May 22, 2000
PC, Nintendo 64
This is not a terrible game. Subpar in a lot of ways, sure, but I have played far worse shooters from this era. I have to assume it only has it’s extreme reputation because it wasn’t Romero’s spectacular magnum opus, and Eidos ran that infamous bitch marketing campaign. It front loads the worst parts of the game in the first world, but improves considerably when you travel back in time to ancient Athens, plague-infested Norway and a very John Carpenter-esque San Fransisco. It’s never amazing, but there are definitely some good ideas buried in here, and it is certainly not a broken mess.
Most of the enemies and weapons are quite novel, just poorly implemented, with the sound design and animation being particularly weak. A lot of the weapons feel ineffectual for instance, even though they’re actually absurdly powerful – you can gib people with a 9mm pistol! The level design has quite a few genuinely great, even impressive areas, but also quite a few boring corridors, with some occasionally confusing layouts.
I installed a fan-made 1.3 patch, which makes the sidekicks invincible, alleviating much of the annoyance there. Even so, their AI is actually quite impressive compared to the friendly NPCs in Half-Life, for instance. They’ll follow you up ladders, over jumps, through vents, but still find ways to get stuck. I enjoyed the story, for the most part. It takes you to interesting places, both fancifully historical and atmospherically cyberpunk, through magical sword time travel shenanigans.
At it’s best it reminds me of Hexen II, Unreal and even Deus Ex. At it’s worst it reminds me of Blood 2, or the back end of Turok 2. I’ve been hearing about how bad this is for forever and I’m glad I could see how much hyperbole is behind that for myself.