Review by Inigo Pipkin

"Orkward. Dull. Tedious"

Lara Croft has a lot to answer for. Not only have we got to put up with yearly updates of her tired brand of third person adventuring, but also the myriad of imitators she has spawned. To be fair O.D.T is slightly more original than most Tomb Raider clones, unfortunately its so sloppy in its execution that frustration and boredom soon outweigh any positive feelings you may have towards the initially good concepts. O.D.T was released in 1998 by the now defunct developers Psygnosis and mixes typical third person adventuring with elements of RPG style character building.

O.D.T stands for Or Die Trying. The game begins with a high quality FMV sequence that introduces the basic plot. We see a large flying airship travelling captained by a very British sounding fellow called Matt. He tells us that they have been on a quest to bring a green pearl back to their country to help combat a deadly epidemic. He informs us that the pearl has been showing signs of magnetic activity and he hopes it will not interfere with the flight home as they are crossing dangerous territory. Well of course it does interfere and the whole airship is suffused with green light and crashes into the uncharted land.

Now you can choose between four of the crew to go out into the dark and dangerous tower and search for repair materials. Each character has different stats, some are tougher and better with weapons, others are weaker and more powerful in the magic using department. Yes that's right, these people can use magic. Each of them start off with the ability to cast one or two spells all the time and other spells can be collected as the game progresses. The characters are all fairly cliché. Corporal Ike Hawkins is the ''all round'' character, average armour, weapons control and spirit and a couple of offensive spells. Julia Chase is the babe character, low armour, good spirit, average weapons control and also a useful healing spell. Max Havok is the brawn. A chief engineer with High Armour, good weapon control but no spirit and little in the spell-casting department. Finally there is Solaar, the long coated maverick Archbishop (!) who has little in the way of armour and weapons but tremendous spirit and good spell casting ability.

You choose the character you feel suits your play style best and off you go. At this point the game seems very promising. The mixture of magic and weapons seems to promise quite a flexible approach to playing the game. You need to manage you Mana (magical energy) as well as your energy and ammo by collecting power-ups scattered around the playing areas. Add in the fact that each weapon can fire different sorts of ammo it looks like you can have quite a lot of fun trying out all kinds of different tactics.

Unfortunately all these good ideas are totally ruined by the terrible implementation of the actual game. To start with the controls are exceedingly complicated. Although each character has a wide range of movement, from flips, jumps, rolls and crawls the control pad never feels comfortably set-up, no matter which control options you choose. Bringing up the spell and ammo menus and choosing them can also be slow and when you are in the middle of a fire fight you can lose precious seconds and health trying to activate the right spells or ammo. The camera is dreadful. It really is the one single things that ruins this game the most. It lurches and swings around behind you like its drunk and ends up making you feel very nauseous. It can also make the simplest of action very frustrating. For example running up a ramp proved to be awkward as the camera kept drifting to one side and the character I was controlling needed to be steered against the camera as it were to prevent him falling off. This was a fairly wide ramp, later in the game where there are thinner bridges to negotiate and platforms to jump it becomes hair-tearingly frustrating to find that though no faulty of your won you character is leaping of at the wrong angle because the camera has wandered off in another direction. Walls also mean nothing to the camera, it passes though them with no compunction and you often find the walls blinking and flickering across the screen in a deeply disconcerting way.

The graphics don't help much either. The colors are very muted and muddy. When there is a puzzle to solve, you are often given a glimpse of the place you need to go to find the item you need. But as all the scenery looks the same this is very little help. The baddies all seem to blend into the greeny-grey murk of the walls and even in one room the walls can be fogged in shadow making it hard to work out where you need to go. It also results in the frustration of being shot at by creatures sating outside of the games ''drawn in'' area. Arrgh! The collision detection is very bad as well. At one point my character rolled though a wall ending up behind the creature that was shooting at me, which then just stood there making no attempt to look around to see where I had gone. This kind of glitching is even on the character models; Ikes character has a jacket that often breaks up around the collar area! Textures warp and polygons tears visibly and often the frame rate slows to a crawl when a lot of baddies are attacking you all at once. Not good.

So unfortunately, although the concept behind O.D.T is actually quite a good one, the execution is diabolical. What could have been an involving and tactical spin on the third person adventure game ends up being just a frustrating, difficult and ultimately dull experience.

Reviewer's Rating:   1.5 - Bad

Originally Posted: 01/18/02, Updated 01/18/02

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