Review by dwashbur

"Great Idea, Inconsistent Game"

It's no exaggeration to say that Winston Churchill pretty well single-handedly stopped the Nazis from conquering Britain, and that Hitler's failure to take England set the stage for D-Day and the ultimate fall of Nazi Germany. This game asks an excellent question: what if Churchill hadn't been there? What if he had been killed when, in 1931, he was hit by a taxi in New York City? His predecessor as British PM, Chamberlain, was so afraid of the Nazis he was basically willing to let them do just about anything, so if he had been in charge during the Battle of Britain, Germany probably would have won.

Fast-forward to around 1953; the Nazis have cemented their hold on Europe, and now turn their attention to the United States. As the story opens, we see German planes dropping bombs and destroying the Statue of Liberty. A construction worker named Carson, up on the high steel, finds himself in the middle of the invasion. He has to get down safely, and once he's on the ground survive! On the way down he encounters a Nazi soldier, kills him and takes his gun. When he gets to the ground, the leader of a National Guard unit sees him and says "You, with the gun! Come with us!" And so it begins.

As Carson, your fight ranges from the streets of New York to the White House to London Bridge, as you try to help mount an effective resistance to the Nazis, and in particular, stop them from building an atomic bomb and testing it on your home town of New York. Rarely does such a story get more exciting or have more possibilities than this one.

What sorts of weapons might you have during a Nazi invasion? Basically, anything you could get your hands on from a Colt automatic probably dropped by a policeman, to the fancy weaponry carried by the German Army, including the MP-50 machine pistol and the Gewehr 47 rifle. When a level begins you usually find yourself with a Thompson or "Tommy" gun, and maybe a pistol. You have to scrounge for something better as you go along. That's a pretty realistic picture of what would happen in such a situation, because if anybody on Earth ever excelled at "gun control," it was the Nazis. Again, quite realistic.

What isn't realistic is the inconsistency of what it takes to get through a level. You might be able to take out a Nazi soldier with one shot from the Gewehr; the guy standing next to him might take three shots, placed exactly where you put the one that killed his partner. I fired an antitank round right into a guy's face and it did nothing. I switched to the MP-50 and three bullets took him out. Say what???? Or a Nazi soldier might be running toward you, firing blindly. You pump half of a 50-round clip into him, sights dead on his center body mass, and find yourself dead. There's no consistency at all, and it appears that things like damage done and taken is almost random. At one point on the London Bridge, you have to take out a gunboat with one of those antitank rocket launchers. While you're trying, two machine gunners are pumping lead at you, one at each end of the boat. While the boat was sitting still, I lined up my rocket and pumped one right into the rear gunner. It did nothing to him. The gun kept firing at me as if I had spit at it or something. Yet, 4 shots anywhere on the boat sunk it.

The controls are a little weird. First, I don't know of any other game that uses the Y button to crouch, or uses the B button for action. To top it off, there's no melee command. If you get close enough, AND if you're not crouched, you can "grapple" which is okay, but sometimes it would be nice to be able to just hit the bad guys. No such luck here. The MP-50 machine gun has a built-in light on it that turns on by clicking the right stick. The right stick is also your look, so you can expect your light to turn on and off a gazillion times while you're looking around with your MP-50. It's annoying.

There are certain places where you have to climb over stuff, leap up to grab a ledge and shimmy across something, or go hand-over-hand on a wire or rope. If you're not in exactly the right position, these things won't work. It would appear that that hot-spots for triggering your ability to perform these actions is about 3 pixels wide, so expect to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out where the heck it is. And something as simple as climbing a ladder always goes to a third-person cut-scene type view. I don't know why. Unlike games such as F.E.A.R. where you see the ladder in front of you, this one takes you out of the action. It's a minor thing, but it's one more annoyance. Then there are obstacles. You might be able to vault over a lunch counter with a simple tap of the A button, or you might get hung up on a 6-inch-high ammo box because your guy is too dumb to step over it. The character gets stuck on the silliest things, and it can often cost you his life. If it does, you can expect to go back several objectives, because the checkpoints are few and far between. You would think that, once you complete a stated objective, it would save. Not this game. The checkpoints are as random as anything else, and they're ridiculously sparse. That part could have and should have been done a LOT better. Too often, you pass a major obstacle or objective, then get randomly killed by some pinheaded soldier who came out of nowhere. You've gotten the message "Objective completed" followed by "Objective added," which means you're on to the next step. But if you get killed, you have to go back and complete that previous objective all over again. To put it bluntly, that stinks.

The objectives are a bit of an annoyance, as well, because as they come up, all you get on the screen is "Objective added." You're not told what it is. You have to pause the game to see what the new objective is. It's frustrating. There's no reason why the screen couldn't say "New Objective: Defend the East Barricade" or something like that. This would avoid the constant need to interrupt the game just to see what the goal is.

Even on the higher difficulties, the AI characters, especially the Nazis, are a bit, um, stupid. Twice I found soldiers crouched behind cover, facing where I had just been, utterly oblivious to the fact that I had just walked around behind them. They run back and forth to predetermined spots, so timing it to pop them in a certain spot is ridiculously easy. At the same time, on one go-through you might get them with one shotgun blast, or it might take four. There's that consistency problem again. It a consistent problem, heh heh. In basic terms, the game really doesn't play fair.

As the game progresses, Carson apparently becomes America's last hope for anything. I'm not sure how that came about; the guy's a construction worker thrown into this whole thing against his will, for cryin' out loud. Yet, he's the only one who can take out the phony President, he's the only one who can get on the Zeppelin to destroy the atom bomb, he's the only one who can get to the control room and raise the bridge to stop advancing tanks - I can almost hear the head of the remaining National Guard saying "We's a make you bomba general!" (Sorry, Jar-Jar, you had your turn.)

That said, the game is a nice diversion. But it seems to me that with a little more care, and especially a lot more debugging and consistency, it could have been a lot better. It's also quite short. Come on, guys. A Nazi invasion of America? There's so much more that could have been done with a story like that!

I'm close to finishing it for the second time. I won't spoil the ending for you, because it does come as quite a surprise. I probably won't play it again, but I'm not sorry I played it this second time. It has a charm of its own, and if you can get past the weird controls and the inconsistency, it'll give you a good feel for what things might have been like without Churchill to guide England and get the US into the War.


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 11/09/09

Game Release: Turning Point: Fall of Liberty (US, 02/26/08)


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