Ritual Entertainment loves The Matrix
Ritual Entertainment loves The Matrix

Since Steam started their holiday sale, I decided to pick up Ritual Entertainment’s SiN Episodes: Emergence, regularly priced at $14.95, for only $7.45 (also snatched Psychonauts for $9.95). This way, I could avoid the family, pull back my rate of drinking, and enjoy some old school FPS gaming.

A little too old school. For one of the design goals being emergent AI, the enemy behaviour is the opposite of intelligent. There is no cooperation or cover system. An enemy yells, “take the left flank”, while him and his mate stand awkwardly on a narrow skyscraper ledge. The game does have a difficulty system that adjusts according to your performance, however I didn’t find it too difficult overall, since you’re only taking headshots at endless mercenary grunts and fast-moving zombies mutants. It’s just a plain run and gun.

The game was created using the hyper-sexualized, scatological mindset of the 90s gaming where pimping was an often used as an acronym for promotion. Overall, it feels more like a Half Life 2 mod with silly humour and gameplay mechanics stripped-down. Compare to HL2: an introductory chase from flying bullets while unarmed, hopping mutants, outdoor female security system voiceover making announcements to the city, health canisters (which add work that make them more annoying than HL2’s), a helicopter fight finale, and the overall realistic urban landscape from both texture and architecture design standpoints. The exception in the level design is the “Supremacy Tower” level where the colour schemes completely flip as a cartoonish nod to the first game. Parts of the episode definitely look rushed, with some rather ugly textures and geometry being found in some later levels. I did think the skymap on the final level was implemented much better than Half Life 2’s City 17 flat image as you ascend “The Citadel”.

There are a few approaches that set it apart from the Half Life universe, such as the mutagen gas, which enables bullet-time that I found more taxing than real-time due to the rendering effects that cause a frame rate hit. The driving cutscenes were rather cursory with the car smoothly moving along as opposed to the interactive physics found in vehicles for other Source games. You only act passively as a passenger while the female driver (with her G-string in obvious view? Really?) and a computer monitor push ahead the rather pedestrian story.

This review was basically a large insult. I did enjoy the game on some level; as a big, dumb shooter, it accomplishes its basic goals. But overall, its 3.5 hours of gameplay didn’t exact leave me craving for more, although it looks like that won’t matter since further SiN episodes won’t be happening anytime soon.

I would like to congratulate Ritual Entertainment on their boobie bouncing physics. Right on, perverts.

Merry Christmas!