Game Over Online ~ Deep Raider

GameOver Game Reviews - Deep Raider (c) Infobank, Reviewed by - Fwiffo

Game & Publisher Deep Raider (c) Infobank
System Requirements Windows 9x, Pentium 200, 32MB Ram, 3D Accelerator, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 52%
Date Published Monday, October 2nd, 2000 at 08:45 PM

Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

Although Infobank is relatively unheard of in the community of gaming, their newest title is certainly anything but mysterious. Many titles before it had tried to cash in on the mystifying world of the ocean and Deep Raider does so by introducing an action adventure game not unlike the ubiquitous adventures of Lara Croft. No surprise, her titles were called Tomb Raider while the heroine in Deep Raider is named Jennifer Conner. The similarities between these two are striking considering the vastly different setting Conner is put in. It is a shame that Infobank did not try to branch out into a new direction with Deep Raider as it emulates not only the good of Eidos' flagship title but also the monotonous tired nature of the 3D action adventure.

The premise of the game lies in a near future setting when underwater facilities are in vogue. A large squid-like monster preys on two innocent technicians who are sent out to investigate a damaged underwater structure. Hence, the submarine, which sent those two divers, reports to help their fellow brethren only to be overpowered by the monster itself. As the young captain of the submarine tries desperately to fire all his weapons, he realizes he must call upon a marine underwater expert (although I'm not sure what good that will do as the expert isn't exactly hanging around on the submarine but far, far away on vacation) Jennifer Conner to come help her. The game then pans to Conner who is on vacation on a picturesque tropical island with her pet dolphin. The powers that be summon Conner to help the captain who apparently Conner knows. Conner is whisked away by eerie men in black, in a helicopter and thus starts the deep-sea adventure with Conner completing a series of missions where she performs best: underwater.

Perhaps the most important thing when speaking about 3D action adventures is the 3D engine itself. Deep Raider, like the early renditions of Tomb Raider, sports the use of pre-rendered cutscenes to tell the story while the actual gameplay takes place in a 3D engine. Throughout the deep-sea adventure you will pass through exotic locales from the sandy beaches of the South Pacific to the frigid but wonderfully sublime world of the Antarctic. The developers praise the fact that you will meet enemies, NPCs and wildlife in your sojourn with Conner. In reality though, all the splendor of the 3D engine is wasted, as the game is restricted to a paltry 640x480 resolution. In the days of the original Tomb Raider of the mid 90s era, this would be acceptable but alas in this day and age I think gamers even of the most casual nature will no doubt expect more. There are several ways to mask an inadequate polygon based 3D engine, that is one that cannot draw great lengths without bogging down even the most powerful of today's modern machines (despite what might actually be a pretty simple engine). The first is to mask the viewing distance of the player. Doing this severely will present a game like the original Turok where there is constant fog five feet in front of the player. This serves to prevent the computer from drawing too many objects thereby keeping the frame rate high. A developer who ignores this, like that in the original unpatched Ultima IX, will bring even a supercomputer down to a crawl. Infobank's engine is clearly of the former nature. Instead of presenting an exotic underwater world that we all love and know from National Geographic, Deep Raider's world is blue. It is not a textured blue or a blue that is a rotating pattern of water, but a solid blue hue. Hence, this is a big detraction as even in the shallowest parts of the water, your viewing distance is severely hampered. When I mentioned Deep Raider emulating Tomb Raider, including the bad parts, they certainly did not leave out poorly aligned textures found in the Eidos game. Deep Raider suffers equally from notorious misaligned mountain textures. In fact it is so bad, there seems to be no effort on the developer's part to bother stitching them together in an aesthetically pleasing way. Furthermore, your character will often get itself stranded because of clipping problems near structures. This is disconcerting because the game allows you to jump out of the water and dive back in. If there happens to be a mountain in front of you then often not you will get stuck in the mountain and be forced to reload from an older game.

