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Old 06-01-2006, 09:47 AM   #1
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 42
Default Emergence: Rights and wrongs

I posted a long long detailed review for this game after my first run through. Anyone interested you can find it here.

This time around I thought I'd give my thoughts now the difficulty issue is resolved, and focus more on non-combat elements which I mainly skipped over before. I still cover the whole game though.

I think the review it may come across as overly negative, which is probably because my favourite element, the combat, while featuring through such a large part of the game doesn't take a long time to review, and thus the review looks imbalanced, but I'll reflect this in a final score at the end. As for the negative bits, the idea really is not to say "this bit sucked" but rather to say how, with a little more imagination, it could have been done better.

Firstly, the menu. Great music, I loved it, I think almost everyone else loved it. It's only available over iTunes or as part of a full album... not good. Still, great music and I hope each episode will have its own piece.

Anyway, starting the game I love the idea of the challenge and aid sliders, but the entire slider (bar the extremes) is undocumented, and you can't change it in game. Now I simply set them to the hardest settings (top challenge, no aid), but if you're new to FPS, where should they go? If you found Far Cry relatively difficult, where should they go? There were many notches, and nothing to tell you what any of it meant. You had a big meaningless slider, which when you found later was too easy or hard, you were utterly unable to change and had to start over. Terrible implementation of an otherwise fantastic system.

Now we hit a brief intro which introduces us to a couple of baddies fairly well, and showed us the pecking order. For some reason though Radek doesn't like us, and it's something so evil that we the player don't remember the reason for it.

Now though comes a big disappointment, the opening. This is the post-Half-Life 2 world where we've been shown how you do an exciting escape sequence, and fit it in around a tutorial mode which also introduces the world. Alas, we don't get that here, instead we get the single most boring linear corridor I have ever encountered. I kept looking into windows for some exciting scripted event, but there was nothing. Jessica calls to me to hurry up, but why? There's obviously no threat so I go exploring any office I can get into. She screams at me to get in the car, but the hell with that I go explore the street and watch the people.

Just think about what the opening level could have been.

Jessica bursts in and blows away the guards and seals the door while talking.

Jessica: "Blade? Blade are you okay? You got the tracker on Radek? We're getting a good signal, but now we need to get out of here."

You get up and Jessica discovers the syringe.

Jessica: "Good God, they've injected you with... How do you feel? Take a few steps... woah, take it easy there, Blade."

A pop-up appears with movement controls. You move around a bit.

Jessica: "You seem steady enough, now we'd better be going. I don't think they like my redecoration."

Guards hammer on the door. Jessica moves to hold it up while yelling at you, thus you learn navigation.

Jessica: "Go on, Blade, move! I'll catch-up. Don't worry, I've got a big gun."

You find a door out back, and a pop-up appears telling you how to open it. As you do, you hear the sound of the door bursting open and gun fire. Jessica runs down the corridor shouting at you.

Jessica: "We've got to move, Blade. Move!"

You find yourself trapped in a corridor with a locked door and two small crates, low enough to fire over, but when crouched you are fully hidden.

Jessica: "Damn, it's locked! Some rescue, huh? Stay behind that crate, Blade, I'll cover you."

Thus you learn crouch, while she deals with the bad guys. An explosion racks the building, exposing some pipe work tunnel,

Jessica: "There! Go through there, Blade, maybe you can free the door from the other side."

She then tosses you a comms thing.

Jessica: "Here, take this. We'll need to stay in touch."

A pop-up explains that her picture will appear when she wants to speak, and the key to press to activate. Her picture would appear and pressing tab would get "Testing... can you hear me Blade? Good."

The pipes force you to jump and crouch, in combination with movement.

As you pop through a door, and now you've gotten used to the controls, the game brings two guards out a side door, forcing you to flee in a particular direction, perhaps through a room or two allowing you to practice your use behaviour which you learned earlier. Jessica's icon appears during the pursuit.

Jessica: "I managed to get through that door. I'm tracking your position and will be with you in just a minute."
Blade: "I don't have a minute, Jessica."
Jessica: "I'm coming as fast as I can!"

Eventually, a door bursts open ahead of you (moment of "oh crap!"), but Jessica comes through.

Jessica: "Get out the way, Blade!"

She of course dispatches the soldiers.

Jessica: "Grab a gun and let's move!"

You get a pistol from one of them and then proceed to flee the lab, dodging explosions and bullets. Right at the end you're in reception but there's no vehicle and no cover outside.

Jessica: "I couldn't park too close, you'll have to cover me while I bring the car around front."

You then get gun training by taking down guards who enter reception. After X seconds Jessica pulls up

Jessica: "Get in, Blade"

You escape.

THAT would have acted as both tutorial AND exciting action sequence AND bonding with Jessica as a character since you've both worked together to survive. You'd have been in danger from guards, but the game would have given you all the training needed to get out of said danger.

Wouldn't that have been so much better than linear corridor where nothing happens?

Anyway, we've left the linear corridor of muchos boredom and now entered the car. This is better, this is some exposition, but done in a way that gives me something to do. I personally wish the surrounding scenery had better explained the world to me, I mean it was literally streets and people, and the odd poster, but nothing to really show the dominance of SinTek, or the popularity of the U4 drug. However I did love the bikini scene, I thought it was very Elexis who is coming across as quite the playful villain and who obviously has a bit of a soft spot for Blade, or just likes to have him as her foil. I had thought I would despise Elexis as a villain, but in fact she turned out to be my favourite (and the most well developed) character in the episode.

