Posted: May 20
tl;dr: Could have been a good game - a prime example of balancing gone awfully wrong. Normally I would love this game. I *should* love this game. But I can't. It's like getting drunk. At first, it's fun. Then, you regret it and swear to never do it again. Rinse, repeat.
The spy-theme is cool, and I love the idea of this RPG. Storywise there are no complaints from me. Graphics are a bit outdated by now, but I can live with that. Sound, music and voice acting is really good.
Overall, this could really be enjoyable. As the main character, you get the sense of being in the middle of a spy movie. It is immersing. You can customize the skill tree of your character. Straight-up shooter? Tech wiz? Silent but deadly? All this is possible. And it allows you to approach situations in different ways. Mostly. Sometimes.
Except where it doesn't. Then the game flushes sneaking or tech wizardry down the toilet, and you hopefully have maxed out one of the weapon skills when waves of enemies are thrown at you. Oh, you did not? Prepare to die, Mr. Thorton. Seriously, Deus Ex has shown years before this game how it is done properly.
And the boss fights. Impossible for me to win. I can accept a challenge. I can accept a tough game. But this is ludicrous. I simply followed the game and wanted to complete my first city, Moscow. There is no indication in the game that the particular mission could be too hard. So you sneak through the compound, face the boss. And then you die. Again. And again. And again. And then you give up, forget the last hour that you sank into the game for nothing, and follow a different path (mostly because I googled how to win this fight - turns out you should do a few missions elsewhere first). Where you also encounter another boss. Same story. I died, again. And again.
Save points do not help. Sometimes they are too far apart (e.g.: that one triad attack mission), so you have to repeat almost an entire level. 15 minutes of playtime, wiped away. Over and over again. Hey, Obsidian, I know the game is targeted for consoles. Get your act together on the PC. Let me save anywhere I want. It's not the 90s anymore. Challenge me with smart gameplay, not technical limitations.
Speaking of which: navigating the levels can be tricky. Mike does not always go where I want him to go. The camera sometimes turns suddenly by 180deg, and sometime the main character does as well. Very annoying when you started aiming for the bad guys. Moving around, taking cover, getting out of cover... not as fluent as it could be - as demonstrated by other games from the same year.
Thing is: would I read this review, I would think that I could live with all that. And sometime I can. Then the game shines, and it's fun, and it's challenging. I enjoy it for a few minutes. And then the hammer falls, and I curse under my breath.
There are very few games that literally enrage me. This is one of them. To vent, I can either smash something - or write a review. My things around me appreciate me writing this. I really want to love this game. I want to play it again. Maybe I will in the future, when I forgot how horrible and angry I felt when I played it last.
Or maybe I simply made all the wrong choices and leveled all the wrong skills and gave all the wrong answers. I still don't think a game should punish me for that, but, well...
+ I love the spy theme
+ interesting characters
+ decent story
+ this game makes you emotional...
- ...unfortunately, this emotion is "hate"
- clunky controls
- friggin' save points
- horrible balance
- animation of Mike sneaking is... umm... funny?
- Deus Ex did it better, years ago
- for me, cheating by changing the config files was the only way to salvage some fun
get it when the price is really cheap (and I mean *really* cheap), or you really want a challenge...