Holy hell, I totally don't know where to start with this. So I guess I'll just say this game is amazing. This is the pinnacle of entertainment for the third person shooter genre. Why? It isn't obsessed with being revolutionary, with changing/improving the genre. It just wants to be good. And without the focus diverted to new features and such, the game can take them existing features and improve them. The result: one of the most polished games I've seen in ages.
The visuals this game are, to put it simply, amazing. The graphics are absolutely top notch, better than anything available right now on PC or console. But beyond that, the visual effects are amazing. The enemy models are very well done and incredibly detailed, as are your own characters. The gunflashes are superb, and explosions, along with the occaisional shower of blood they bring, are a wonder to behold.
However, you don't get much time to look at the visuals during the fighting, which, despite being a third person tactical shooter, gets incredibly hectic. Run and gun tactics will get you torn to pieces; on the hardest difficulty, enemy fire tears you down in a matter of seconds. Which is why I am glad this game has the most robust cover system I've ever seen. Run up to just about anything and press A, and you'll press against it. You can easily move along it, and either pop up to aim over the cover, or simply blindly fire, which is actually made useful by enemies that will react realistically to duck under cover themselves. Rarely have I seen enemies in this game make an easy target of themselves, with a few exceptions, such as Boomers, huge rocket toting monsters that take much firepower to take down.
Moving from cover to cover is just as easy, with many different options, including vaulting over your cover, diving away, doing fancy little swat turns, or sprinting out of cover. Doesn't sound too fancy, but it really pulls you into the game when it's all so incredibly easy to do.
Then there is the actual fighting. Most of it involves fighting soldier-like enemies called grubs, that appear out of holes sunken into the ground. These enemies will employ all the same kinds of tactics that you will. They may sit back and snipe at you, while holding you in cover, or they may be more aggresive, rushing straight at you for a melee fight. Your squad members are quite helpful, providing suppressive fire as you flank your enemy or line up a nice sniper shot.
At this point, it may still sound like your standard third person shooter, but then comes the exquisite level design. It starts out with you escaping from prison and fighting your way towards another squad, leading to you fighting a massive battle against a horde of enemies pinned down. During this, and many other, times, you will be given the option to pick a path to follow, at which point your team splits up, you and a squadmate playing the chosen path while the rest of the squad takes the other, leading to some very cool firefights, where the two of you are fighting along parralel but seperate paths, often able to help each other out in one way or another. I was amazed already by the time that I got to the game's first boss fight, which completely astounded me by completely turning the game upside down, not what you'd expect from any kind of shooter. I won't spoil it, but just let me say this is a fight you'll want to play again.
From that point, the way the game plays changes constantly, from avoiding unlit areas due to swarms of deadly aliens to driving a tank through an area swarming with them, shooting you down as you go, constantly changing things up and keeping it fresh and fun.
Then there is the coop, which is simply astounding. In addition to being able to do the split screen standard coop, you can go online to play with four players, one for evey squad member, making for some of the most amazing and memorable battles I've ever experienced.
Anyways, I have yet to touch on even half the greatness in this game, but I don't want this review to drag on too long. I will say there is one point not so great on this game, the ONLY thing I can really find flawed with it, and it is a minor one. The story is not that great, with you never really learning the purpose of the war, or anything about your character. But this is not a problem, since the game is not really trying to focus on story, nor should it be expected to. As shooters go, the story is not bad.
In short, this is a game to buy a console over, and if you have any interest in this game and have been debating getting a 360, then now is the time to get this game.
Nov 10 2006, 9:05 pm