Publisher: Metro 3D
Developer: Gameness Art
Release Date: May 5, 2003
Buy 'STAKE: Fortune Fighter': Xbox
There are a certain number of things one should expect when booting up a new game. You'd expect it to play well, providing hours of fun, or at the very least, be playable. It's also not so much to ask for graphics on par with that of the average game on the system. It's also important that a game is easy on the ears, with good sound effects and a solid background score, or at least custom soundtrack support, assuming it's an Xbox game.
Stake seems to completely disregard most of the qualities that you can find in a good game. The basic idea is this: you pick a character, jump into a big, open level, and brawl with a number of enemies. It's a little reminiscent of Power Stone, except there are too many problems to have any fun. Problems arise immediately. The menus aren't very nice looking, with ridiculous white fonts on bright, yellow-ish backgrounds. The character designs are pretty generic; you have your big, muscled warrior, your ugly, green monster, your busty, scantily-clad gypsie, and so on. The options menu is really skimpy, with a couple pre-set controller configurations, and nothing else, really. There are few modes: Single player, Multiplayer, and Watch.
When you actually start playing, you'll probably find that staring at the character models would make for a more entertaining experience. Controlling your character has an incredibly sloppy feel. Jerky movement, stiff jumping, and pretty much no physics whatsoever make for a game with a bland, unfun feel. Combat is performed with three buttons, but you won't find much depth. One button is for basic attacks, one is for strong attacks, and yet another for a super attack that requires magic points. You can press each button a number of times to perform different combos, but you can't mix buttons. It lacks any sort of flow or depth, making for shallow fights.
Weapons in the game are basically little items thrown about the levels that supposedly harm your foes. Usually, though, they'll end up hurting you, do nothing to your foes, or just piss everyone off. One weapon is the Ice Pot - when thrown, it lets off a gas that will freeze anyone in their steps that touches it. The gas is so faint, however, that you usually can only see it after you realise you're not moving, and you squint for a closer look. Another stupid weapon is the Fire Pot. When thrown, it kind of explodes, showering flames over a wide area. You're bound to hurt yourself or your teammates when using it. These weapons really, really didn't turn out too well.
One thing Stake seems to like to boast about are it's big interactive environments. While they are big, they lack good design. There are a number of themes, from the lava-filled area, to a grassy hill with a temple on it, to what is apparently a haunted house. Each of them are so big you'll get lost, but there's really nothing to do on them - they're usually just filled with a bunch of open space or repetitive terrain. Not helping matters is the constant clipping that goes on, leaving you stuck in many areas you wish you weren't.
The camera is equally bad. You can use the triggers to make it zoom in or out, but that's basically it. You can't even rotate it, which is incredibly unfortunate. It's simply stuck at a fixed angle the whole time. Zooming out won't even help you see what's going on, as Stake employs some kind of strange blur effect, making it almost impossible to see anything but movements. The camera also becomes troublesome if you're inside a building with a roof on it - you have to adjust the camera every so often, or you're stuck staring at the roof. This area of the game needed major improvement.
The multiplayer mode fixes nothing. Your friends will probably feel like punching you in the face for making them play, frankly. There are two ways to play: free for all Deathmatch, or a Team Battle. However, since all of the characters run at basically the same speed, and the environments are so lame - not to mention the all around bad control, you won't find yourselves developing any cool tactics or strategies. It's a shame - a game like this could have been really cool, if properly done.
The graphics are so unimpressive, you'd swear this was a Nintendo 64 game. The environments are rigid and lack many interesting sights. Textures are incredibly blurry and repetitive, making it easy to get lost. Character models are the best looking part of the game, but that's not saying a lot. They sport clunky, jittery animation and lack much detail. Between the camera and the lackluster graphics, you'll be hardpressed to actually understand what's going on half the time.
Sound is probably one of the best parts of the game, but that's only because the game offers custom soundtrack support. Even, then, though, the way it's implemented feels cheap: you have to scroll through an incredibly long list to get to any particular song, and it repeats throughout the whole match instead of moving on to the next track. If you want to select the next track, you have to scroll through the whole list again to get to it. It's simply not practical. Sound effects aren't too impressive either - many of them seem out of place or just plain silly. Work that mute button.
Stake hasn't recieved a lot of hype, but that's understandable - the game is really disappointingly bad. It feels like it could have used a lot more time in development, despite being delayed several times. It wants to be a fun brawler, but instead, is a clunky, boring game consisting of running around and mashing buttons. I advise you to not spend your money on this game. I honestly do not understand how Metro3D approved this game's release.