Turning Point: Fall of Liberty
Review by Crazyreyn
"The only turning point is the one in your stomach"
When Turning Point: Fall of Liberty was announced it got a warm response due to its refreshing alternative-future take on the stagnating WWII shooter genre. The game has a rather harrowing alternative indeed - Winston Churchill gets killed by getting run down by a taxi in 1931 in a United States trip, and by the time the Germans knock on Britain's door in WWII the lack of morale and leadership he would have offered led to the demise of Blighty, as well as the rest of Europe, Russia and Africa along with it - the Germans have practically conquered the world. Roll on 1953 and enter Dan Carson, a construction worker in New York City, who gets caught up in the invasion of the United States by the seemingly unstoppable Germans. This interesting and unique premise has gripped gamers and critics alike throughout its development - but as you can glace from the score, premises aren't promises and has not shaped up like it might have hoped.
The introduction to the campaign clocks up just fifteen seconds of your time as you witness the bombing of the Statue of Liberty and an ominous air force advancing toward American soil. You are silently projected into the eyes of "someone" on a construction site high above the New York City skyline; with little foreword or prologue you are not aware you are Dan Carson, and could well be a German that fell out of a plane. As you climb down to street level through the tangle of girders and rubble you do not feel that you are in danger from the oncoming invasion, and although buildings shudder, explode and fall around you, it feels heavily scripted and plays even more so. From here on in any narrative comes across through a combination of cheese ball cutscenes between chapters and rough, dry interactions with unimaginative soldier types during objectives, neither of which provides any characterization, especially for our hero Mr. Carson. There are no hints as to why he is seemingly a standard 'civilian' by day and Rambo, John McClane and Arnie rolled into one by night. By the end of the first few chapters the carnage of the advancing enemy menace quickly and unconvincingly dissolves into a stable dictatorship across the East Coast, and is further subdued into ridiculous territory as you fly to foreign soil despite under a strict German regime without any proper explanation. Glimpses of monuments and famous landmarks draped in swastikas or decimated into oblivion are not wholly awe-inspiring or as memorable as the game hopes it should be, again due to the sudden and unexplored setup of the premise, with a similarly brash ending that sums up a rather tame and unbelievable invasion.
Despite the hook of "what could have been" failing to manage any bite, a solid and coherent gameplay experience would at least give the game some merit, but fails to clobber together the bread and butter of what makes a decent first person shooter. The gunplay, controls and AI is nothing short of comical; enemies barely use cover, if only to spring from corners to take a pot shot, dash around for a few seconds before returning to their spawning position, coming across as more TimeSplitters than Call of Duty. There were countless cases of enemies throwing grenades or rolling explosive barrels for only to run forward and kill themselves with them - it is amazing that such a force made it past France. Ridiculous AI is unintentionally helped by making headshots impossible (without enlisting the aid of a sniper rifle) and that enemy kills take at least half a gun clip per individual. The end result is a run and gun experience as you empty clips at the cumbersome and sloth-like Jerry as they blindly shoot like Bond villains. Grenades are a mixed bag of hilarity and sheer frustration; somewhat imprecise to use but with practice you are rewarded as enemies watch like dogs as they are blown to smithereens. On the contrary, used against you they are always deadly. It is permissible they should kill instantly, but getting killed ten feet away from the explosion makes you feel cheated. One of the few redeeming features of the combat is the Grapple system: initiated by grabbing an enemy with a tap of the B-button to use a human shield or for quick death. Environmental kills in specific situations provide a comedic diversion, with highlights such as ramming heads through television sets or recently used dirty toilets. Using human shields works rather effectively and gives more of a tactile feel as opposed to the simplistic gunplay forced upon you, although it could have been expanded further for certain situations. The grapple system is something that actually works, and works well.
Level design is uninspired and repetitive, with simple A-to-B objectives masked by a facade of humdrum rescue missions and setting explosives under enemy tanks. Wiring bombs is a short and pointless diversion: a mini-game where you hold a button and revolve the analog stick until the ticks start tocking, the lack of challenge and purpose is immediately evident. While literally blasting through the first two acts takes no time at all, the final chapter ramps up the difficulty without warning, where tackling more than one enemy at once earns you a free ride in a body bag. While somewhat welcomed, the meteoric and almost binary switch takes you off guard and although forcing you to cover and conserve ammo, it feels too little to late. Furthermore the harsh checkpoint system makes matters worse whereby giving out restart points only two to three times per chapter rubs more salt into a gaping wound. Add in a plethora of glitches, such as being trapped in doorways and sporadic gum jams, chronic slowdown and lengthy and disjoined loading, Turning Point is being nothing short of a technical nightmare.
Take the game online and unpolished feel of the campaign still resonates - with only four stages and two modes (Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch) it feels like archaic and lacks any function or attraction. Tactically void, grenades are useless as you are aware of their location and the run and gun gameplay from the campaign is equally mirrored in combat. Despite matchmaking and system link capabilities, amazingly no local split screen multiplayer is offered, stifling any chance to relive the scrappy and equally archaic Medal of Honor style memories that the PlayStation generation fondly provided. There is no reason why you would put hours into this when Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4 do it so much better.
This all said (and there is a lot) I did have fun playing through the campaign. The alternate-future plot gives you a burning desire to find out what could have been, and the run and gun gameplay can be quite enjoyable in parts when the technical qualms keep themselves to themselves. While the game does not stand out in terms of visuals, it does not look bad (especially some of the glossy multiplayer maps) and sounds even better so. While the game is enjoyable if you turn a blind eye to its ugly side, it only highlights what could have been, and is a real shame that they could not even nail the basics. If it managed to sort out the bizarre enemy AI, harsh checkpoint system and actually performed quality assurance to iron out the niggles at least it would be a passably playable and solid experience. When you consider the opportunity to provide a different and refreshing take on the WWII shooter genre and manages to screw it up so badly, you cannot help but feel disappointed. There are so many other quality first person shooters out there, making it hard to see where this fits in when the premise falls flat. A sheer disappoint in every department, the only Turning Point here is the one in your stomach.
+ Holds up well visually with more than sufficient audio
+ Fun grapple system and environmental kills
+ Alternative-Future plot is something new
- The premise is wasted through rubbish narrative and unbelievable turn of events
- Sluggish and frankly idiotic AI leads to run-and-gun gameplay
- Harsh checkpoint system and difficulty spike toward end of campaign
- No local multiplayer
Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 03/28/08
Game Release: Turning Point: Fall of Liberty (EU, 03/14/08)
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