A few months ago I reacquired my boxed copy of IO Interactive’s Freedom Fighters, which had been languishing at my mother’s for close to a decade. The game had a huge impact on me back in 2003 (inspiring the game idea that eventually became A Place in the West, which is a Half-Life comic I write for) and I longed to revisit it. Unfortunately, but also predictably, Freedom Fighters was no longer compatible with my machine.
So it was something of a delight when IO unexpectedly dropped the game on digital stores last week. I had a bunch of other titles lined up to play, but I just couldn’t stop myself from diving back in to see if the game I’d fell so in love with as a kid was just as I remembered it.
For the most part the answer is a pretty decisive “yes”.
The first I heard of Scourge: Outbreak was upon reading an email sent to me by a friend containing the official trailer for the game. It showed characters leaping around with acrobatic skills and using a number of powers to take down enemies in style. This in turn lead me onto the official website which showed promise of unique co-op action and gave some decent back story to support the pending release. Unfortunately the end product does not deliver on the ambitions of developers Tragnarion Studios.
Instead what we have ended up with is a game that delivers generic gameplay elements borrowed from heavyweight games such as Mass Effect and Gears of War, tagged onto a barely existing and unfinished story with poor voice acting, script writing and a general lack of polish. This is apparent from the first few minutes of gameplay as you are guided through a tutorial attempting to explain the games controls. It all starts getting a little overwhelming around the time you are talked through squad commands like revive, attack and move position, all of which are controlled via exactly the same button.
The problems escalate from here onwards with the first noticeable gripe being the strength of the enemies and the almost useless AI. Even on normal difficulty the enemies seem to take tens of bullets to the face in order to kill, which is problematic when faced with groups pushing on your position. This is not helped by the fact that your allies AI seems a bit dim often standing out in plain veiw, shooting into space, hiding in cover when no enemies are around, failing to follow you to your position or running into walls. In fact the only thing they seem proficient at is reviving, even shielding themselves in order to do so. I wont lie in saying that this has actually pulled me through a couple of the trickier sections of the game where multiple revives have been needed in order to advance.
This leads me onto use of my own special abilities and weapons. These two special abilities, powered by your Ambrosia suit consist of shield and attack and differ slightly depending on which character you chose at the start of the game. The character I played as, Shade, had a Static Shield and Shockwave as his abilities and rarely did I find myself using these. Shield was useful when reviving, but as the AI seemed to be faster at me than this I found it was better just to hunker down behind cover and use my guns rather than risk getting close to the bullet sponge enemies and risk a Shockwave attack. The guns themselves well, I never used to understand what people meant when they said that guns in a game felt weak, now I do. It feels as if I’m firing inaccurate pea shooters, especially mounted guns which you would expect to sound and feel very powerful. Pickups come in standard forms, shotgun, assault rifle, pistol etc. Each of these have their own modifications to accuracy and damage which can be alternated throughout the levels.
In all honesty I could go on at length about the flaws in this game. The poor script and voice acting, unfinished story, the fact that multiplayer matchmaking is broken, overpowered enemies, poor visuals and animations, stereotypical characters (Mass I’m looking at you), lack of innovation and use of generic terms to name just a few, but I will save you the time by instead saying that yes this game has its problems and a bucket full of them for that matter, but there is one saving grace, the challenge it provides. If you are the kind of person that loves third person shooters, even the kind that have been reproduced to death, then this might perhaps possibly just be for you… maybe.
Nightmare mode is the pinnacle of challenge and unfortunately frustration and even completing it on normal is daunting enough. Super tough enemies mean retrying areas multiple times whilst juggling between reviving your team and dealing with enemies rushing your position. Over the four levels of Scourge: Outbreak there are also a few boss battles of note that require you to actually use tactics and think about how you play the game instead of blasting your way through room after room and never looking back. Getting to these battles may well see you kick your TV in anger and for a lot of people that very fact will not be worth picking this game up.
Verdict – Off Target
Platforms Available – PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Platform Reviewed – Xbox 360
Review based on a copy provided by Tragnarion Studios
Please check this post for more on our scoring policy.
Max Payne 3 has been a long time coming, and this caused some concern for me. Given that almost a decade has passed since Max Payne 2, accompanied by a change of development team, I was initially apprehensive as to whether Max’s third outing would hold my attention in the same way as its predecessors. As it turns out, though, I needn’t have worried. …
A month ago, I went at American McGee’s Alice with a rather snicker-snack attitude, penning a retrospective though I’d neither played the game before, nor particularly enjoyed it as I played it. Whilst ageing mechanics had a lot to do with it, I was perhaps most put out by the decade or so I’d spent assuming it was a great game wrapped around a fantastic concept. So with Alice: Madness Returns, I’ve decided to take the same prejudicial route, noting the lacking hype and lukewarm scores. And yes, I’ve disappointed myself again. Because it’s not quite as mediocre as some are saying it is.