We meet JC during this car ride and there's a refreshing argument amongst your team about what to do. Unfortunately, this is about all of JC we see beyond the odd comms test. If it weren't for my having played SiN, or Jessica mentioning it, you'd never have guessed you were good friends. While I don't think the banter between them from the original would be a good fit, surely we should heard more from him in regards to your survival? I'd also like to have seen the conflict between him and Jessica explored a bit more.

JC: "Look boss, I know you've made up your mind, but you're letting the rookie get you killed. You need to come back and let the medtechs take a look at you."

JC: "Oh and now you're taking him into Supremacy Tower. Great plan, rookie."
Jessica: "Hey, I'm just doing the best I can. You think I don't care about Blade too?"
JC: "Shove it, Jessica. You're going to get Blade killed on some quest to prove yourself."

Anyway, we arrive and Jessica roars off. She does a comms test and then her icon appear in the top right... well what does that mean? There's no pop-up, nothing to tell me what that icon implies. It's not a standard FPS feature, so instead we fumble through the control panel and guess that it possibly means comms. Not because it's logical for comms, just because I recognised the other controls. This represents a larger problem, the total lack of documentation. As I said earlier, the difficulty slider is meaningless to me as the notches aren't documented, and now there's an undocumented comms pop-up, which should have been dealt with earlier in the manner I describe above, or via a pop-up now.

Personally, I think the comms button was pointless. Their icon should have appeared and they should have spoken, no need for me to stab a key.

I also note that, while I can talk to people, it often takes several USE clicks for that to happen. It should happen every USE rather than making me indulge in a click fest. And stop making them run backwards away from me! Not only does it make talking to them hard, but no one, and I mean no one, runs backwards in real-life to get out your way.

Anyway, we proceed to the next section and I talk to Martin and I move on to Garrison. I note that in the stats section under levels there's now a secrets stat. It's fortunate I explored the interface because at no point was this feature mentioned, especially as the previous levels weren't listed under this tab which makes it even more confusing! In a bout of bad UI design, the menu has been placed in such a way as your stats window will always overlap the buttons. Had it been placed further to the right I could have kept both stats open, and still had full, visible access to the menu. Since I don't want to close and open stats all my life, I memorise the order of the menu.

Thankfully the game takes a turn for the better now as we reach the meat of the game. After drudging through a conversation with someone who was mentioned once and therefore we have zero connection with, we are betrayed by someone who was also mentioned once, and thus I didn't even remember who he was.

Now begins an escape rather more exciting than the one from the lab. Though I should point out (discovered by my brother, not me) that you can exploit bunny-hopping in this game, and if you bunny-hop through this segment, there are a couple of places where you'll never even be fired upon where you should be. Annoyingly there are even hitches at one point when it spawns baddies behind you. Couldn't they simply have actually chased me instead of some cheesy spawning?

We meet with Jessica again next to a console which smelt of an idea not completed, or cut. You can raise the water level in the pool below you, but it does nothing. There are several such segments in the game.

Anyway, Jessica talks and then you beat two guards who bust in and we move beyond the door into the real game.

Now, once you move beyond the door in this area, you've reach the point where the "Skip the Tutorial" option takes you. Problem being, if you start at this point, you're unable to pull off a 100% secrets run because one of the secrets was prior to this point, thus rendering the "Skip the Tutorial" button useless for many people.

It is here though, where the fighting really starts, that SiN Episodes Emergence begins to shine. This is quite obviously a throw back to the sort of run-and-gun gameplay of the 90s, and it works astonishingly well thanks to several factors:

1. The weapons are satisfying to use.
2. You're vulnerable to enemy fire.
3. Head shots are lethal.
4. The AI is pretty effective.

If I can deal with these in turn. Emergence doesn't give you many guns to play with, but as any experience FPS player knows, you never really use more than two or three guns for the majority of any FPS, because you'll always establish which guns are useful and which are creative eye-candy. I'm sure most people blew through Half-Life 2 using the SMG and shotgun for 80% of the game.

They feel satisfying to use, their secondary fire isn't entirely useless (though not entirely brilliant either, it has to be said), and zoom does occasionally serve a purpose, though not on the pistol where the thing takes up so much of the screen that tracking a target is nigh on impossible. I'm sure though that once you got your hands on the assault rifle, most people stuck with it where possible. It has the best secondary fire, the best zoom, is accurate at range but can also deal a lot of damage if you need to i.e. Hold down the fire button

Satisfyingly the enemies can actually hurt you, unlike, say, Half-Life 2 where Hard was a total push over thanks to the puny enemy weapons. In Emergence this isn't the case and fights become a real battle to take down the enemies as quickly as possible. Emergence can actually be quite challenging at times, and this makes it all the more rewarding to play.

In this light, I love the head shots. They were they are done is, of course, over the top, but it makes for an immensely satisfying kill. I haven't felt the need to head shot this way since the top difficulty of Max Payne. Less well recognised in this game is that you can knee cap enemies, which is rather helpful for taking someone out of the action while you deal with his buddy, though somehow they manage to recover from this!

