Genre : Action
Developer: Planet Moon Studios
Release Date: December 2, 2003
Serious Sam was a real eye-opener for the gaming community. It reminded us of how fun first-person shooters could be. Great graphics, clever details and a sense of humor went a long way toward reviving a flatlined genre. What Serious Sam did for first-person shooters, Armed and Dangerous does for third person shooters.
Armed and Dangerous has you playing the role of Roman, a rebel-for-the-hell-of-it. He himself would be a great character but when you give him a bunch of buds who act like they've been friends for life then you have a touch of depth that you can feel throughout the game. The same way Sam and Max from Sam and Max Hit the Road played off each other can be found in A&D. Q is a robot with a thing for tea-time and a broom on his head. Jonesy is, well, a rat - but don't tell him that. Rexus is an old blind man with one glass eye and an attitude. Together your mission is to take down the king who is looking for a book that could give him the power to rule the world.
The story is half the fun of the game. Gloriously told and hilarious it's a basic tale that's made classic by the brilliant dialogue and top-notch voice acting. As you complete each level the clips are saved to your hard drive so you can enjoy the story all the way through once you're finished. I loved it so much that I watched it piece by piece well before completing the game. I loved it so much I played it over and over for my wife until she patted me on the head and said "that's nice Ben but if you play it one more time you'll never set foot in this house again." I was disappointed by the quality of the video. It's pixilated and looks very very 1998. But when you have good writing and acting the visuals just don't seem to matter as much.
Now to the other half of the fun. The game. Action. Lots and lots of action. Twenty one levels of it. Your trigger finger will rarely relax. How can a game that has you pressing "run" and "shoot" ad nauseam be fun? It's all in the details, my friend. You have a huge arsenal of well designed and sometimes FUNNY weapons. You have your standard machine gun and rifle. You get an awesome sniper rifle that you'll need to spot an enemy on the other side of the massive levels. Just so you know, there are contact physics -- so hitting a guy in the butt LOOKS like you hit a guy in the butt. Then you get the fun guns. Planet Moon, the same studio that brought us Giants: Citizens Kabuto, clearly had a blast thinking up new hardware. There's the Land Shark which shoots Great White sharks at the bad guy. The shark's fin moves through the ground toward the baddies and then, in an opus to Jaws and Tremors, pops up to eat him. I never tired of watching that. Best of all the shark keeps swimming around, posing a threat to the bad guy but it might also be a good idea for you to keep an eye on where he is. Then there's the Vindaloo, an awesome multi-rocket launcher that you'll need to take out one of the many armored robots, tanks, goliaths and buildings you'll encounter on your adventure. The Topsy-Turvy is probably one of the most clever weapons in the history of gaming. Shooting it turns the whole world upside down and "drops" the baddies into the sky. When the world corrects itself they fall to the ground with glorious thuds. You can also get into the mounted guns dotting the landscape to use the hordes' weapons against them - always fun to do, though dangerous since you're open to attack from behind. The machine gun is your standard gun and it's ample for a lot of the game but you will definitely need the other weapons to get through some of the levels.
One minus in the game is that you can only play Roman and not any of the other characters. I would have liked to have been in their shoes for a level or two. Also, when you are all in the same level together you can't bark out orders of any kind. They'll shoot where you shoot but that's the extent of the teamwork. But like I said A&D is like the Serious Sam of the third-person shooter world, so no strategy necessary when all is said and done.
Though there are some ho-hum levels, for the most part the design of the game's environments is the best I've seen in a long time. The horizon goes on for a long way, making sniping all the more fun and also opening the way to my favorite of all utilities, the rocket pack. This is the best rocket pack experience you'll ever have. If you liked the flight in Giants and also enjoyed the gliding feeling of MDK you're in luck. You get both in one package here. My favorite move with the pack was to take off, let go of the forward button and float to the ground while ratcheting up headshots.
I'll get back to the gameplay in a second. I can't go another sentence without mentioning the graphics.They're awesome. The PCs power is taken full advantage of. The character animations have been seen before but the environments are stunning. Textured hills, massive buildings, endless line of sight, wonderful explosions, it's all really rich and fun to look at. The fact that the design of the buildings and bad guys is also clearly done by professional visual artists just makes the experience all the better. On the same note, the sound is great. A Scottish soundtrack whistles in the background as you enjoy explosions and amusing taunts (and screams) from your enemy. Not to mention the sassy comments by you and your friends.
Now, to the levels. Shooting your way through the game, even with the clever weapons, is standard fare. But the levels themselves always introduce something that makes it fun. Each level is mission- based and has you do things like rescue elderly villagers who are endangered (because Q mismarked their nursing home as a military target). There's also a mission where you have to save the sheep of a local farmer before he'll lead you through a maze of mountains. Then there's my favorite - taking out some spy's headquarters and beating the huge robot in the valley below. This one is a flying fans dream come true. My second favorite would have to be the Two Towers-type level where you are perched inside a cannon on the stone wall of a fortress, trying to keep the grunts from climbing over. If 100 get past the wall, you lose. Now that might sound easy enough but let me tell you what makes it tough. There are THOUSANDS coming at you! There are a number of levels that use this design but in the grand finale I racked up a kill-number above the 600 mark (the rest were taken out by the cavalry or they just ran away screaming). At the end of each mission you get a tally of your kills, headshots, percentage hit. And to top it off you get to see how much the reward money on your head climbs. I could go on and on about the missions. Put simply, they're funny and fun.
On the extras side, there are secret items in each level that are actually worth looking for since they open up game modes and mini games, most of which are good. You can play survival missions where you just need to stay alive for a few minutes. There's also big feet, big hands and big head to unlock. Cute.
Giants: Citizen Kabuto, Planet Moon's last effort, was a fun game but it didn't quite reach a level of excellence. It lacked polish. Armed and Dangerous has its share of issues that keep its score down. Lack of team play amongst the characters, no online play and the occasional crash bug add up to some demerits (no patch yet). But while Armed and Dangerous isn't perfect, it is excellent. I tell friends about the levels I played as if it were an adventure I lived through. Like the time that one grunt kept getting away. I was so irritated I brought out the rocket launcher to take him out. With a BOOM he flew into the air. I turned around to take out a guy who was shooting from my back and the irritating grunt (who had been on the other side of the valley) landed with a THUD right in front of me. Can it really get any more satisfying than that? Sure, if you play Serious Sam. With surprises around every corner, non-stop action, great graphics, exceptional story-telling, standard-bearing weapon design, professional voices, easy controls, classic levels and thoughtful details Armed and Dangerous should be bought. Now!
Score : 9.0/10
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