A new concept in gaming
This review originally posted at MentalGamers – www.mentalgamers.com/game_reviews.php?r=18
SiN Episodes is a new concept in gaming as far as I’m aware. Basically the plan is to release a number of small “episodes” of a larger game. Each episode contains around 4-5 hours of gameplay for the average gamer and, obviously, each episode carries on from the one before it.
Emergence is the first of these episodes, and as a welcome bonus you get the original game SiN bundled with it if you want the full back-story. This isn’t a review of SiN though, so suffice to say Emergence takes place some time after the original, and the old bad guy (well girl actually) is still at it.
Made using Valve’s Source engine, you can immediately see that the engine has been put to great use when you wake up on an operating table staring up at a pair of massive heaving breasts that bounce and jiggle in a mesmerising fashion as the villain of the story talks. Couple that with a little dream sequence shortly after (which I won’t spoil for you) and it’s clear from the start that this game is aimed at red-blooded males…
Although Emergence uses the same engine as Half-Life 2, the graphics are maybe not as nice as you would expect but are by no means shabby. The close-up cut scenes are very nicely done and the voice acting is pretty good too, it?s just the enemy soldiers that seem somehow cartoon-ish to me. Having said that, being on the source engine does have its benefits and there are some great looking effects.
Going back to the voice acting for a moment, there are a few good laughs to be had from your rookie partner Jessica’s no-nonsense ballsy attitude. The sounds are pretty well done too enemies will talk about you when they know you are near, and you sure as hell know when there are a whole bunch of bad guys about to jump you when the dramatic music kicks in. Ambient sounds and weapon sounds are again maybe nothing special but are by no means bad.
As for gameplay, well as I already said this is a red-blooded male’s game (not that girls won’t enjoy it too of course). I found it to be very run-and-gun style and I can’t really remember doing much creeping about or tactical play at all, apart from maybe crouching as I opened some doors that I was convinced held bad guys behind them. To reinforce my opinion, there’s plenty of ammo to pick up along the way meaning you never run short (except perhaps for the final boss), as well as plenty of health to pick up. In fact while I remember there’s a nice little feature regarding health that I haven’t seen before – There are health stations mounted on the walls that you can eject the canisters from when they are used up, allowing you to put another one in should you find any. Also the “boss” characters and secret areas give quite a retro feel, harking back to the days when games were all about running around shooting wildly.
A big draw of the Source engine is the advanced physics available, and Emergence makes good use of this feature. Enemies will throw and kick objects at you, and you can pick up and move things around (i.e. putting health canisters into the dispensers). In fact there was a point where I was convinced I had triggered some sort of bug in the game because I couldn’t get out of a room – turns out I had to build myself a way out.
Something else that I’ve never seen before is SiN’s “Personal Challenge System”. Essentially, regardless of what difficulty level you choose to start on, this system monitors your performance and adjusts the difficulty to make sure you are always challenged by the game. It also detects when you are having difficulty dieing a lot in one place, and helps you out. Part of this system is a comprehensive set of stats you can call up at any time, so you can see what difficulty you chose and what difficulty the game thinks you need. It even includes the option to upload your stats.
Unfortunately the AI is nothing special compared to some of today’s games, the difficulty comes mainly from the sheer numbers of them. The levels are very linear so there are never any flanking manoeuvres as such, just enemies appearing behind you, which can be incredibly annoying when there are already a bunch in front of you keeping you pinned down.
Overall SiN Episodes: Emergence is great fun and the good points more than out weigh any bad ones. The only real concern I have is that the price tag seems a bit high for 4-5 hours of play time. I’m hoping that the price reflects the fact that you get the original SiN bundled with this first episode, and that future episodes will either be cheaper or longer (or both). If not, gamers could end up paying £100+ for the “full” game when they could buy any other “full” game for £35. However in true episodic style, the ending of Emergence leaves you wanting more so no doubt there will be a lot of people eager for the next episode.
The Bad: Linear, AI not great, High price for very little play-time