Review by Jacen Solo

"If you hear the name of the game,run and never look back"

IF there’s a genre that can be said that appeals to almost everybody,shooters are probably it.I mean,nearly everybody loves blasting stuff into oblivion right?And with the power of the current consoles,it’s looking more and more beautiful.GunValkyrie is another entry in the genre that tries to draw you in with the premise of adrenaline pumping action.But does it truly deliver?

Gameplay:Since the advent of the 3D action/adventure genre by Tomb Raider,most(if not all) shooters nowadays take the route.There’s nothing wrong with it actually,it’s been proven to be successful for lots of games.And while GunValkyrie certainly is not the best title in the genre,it still is one of the most notable(although not as you’d might expect) for quite a while.While it certainly lives up to the premise of blowing stuff up,there is an undeniable monotony to it.Objectives are nothing more than kill everything in a single area,get to said location,elimate so and so or sometimes even all three all rolled into one.Ok,killing everything and enjoying mindless carnage IS fun.But after the fourth or fifth mission with the same objective,it starts to lose its fun factor and reverts to just plain boring.

By the fourth or fifth mission,you’ll probably be yawning at the boring storyline and the lack of continuity that should accompany the gameplay.It’s just mindless shooting.Sure,there’s the pretense of having a storyline with Poe’s report(some pages of backstory you get to read in the mission briefing)but it’s not enough.There’re barely any cutscenes in the game and most of those are grouped together near the end.And speaking of end,GunValkyrie is rather short.Just when you finally managed to get good at it,it ends.Sure,I understand everything has to end but only having 10 levels is just too short.

And to make matters worse,there’re only 3 main types of guns with several different variations.You might think this is a case of quality vs quantity.Absolutely…WRONG!The guns suck for the most part and the variations are just subtle changes to the way damage is dealt.Sega COULD come up with creative weapons,take a look at Virtual On for some great weapon designs.In this case though,it’s just laziness at work.There were supposed to be 8 different weapons to be included in the game when it was first announced…

There’s not much character variety either.You only get two to choose from,Saburouta and the requisite ample bosomed female,Kelly.Saburouta’s your basic strong but slow hero while Kelly plays the quick but weak heroine.Sure,they have different guns and attacks but it doesn’t explain the lack of original characters.It’s like the developers wanted to add in something good but time didn’t permit it.Just take a lot at the trailers of the game and you’ll see what I mean.The trailers had the characters doing fantastic stuff,running and dodging while firing furiously.The thing is,nearly everything is missing here.The promised ‘revolutionary’ control scheme is bull and the smooth combat moves are too hard to pull off.

Another thing that’s weak is the A.I.To put it bluntly,it’s dumb.The enemy will constantly get stuck behind walls,move around in circles or even ignore you as you blast them.Unless these guys actually like pain like the Yuuzhan Vong(give yourself a cookie if you know who they are),I think it’s safe to say the artificial intelligence needs workIts especially noticeable in the early levels since they’re littered with debris.The enemies will constantly get hung up on pieces of debris or even behind rock columns.

Gameplay rating:5/10

Graphics:For a first generation title,GunValkyrie looks good.Nicely detailed character models,great textures(although they tend to repeat quite a bit) and spectacular particle and lighting effects abound in the game.Everything moves at an even frame rate too.That’s quite a feat since there’s definitely no lack of action in this game.Some effects,like the bits and pieces that fly off an enemy as you fire at it is really satisfying to watch.There’s no feeling better than moving down rows upon rows of bugs and watching them break apart as the hail of lead blows through their exoskeletons.It’s such a rush,I tell you…

There’re a couple of strange things though.While the outdoor levels,don’t have any fog,the indoor levels sometimes do.It’s especially noticeable if you drop down a deep hole in the indoor stages.If you look down while you’re falling,you can see the fog just below your feet working quickly to render the floor you’re dropping into.I’m no expert in programming but it looks to me that bad code is at work here.What’s the harm in doing more polishing?Also,sometimes(VERY rarely),the collision detection goes out the window.I’ve once had four bugs go through a wall and staying there.Needless to say,I had to restart the mission because I had to kill them to complete it.It doesn’t happen regularly enough that it becomes a fatal flaw but still it is a pain when it does.