Finally, the AI. Anyone who played Half-Life 2 knows that its AI was a true regression from the original, mainly, I heard, because while the map designers used AI hints (one half of the AI system) they didn't use grouping (the other half). It appears Emergence does use grouping, and you will often seen true squad behaviour, with covering fire and reasonably intelligent behaviour. Most satisfying is that the enemies don't mindlessly charge you, they will often hold back and force YOU to advance. That, to me, is the best feature because I am working to flush them out as often as they are me.

The only failure of this system was in the room with the spinning mechanical arm, which appears to stop them from seeing you, so they rush into the room just to be picked off and never, ever, return fire. Very surprised this was never picked up.

The grenade behaviour though, that was something special. No more throwing grenades from within my line-of-fire, they will sit in cover and then try and flush you out with grenades in an intelligent way. More than once I was forced to make a dash, often across their LOF, to reach safety away from a recently landed explosive.

Oh, and they flank. I once assaulted a hut, determined to use the age old FPS method of hanging back and picking them off in the doorway. Did that happen? Nope, they went out through the back door, round the side, and gunned me down through a chain link fence to my right. I love dying when the computer has out-thought me. It really is satisfying to actually need to be aware of your surroundings for more than just strafing. In fact, you won't be circle strafing in this game, the enemies are as good a shots as you are (but, contrary to popular belief, they do miss) and so you'll usually be popping out from cover to let off a few shots before dropping back, or you'll be finding cover for as much as your body as possible and engaging from there.

Emergence captures the joy for FPS fighting in a way I haven't seen in years. It was a joy to blast through the boiler suits. Sometimes the spawns would seem infinite, so you'd be forced to get aggressive and close down the spawn to stop it operating. I always enjoy that sort of spawn since you can't sit back in some comfy position, you're forced to assault the position.

I should also mention that making the mercs talk in English made a real difference. Hearing their banter was satisfying, seeing them do it more so, and I loved hearing "Squad down, need backup now!" which meant there was only one left. Good to see a move away from the indistinct mutterings of the Combine.

The first third of the game is excellent. The level design is varied and the firefights exciting.

At this point though we enter an underground lab which means, yep, corridor fights. Lots and lots of them. It's not quite that bad, some of the rooms make good use of levels, but they tend to be very linear and are little more than shooting galleries. The manoeuvring of the first third is gone, and thus so too is a portion of the fun. I did find the boiler suit fights ran a little too long. About half-way through this segment I found myself wanting a little more variety in my combat. Couldn't there have been jetpacks AND soldiers? Or perhaps a stationary emplacement? Something to break-up the monotony was required.

We do encounter one event which I was to despise later. The dreaded arena battle. You're put in a locked room and forced to fight enemies who come in via the ceiling until you kill them all. Except, cardinal sin, they pretend it's a timed event. If you're going to have a timed event (JC hacking shield) then make it a timed event. Make it take JC X seconds to take down the shield so there's some real tension. When it's another "frag the soldiers" event, there's no tension because when JC says "half-way boss" I know he means I've killed half the enemies, not that he's getting closer to finishing.

Oh, and if you're going to have an arena, don't have some corner I can hide in to totally exploit the AI.

After blasting through this lab segment we meet Radek again and enter "story mode". I like these segments. Radek isn't doing a lot for me as a villain since he seems, well, like any other villain. He hates me, though for some reason I don't remember why. The animation (body and facial) also doesn't seem as graceful, or as subtle as Half-Life 2 which has really set the bar for this sort of thing. The changes are too extreme and just seem to happen bang on queue, rather than being logical transitions over the course of the dialogue.

While the same is true for Elexis (and that flickering hologram appearance doesn't help... and sliding a table under her has her talking to you while squatting) she is a more interesting villain simply because her relationship to you appears deeper. She's fought you before, and she doesn't want you dead, in fact her whole manner suggests that you're merely an interesting diversion. Her character appeals to me, and I'm glad that Ritual were sensible enough to keep her in the picture. Nothing is worse than a game where you are never aware of the villain, or don't see them again, until the final frame. Keep the villain present keeps them in the frame.

Only problem, she's described as CEO of Sinclaire Industries, but it has been called SinTek for the entire course of the game. I don't care if she is CEO of Sinclaire, it hasn't been mentioned and therefore shouldn't be involved until the difference is explained in-game.

But still, an excellent opportunity was wasted here. She talks about the drug pumping through your veins and how you should be feeling it. This is, of course, a good reason as to why you can conquer the whole world alone. Yet, with a little imagination it could have been so much more! Imagine running through the complex, voices in your head whispering death. Or even the voice of Elexis, telling you what to do, where to go. The drug was put front and centre at the beginning of the game, yet the whole thing is almost forgotten for most of the game. It should have been used for voices, hallucinations, random times when the screen goes red and you become invincible but can use only your fists. By itself it could have spiced up the game in a way that required minimal effort. Having a drug in the player is the perfect excuse to mess them up, yet it does nothing.

Alas, a lack of imagination is something this game suffers from in spades, especially towards the end.

