“Ultimate Schmultimate” a.k.a. “More Gore, less filling.”
After the weighty affairs of reviewing Jedi Knight 2 and Soldier of Fortune 2, I was kind of looking forward to a lighter title that would be a little less involved from a reviewing standpoint. I like to think of it as a pallet cleanser, like reading a Grisham novel after plowing through The Brothers Karamazov or War and Peace. I’m already on the schedule to give both GTA3 and Warcraft 3 (Holy smokes! It’s like the summer of the sequels!) that special Rorschach treatment, so Gore, for me at any rate, is sort of that lull between the storms; the light dinner salad with basil vinaigrette dressing before the pot roast; the episode of Mr. Bean before the ‘Allo ‘Allo marathon. There’s supposedly a game review in here somewhere, and I’ll find it eventually. Trust me.
So, journey with me to the late 21st century, when the greatest threat to peace on earth and good will towards all men is apparently the mob. The mob? Is this some future incarnation of our Soprano, protection racket, leg breaking, I’ll-make-you-an-offer-you-can’t-refuse mob? The game doesn’t make that especially clear. Anyhoo, the war between the army and the mob for global domination has been going on for some time now, and the army needs soldiers, veteran soldiers. A virtual reality training program (‘the meat machine’) has been developed that allows newbies to become veterans in a short time, and the technology looks as thought it will lead to a mob defeat at last. The mob makes a desperate grab for the program, and the army makes just as desperate a grab to stop them. You, as a soldier yanked out of the VR program in the middle of the mob assault on your headquarters, must stop them at all costs. My word of advice to game companies is that if you’re going to come up with a plotline so dorky that it makes me feel stupid just writing about it, don’t even bother.
Gore is a first person shooter, but it’s more a first person shooter in the arcade vein much like Serious Sam (which I didn’t play a whole lot) or Xcom: Enforcer (which I reviewed), only when the pedal hits the metal it comes up lacking on a number of fronts. Firstly, ammunition is in short supply. Not in such dramatically short supply that I found myself running out all the time, but if you’re going to put me in a game where the primary goal is to blast just about anything that moves, I’m going to want to hold down the trigger a whole lot. There isn’t enough ammo for that. And where X:E seemed to have a new enemy around just about every corner, Gore (Should I bother to abbreviate that G?) has maybe ten different enemies. There’s the punk chick, the martial arts guy, the fat biker, the muscle bound guy, the psycho, and um, uh. Now that I think of it, there might be a lot less than ten. And their AI seems to have just two modes: rush you, or stand at range and fire at you. The occasional marine you gain as a wingman is no brighter, and woe to you if you happen to get between the marine and a target, because they’ll plug you in the back with friendly fire until their clip runs dry. Don’t take it personally, however, as if you end up with two wingmen, they’ll continually shoot each other in the back, the whole time saying “What are you doing?” and “I’m on your side!” as if them shooting each other in the back were somehow your fault. The net effect of the stunted AI and the limited number of characters is that game feels a whole lot more like the original Duke Nukem FPS (which was what, seven years ago?) than a modern game.
They’ve included a few innovative touches, some more entertaining than others. Armor is divided among the various body locations: head, chest, and whatnot. You can see the armor in an area take damage and blow off, and concentrating fire in that location will kill an enemy faster. Sin did pretty much the same thing years ago, only you couldn’t see the armor blow off as I recall. While functional, it’s not enough to drag this game out of the doldrums. Better is the stamina meter, which drops as you accomplish tasks and leaves you winded and incapable as you try to accomplish more. You can almost always find somewhere to rest a moment to regain your breath, so it’s not like a life or death thing, but it forced me to alter my headlong rush approach just enough to make it interesting. That, and it’s fun listening to your character suck wind as his stamina drops to the 50 percent point and his breath whistles in and out of his mouth like a ninety-year-old asthmatic. I furthermore have to give the creators a couple of points for their weaponry, almost all of which have some secondary fire mode: a shotgun raises a shield, a machinegun launches gas grenades, and a quad shotgun can be fired singly or have all barrels emptied in one great blast. With the exception of the secondary modes, the game contains a pretty standard weapons loadout. Flamethrowers, rocket launchers, and handguns are all present.
The single player “campaign” is wickedly short. Completing it in under 5 hours, the only game in memory that I finished faster was Half Life: Blue shift (oh, and the abysmal Dukes of Hazard: Racing for Home – how could I forget?). It covers the gamut of the stock shooter locations; all of them bright, colorful, and reasonably well rendered. I’d probably put all the graphics on the same par as X:E. Sounds are sounds, satisfactory, if lacking a certain punch, and the in-game music is entirely forgettable.
If the game shines at all, and it really sorta doesn’t, it’s in multiplayer mode. Supporting CTF, deathmatch, and team deathmatch, the entire multiplayer experience is hopped up on cocaine. Players run faster, and the weapons are highly devastating, leading towards a more explosive fragfest. Travelling online to play found many, many servers easily, but darned few players in any of them. In a market awash in FPS multiplayer games at the moment I don’t see a vast number of people embracing Gore, but it has sort of an arcade hyper-reality to it that you don’t find in either JK2 or SOF2.
For a game that probably set out to be a jittery finger on the trigger, buy-the-whole-seat-but-only-use-the-edge arcade FPS experience, I found Gore to be kind of mundane. I like the stamina meter and some of the weapons, but found what I really wanted to do was load up X:E, which more successfully applied the FPS genre to the arcade experience, and give that another go rather than play more Gore. Maybe as a bargain title people hanging around waiting for the perennially delayed DNF could pick it up, but at $30, which is what the last CompUSA flyer listed it at, it just isn’t worth it.