Thursday, April 24, 2008

Review: Turning Point - Fall of Liberty

Looky looky. Another World War 2 FPS. This one using the Unreal 3 engine. However, I must report right out of the gate that this game is one which further validates the phrase "they can't all be winners." It also demonstrates that you can't judge a book (or a video game) by its cover (or the screenshots posted thereupon).

Does anybody here remember the PC games of the 1990s? There was a game called Duke Nukem 3D. It used a little engine called the "Build Engine." It was revolutionary for its time, and led to a lot of other so-called "Duke-a-likes" that were extremely similar to Duke3D because they used the same engine and the same basic level design and the same basic gameplay such that it felt more like a sprite swapping mod than a new game, and most of these games were god awful.

Return now to present day with this concept, and you have Turning Point - Fall of Liberty. This mediocre (at best) monstrosity is crammed down the gullet of the Unreal 3 engine like a 12 year old forced to eat pâté until he turns green, and any who play it will share in that suffering.

Graphics -
Let's just say this right now. The only redeeming feature of this game is that it uses the unreal 3 engine, so at least some of it is pretty to look at. That doesn't mean the graphics are all good, however. The shadow processing is absolutely abysmal, often causing stairstep-like zigzags in shadows that should be straight such that they don't look so much like shadows as incomplete paint jobs. The Unreal 3 engine makes a valiant stab, dressing up the pig it has been given in the fanciest prom dress it can find and dancing for all it is worth, hoping just to make it through the night without losing its lunch. The models are largely ugly, the physics are surreal, the art design is as bland as a sand sandwich. Even the motion of the enemy models is hilariously bad. Every nazi to run anywhere looks like he's trying to pantomime riding an imaginary unicycle. The nazis often literally mince around like ballet sissies as if lampooning what they represent. The graphical distortion/desaturization that is supposed to tell you when you're taking too much damage often fails to make its presence known because so much of the game is drab and squiggly to begin with.

Sound -
I suppose the sound effects and music aren't that bad. The voice acting is over the top (though that can be entertaining if you're into bad actors trying too hard).

Gameplay -
It's been a long time since I played a game as awkward to operate as this one. The player often gets hung up on corners or changes in elevation.

The game also hamstrings itself by only allowing you to carry two weapons total at any time. No, not two "full sized" weapons plus a pistol and knife, two weapons (full stop). That means a pistol and a rifle. Or a submachine gun and a rocket launcher. Or a shotgun and a large machine gun. Two weapons. So it is very easy to run out of ammo once you find a weapon you like and you may not have a suitable alternate weapon.

TP-FoL also forgoes using the usual save/load system in favor of a series of checkpoints (no doubt because of its bastard console roots) which, in later levels, are much too far apart.

The portions of the game which require climbing and hand-over-hand swinging and hanging to progress might get points for originality if they weren't so badly implemented. I wouldn't say the controls for these portions are clunky and poor, but let's just say your hamfisted big-apple alter ego ain't exactly Lara Croft.

Literally the dumbest thing I've ever had to do in a first person shooter - jump up and down on top of london bridge to shoot rockets at the turrets of a zeppelin... which then somehow did not catch fire from each turret exploding.

This game is good for anyone who ever wanted to be John Wayne in a world war 2 movie and spray a room with bullets, many of which just magically seem to find their target beyond all logic, while somehow not being cut down by the bullets of the 10 people he is shooting with no cover whatsoever to shield him.

It's hard to tell if this game is so bad on purpose or not. It almost could be a brilliant work of self-satire if I didn't know better. Not so funny is the constant hangups and stuttering for loading of new portions of maps.

The Verdict -
It's been a while since I played a genuinely bad game. It was so bad it was funny, and I kept playing all the way through to the end to see just how bad it could get. My answer: very bad. If Mystery Science Theater 3000 did video games, there is no doubt this one would have been in the lineup. My thoughts during watching the closing credits: "Man, a whole lot of people worked on this game for it to have sucked so bad."

Grade: D. The only thing saving it from an F is the Unreal 3 engine.

And that's the word from Bandit Camp.

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