My liking for Elexis also served to remind me that the bonding with my side was almost non-existent. JC and Jessica occasionally chimed in with something useless, but there was no banter, very little concern, no co-ordination. We didn't feel like a team, and I didn't feel anything was being done to bond me to them,

Indeed, Blade was virtually silent too, apart from the massively over cheerful "I know you're listening Jessica" which was totally at odds with dark Blade from the story trailer. I wanted to hear more of dark Blade, I wanted him to be fairly curt with his team, I wanted to really hear his anger and how much he hated Elexis. If it weren't for the story trailer I wouldn't know how he felt about her at all, and that's a real in-game failing. I don't want his 90's banter, it's totally out of place, but Blade is the kind who should be expressing that dark rage. Max Payne did, and it made him a better character for it. Blade should too.

JC: "Are you sure this is wise, boss?"
Blade: "I don't have time to argue, just get it done."
JC: "Uh, sure thing, boss."

Jessica: "Are you okay? You don't look so good."
Blade: "Don't waste my time, Jessica."
Jessica: "Sheesh, okay, just calm down."

Radek: Makes to leave lab.
Blade: "Radek, tell Elexis I'm coming for her. No games this time, I'm going to make her pay for what she's done."
Radek: "Big words, Blade. Let's see if you live to deliver them. Why don't you tell her yourself?"
Radek leaves and Elexis hologram appears

Still, some praise here for the fact that the game now introduces mutants, and does so in a way that doesn't ruin the game. A possible first for an FPS? Their segment makes for a nice change of pace and doesn't last too long. The soldier Vs. mutant battles were fascinating to watch because the AI dealt with them quite well. I just wish the game had introduced me to one in a way that would have allowed me to see without interfering, like in Half-Life where in one battle you enter from a high ledge and can thus oversee everything.

But again, lack of imagination. If I stepped into a room the soldiers opened fire on me. Why? Their facility is self-destructing and mad mutants who were once comrades are running rampant. Couldn't we have agreed to a truce or something? Couldn't we have worked together in one area? Why wasn't there something scripted to show the horror of this section, like a guard blowing himself up with a grenade to escape a pack of mutants, or someone racing into a room, sealing themselves in only for you to hear the ceiling cave in followed by screams.

The mutants were loose, but the atmosphere was sadly lacking. Also, when they haven't seen you they stand perfectly still, which ruins the immersion. Have them do something, be it a random walk, fight amongst themselves, whatever.

After beating the first boss we're at, what, the half way or two thirds mark? And here, unfortunately, it all starts to go a bit wrong. At this point the game introduces a new enemy, thankfully, but they are one without a weak point. There's no headshotting here, nope we're into the land of tedious high health enemies, which means step out, shoot, step back, wait for their gun to cool down and repeat. Boring, boring, boring. The dynamic of the early battles is shattered by this new foe.

However, worse than this is the way the game goes the way of Serious Sam. Any Serious Sam player knows that the first half of the game introduces new and exciting locations for you to blast your way through a million enemies. Then, in the second half, it contents itself with large boxes which you fight in over and over again. Well, Emergence settles for large rooms with ceiling attacks.

I cannot stand arena fights, they are boring beyond belief and encourage a total and utter abuse of the quick save until you have figured the "right" way to do them. There is no use of cover, you just run round madly trying to take down one wave, and hoping you're not standing under the ceiling panel the next wave uses. It wouldn't be so bad, but the enemies are crack shots and the cover in these arenas tends to be non-existent.

Worse, while to escape the first waves you need to eliminate the enemies, in one arena you're expected to fix a door to move on. Besides a sparking panel, there's no hint of this. The instinct of an FPS player is to kill everything which moves, and in an arena you kill everything before you can progress. If you're going to diverge from the pattern you used earlier, you need to hint to the player that the pattern is being broken.

There is a moment where the game picks up again. Just before the tower you fight among the wood stacks. This was simply my favourite fight of the game. While linear, the fight did allow for a certain flexibility (aiming through the gaps) and certainly showed off the grenade behaviour. It also showed the AI doesn't have complete awareness as in one instance I advanced rapidly, hid, and watched as a soldier ran past towards my last known position. I gunned him down from behind. The AI is fun to fight.

This segment though is a good example of the health problem. There's a lack of it, or rather, a lack of even distribution. Far too often you'll fight through hordes of soldiers without a sign of it, then you'll find more health than you know what to do with. I suppose the aid slider is supposed to compensate for this, but still, it seemed too much a case of all and nothing.

Oh, and you get in a car and the pop-up telling you about changing seats and leaning out the window lasts less than a second. And for some reason it forces you out the car after X seconds. Why? Because the car made me invincible? Tough. Don't make me invincible in the car then. Don't force me to get out the car, doing so got me killed because I was totally unprepared for the event.

Finally, we approach Supremacy Tower. With the difficulty bug fixed, it's no longer quite the horrific slugfest that it was, but still.

But before we cover that, let's talk about Jessica. You finally have an ally, but unfortunately here Ritual have not improved on the annoying ally squads of Half-Life 2. When I hide, Jessica hides. Uh, WTF? We're supposed to be a trained team, when I hide to reload you should be covering me! It meant that the enemies were given a good chance to advance and you'd find yourself screwed again.

Worse, she's invincible, and in the worst way possible i.e. no downsides. All too often you'll find yourself hiding, but moving to push Jessica into the open, where you let her fight as many people as possible because she cannot die. Again, lack of imagination. Why can't she be knocked down for X seconds? Why doesn't she need to get in cover and use a medkit? Nope, she's an invincible walking gun.

