Genre: Action Adventure
Publisher: JoWooD Productions
Developer: Similis Software
Release Date: 8/14/2002
Imagine a game that has a believable storyline, layered characters, and realistic locales. Imagine a near bug-less game with dynamic gameplay, varied weaponry, and smart enemies. Imagine a game with intuitive controls, compelling levels, beautiful graphics, and immersive sound. Now imagine a game that has none of those traits. Enter K-Hawk: Survival Instinct.
K-Hawk is a game where you play a female helicopter pilot named Kitty Hawk. While on a mission escorting a commando, who doubles as your boyfriend, to a tropical island your helicopter is shot down and you are the only one to survive the crash. Once on the island, your mission is to destroy the anti-air missile launcher that shot you down so a rescue helicopter can pick you up. The plot is cheesy at best, and while plot alone doesn’t undermine a game it’s only the beginning.
To help you play the game the developers thankfully included a tutorial, one of the few bright points in K-Hawk. Guided by a horribly voice-acted Marine Corps Sergeant you are taught the basics of the gameplay. Movement is easy enough, with keys to move, run, toggle crouch, fire, zoom, and basic inventory commands. There are also keys for picking up objects, using objects such as panels and buttons, and reload. The game allows you to bind your own controls, but will not allow you to bind anything to the middle mouse button.
In a fashion similar to games such as Metal Gear Solid, stealth is sometimes a better virtue than accuracy. In the tutorial you are taught how to read a device that shows where all cameras and bad guys in the vicinity are. The device shows vision angles and ranges, and for human enemies shows how far they can hear. The device also shows how much noise you are making in the form of a circle around the player’s indicator, if the circle around you enters the circle around the enemy, they will turn around and fire. Enemies normally have green fields of vision that are relatively small. However, if you are spotted they widen a bit and turn red. If you hide, they get very wide and turn yellow.
There are times when you need to fling some lead, such as the times when stealth fails. In K-Hawk you get a whole two guns to use, a pistol and an assault rifle. The pistol holds 10 shots in its clip and is about as weak as a newborn kitten, standard enemies take at least 5 shots to kill. In a game where ammo is scarce and stealth isn’t always an option, this is a very bad thing. The assault rifle holds 30 shots and is slightly stronger but enemies can still shrug off 2 shots to the head.
Aiming is similarly horrible. While in itself it’s easy to aim, simply left click to bring your gun at the ready and move the mouse, the gun never hits where you are aiming. To hit an enemy in the head, or anywhere else, you have to aim slightly to the left of where you intend the bullet to go. Also, enemies cannot be shot while they are doing a pain animation, forcing you to either wait before firing another shot or waste your hard-earned bullets on an enemy that is temporarily invincible.
Once you are out of ammo, you’re screwed. In K-Hawk there are no knives, no punching, no nothing. Sneaking up on an enemy will only get you killed since they will hear you no matter how sneaky you move. Even worse is the fact enemies will always know where you are. If an enemy spots you and you sneak from box to box, even if you stay out of his sight once he has seen you once he will always know where you are. Thus, in any level once you are seen once every enemy in the level will come running, usually resulting in your death.
Controls in the game are reasonable except for the inventory. Neither the tutorial nor the game manual teaches you how to use it effectively, and when you finally figure it out you wonder who designed it in the first place. Nothing can be used directly from the inventory; it merely shows everything you have. To use an item you either have to pick it in the inventory then press the use key on an object in the game (Such as using keycards for card readers), or you have to press a totally different button on the keyboard (Such as med-kits and grenades). Making a “Use Item” button would have cut out the middleman and been great, but sadly Similis didn’t have the foresight to include such a button.
Swapping weapons becomes a liability in most cases. When switching weapons you cannot move, so if you need to switch weapons in the middle of a gun battle you are at a big disadvantage. Thankfully you can reload and move at the same time, but that brings up a good point, you can perform a complicated task such as taking a clip out, grabbing another one, putting it in, and cocking the gun, but you cant simply put one gun in your holster and grab the other one.
Graphically the game is sub-par. The character models, specifically the textures, all look rather shabby even compared to games made a couple years ago. Even the textures on the player character don’t light up correctly. The level architecture is respectably decent, but it too has problems with textures, which look rather flat and repetitive. Thankfully the outside levels have some plant life that spice things up a bit. Some special effects such as explosions and smoke look decent, but the ricochet effect is laughable due to the fact bullets ricochet off of anything, including grass and trees. The one really nice effect is that guns stay on the player’s model; you will see the pistol in her hip holster and see the assault rifle slung over her back. Still, it’s far from the game’s saving grace.
Sound in the game gets very old, very fast. Enemies say the same things over and over, most of the voice acting sounds like it was performed by the lowest bidder, and the sound effects themselves seem to play over and over long enough to get etched into your brain. K-Hawk tries to achieve a decent sounding musical score but fails in that respect too, topping off repetitive and annoying sound effects with a repetitive and annoying musical score.
Gameplay wise, once you’ve played through the game for about 30 minutes you’ve pretty much experienced the entire game. Right about that time you begin to lose interest as there’s very little in the game that compels you to progress. After a while it just begins to feel like the same old thing over and over, and since you only have two weak weapons and very little options tactical-wise it just gets plain boring.
If K-Hawk stayed in development for a few months longer and was more carefully researched and planned it would probably have been a good game. As it stands though, with its shoddy gameplay, cheesy plot, and sheer repetitiveness there is absolutely nothing here that is entertaining.