Review by SlapBoxYaMom
"So much promise. Not much else."
If a game is merely the sum of its parts, Omikron The Nomad Soul would be among the worst titles I've ever come across. What it gets right, it does so barely. And when it goes wrong, it crashes and burns in rather sickening fashion. This game continually frustrated and disappointed me, and I can't help but like it. Quantic Dream? Whatever the Hell that is, it's got to be easier to assess than Omikron.
Where to begin? If you couldn't already tell, Omikron is quite a confusing game, and not in the sense you might expect. It strives to do so much, yet accomplishes so little. It captivated me one minute, only to alienate me the next. Presenting a massive 3D landscape full of interactive indoor environments, and filled to the brim with artificially intelligent independent characters going on about their business, the entirety of the world remains cold, lifeless, and empty. It's interesting, quirky, funny, impressive, and oddly enough downright charming. Yet at the same time it's endlessly annoying, boring, poorly designed, and many times laughably executed. One thing you can't deny though, is that this game is weird, and for the most part that's a good thing.
Starting with a portal of sorts opening before you, the player, a man named Kay'l 669 informs you that you are needed in his dimension. Once you comply with his request you are thrown headlong into the wacky, oppressive world of Omikron. From there on you are set out in the world to figure out just what is actually happening. This begins with investigating leads towards a series of murders, and, well... Things get weird, very much so. I don't want to spoil things for you (or type that much information out) so you'll need to play through for yourself to see just how right I am.
There's an inherent problem in that plan though. That being the actual playing of the game. Much like Grand Theft Auto 3, which would be released roughly a year later, Omikron attempts to throw multiple genres together into a cohesive whole (GTA3, even with its own problems, would end up doing this far better).
The most prominent, and thankfully least problematic, gameplay focus of Omikron is an adventure style mystery. This for the most part involves wandering the large areas of the game world following clues and interviewing various denizens of the futuristic metropolis. All in all this is handled fairly well. Control is responsive and makes sense, though this may have more to do with skill and dexterity being unimportant for this particular play style. Many things in the environments are interactive, a great deal of which are there simply to add atmosphere. You can go and turn on a television and watch various "programs" and commercials, many of which are quite funny, partly because of the dialogue and partly due to the unintentionally hilarious motion capture movements of the characters (more on that later). Be glad that this is what a great deal of the game involves, as it is easily the least flawed part of Omikron. The only major gripe I have with the interviewing and clue tracking is that in almost all cases the text is rather small and presented in a really poorly chosen color and font (the font itself is rather cool, but does more harm than good when it comes to the subtitles), and while much of the dialogue in-game is spoken, the voice-work is rather muted at times and sometimes entirely masked by environmental sound effects, making these character interactions very frustrating at times since without many of the instructions you'll be completely unaware of what to do or where to go next. Fixing this one problem would have done a lot towards improvement, it doesn't sound like a huge deal, but it really gets quite annoying.
Where the designers totally dropped the ball becomes unmistakably apparent once you enter into one of the fighting or FPS sections of the game. While they aren't unplayable, they are just simply terrible. The fighting system is about as bare bones as you can imagine, with only a small handful of moves available. Not to mention that the enemy combatant's AI is flawed to say the least. In many cases I was able to get through these parts by merely kicking them every time they got near, nothing more. The FPS areas don't get much else right. Again, while they aren't unplayable, they are just so boring and poorly done that my main motivation for getting through them was simply to be done with it. The game really would have been so much better if the developers had taken some time to polish these two areas a bit more, or better still completely ditched them altogether.
One unique and pretty cool thing put into Omikron that I actually liked is the ability to, after a certain part of the game is overwith, posses certain other characters in-game should you die. This isn't always the case, but it is a pretty damn sweet idea. This ability, I suppose rather obviously, is where The Nomad Soul plays into the game, as it is also what you the player are referred to by certain characters.
What Omikron does best however, is create an eerie and intriguing atmosphere, for a bit at least. At first, the game seems to be absolutely massive in scope as you realize you can go inside a great number of the buildings throughout Anekbah, the initial sector available and where you begin your adventure. You can also go up to anyone walking about and talk with them, you can even follow them around like a stalker as they go about their daily routines. The ambient sounds and mostly subtle music does a good job of immersing the player into its world thanks in part to David Bowie, who plays a couple of parts in the game, one of which is the leader singer of a band that plays illegal concerts in the city. But this sense of scale eventually collapses onto itself as you realize that what's been presented to you is a false perception of depth. Yes, you can go in many buildings and mess with things, but not much will ever happen unless it's directly a part of the main story. Yes you can follow people around while they do things, but they all follow the same repetitious actions. Sure you can go up and talk with them, but 99% of the time they'll tell you they don't have time for chat. Before long, what once seemed like an enormous and interesting place has become really quite empty, sparse, and lifeless almost to the point of being creepy (and I don't mean the intended creepiness either).
The visuals have the same sort of effect. At first things seem to be massive, mostly due to the sheer number of things going on at any one time. At the onset of the game when you first emerge from a back alley and walk out onto the main city in all its glory it's all very impressive. You see floating cars zipping around the streets, people walking about, sitting down on benches, and entering stores and restaurants. At the time this was all really a sight to see. Then you start taking a closer look. Ew, these textures sure are muddy. Ugh, what with the super-stiff animation? Everyone moves like their bones have all started to fuse together. Man, why does every damn thing I come across look so absurdly blocky? I realize there's a lot happening, but sweet bastard, taken individually the graphics are pretty terrible for the most part. Like I said, after the initial shock of what's all going on wears off everything stops being impressive and drops down into mediocrity.
And in a nutshell that's what Omikron is. Something that wows you with its grandeur before slapping you in the face with sub-par execution. A part of me likes it, a lot more than I really should, but the the rest of me finds this game a waste of effort. If you can find this cheap and are interested pick it up, some people will eat this game up. For the rest of us? A passing glance at the trainwreck while you drive by doesn't really make you a bad person...
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 06/14/07
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