Worse than that, she's a SILENT walking gun. While the enemies shout among themselves, Jessica said nothing. She didn't comment on her kills, my kills, our injuries, the tower, the enemies, the situation... nothing. This was the chance for us to bond as a real team, for her character to endear herself to me. And she said nothing. A real waste. Just load Star Trek Elite Force. That's what squads should be like banter-wise.

Imagine if you will:

You break into the tower and leap out the car. Jessica takes down the first guard who pops his head around with "Are you all..."

Jessica moves, of her own volition, to the access point and opens fire. "Blade, get it together and help me."

You move up and fire and secure the access. Jessica notes that the mercs are hanging back now. "Cover me Blade." You let rip and she advances to the nearest forward cover and crouches to reload.

You're out. Jessica notices, "I've got it, Blade!", stands up and let's rip while you reload. She takes one hit too many. "Damnit!" and ducks down again, using a medkit to patch up.

You finish off the last of the mercs. Jessica wanders over to you with a smile on her face. "I think they know we're here."

But instead we bust in and work in silence. The enemy squads work as a team, why can't Jessica interpret some of my actions, or even have a basic command system! The only thing she seems to do is boss me around, but Blade is supposed to be HER boss who is smoothing out HER rough edges.

Most annoying is the arena fight among the lifts. Elexis appears and says that she knows you'll survive but will Jessica? Well, you can smell the total lack of tension since Jessica is invincible and you know it. This scene just reinforces the ridiculousness of it. If Jessica took some visible injury, went down, was in obvious pain from wounds, then perhaps this scene would have managed tension.

In fact, that's exactly what should have happened. By this point Jessica should have been limping with a bloodied jaw and difficulty speaking. That would have suggested a real danger to her life, and now this part of the game would have become a tense struggle against the odds, rather than yet another tedious arena slugfest, made bearable only by an enjoyable Elexis segment prior to it.

Elexis: "But ask yourself, Blade, will she survive?"

Jessica: "I'm... just... fine." Spits blood.

Elexis: "Oh, she doesn't look good now, does she. Why don't you spare her all this pain and just turn yourself over to me. It's where you've always belonged, Blade."

Jessica: "Go to hell, Elexis." Interrupts transmission in some way. "Don't listen to her, Blade. You've got to fight this. Don't worry, I've taken worse than this. I'll be fine."

Supremacy Tower is also the victim of some of the laziest spawning I have ever witnessed. There's no point grenading likely hiding places, because the enemy probably aren't there yet. In some instances you see them appear, and in one case they magically appeared in the same lift as me! All too often you need to run out, hit the spawn trigger, and then scurry back to your cover so you can fight.

The game collapses when we hit the ledges. All pretence of level design is gone, and instead we are put on a narrow path with no options, so it's simply step out, fire, step back, and repeat until everyone is dead. A terrible section.

Finally, we get to the top level and Radek appears with Jessica. Apart from the way Jessica flew not matching the throw action, it was okay. Again though, a massive blunder is made. The chopper flies away and Jessica is obviously injured. A guard bursts through a gate and you take him down and then...

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Jessica is possibly dying, yet the game treats it as though the next logical step is for you to go through that gate. Of course, after USEing Jessica three times she finally tells you to go on without her, but why in the name of God did I need to USE her to get this? Why didn't she say it the second the encounter ended? Isn't this supposed to be a moment of emotional turmoil for your partner? Where's the dialogue for her? Nope, silence.

Blade: "Jessica?"

Jessica: "I... I can't move. Leave me, I'll be okay. You can't let Radek get away! Go. GO!"

JC: "We don't have jurisdiction here, Blade. I can't send her an evac."

Jessica: "We came to get Radek, now... go get him. Go..." Passes out.

So finally we get to the roof for the final encounter. There's a chopper which I obviously have no way to down, an assault rifle isn't going to do it. But what's that? A huge mutant. Ah, it's all coming together. There's a ramp leading out off the edge, so obviously I lure the chopper there and get the mutant to leap onto it. Clever Ritual, clever.

Except, no. That's not it at all. It's simply two big health enemies who you hold down the trigger against. For some reason the assault rifle, even the pistol, is devastating against the chopper. The lack of imagination on display was horrifying. The final encounter I had envisaged was nothing more than a slugfest.

Luring the mutant onto the chopper would have been better.

So now I've won. Where's the pay-off? There is none, instead Jessica is briefly mentioned and then we get the hard sell for episode 2. Honestly, it is one of the worst endings I have seen in a while. There was almost no reward for finishing.

Why wasn't JC glad to see I survived? Where was the scene where the doctor expressed concern Jessica wouldn't make it? Why didn't I speak to Jessica again? What about the total lack of talking about the drug in my veins? Why didn't Elexis appear for some final taunting words?

Nope, hard sell.

Hell, the setup for the beginning of the next episode could have been busting into a SinTek lab to get something required for Jessica's treatment. Now there would have been a personal link.

I liked the bit after the credits through

Overall, I enjoyed the game, especially the first third which by far and away the strongest segment. It's a solid 6.5/10 (5 being average) with immensely satisfying combat, which really just lacks the imagination and story telling to elevate it to something greater. The story itself and the characters I like, but I feel the story isn't being told as well as it could, and the characters especially aren't being developed all that well.

