Review by Rune Lockheart

"Words cannot describe the wonder, but I shall try..."

When I started out, I didn’t think much to this game. I hadn’t bothered with the tutorial, and I hadn’t even looked at the manual. I thought, “Oh, another FPS, yay.” I ran up to the first enemy, drew my weapon to shoot him and OH MY GOD! My aiming reticule was huge! I fired off a clip into him, but they all missed. He killed me. I tried again, with the same results. So, I sat down and read the manual, then I ran through the tutorial. Then I wiped the floor with that damn enemy. My life was changed forever. And now, for the budget release price of around £10, yours can be too. And if you’re quick, you can get through this before the sequel is released.

Story (10/10)

I don’t know where to begin. This game’s storyline is the best I’ve ever seen. It makes the storyline to Final Fantasy VII look like Tetris. I won’t go into detail because the game is incredibly story-based, but the basic gist of it is a world-wide conspiracy that you have been placed right in the middle of. But what makes it so interesting is the fact that some of it is so close to the truth. Once you’ve got a fair way through the game, try going into a search engine and typing in a few names (like ‘Echelon’). It’s this extent of realism that makes the game so addictive.

Audio (10/10)

This is the bit where words don’t do the game justice. When I first loaded up the game, I just sat there listening to the opening music for about ten minutes. Do this, and I guarantee you will start humming it during every major event during your life. The soundtrack for this game is beautifully composed and is only bested by the in-game dialogue (of which there is soooo much!) After hearing the main character speak for about five conversations, it makes you want to be JC Denton. I’m not kidding. Also, for a bit of fun. When you go to UNATCO for the first time, head down to the kitchen and save it before you enter. The conversation that ensues is one of the greatest pieces of scripted work ever, and you must preserve it for all time.

Video (8/10)

Please bear in mind that I write this review a few years after it’s release. Had I written it when the game was now, this section would also have been a ten. Let’s face it, the graphics engine the game used is now fairly old, but still looks pretty neat if you can manage all of the best graphics settings. I can guarantee that you will, on more than one occasion, stand over someone you just killed and gaze in awe at the detail of his uniform. The levels themselves are rich in detail, and the dark eerie colours add to the games conspiracy theme. You get to visit location such as Paris and New York, including an assault on a now decapitated Statue of Liberty, all the while looking at the detail of everything around you.

Gameplay (10/10)

As I said earlier, the game places you in the middle of a conspiracy, which you get to unravel first hand. As you progress through the game, you’ll soon realise that things you said or did early on in the game have an effect on it later. Everyone around you reacts to your actions and decisions. For the best (and probably funniest) example of this, take a trip to the women’s restroom before going for your first briefing. It’s funny, but even though it’s just a game, you’ll still feel slightly embarrassed afterwards. Of course, the most rewarding aspect of this game is the end, or should I say ‘the ends’. There are three, and you get to choose which one bests suits your character. I won’t spoil it too much, but one will give you an ego trip, another will have you saying ‘Wow, it’s like the intro sequence’ and the other (my preferred ending) will give you a jazzed up version of the intro music. “But enough of the story-based element. What about the character development?”, I hear you cry. This aspect of the game isn’t the most in-depth I’ve ever seen, but bear in mind that it is essentially a FPS. Throughout the game you are awarded skill points to advance your character in skills such as Pistols, Rifles, Lockpicking, Swimming etc. There is no right or wrong way to distribute these points as each situation in the game usually has two or three solutions. At the beginning of the game you also have the choice of JC Denton’s hair and skin colour. Although it’s not a big deal, those who play through the game more than once will realise that this changes the appearance of some other characters in the game. Like I said, most situations have more than one solution, and you are usually rewarded for coming up with your own plan of action, rather than using the one provided. This is a rare idea in games, even nowadays, and it gives you a great feeling of accomplishment at the end of it all. Having said this however, I warn you now, you will be upset when you finally reach the end of this game.

Replayability (4/10)

Not as much as you’d think. The character development isn’t strong enough to grant replayability, and while some will replay the whole game through three times to see the different endings, many (including myself) will merely save it at the beginning of the final mission. It’s hard to sit down and start this game again after completing it already, as half of the fun is discovering who the bad guys are, and what they are trying to accomplish. In fact, the only reason I am contemplating starting again is to write a FAQ on it.

Buy Or Rent?

Originally, I would have said rent it, as this game won’t appeal to a few of you. But now it has been released at budget price, you may as well fork out the cash for it. 99 out of 100 people with feel it’s worth it.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 01/29/03, Updated 01/29/03

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