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PLATFORM: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PC
ESRB RATING: M
DEVELOPER: 8monkey Labs
PUBLISHER: Phantom EFX
You are a soldier in General Custer’s army enjoying a nice sunny day near Little Bighorn when some crazy injuns attack. Shot by arrows and on the brink of death, the world around you suddenly slows down and a giant portal snaps into existence in front of you. A man in combat armor grabs you and drags you into it, sending you flying into the future.
It turns out that a corporation named KronoTek is about to commission you to find the organization’s founder, the man who developed this time travel technology. To do this they have to correct discrepencies during various wars where people didn’t end up as they should have due to time meddling.
As silly as the story is, the concept that a man is pulled from the 1800s into the future and sent to various times to murder thousands of people (sometimes on both sides of the same war) and does so without any protest or hesitation seems like just a tiny little bit of a stretch. Your faceless, voiceless character makes Jack from Bioshock seem like a downright self-motivated individual. He is aided by one of the most annoying non-player characters in modern gaming, and together you’re sent off to fight in the American Civil War, World War 1 and even Pompei while Mt Vesuvius explodes ash all over the place, all the while watching out for a rival group that’s hunting you guys (of COURSE there’s a rival group.)
Oh, and you’ll also have a brief stint in WW2 where you get knocked out, put on a train and sent off to Auchwitz. Not a joke. This game actually sticks you in a concentration camp, and I’ll just let that thought linger there.
CHUDTIP- The level’s actually very fun until you get to the QTE events. PRESS X TO TAKE SHOWER.
Man, where to start.
Well the game controls much like you’d expect a first person shooter to, and the weapons are fairly fun to use. You’re given weapons authentic to the time, except that they never, ever jam and always shoot straight. But you will use Springfield muskets and Gewehr 43s and even some more futuristic weaponry. For the most part you’re stuck with the weapons from the era, however, and it’s actually refreshing to use a gun where every bullet counts.
The game does a great job of supporting hundreds of characters on screen at once, but apparently only had enough foresight to put maybe two or three brains among them. Both your enemies and allies are stupid as hell. Probably half a dozen times a soldier popped up in my sights as I was trying to shoot an enemy.
CHUDTIP- The guys in grey are your enemies. Not the guys in brown!
Blue auras show you which characters have to be spared so in order not to throw off time, which seems like a good idea to change up the gameplay and make you reconsider your shots but just gets irritating as you’re forced to shoot them in the legs or throw little capsules that snap them into unconciousness. People with orange auras are critical to history and must be saved at any cost and whenever you see one get ready to play babysitter.
That’s about everything positive I’ve got to say about this game, because the fact is that it’s a buggy, near-unplayable mess of a game. The list reads like a compendium of things that you don’t want to have in your game- slowdown, pop-in, glitchy characters, invisible walls you run into on wide-open fields- this game has it all. Twice I had to restart my game on an earlier save because of a game-killing bug. Good thing that the game saves every 5 seconds and tells you that it is doing so while playing a musical cue that sounds like the start of a race!
Here’s one of the more fun bugs I found while trying to get the silly 25 point achievement for drowning youself.
What else do we have? How about tons of lengthy loading screens, which actually force you to hit Start to get back in the game, most likely because you’ll have wandered off to do something else for the ten free hours you have?
Or how about how impossible it is to navigate? Pressing the back button will bring up a historically-accurate map which will at least show you the way you should point yourself, and you should get used to doing this a lot because you’re often given no idea of where to go. It’s amusing to think that with all this futuristic technology they’re forced to rely on paper maps.
The best part of the entire game? There’s an achievement called Horse Puncher that you get by walking up to a horse, asking why the long face, and then punching it to death for not answering you back. 100 of the punchiest points you will ever get.
CHUDTIP- Hey, you can’t park that animal over there! It’s illegal!
The sad thing about this game is what a squandered opportunity it is. There are moments that are tremendous amounts of fun, like the Pompei level where you’re finally allowed to go buck and unload on everything in sight (everyone in town is killed anyway, after all, so mass murder is fine!) From the character models to the weaponry to the maps, the amount of detail to historical accuracy is remarkable here and the concept is a sound one, but the execution? Not so much. Not at all, in fact.
The game even has the balls to end on a cliffhanger and promise (threaten) more adventures to come. Perhaps they can fix where they went wrong here…
There’s almost nothing in the way of presentation here. There’s not even an opening cinema. All of the story in the game is told through boring cutscenes where your character stands around and blankly listens to other people talk.
While the engine’s putting a lot of characters on screen at once and has a whole lot of stuff going on at once it sure ain’t making them look pretty. It’s a muddy-looking ugly game. And never mind the music… oh, the horrible and repetitive music.
This video sort of sums up the entire game because for everything it does right it does ten more things horribly, horribly wrong. Here I’m carrying around an assault rifle during the civil war, mowing down Confederates on a shooting line with dinky muskets. Lots of fun, but listen to that music and imagine it repeated for an entire level. It can easily drive you insane.
This is a bargain title by an indie developer that’s selling for more than it’s worth ($40 for PC, $50 for Xbox 360). Note that this review is based on the 360 version- it’s entirely possible that the bugs present here aren’t on the PC, or that they can be patched. But even if all the technical problems with the game were erased all the design and story ones would remain, and it would still be a subpar shooter.