Give the heavy gunners a weakness and drop spawn arenas add 0.5 to the score. Improve the characterisation through more banter and add 1. Keep the varied level design from the first third of the game and add 1. Just show a little more imagination in the game design, through scripting, the use of the drug, etc. and add 1.

The game is damn fun, it just lacks a certain magic. I'm given characters, but no reason to like them. I'm given enemies, but there's no real drive to hate them. I'm put in locations that don't feel as they should (like the mutant rampage), and finally I'm giving an ending that fails to reward me.

I pre-ordered the first episode, but if I were honest I'd have to say that for the second episode, I'd look to the reviews first.
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Old 06-01-2006, 10:54 AM   #2
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Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 95
Default Re: Emergence: Rights and wrongs

Some of your ideas sound a bit subjective to me, but for the most part I think you make some really good points about character and story development, and ways in which the gameplay could be made more interesting. You addressed a lot of points that kinda disappointed me when I played through the episode that I couldn't really put my finger on and identify as articulately as you have.
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Old 06-01-2006, 11:09 AM   #3
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Default Re: Emergence: Rights and wrongs

Nice review mate, you certainly make a lot of sense in many of the points you have made. Im bloody impressed someone has actually backed up their opinions with examples [img]/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif[/img]
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Old 06-01-2006, 03:24 PM   #4
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Originally posted by Smoke39:
Some of your ideas sound a bit subjective to me
Which parts? Allow me to defend myself [img]/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]
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Old 06-01-2006, 05:32 PM   #5
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the only thing i missed in emergence was blade's talk.
i dont think as deeply as you do i guess, but i liked the game, im playing through for the third or fourth time now... even the mutants we're able to amuse me, though i cant stand aliens or mutants otherwise... in halflife they suck, and in far cry they suck even worse ( far cry = rocketlaming huge amount of hitpoint monsters )
though i prefer grunts, i dont mind a chaingunner once in a while, cuz you can take cover from them. in far cry, there was no way to hide from the endless stream of rockets flying at you ( what's with athat crap anyway, you can render huge great tropical islands and then 2/3rd is in corridors, or at night ( nights suck ) )
anyway. more cynical comments from blade would be great, a bit fixing the ragdolls ( dont let them clip through eachother but let them pile up, something far cry DOES manage ) and you wont hear a complaint from me... only give me some more jetpack grunts, i love them XD
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Old 06-01-2006, 05:45 PM   #6
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There were some bits in which the characters really came alive. I liked the whole 'rookie' thing JC kept saying to Jessica (that's bloody annoying, they both have the same initials)and Jessica's remarks about you looking at her boobs, which were also awesome. I quite liked it when you came to the crane, and Jessica says I'm way ahead of you Blade, as usual,' that showed a lot of character, and a genuinely funny side to her. I liked how she insulted Elexis as well. I hope to God she doesn't turn into a mutant or die, that would really suck. I like her, and to be honest, SiN would be soulless without her.
Elexis was another excellent character, because it's so flirty, and it is really sexy. It's not over the top, and when, in Redak's suite, she turned around and folded her arms, I went round the other side to see her, that's how commanding she is.
But I'd definitely like the story to be built on. I also really want Jessica to get the same powers and determination Elexis seems to be telling you you're going to get. It would be awesome to watch. Don;t kill her off or mutate her, that would really ruin the series.
Presentation side, everything rocks. The music is awesome (especially What's the World Come To, what other songs has that singer sang? I googled her name and couldn't find her), and the HUD is lovely.
I ut most of my suggestions and stuff in the proper thread for it, I just wanted to reply to some comments here.

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Old 06-01-2006, 08:13 PM   #7
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Quitch, you sir are one of the most imaginative and creative dudes I've seen. As what everyone is saying here, I pretty much agree with everything you've said. Hell, if Ritual did what you stated word for word there's no doubt that Emergence would have been a heck of a lot better than what it is.

Hey Ritual, is there any place in creative for this guy? [img]/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif[/img]
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Old 06-01-2006, 09:48 PM   #8
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Ritual should take a good hard look at HL2:EP1. Not a big HL fan but Ep1 is how Episodic gaming should be done.

