I was recently handed another copy of Oni to review, this time for the PS2, having done the PC review of it, it seemed only natural that I would eventually get to take a shot at the PS2 Oni.
Rather than dredge through my review to find out what this game is about here's a short synopsis of the story and characters.
The year is 2032 and The World Coalition Government rules all. The whole set up is kind of like a Big Brother, no one makes a move without the WCG knowing about it.
There are cities where life is grand and everything is good, and then there are the outside places where things are not so good, the land is poisoned and the people are trying to push back the corrosion. Oni is set in a dark, dark future.
Into this equation are the TCTF and their agent, you, Konoko...a tough and sassy manga (Anime) lass who has an arsenal of weapons and a repertoire of martial arts moves that would make Steven Segal quail in fear. It's your job to enforce the WCG's laws and statutes.
Opposing the WCG is the Syndicate.
They provide the drugs and the weapons that the downtrodden need to keep going and to kill each other. The Syndicate has recently undergone a change of boss, Muro, and this is one of the main cruxes of the storyline. You are charged with the investigation of Syndicate actions at a local warehouse and soon become embroiled in a much darker story. But I'm not going to spoil it.
So enough of the storyline and background, let's get to the meat and bones of the game. Has Oni PS2 made the jump from PC game to Console...if you want my honest and die-hard opinion...I can say it has, and very well.
Graphically Oni is much more superior to the PC version, it's crisper and seems more finished, although I loved the character models and the animation on both versions there's one thing that does let Oni down for me...and that's the interior design. Oni's levels were designed by modern architects yes, but they should have also paid attention to the insides of the various rooms. I get sick of seeing the same bit of console or generator time after time. Then again you could argue that a game such as Oni doesn't really need detailed interiors cause it's all about blasting the hell out of the bad-guys or beating them to a bloody pulp.
Konoko and the various enemies are very well designed, the PS2's graphics are not pushed by any means to the limit but it does all run smooth and silky with very little slowdown even when things get pretty frenetic. You can be involved in some decent fur-balls leaving you wishing for a health-pickup or a quick death. There's a nice level of costume detail on the various characters, they have shades, armour plates, belts and headphones, again rendered in a typical anime style. The Animation of the various fighting moves and general movement is very well done, Konoko moves with a kind of fluid grace, ducking and weaving, dodging and kicking with the best of them. She undergoes various costume changes throughout the game and I have to admit that some of them are extremely cool. Her shades and leather jacket outfit is one of my all time favourites. The textures and the various locations are all done in a decent resolution, I didn't see any texture warping or fuzzing occur when I hammered the game prior to this review, so I presume they took advantage in this area of the PS2's graphics handling capabilities. The whole graphical look to Oni can be summed up with the one word. Anime.
From the vehicles to the enemy types, colours and the locations Oni lives, breathes and shines Anime. Oh and Oni has no blood or gore involved, it's all hard hitting fist punching action with none of the pints of claret that slaked Soldier of Fortune.
Moving onto the Gameplay and the use of the PS2's controller pad. I think this is where Oni again scores over the PC version, I found it much easier to navigate and fight using the PS2 controller than I ever did with the keyboard and the mouse on my PC. Konoko can be sent into a myriad of different attack moves with a few taps of the shoulder buttons. All jumping, ducking, punching and kicking come off the shoulder buttons. Your left stick or d-pad controls the movement aspect and the right stick control the direction that Konoko looks. After a while you find that the control method really does suit the game and makes it much easier to function as a lethal combat machine.
Oni's gameplay is a mixture of frenetic blasting, sneaking and hard brawling, Konoko can break heads with the best of them and a major amount of detail has been lavished not only on her moves but her enemies fighting moves and AI, although beware the AI often likes to use a heavy impact weapon up close and personal. Usually killing them and injuring you.
They have an impressive hand-to-hand technique and often will get the drop on you, surrounding Konoko and using brute force to try and break through your effective blocks. Both you and they have special moves that you can use, although Konoko's become available the more you progress deeper into the game, after a few levels of action you'll find she's able to get up close and personal and wrench a fire-arm out of her opponents grasp and into her own.
This brings me nicely to one of my favourite enemy tricks and my own, if you are downed by a heavy move you drop your weapon if you were using one, this leaves it free to be snaffled by the enemy, who will take great delight in picking it up, and emptying the ammo-clip into your hide. They'll do this a number of ways, one by walking over and grabbing the gun, or running and dive-rolling over it...the good news is with a little bit of practise you can do the same.
Oni's puzzles usually involve finding a switch or set of switches and triggering them to open a previously locked door, again this rather simplistic feature lets the game down a little, when so much more could have been made with a little more thought. However in its favour it is an action game and not an action/ puzzle game akin to Fear Effect.
Sound and voice acting are standard with nothing that really grabs your attention; the voices are simple, crisp and clear. Rather than animate Konoko's mouth and the other in-game characters they seem to have gone for a comic (Anime) style of cut-scene where they use the in-game engine to provide the action and small inlays to provide facial expression. Spoken words emphasise this with some degree of success but can be a little bland at times, maybe it's just me but if you're going to show emotion in a game you should also have the voice show it as well.
Finally the game-save feature is still missing from the PS2 version, still there is the automatic save-point although it seems to me that the console Oni has more than the PC version which could be a great blessing to those people who want to stick with Bungie's game.
So is Oni PS2 worth it? Well if you already have the PC version then probably not, unless you want to take advantage of the dedicated control system and the better graphics overall. If you're just getting into Oni and own both a PS2 and a PC then by all means I would buy the PS2 version over the PC version of the game any day. It seems, and I hate to say this, more finished and smoother.
Overall Oni still remains a solid action game let down by some minor faults and some less than imaginative levels, it makes up for this by offering action gameplay by the bucketloads and a varied selection of weapons and bad-guys, enough to keep your average action-fan entertained. With the promise of more and more unlocked moves as you progress through the story there is the challenge to see how good you can become at the easy to learn but an utter sod to master fighting system.