The lights are on
Weep for what could have been. This game had so much promise, but, as you have already guessed, it failed to live up to it. Some game mechanics, such as charging your flashlight, pumping your pneumatic sniper rifle, shooting in a straight line, and walking, work perfectly fine, and add a bit of micromanagement to your FPS (if you enjoy that sort of thing). Others, however, are simply unnecessary. Russia's bullet based economy (Which, as you know, is doing splendidlly in real life) serve no purpose other than to hand over your extremely rare and perfectly good bullets for a mediocre gun, but, oh wait, you don't have any of the good kind of bullets left, so, yeah, you got screwed over in that deal. Time and time again, I would see an intriguing-looking weapon lying on a merchant's table in one of the three-or-so inhabited stations stretched at uneven throughout the linear story, and instead of keeping my perfectly good double-barreled shotgun, I would trade it in. Later on, I would discover that, in battle, my new investment was useless, and quickly pick up the next shotgun I saw. By the time I finally figured out that all weapons other than the shotgun suck, the game stopped throwing trading posts at me and told me to go *** myself, because I was not a savvy consumer (I did pay for this game, after all). Another failed mechanic, the gas-mask, is useless because you will always have enough time and enough air filters. None of the segments with poisonous gas are long enough to ever merit more than one change of a filter.
But the game is not just bad because it has a bit of loose gameplay flopping hopelessly behind it. Indeed, If it was just these issues, it would be a passable, and creatively immersive FPS. The problem is mostly the story line. How can a bad story line ruin a game, you ask? It's not that the story is bad. In fact, I went on the Wikipedia article for this game and found out that it is quite interesting. But as I was playing the game, I was completely unaware of this. I had no idea what was happening or why. I had a vague notion that I was saving my home station from monsters, but then Nazis and missiles and floating balls of lightning and ghosts and pustulent tentacled abominations got mixed up in it, and I suddenly was completely lost. The game ignored my cries for help, though, and decided to slavishly adhere to the story as if it made any sense to the player. This is where the greatest problem lies. This game is really scripted. Not Half-Life scripted, where something happens and a relevant action sequence begins, but more like the developers actually wrote a movie-like script that included everything that was supposed to happen in the game, including the player actions. The combat to advancing-the-plot ration is about 1:1. I could see this sort of thing working in the book from which this game is derived, but this is not a book, it is a game, and as such, it should have fun, coherent gameplay that only lets the story in when it would benefit the audience. Although the level designs are beautiful you never get to explore them, because if you stray too far from your teammate, it is more than likely that you will get your face scraped off by some horrific ghoul that is immune to bullets (the enemies in this game have an amazing appetite for lead). Frequently, the developers will introduce some new game element, the rules of which are not fully explained. As a result, you will spend a lot of trial and error on some segments, hearing the same single lines of dialogue over and over as the camera flails about wildly and the screen fades to red, signifying that, once again, you have died a grisly and stupid death. Near the end, it actually includes quick-time events. In conclusion, I highly recommend the book, based on what I read of the story on Wikipedia, but don't bother with the game. It's not the worst thing in the world, but it could have been one of the best.
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