Due to the restricted viewing distance, you'll often find yourself referring to the automap in order to find where you're going. It would have been nice if this map appeared on the HUD but every time you want to refer to a map it is two key presses away and you cannot move your character within the automap. This makes the exploration parts of the game rather tedious as you are thrust into a fully 3D world with a counterintuitive way to access a 2D map. The gameplay is rather simple as Conner is asked to use access cards, find places and the usual action adventure type objectives masked in the guise of 'puzzles'. The new setting does awe you for awhile but you will find that the constant blue background and the repeating mountains that fence you in will become dull very fast. The developers have added some wildlife, some hostile, some merely ornamental to the game. I found there is no way to really interact with any of the schools of fish. There are occasional jellyfish that spout ambiguous Delphic tips to Conner. You certainly cannot swim through any of them as they immediately move away. Indeed, the fish and occasional stream of bubbles look like they are constructed from sprites floating around like they do in a screensaver. One of the main features of this game is the addition of an animal partner. In RPGs, we call this a familiar, so I will use this terminology here. Conner begins with a dolphin then progresses to a manta ray looking creature and subsequently to a sea turtle. The poor creatures are strapped with a weapon of sorts on their back so the player can fend off sharks among other enemies. As the game is fully 3D, you will find that attacks can come from all sides but this feature alone doesn't make the game more thrilling than it really should be. Conner can detach from the familiar too but there is fault with this feature as without a decent radar, it is hard to find Conner again especially in the 3D world. One could only wish for an 'auto-reattach' button. There is one thing that seriously detracts from the gameplay of Deep Raider and that is the camera's perspective. The camera is about as close to Conner as it is close to Lara Croft in Tomb Raider. It would, however, benefit the player immensely if the camera were zoomed out a little so the player can have increased situational awareness. Unfortunately, there is no way to control the camera and a lot of times around structures, like Tomb Raider, you can lose sight of Conner altogether.

That said, the game is matched with lacklustre audio. You do not get any of the interesting ambient sounds or the intense thrill that one might associate with the aquatic realm. Instead, the sounds are quite run of the mill negating the effects of the surround sound the game offers. In a bid to make up for this, Deep Raider sports a soundtrack that pays homage to console platform games. The most unerring factor is the voiceover that accompanies the cinematic sequences. The cinematics are nicely done with good proportional characters and decent detail on the models themselves. However, the animation of say the characters walking is not as good (and perhaps that's why they don't move around too much). But the voice actors betray any beauty the cinematic sequences may exude themselves. They are unconvincing and amateur like.

Deep Raider does not feature any multiplayer components, which I guess may be a decision on the developer's part as true 3D environments make for less than satisfying multiplayer action. Simply look at the limited exposure of Descent 3 or its cousin, Forsaken. However, I believe a game should at least feature something to interact with others, whether it only be fastest times to complete a level or sharing of characters or even saved game files. In Red Storm's Shadow Watch, which blatantly did not include any multiplayer components, at least had the pretense to include some net-related activities. Thus, Infobank doesn't score any when it comes to trying to achieve a long lasting life on gamers' computers.

Now, people may suspect this game is very amateur like. I beg to differ, as the usage of a somewhat flawed but fully operational 3D engine is testament enough that this ought to be considered a professional product and not a Visual Basic hobby program that a group of friends decided to churn out in a week. For a professional product though, Infobank didn't even elect to include a simple readme file. And perhaps this is the final judgment of the product. It tries to measure up to the likes of classics like Tomb Raider with a new aquatic environment but fails to capitalize on the idea. In the end, it comes up short. If Deep Raider hopes to even begin to churn out an anthology like Eidos (which I believe is producing its fifth rendition), it will have to make a much bigger effort than this because people have already seen and played this type of game before. For those of you who are anxiously waiting for Lara Croft on the big screen, the answer is no, this game isn't worth buying purely for looking at Conner's polygon physique. In that comparison, Croft wins hands down.


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