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Old 06-02-2006, 12:15 AM   #9
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Originally posted by Buzzfunk:
Ritual should take a good hard look at HL2:EP1. Not a big HL fan but Ep1 is how Episodic gaming should be done.
Fair enough, but if you'd like to help us make future episodes better would/could you elaborate on what you enjoyed from HL2:EP1 that you found lacking in the first episode of Sin?
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Old 06-02-2006, 12:47 AM   #10
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Originally posted by Deathstalker:Fair enough, but if you'd like to help us make future episodes better would/could you elaborate on what you enjoyed from HL2:EP1 that you found lacking in the first episode of Sin?
Well, the biggest thing I thought HL2:EP1 did better was the ending. In Sin, you </font><span class="spoiler" onmouseover="this.className='spoilerhighlight'" onmouseout="this.className='spoiler'">kill the boss and walk up to the helicopter, at which point the screen fades to black, nobody says anything at all</span><font class="post">. In HL2, </font><span class="spoiler" onmouseover="this.className='spoilerhighlight'" onmouseout="this.className='spoiler'">You kill the strider, and Alyx says "Gordon, you're my new hero", giving you the feeling that you really owned that boss. Then you get on the train, and the part afterwards can only be described as "O-M-F-G". Stuff comes flying out of the citadel, a massive portal appears to open above it, mysterious ships fly overhead, and a huge shockwave of radiation sweeps over the entire city</span><font class="post">. It was very rewarding but was still a cliffhanger at the same time.
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Old 06-02-2006, 02:10 AM   #11
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Yeah, I end up agree pretty much with everything said. The boss battle was reminiscent of the good old shooters though.
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Old 06-02-2006, 02:25 AM   #12
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Originally posted by Quitch:
Originally posted by Smoke39:
Some of your ideas sound a bit subjective to me
Which parts? Allow me to defend myself [img]/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]
I really don't remember, it was late. :b Might've been a poor choice of words, I don't actually know what I was trying to get at.
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Old 06-02-2006, 02:28 AM   #13
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I finished HL2Ep1 so I'll try to make some comments on it that are relavent to Sin Eps.

One thing I didnt really like about HL2:Ep1 is that it was even shorter than Emergence, I finished it in half the time!. I did like how Alyx helped you out alot and how you help her out as well. I argee that the ending was much cooler than Emergence's.

The weapon variety didn't really matter all that much too me since I didn't need that many guns, heck I never even fired to crossbow or the magnum.

The enemy variety was nice, they added new enemies, and it was cool how they added new animations to old characters like all of Alyx's close combat moves, and the zombies getting knocked over and standing up again sometimes.

It was kind of a shame that there were no vehicle scenes but then again they wouldn't really have been apropriate to any part of the game.

Overall I liked how Ep1 had a more cinematic experience than Emergence. I think if Sin Eps 2 can add some more scripted scenes (though not necesarily cutscenes) throughout the game it could be much better. Also, HardCorps allies and hostage rescues would be great.
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Old 06-03-2006, 05:53 PM   #14
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Having just finished episode one, I would say that there is a lot that can be learnt from Jessica.

I think this really breaks down into two elements:

1. Banter

Alyx is full of situational banter. She has banter for various enemies, she has banters for various situations and she has banters which simply serve to bring the two of you closer together. She said things not only with words, but often with expressions or simple body language.

I want to hear things like:

"Here they come, Blade."
"Nice shot!"
"Phew, almost got me."
"Got one!"
"How many floors does this damn tower have?"
"Thanks... that was close."
"Vanity Tower would be a better name, don't you think, Blade?"

I want to see Jessica angry, Jessica scared. I want her and JC to interact more. I want them to interact with me, A LOT MORE.

By the end of the episode I was very attached to Alyx. This is how I should have felt about Jessica and JC since I'm Blade, and they're supposed to be under my wing. But I didn't.

2. Combat

Alyx doesn't merely follow your lead in combat. A big irritation of mine is that Jessica would stick to me like glue. If I hid, she hid, if I stood in the open, she'd stand in the open. Alyx doesn't do that, she will engage of on her own, and she will pick her own position without always sticking to me. It's entirely possible for me to hide while Alyx continues to engage, or for me to continue firing, while Alyx beats a retreat from something.

Take Supremacy Tower. The second I enter an office, I will fire from behind a desk, or pop in and out from behind a screen. Unfortunately, Jessica will use this same position, either getting in my way, or failing to provide fire when I hide because she hides too. She shouldn't be hanging off of me like this, she should take the fight into her own hands.

I'd want Jessica to spot the enemies

"Here they come again!"

I want her to move to cover and open fire. I want her to spot that you're too far away.

"Blade, close up!"

or that she's been left behind.

"Blade? Damn! Cover me!"

I want her to be aggressive.

"Time to shut that rat's nest down. Cover me!"

I want her to her to reload.

"I'm out. Watch my back."

I want her to be suggesstive.

"I've got this, Blade, push up."

and I want to hear her vunerable.

"I'm taking fire over here!"

and even wounded.

"Arghh... God damnit! II've been hit, need to patch myself up."

SiN Episodes is more about combat than Half-Life, and so I want to see more effort in this department.

Also, notice the rate of fire of Alyx? It's just as good as the amount of fire I, the human player, can put out, and her modified pistol is even better. I don't want to see crippled team mates with guns which can barely even burst fire. I want to see her let rip like I do, and generally provide EFFECTIVE fire support. None of this "bang.... bang.... bang" nonsense. I want to hear the roar of that assault rifle firing as any human would fire it, blasting until a target is down, pausing only to move to the next target.

Most importantly, Alyx can die. That more than anything makes her human. She's tough, to eliminate the need to babysit her, but you do need to help her out in a scrape, just as she helps you out. She even shouts when she needs help.

Jessica is invincible, and it's hard to care about someone you have no need to protect. I would use her as a human shield where possible, or push her around corners, because I knew she couldn't die.

