This review is an evaluation of the SiN demo release single player game only. No multi-player capabilities were tested or will be evaluated. The game was played on Skill 2 (officer). The test PC was a P166mmx oc'd to P200mmx, 64 meg ram, 8 meg Creative Labs Voodoo2.
The opening cinematic is an engine generated production, which I prefer over filmed sequences ala Jedi Knight. The graphics are nice, and it is obvious that they are a product of the Quake2 engine. Camera work was subdued but nicely done, with no cheesy close-ups of characters. The voice acting is a bit overdone and has a "Super Friends" or "Fantastic Four" urgency to it that would appeal more to young kids than to teens or adults. The dialog content is good, setting the stage without going overboard, it gives just enough information to get the player in the mindset need to approach the game.
Once the opening cut-scene ends, the game switches to a view of a bird flying through the air in a large city. During its journey you see a few cop cars arrive in front of a bank, and apparently get hit with some sort of rocket-launcher. The cars flip over and two small explosions appear near them, and then they (the cars) disappear. No sound accompanies this event, and it had a very cartoonish and cheesy look to it. The bird, continuing its journey, flys between the buildings and then suddenly explodes, splattering blood and feathers around. Two thugs on a roof-top have shot the flying bird for target practice and then have a brief conversation about shooting cops in the head. The scene apparently attempts to generate a feeling of animosity towards the thugs, and lend justification to your retaliation against them. However, the dialog seems once more targeted at younger kids, and seemed to be very silly to me. At this point, the player (Blade) appears on the scene in a helicopter (the two thugs say "what's that noise?" just as the chopper appears above them, which is very unrealistic, as they would have heard/seen it well before then), and the interactive action begins. Your first goal is to eliminate the two thugs who shot the bird. The sequence is brief, and very easy, as you attack them with a machinegun, and they cannot seem to damage you. The thugs appear to exhibit some good AI, as they run behind cover when you begin firing at them, however, I question the AI here since if you blow-up the object behind which one of the thugs is hiding, he makes no attempt to gain further cover, even though it is available. He will merely stand his ground while you gun him down. Same goes for thug number two. At one point, I even witnessed one of them simply running in circles for no appaernt reason. Once they are eliminated your attention turns to three thugs across the street, who have taken up position on the roof of the bank they are robbing. Each has a large shield and a rocket-launcher, and they begin firing at you. Your goal is to shoot down rockets that are fired at you, before they can damage the helicopter, and take out the three rocket-launching baddies themselves. The task is extremely easy to complete, offering almost no challenge.
I would have rather that this entire sequence remain in the form of a non-interactive cut-scene. The action was more tedious than fun, and presented little or no challenge. I spotted no technical flaws in the sequence, and the only complaint is the selectivity in destructible architecture. Some items, when shot at, will explode or leave signs of being hit, others do not. The biggest problem here was that you can actually swing around 180 degrees, and begin firing into the helicopter with your machinegun. No damage whatsoever results. I feel that if the player should choose to follow this course of action, why not let him damage the chopper and suffer the consequences?
After taking out the rocket-launching baddies, the chopper lands on the roof of the bank, and you jump dowm through a freshly created hole in the roof and the true FPS action begins. I will break up my evaluation of this segment of the gameplay into various categories, starting with:
The architecture of the game is forced to conform to real life expectations. Unlike Quake(2) and Unreal, the limits of the imagination do not set the boundaries for architectural creativity, but instead the limitations of what can feasibly exist on our Earth in the near future must be adhered to. The science fiction settings of the former two games is my personal preference, with that said lets begin. The bank in which the action takes place is very nicely designed. It is several times superior to any bank I have ever been in, containing large fountains, marble accents, glass ceilings, and huge tiered staircases. The glass cielings in particular were a very nice touch, allowing for the cool effect of having more thugs arrive on the scene by smashing through them, and lowering themselves in on ropes. A well designed structure, which stretches the limitations that a bank can impose, yet still maintains a very strong sense of realism. At no point did I think 'yeah, right' or question the composition of the surroundings. All was solidly constructed, beautiful, and realistic.
Once more, the bank must maintain a sense of realism to fit the modern Earth mould. Despite this, the lay-out was quite well done. The player is given the chance to explore both the inside and a small portion of the exterior of the building. There is a large lobby area, which is a perfect stage for the gang-attack which takes place within, several small office-like side rooms, the vault, the exuecutive offices, and a security room. Plenty of hallways and the variety of rooms, open areas, and the outdoor sequence make for a large complex lay-out, given the fact that it's all in and around a bank. To my surprise it actually took some exploring and observation to get a feel for the lay out of the structure, and I even got 'confused' about how things were all connected at first. It's good fun to explore the bank, and well designed to accommodate the action sequences.
Textures are a big strength of this demo. The 16-bit textures make great use of color for some very nice and realistic looking surfaces. The marble in the bank was absolutely beautiful and natural looking. More detailed and natural than the Quake2 textures, but not as busy and overly colorful as the textures in Unreal. They suited the environment perfectly, and I couldn't have asked for better.
Well done. Nearly every item you obtain is looted from the corpses of the thugs you eliminate, and the rest is discovered within cabinets or secret areas, all very logical. I really enjoyed the idea of gaining body armour by raiding it from fallen thugs, it makes a lot of sense. I did, however, quickly grew weary of Blade saying "No!" whenever an item was not worth taking.