Controls:Ok,before you guys(or girls)read any further,you best better prepare yourself.It’s going to get ugly,really ugly.Done?I’ll begin…

GunValkyrie is the WORST(I repeat,WORST!!!) controlling game I’ve played.Its controls are awkward and only makes an already hard game neigh impossible.There’s NO way to change your controls(what game DOESN’T have a config option?!)so you’d better bear the pain if you want to play the game.The main culprit is the way boosting is handled.You need to press down on the right analog stick AND move it in the direction.Sure,it may sound simple to do on paper but its anything BUT simple.Try doing that when dodging multiple projectiles,fighting the god-awful camera AND jumping from platform to platform…at the same time.Only those with Jedi fingers or something can do stuff like that.Sure,you may get the hang of it in a while,but unless Smilebit only intended to appeal to people with lots of time and patience,it’s safe to say most of us will be disgusted at the unfriendly controls.

And the sad thing is without the control problems,GunValkyrie would actually be GOOD.The controls are very responsive and precision jumping is not a problem.Its doing precision jumping and boosting that needs work.If only they had assigned the boosting duties to the unused “A” button(hold A and a direction to boost is how I think it should be done),everything would be fine.Wait…scratch that.ALMOST everything would be fine.What’s the problem,you ask?It’s the aiming.The cursor automatically autocenters itself after every shot.It’s a pain in the unmentionables to keep realigning the reticule repeatedly at the same spot over and over.It’s not so bad if you’re playing as Kelly since her gun can lock on to multiple targets automatically but Saburouta is almost unplayable at long range since he relies on single shots(he can’t lock on)to get the job done.Also,you can’t circle strafe.Yup,for some strange reason,you cannot sidestep in a circle.I have no idea why that is since the control’s are based on FPS games(left analog stick moves your character while right aims and moves the camera view).A game of this nature NEEDS circle strafing!Without circle strafing,the only ways to get out of harm’s way is by repeatedly dashing and shooting in the air(a pain) or run backwards while shooting(also a pain) .

Control rating:1/10

Sound:I can say that GunValkyrie’s rather good in this area.The sounds of the guns firing are great.Listen to the Drive Gun(picture an oversized sniper rifle but with a firing rate of a machine gun)mowing down the legions of advancing bugs and you’ll definitely know what I mean.The ‘blam blam blam’ sound it makes plus the crazy vibration the controller makes as you fire it almost makes you believe you’re really holding it in your hands.The music is good in some stages but in others it’s just average.Naglfar’s pit has some of the most haunting music I’ve heard.It’s really nice if you’re into that kind of thing(which I am).But if you like your stuff with a more upbeat…beat to it,there’re levels with rock music sans lyrics of course.

The enemies’ sound good…for the most part.The main enemies you’ll meet sound adequate with their various battlecries and death screams.Each of the different types of enemies all have their own distinct sounds and that’s definitely a plus in my book. Strangely,the bosses reuse some of the enemies’ cries(although at a different pitch or tone).I’d understand if they were variations of the creatures themselves,but aren’t bosses supposed to stand out?That’s the whole point of being a boss,right?Recycling effects will make a boss stand out to be sure,just not in the way it’s intended.

Sound rating:7/10

Summary:Needless to say,don’t even bother picking up this game unless you’re prepare to fight the controls as much as the enemies.Although the game looks and sounds good,the flaw of the controls drag it down to nearly unplayable.The lack of circle strafing also means lots of running back,stop,turn and shoot style tactics.

PROS:
-Graphics are superb
-Sound quality excellent

CONS:
-Weak storyline
-Uninspired characters
-Controls from the depths of hell itself!
-Mission objectives lack originality and diversity

Total score:4/10


Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 01/19/03, Updated 01/19/03


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