When Wolf handed me Paradise Cracked, I was a touch excited. This may sound odd, and may even sound a touch geeky, but you must understand I'm a hugeX-Com fan and I thoroughly enjoy the Cyberpunk genre, Paradise Cracked is X-Com based in a Cyberpunk setting. Some of you may be preparing yourself for a wholly biased review, but fear not, cos this game ain't great. Ok, like many of my recent reviews, I've criticised the game before we've even got started, and I apologise, but I think that it's important that I'm honest about the games that I'm sent. Also I think I need to visit Wolf and find out why he keeps giving me the pants games, anyhoo i'm digressing.
I got quite confused with the games story, the intro is a person explaining a revolution that occured on Mars (the game is set distant future so Mars has been colonised) and how it was stopped. The person telling the story is the games main character, a Hacker, who goes by the name 'Hacker'. While hacking into a government network he stumbles upon an encrypted file and then suddenly SWAT, Police and all sorts of governemnt agents are after you. The game then plays out the story of 'You' versus 'Them' in a typical cyberpunk environment. A touch Cliche, though mostly disjointed and confusing. Characters motives are rarely explained, there is no character development (from an emotion point of view) and characters will just join your party because they feel like it.
The game is a turn based squad oriented combat/action/adveture/roleplayer. The game is similar to the Jagged Alliance series and the combat elements ofX-Com. For those of you not familiar with those games, the game is puts you in control of a small group of characters. The game is turn based and each turn your characters have a number of action pont to spend. Action points are spent on all sorts of actions, walking, running crawling, shooting, reloading weapons etc. After you have had our turn the enemy gets their turn. Now this unfortunatley is as boring as it sounds, in most other games using the idea, it's fine, but Paradise Cracked really hasn't implemented it well at all. You would think that when the combat is over that you would get to hop out of the turn based system and explore in real time, but that's not the case. Even if their are no enemies around you still have to take turns with civillians until you leave them map, then it starts all over again. Your enemies (and neutrals) turns often take longer than yours, so be prepared to spend some time waiting for your go. Most enemy movement is hidden which further adds to the boredom.
The role playing element is dull to say the least, character progression is extremely rare, it takes an age before you can advance a level. Conversations with other characters are not interesting at all and you quite often don't get a choice in what happens. For example, on the first level of the game a guy comes up to you and says, I enjoy fighting, lets fight together. This makes no sense at all, also everyone seems to know that you're looking for a job and so helps you out. It does seem like huge sections of conversation are missing from the game. This may be the case as the game has been translated from Russian to English. Unfortunately, the work experience kid did the translation and so the text makes little or no sense in many places.
There is a good range of weaponry on offer, and the type of ammunition you use also has an affect on how much damage you do. Character progression, gives access to new skills, such as hacking and specialist weaponry skills. Characters can be modified using implants to increase their effectiveness. Progression just feels too slow.
There are a range of different missions in the game though you will have to frequently check your mission log because it isn't always obvious that you have been given a new mission. The game does incorporate a nice feature, whereby all factions in the game have their own friends and enemies. You'll often find yourself caught in a battle between rival factions, if you are carrying out a mission for one of them, the opponents will also target you. This gives a nice feel to the game as you will think you've finished a mission only to find that people who were initially neutral towards you are now trying to kill you. As many of the missions are optional it is important to asses the impact a mission may have. If you annoy a big faction they will try to kill you for the rest of the episode, which is never a good thing.
The games interface is far from intuitive. Movement is mostly point and click and pretty much the same when firing weaponry. Navigating menus or finding a subscreen can be a chore and the game is really let down by this.
The graphics engine is quite nice, the game has the right level of detail, some nice textures and some nice character models, there are no significant problems. On the whole a very good job has been done and the game is well presented throughout. Camera work is spot on, its very easy to move to a position where you can view exactly what you want, overall this is probably the best part of the game. Many objects can be destroyed, which is a nice little touch. The games engine is beggining to look a bit dated but fortunatley thr system specs are quite low so gamers with old systems will be able to play the game
The games maps are quite nice and do represent the Cyberpunk genre. Unfortunately the maps are very large and because of the games 'strictly turn based' approach you'll spend a lot of time moving from one mission to the next.
The games sounds are a bit odd. Characters seem to shout out odd comments for no reason at all. Your character will shout out political messages when running accross the street. This becomes very annoying very quickly and again is probably attributable to the poor translation. The soundtrack is a strong point of the game, it has a nice edgy Cyberpunk feel to it and changes depending on the situation you are in (e.g. you get a faster track when in combat but more relaxed tunes when in no immediate danger).
The game is fairly playable, it is let down by poor translation, the lack of real time exploration and one of the worst game interfaces I have ever used, but the game has some qualities, it can be addictive at times, and the strategy element of placement and equipment will get you thinking. Its a good attempt at a game and a very nice concept though it did not receive enough time in development to become a game worth buying.