Review by Kane
"Proof that ambition isn't necessarily a good thing in this world"
'Omikron: The Nomad Soul' is a bizarre adventure game. Its concept is rather similar to Shenmue in some way: to offer the player a ''realistic'' adventure in a full 3d world. On the paper, Omikron sounds much superior to the aforementioned game, actually: it takes place in a depraved future slightly reminiscent of the cult movie Blade Runner. That being said, you can now understand why anyone would have high hopes before playing this game.
No suspense here: Omikron doesn't deliver. At all. It looks disappointing, but more importantly it's just not fun to play, which is a shame because it had a huge potential. Here's what Omikron turned out to be: a handful of original and interesting ideas changed into a nightmare by the Quantic Dream developers. Even though my legendary chauvinism makes me want to go easy on this game because it was (poorly) made by a French company, my conscience forces me to warn you: Omikron is a piece of junk.
Forget everything you've been told. You're about to experience something unique that will surely leave sequels on your poor soul. The game starts with Kay'l (aka David ''Let's rock'' Bowie) directly talking to you, the player, and seeking your help after successfully opening a breach between our cherished world and his through your Dreamcast. He wants you to occupy his body and save his world. Alas, there's no way to decline his offer.
While this may sound cool at first, it is rendered totally corny by the ridiculous frame rate and the terrible graphics. Mashing the A button won't even help you, this time: you have to read everything to find clues and save the world. No, no, don't laugh: Omikron's story is actually quite good, once you get into it. That is if you don't get bored in the first few hours during which you will feel like playing an LAPD cop simulation. Kay'l must go to the police station, take care of prisoners, have lunch with his wife, investigate on a shooting in a supermarket... Everything you've always wanted to do but never thought you'd be able to!
But later on, Kay'l's (heh) investigation will draw him to the conclusion that darker forces are currently ruling the city. Once that happens, the plot picks up and you might want to play the game more. But you might also throw it out the window because of its poor controls. You have to time every one of Kay'l's moves very carefully, and for some reason you can't even use the analog stick. Even after playing the game for hours, you'll probably even be willing to trade Omikron for another title distributed by Eidos whose name starts with ''Tomb'' and ends in ''Raider''. Yes, it's that bad.
But you see, Omikron isn't just an adventure game: it's also a fighter. As any supercop, whenever Kay'l sees a bad guy, he likes to use his fists instead of his brain (or his gun, even). At first, the fighting part looks fun: the problem is that it's not even up to the level of Mortal Kombat. No special moves or anything fancy here. You get two kick buttons and two punch buttons, and they expect you to find combos. Sadly, the game is slow and choppy, and the controls are anything but responsive. Being a fighter fan myself, I wish they had just left out this part of the game.
But wait, there's more! Omikron is also a first person shooter in disguise. Now trying to shoot down the meanies was probably one of my most traumatic virtual experiences ever. First, you can't see them before you get really close: by the time you get there, you'll have taken a few bullets already. Then, it's just insanely difficult to aim: most of the time, you're just hoping that the sequence ends as fast as possible. Were this part of Omikron released as an integral game, it would have entered the legendary pantheon of the crappiest games in history. Unfortunately, playing Omikron actually feels like playing a compilation of forgettable games.
Granted, the game isn't all that bad: you can talk to an impressive number of characters and the GD contains a lot of realistic conversations. I just wish the lipsynching wasn't so half assed. It gets points for originality, but that's pretty much all it gets. It's also long -very often, you're not told where to go- and visiting all the environments should take a while, if you can go past the terribly flawed engine. Hey, you never know, I'm sure some people actually enjoy Chinese butt torture out there.
One might see this game as Buddist propaganda since on the box art it says -or asks, actually- ''who will you be after you die?'' Fear not, Omikron's content isn't exactly deep. The whole reincarnation idea is nice but doesn't really add more to the game: all the characters can only perform the same kind of actions. Besides, who would want to ''be'' one of these awfully blocky and lifeless characters? What Omikron wins in so-called realism, it also loses in interest. To be blunt, it's rather boring, partly because of the slow pace of the story.
The graphics are nothing special either. They don't really compare to other Dreamcast games such as Shenmue or Skies of Arcadia. Most of the environments look the same and you'll often be forced to visit the same places again and again, especially in the original city. Later in the game, you'll be glad to finally discover more colorful areas. Or something. Too bad the game looks like a bad Tomb Raider clone.
To be honest, the animation simply gave me a headache after a few minutes. I first thought that I had been spoiled by recent games (bad BK, I know), but as the hours passed by I slowly started feeling like I wanted to puke. Besides, the fact that the writing is so damn small and hard to read didn't help. Playing this game sure is a psychedelic experience: better than weed, here's Omikron! Whee. Now I understand Bowie's presence.
Quantic Dream should actually thank god that good ol' David accepted to work on this project: the tunes he contributed are great and give the game some of the character that it truly needs. They constitute the high point of the game, but the problem is that there just aren't enough of them. However, the quality of the sound effects isn't impressive, to say the least. Good news: they are about as rare as the tracks. Overall, Omikron's sound atmosphere seems lacking, and just plain boring. It actually represents the game fairly well.
'Omikron: The Nomad Soul' tries too hard to be something special, and in the end it simply falls flat. Terrible controls and animation ruin what could have been an enjoyable and original game for Dreamcast owners. It's a shame, because its plot and its concept are interesting, and the game would have been worth giving a try if the developers had refrained their silly ambitions and realized that they weren't skilled enough to accomplish the difficult task of creating a good multi-genre game. Don't bother with this game, unless you're really bored and have a few spare bucks to spend. But don't expect an easy ride with Omikron: it might just steal your soul.
Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 09/06/01, Updated 02/02/03
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