All in all, I want them to simply feel more human. I want them expressive, I want them vocal, I want them vunerable and I want them able to think for themselves.
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Old 06-03-2006, 09:42 PM   #15
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Alyx wasn't invincible? I don't remember her ever dying when I played through it, and I was pretty negligent of her a few times.
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Old 06-03-2006, 09:47 PM   #16
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This is the best discussion about Emergence I've seen. Ritual should take a good look at this thread. As much as I love Emergence, I completely agree with almost everything that was said here, simply because fixing this stuff would help make Sin Episodes a lot better than it is now.
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Old 06-04-2006, 03:49 AM   #17
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Okay, I'll admit right now I skipped over a lot of the dialog parts of the first post. Now then, a lot of the point were true, very true. Others were shakey such as the mention of the arena style fights. Those I had fun with.

Game clues like with the door needing a replacement, it took me a moment but I quickly found out what I needed to do.

The final boss part you probably should have put in spoiler tabs... actually most of it should have been put into spoiler tabs. But anyway, the method you mentioned would have been a nice option, or just plain making the monster go screaming over the edge to meet a splat of an ending would have been just as good too. (Go Wily Coyote!) And in real life an assault rifle can do damage to a chopper, just gotta be within a certain range for it to be effective. I had fun tossing my grenades into its path to have it actually hit.

As for the ending sequence, it was extremely weak. Same with level variety. Half of the game consists of going through the same map again. Namely the labs.

And it did piss me off about the lack of dramatic value when the mutants broke loose.

Anywho, off to bed.
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Old 06-04-2006, 05:51 AM   #18
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Originally posted by Smoke39:
Alyx wasn't invincible? I don't remember her ever dying when I played through it, and I was pretty negligent of her a few times.
Nope, she can die if she takes too much damage too quickly. Note that for people who loaded the game on the first day the default difficulty was Easy. I'd be surprised if she died on this level.

I played on Hard, and she died a number of times during a particular encounter (as did I [img]/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img])
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Old 06-04-2006, 07:02 AM   #19
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Originally posted by Smoke39:
Alyx wasn't invincible? I don't remember her ever dying when I played through it, and I was pretty negligent of her a few times.
Yeah, she is invincible but you try to help her. You care much more about her than about Jessica. Did you let Alyx alone while waiting for the lift? I didn't
But Jessica... I closed the door and let her do the job [img]/forums/images/graemlins/laugh.gif[/img]

I care much more about Elix. She's like the Borg Queen in StarTrek - First Contact. She is evil... but seductive

Edit: oh? Not invincible... But as i said. I protected her as good as i can [img]/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif[/img]
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Old 06-04-2006, 11:24 AM   #20
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Old 06-04-2006, 12:05 PM   #21
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Originally posted by MultiVaC:
Originally posted by Deathstalker:Fair enough, but if you'd like to help us make future episodes better would/could you elaborate on what you enjoyed from HL2:EP1 that you found lacking in the first episode of Sin?
Well, the biggest thing I thought HL2:EP1 did better was the ending. In Sin, you </font><span class="spoiler" onmouseover="this.className='spoilerhighlight'" onmouseout="this.className='spoiler'">kill the boss and walk up to the helicopter, at which point the screen fades to black, nobody says anything at all</span><font class="post">. In HL2, </font><span class="spoiler" onmouseover="this.className='spoilerhighlight'" onmouseout="this.className='spoiler'">You kill the strider, and Alyx says "Gordon, you're my new hero", giving you the feeling that you really owned that boss. Then you get on the train, and the part afterwards can only be described as "O-M-F-G". Stuff comes flying out of the citadel, a massive portal appears to open above it, mysterious ships fly overhead, and a huge shockwave of radiation sweeps over the entire city</span><font class="post">. It was very rewarding but was still a cliffhanger at the same time.
Very, very true.
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Old 06-04-2006, 08:15 PM   #22
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Character interaction is a must with SiN. I would like to see the next episode of SiN Episodes begin something like this:

&lt;fades into Blade staring at the medical helicopter&gt;

Pilot: Sir, are you alright?
Blade: I'm fine, but where's Jessica?
Pilot: She's in the back sir.

&lt;Blade jumps in the helicopter and sits by Jessica's side as she lies on the metal floor&gt;

Jessica: Blade? (in a soft voice)
Blade: Don't talk. It's going to be alright. Damn it pilot head back to HQ now!!
Pilot: YES SIR!
(insert dialogue here)

&lt;Back at HQ, the helicopter lands on the rooftop&gt;

Blade: JC, get a med team ready.
JC: What happened Blade? Are you alright?
Blade: I'm fine, but Jessica is hurt.
JC: God dammit Rookie...
Blade: Shut up JC and get a med team ready NOW!
JC: Alright, cool your heels Blade. (insert dialogue of calling med team here)

&lt;As JC gets the med team ready Blade carries [implying that you actually carry Jessica as she whispers your name and tries to tell you something] Jessica to the operating room. Here, you tell JC about how Radek injected her with mutagen. Blade punches the nearest wall stating to JC that it was his fault for letting Jessica end up like this. JC is clearly upset and then reluctantly tells you of the latest developments [insert 'Next on SiN Episodes' here]&gt;

Something as small as this can instantly repair some of the damage that the previous episode made. It shows that Blade is like a father figure to Jessica, it shows that he is the leader and that he treats JC and Jessica like family. It also gives the player some sort of emotional attachment to the characters.

And yes, I took a page out of Quitch's book. I wanted to try and add some story elements like he did. Hope you don't mind dude. :P
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