Enemies and their AI
The demo only features one type of enemy, the black body-suit wearing, bank robbing thug, who carries either a shotgun or machinegun. They are reasonably tough, and outfitted with body armor. Their movement is fairly realistic, if a bit too slow, and very human in nature. The best part about them is the location damage system. A good headshot will take them down immediately, while shots to the body will do far less damage. Shoot them in the arm, leg, or torso, and there is an immediate visual representation of the damage done. The enemy AI is a two sided coin. They have a wonderful tendancy to get more agressive as they do damage to you, and back off when you are getting shots in on them. In extreme cases where you get in a few shots before they can react, they will even run for cover, and should you come after them they will seek cover further away. I really enjoyed this variable agression, it has a logical and natural feel to it that suits the game perfectly. On the downside, the thugs will at times begin running in circles for no apparent reason. They continue this bizarre pattern even if you keep firing on them. Another enemy downfall is that if you are far enough away you can shoot at them, and they fail to respond. At one juncture, I was firing at a group of three or four thugs from a good distance, and took them all down without any reaction from them at all. They did not attack, retreat, seek cover, or even fire back. Hopefully these problems can be ironed out before the final release.
This one was a problem for me. Skill 2 seemed rather easy for me to complete, yet when I tried Skill 3 I couldn't even get past level one. With nearly every enemy you dispatch offering up armor, and the ability to take many of them out from a distance without them responding, it was no real challenge to get through this demo. With level one being so easy on Skill 2 that it was boring, and so hard on Skill 3 that I couldn't get past it (in about 7 tries), the disparity between skill levels was too great for me. I really would have liked to try level 2 on Skill 3, but as of yet have not been able to get at it. All told, I made it through the whole demo on Skill 2 without even once worrying that I might be in trouble, need to conserve ammo, or proceed cautiously.
The flow of the game was well planned. Never did the action get slow enough to become boring, and it maintains a nice pace that suits the theme of the demo nearly perfectly.
This is where SiN takes it's biggest leap ahead of Quake2. The destructable architecture is the first sign of increased interactivity within the game environment. Shoot at a table, it breaks in half and collapses. Keep firing, and it will eventually burst into a heap of splinters. Shoot a picture, and a bullet hole appears in it, and it swings to the side. Shoot at items with the powerful shotgun, and they will burst into a shower of splinters which get launched into the air in an appropriately violent (if a bit slow) fashion. Bullet holes remain in walls where shot, and enemies will even overturn tables to take cover behind them. The second feature is interactive items such as telephones, ATM machines, and security computers. The security computer in particular is a shining example of the new heights of interactivity that SiN is reaching for. The computer acts almost exactly like a real PC. You use it to disable security, learn the safe combination, and it even features the ability to enter a 'DOS' mode which behaves almost exactly like the good old MSDOS that we all know and love.
Below I will point out various bugs, complaints, and problems I had with the demo.
- Once, while standing under the picture of the bank, I became trapped with the console displaying a "52 getspace overflow" and a "msg overflowed for Blade" error. I had to restart the game.
- I encountered an incident of areaportal HOM in the security office doorway that became so severe I got trapped in it and was killed while trying to find my way out.
- If you shoot a newspaper on a table, the newspaper will shatter. Very unnatural.
- If you shoot and shatter the table underneath the shattered newspaper, the newspaper remains will float in place above the now missing table.
- In one scene, a table overturned in front of me for no reason. No one was touching it, or even near it.
- I shot a thug who collapsed in the the revolving doorway and I couldn't get past him. I had to leave and wait for him to 'dissolve' and then come back.
- Civilians keep ducking in fear long after all threats have been eliminated.
- Civilians do not react when you shoot them the first time, though they die after a second shot. Shouldn't they run?
- If you shoot a thug, and he leaves a blood stain on a door, once the door is opened the stain remains in place, floating in mid-air.
- Many blood stains float a few inches above the surface which they are supposed to be attached to.
- Some items, such as an overturned potted plant are not properly connected. The potted plant stem does not connect to the pot in any way, but is seperated from the soil by several inches, it looks funny.
- Background voices "Where is Blade?", "My leg!", continue to sound long after all enemies have been eliminated
- Background voices become repetative and annoying after a while.
- The difference in challenge from Skill 2 to Skill 3 is too great.
My overall impression of the demo is much what I expected it would be. It was kind of fun, and has some new innovations, but it didn't leave me aching for more, or excited to buy the final version. The voice acting in particular was a turn off for me, seemingly geared towards a young audience, and it is impossible for me to take seriously. The cut-scenes are nice, and add a good sense of continuity and flow the game-play, and I am interested to see how it will hold up for an entire game. There are a great deal of bugs, mostly of an aesthetic nature, which draw the eye and temporarily disrupt the immersiveness of the game. I play PC games to escape reality, and with that immersive quality missing, I had a hard time sinking into the gameplay. The textures are beautiful, and combined with the architecture and lay-out, the level was a better FPS experience than I imagined a bank robbery scenario could possibly be. With most, if not all, of the visual errors fixed, and enemy AI bug fixing, the game could turn out to be better than I had originally hoped. However, the demo did little to excite me and I still need to be won over before I will consider adding SiN map reviews to this site.