Geist review - Edward Roivas Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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Geist review

Why, you ask, am I writing a review of a game released 8 years ago that no one has heard of except for 7 people, give or take a few? My friend Carson asked me about it, so writing a giant review is the natural thing to do.

At the start of Geist, you and a squad of highly trained special operatives attack the Volks Corporation building to extract a man who's been working undercover there. Needless to say, like all rescue missions carried out by specially trained forces, it goes horribly wrong. The squad is killed when one of their soldiers appears to go crazy and kills them all (he was actually possessed by a ghost), and you're captured. You're separated from your body and turned into a ghost, capable of possessing people and objects.

You can only possess a living creature if they're scared. You scare them by possessing objects around them and using the objects to scare them. There's only one way to go about scaring someone though, so it's essentially the same as a puzzle in a point and click game, but instead of moving your mouse pixel by pixel over the screen, you wander around the environment looking for objects you can possess. On the bright side, the reactions of people to being scared are often entertaining, and there are a few creative and well designed puzzles.

When you're outside a host body, everything around you moves in slow motion and your health slowly drains. You can regain it by possessing something or absorbing energy from a plant, so there's never any real threat of running out of health.

Each chapter of the game consists of two things - first, puzzle solving, where your ghost abilities are used almost exclusively. After that, combat, after you've found a host with a weapon. This is usually just moving from corridor to corridor along a very linear path, fighting enemies with very poor AI. They usually just stand there and shoot at you, there were actually a few times I managed to get them to shoot their allies by moving to a position where another enemy was between us. On the rare occasion your host has grenades, enemies make no effort to avoid them.

The applications of being able to possess objects and enemies in combat goes greatly underused. You're usually stuck with your host and whatever gun they have, without the option, to, say, possess an enemy soldier, charge head on at the others, leave his body and possess the one farthest away, then mow down all the ones with their back turned to you. This is something I actually did in the game, in one of the few opportunities you have to use possession in combat.

Aside from using one analog stick for shooting, the other for aiming (which is somewhat loose), and the R button for shooting, Geist's controls are different from other shooters. A possesses and B dispossesses (if that's even a word), L uses whatever ability your host has (crouching, jumping, sprinting, or zoomed in aiming - only one), the other buttons aren't really important.



The enemy variety is lacking, for the first half of the game you fight nothing but soldiers (boss battles aside). After the story takes a turn for the paranormal, two new enemy types are introduced. Strange little 'imp' creatures, that spit balls of fire, and giant spiders that can turn invisible. Late game you gain a 'bullet time' like ability, where you travel at increased speed and your guns rate of fire stay the same, but everyone else, bullets, and your grenades are slowed down. This let's you destroy the standard human soldiers with impunity for a short period of time, until you encounter two enemy types that can counter your new ability. 

Special soldiers with anti ghost lasers, grenades and their own speed boost ability. After that, the most interesting enemy to fight, the Spectral Operatives. Other ghosts. When not using your speed boost ability, they have a tendency to appear to teleport a few feet because they move so fast. They also cooperate - one will possess you and try to drag you into an explosive container, while another possesses and sets off the container. In the final boss fight, they'll drag you out of cover into the bosses field of vision, so he can kill you with his machine gun and rocket equipped flying wheelchair.

The boss fights are for the most part competent. They aren't particularly great, but they aren't bad. There are a few exceptions, both positively and negatively. There is a monster you encounter in the beginning that is very boring to fight. you can easily avoid all of it's attacks by strafing and keeping your distance, and you can only hurt it when it opens it's mouth. Yet they saw fit to repeat the worst boss battle in the game two more times.

The third boss battle is the one that really stands out among them; there are four soldiers and two turrets you can possess in the room, as well as the boss himself. If everything you can possess dies, you lose. He has a powerful laser gun, so you need to jump from host to host, and kill him quickly. The turrets are your real fire power, but getting hit causes the camera to get blurry for a moment. 

The game does a good job of paying attention to details like this, when you possess a dog you'll see in black and white, when you possess a mouse you have a strong compulsion to run towards cheese, etc.

I'd place the game around 7-10 hours long, and there are a lot of 'host collectibles' to find, every two giving you more maps or options for multiplayer, as well as ghost collectibles that increase your health bar as a ghost. The multiplayer is easily the games greatest strength.

There are three modes, Possession Death Match, Capture the Host, and Hunt. The game supports up to 8 players if you count bots, and just to be clear you can have anywhere between one human and seven bots or four humans and four bots. There are a lot of options depending on the mode, with CTH having the most, PDM having slightly less and Hunt having the least. 

For the first two modes, there are up to eight teams. This alone gives you a lot more options, because you can have the standard 4 vs. 4, four teams of two, two teams of three made up of bots and you and a friend on a team of two, etc. 

Possession Death Match has hosts that do nothing spawn all over the map, and all players spawn as ghosts. It works similarly to older shooters like Halo 1-3, but with hosts instead of guns, and you can't be shot on your way to them. There are also a number of objects sitting on some maps that can be used as a weapon. Some have explosive containers or machine gun turrets that can be possessed. It's essentially Team Death Match/Death Match with possession abilities being added to the combat, something the single player should have done more.

Capture the Host tasks you with taking your host to one point on the map, regardless of what team you're on, and dispossessing them on that point. When you get a kill you get an exponential kill point, so that you score an extra point for dropping off that host. But if you die, then for every extra point you had little +1 things will start floating around you, allowing your killer to get a lot of extra points. There's also a hijacking power up that can be found while you're a ghost that allows you to steal an enemies host, and whatever points they had. It's a risk=reward scenario, where you can single handedly win or lose the game for your team.



The guns are all very well balanced, if lacking in variety. Aside from the special characters weapons, there's the standard assault rifle+grenade launcher, sub machine gun, shotgun, rocket launcher, mine that can be thrown and detonated, light machine gun, and sniper rifle. The only gun that that keeps it from being perfectly balanced is the overpowered rocket launcher, which has a rate of fire and traveling speed that is just too high for a rocket launcher.

Hunt is an asymmetrical mode, that has one team of ghosts and a team of humans fight against each other. The humans have pistols that do small damage to the ghosts as and are equipped with powerful, but slow reloading anti ghost grenade launchers that expel them from the humans bodies and stun them, as well as doing serious damage. The ghosts need to possess the humans, and from there drag them into an environmental hazard to make them commit suicide. It's a well balanced mode where teamwork will win the game. The humans have to stick together, stay as far away from environmental hazards as possible (which, on the maps designed for this mode, isn't very far), and shoot their grenades at possessed teammates, while the ghosts should try to possess any soldiers who are alone and try to possess all the humans at once - they can't help each other if they're all possessed.

End transmission

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