker". There are dozens of these scattered throughout the game, and you can retrieve and deposit items at any of them.
But occasionally you have to resort to violence, and when that happens the game changes. It becomes a first person shooter at times, giving you the chance to take out your enemies with a range of different guns. And sometimes you have to resort to fisticuffs, turning the game into a full 3D rotatey spinny™ arcade style beat 'em up.
Master Of None
Sadly by trying to make three games in one, Quantic Dream have failed on all counts.
The adventure sections are almost entirely linear, forcing you to carry out a series of tasks in a particular order to unlock the next section of the game. Control is imprecise, and at times the camera angles can make judging jumps rather difficult.
The first person shooter sections are, to be blunt, terrible. The viewpoint feels wrong, the controls are poor, the AI is truly appalling, and there is no way to access your SNEAK during a shoot-out. So even if you are carrying around several medikits, you can't actually use any of them until the fight is over.
The beat 'em up sections are quite fun at first, but this is hardly Tekken. Fighting often devolves into randomly stabbing at the keys, and I found special moves almost impossible to replicate. It doesn't help that you are trying to use a mouse and keyboard to control your character - this is one type of game where joypads are actually useful...
The save game system is a pain as well. You can only save at certain points marked by three interlocking rings floating in mid-air ("something tells me only I can see them..."), and you have to spend a "magic ring" each time you save your position.
You can also buy advice at these points, which costs several magic rings. But of course, anyone with half a brain will just save their position, buy the advice, note it down, and then reload. Presto, free advice. For that matter you can also find all the hints on Quantic's website.
And although the storyline is generally quite good, it occasionally falls back into the pretentious silliness of the introduction. At one point a character tells you that "Omikron" (apparently somebody forget to tell her that the title of the game was changed) is a demonic ploy to suck the souls of unsuspecting gamers from our own dimension into their world.
One Track Mind
Even the "virtual reincarnation" system doesn't really work. The idea is that instead of dying, your soul is transferred to another body when the one it was occupying is destroyed. But in practice you just switch bodies when you need to to complete a task - only a handful of characters in the game can actually be possessed by you.
When you switch bodies is often totally arbritary as well. At one point I needed to switch into the body of Iman (a character based on David Bowie's wife) to get some information from a shop keeper by offering him sexual favours.
I wouldn't mind, but the vital information he gave me was that the secret Tetra factory I was looking for was in the big building next door with "Tetra" written all over it. No shit Sherlock.
Which brings me to another point... This game is absolutely full of sex - within minutes of starting, Kay'l's wife will try to get you into bed thinking you are her husband. One section of the city is a huge red light district, complete with strip joints, prostitutes, and sex shops. You'll even hear adverts for "biomechanical penis implants"!
This game is not for the easily offended...
I'm Just A Puppet On A String
Luckily it's not all bad news though.
The game's plot might be rather linear, but when the characters stop talking about soul transfers for a few minutes it is actually quite involving. Which is lucky, because Nomad Soul should keep you busy for a week or two at least.
The graphics are hardly up to the standards of a good first person shooter, but they do have their own charm. The city is grimy and atmospheric, and the difference between night and day is nicely handled. The models are blocky and often poorly animated, but apart from that the visuals are quietly impressive.
There's even a "virtual concert" by David Bowie and Reeves Gabrels, which is rather good .. until David's alter ego suddenly starts flailing around the stage like a puppet whose controller is having an epileptic fit.
Let's hope Quantic find a real animator before their next game, because many of Nomad Soul's models were obviously animated by a blind monkey with a nervous twitch.
It's also a little disappointing that having sat through the concert (you can't skip in-game cutscenes), the game doesn't let you talk to David's character. You can't even prostrate yourself on the floor at his feet and chant "We're not worthy, we're not worthy". Which is a shame...
Quantic Dream have overstretched themselves with Nomad Soul, trying to shoehorn too many different ideas and features into a single game. The end result is sadly deficient in most areas, and the first person shooter sections especially just don't gel with the rest of the game.
On the bright side the game does have an immersive storyline with a few twists and turns to keep you guessing, attractive graphics and atmospheric settings, a great soundtrack by David Bowie, and plenty of tasks to keep you busy.
The whole is thankfully better than the sum of its parts, but it is still a long long way from being a classic... Release Date - available now
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