Review by Ragnarok_JSW
An ambitious and well-realized 3rd Person Shooter.
Please don't fall prey to Navarro's excessive criticism in his official review for Gamespot - pick this game up, and you will almost certainly be glad you did.
Advent Rising's story will sound familiar to those with an interest in Science Fiction, and shares many common elements with novels, movies, and TV shows that the reader may be familiar with. However, this does not automatically mean that the game lacks originality - the basic concepts have been done, but never in exactly this way. The plot is somewhat unoriginal, but never in my opinion derivative - at least, not more than any other game. Essentially, every race in the galaxy has present in their mythology the existance of a race whose extraordinary mental powers made them like unto gods - a race known as Humans. At some undisclosed time in the past, there appears to have been a weakness or breakdown in human society, and their homeworld of Edagior was destroyed with few survivors, leaving the remnants of the race scattered across the galaxy and ultimately, through the passage of time, unaware of the power they once were. The game begins shortly after an alien ship, belonging to the benevolent Aurelians, appears in orbit over the human world of Edumea. Unfortunately a race known as the Seekers is acting on its own agenda of genocide, and promptly obliterates Edumea. The last (so far as they know) of their people, Gideon Wyeth, Marin Steel, and one other survivor must do what they can to see justice brought to the Seekers - leading to an awakening of human potential and the re-invention of humanity. The game is billed as the beginning of a trilogy, and upon completion of the game I believe the majority of players will be looking forward to the next.
The story is well-told throughout, with effective and powerful dialogue co-written by Orson Scott Card (note - This is the extent of his collaboration as far as I know - I'm pretty sure he wasn't involved in the actual plot much if at all). The use of professional talent of his calibre on this project is noticeable. Backed up by quality voice acting, the script is delivered well and is highly emotive, providing a satisfying experience. One potential point of criticism is the apparent levity of Gideon and Co. even following the total destruction of their world - but the presentation is that of a "space opera", not unlike the original Star Wars film in some regards, and who really wants to see repeated cutscenes of the hero wailing in distress? Nevertheless, if space opera isn't your thing, you may not enjoy the plot as much as others might.
The gameplay is as good or better than the majority of 3rd person shooters I have played. I played through utilizing the default Mouse/Keyboard control scheme and that worked well for me, though the game ships with gamepad support and even preset configurations for several of the more popular styles of PC gamepad. The controls felt responsive and clean for the majority of the game. The driving sequences are a low point for the controls - I found it difficult at first to accurately control the game's ground vehicles, a Technical reminiscent of the Halo Warthog and a Seeker hovertank. There seemed to be a little bit too much drift in their motion, which made it difficult to manuever in tight spaces. Back on foot, the implementation of dual-wielded weapons felt natural and smooth, and is quick to pick up. Any weapon in the game, up to and including missile launchers, can be used one-handed while using a different weapon or one of Gideon's 6 selectable powers in the other. The action is brisk, almost frantic at times, and the game does a great job making you feel as if you are truly a super-powered being, capable of some truly impressive acrobatic and combat-oriented moves. While probably less sleek than the Xbox "flick targeting" system, the lock-on mechanism Gideon uses to concentrate on a particular enemy worked better than I had anticipated, and I had very few problems selecting and dispatching targets. The one minor exception revolves around the use of the Lift power Gideon gains as the game progresses - when Lift is readied in a hand, any liftable objects join the target list - meaning you have that many more objects to cycle through when you're really just trying to shoot that Seeker until he stops moving. Fortunately you do not have to be locked on to fire, and it is simple to just move your reticle over the enemy. In fact, many gamers may be tempted to ignore or minimize their use of the targeting system - I would recommend against this, as it really works quite well and will greatly improve your gameplay, as well as enabling Lift (which requires a target).
Graphically, the game does quite well, unless you expect every game you play to approach photorealism. The art direction is such that the game has the appearance of a high-quality graphic novel, with vibrant colors and dynamic-looking locations and characters. On high resolution and with all options enabled, the game looks quite good, especially for an Xbox port. The character models aren't extremely detailed, but they complement the style of their surroundings quite well. The distortion and water effects are particularly interesting in their implementation. The character animations are very dynamic and well-produced - especially those of Gideon, as you would expect from the hero of the game. Special attention must have been paid to the weapon reload animations - the spin-flourish-ready sequence looks very cool. The camera control and framerate issues which plagued the Xbox release are well and truly gone - I only saw one instance of the camera fritzing out, and it was only for a moment when I managed to lodge the Scythe vehicle under the edge of an overhead roadway. The picture is a little grainy in most of the cutscenes and were probably produced for the lower resolution of a TV screen (though they scaled pretty well), but they still provide an excellent experience. The game's sound is very well done, sounding fantastic in 5.1 Surround, and quite good in 2.1 as well. The soundtrack is gorgeous - even if you don't pick up the game, go buy it. I found that it complemented the action on screen very well, and the few places it might have fit better are probably a matter of taste.
One bug I believe I ought in good faith to mention: The game utilizes a checkpoint save system, and at one point (I believe due to the actions of my antivirus software, given the timing of the incident right after a background scan was conducted on my system) my save file became corrupted and I was unable to resume my game from the last checkpoint. I worked around this by opening that level to a different slot, but the software treated that as a completely new game and set the experience levels of my powers and weapons to default values (3/5 in most cases, 1/5 for the last acquired power). It took me about 20 frustrating minutes to grind my powers back up to the condition they were in before the incident, but thereafter I experienced no bugs and finished the game without problem.
Overall, Advent Rising provided 12 or so of the most enjoyable hours of gaming I've had all year. It very adequately scratched an itch I've been feeling for a long while for a sci-fi game with plot, action, and style. I strongly recommend that anybody who finds anything at all appealing about the game pick it up and give it a try!
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
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