Genre: First Person Shooter
Publisher: Strategy First
Release Date: August 20, 2003
Pre-order 'CHROME': PC
In a sense Chrome is a lot like some of the television series that one might see on the Sci-Fi channel: while not widely known and without the largest budgets or best actors, they are built on a solid framework and have a storyline that, while not entirely original, are still endearing and compelling. Chrome is the latest entry in the ever-crowded FPS market, and at first glance looks like just another FPS about a lone gunman taking down the bad guys and saving the day. While there is indeed that aspect, Chrome’s story is a bit more dynamic and believable than many others. In Chrome, you play the part of a mercenary, a hired gun who works for whoever waves around the most cash. While on a seemingly simple mission retrieving a nano data disc, everything falls apart. You are betrayed and set up by your one-time partner and longtime friend, and before you know it, you are thrust in a battle to level the playing field and even the score with your “friend.”
What sets Chrome apart is its gameplay, which sets forth a much higher degree of tactics and strategy than its FPS brethren. Sure, a big gun can help you lace enemies with a wall of lead, but it will also have a huge recoil and take up a lot of space in your inventory. Hoisting your gun against your shoulder will improve your aim twofold but will also reduce your mobility. Do you choose to evade enemy patrols, silently eliminate them, or simply gun them all down to make sure you won't get attacked from the rear as you advance?
In addition, in Chrome, bunny-hopping and running around at flank speed while holding the trigger will only get you killed in short order. Not only are the enemies quite adept at aiming, but moving around like a madman effectively makes you spray your fire all over the room and everywhere besides where you want it to go. At times, the enemies in the game seem to almost have too great of accuracy, but then again soldiers called Peacemakers should probably be fairly efficient with a firearm.
One of Chrome’s twists is the fact that you have an inventory system not unlike games like Diablo or Harbinger. Your character can only hold a certain amount of items, guns, and ammo, so the player must choose wisely as to what they collect from dead bodies and the environment and what to throw away when space becomes limited. Another deviation from standard FPS fare is a satellite map view with which you can place personal waypoints and get a feel for where you and your objectives are located, ensuring that you at least won’t get lost while outdoors. The press build also features drivable vehicles such as the single seat speeder craft, but the vehicles felt a bit less than stellar, though they were still a thankful addition.
Currently, the graphics in Chrome are overall a little sub par, with some aspects that looks very nice and some that represent the opposite end of the spectrum. Dead and dying enemies go into a rag doll effect that is a lot more realistic than games such as Hitman 2 or Unreal Tournament 2k3. That’s not to say it looks jaw-droppingly real, as it still has its quirks but you won’t see an enemy go flying backwards from a mere 9mm pistol. Animations such as bringing your gun up to bear for careful aiming or reloading also have a quality look to them. However, the models themselves look a bit washed out and not nearly as crisp or detailed as many other titles on the market. The levels bear the same burden: while levels can be swarmed with overwhelming numbers of plant life, trees, and other objects, they generally look a bit bland. As a topper, the press build of the game was limited to a maximum 800x600 resolution, which will hopefully be greatly increased before the game goes gold.
The sounds in Chrome are great for the most part, but not unlike the graphics department, they also have their peaks and valleys, in terms of quality. Gun shots, ricochets, explosions, and character voices all sound original and have a decent degree of quality but then sounds like bodies hitting the floor sound absolutely horrible. The music in the game is probably the best aspect of Chrome’s entire audio department, with rich themes that set the mood and the pacing of the game. Whether it’s slightly mysterious music as a shuttle glides through space or a quicker, livelier song as you fling lead at enemy soldiers, Chrome has the music to fit the exact mood and flow.
Overall, Chrome leaves me on the fence. On the one hand, if its flaws are not addressed with careful consideration, they could prove to be fatal to an otherwise promising game. On the other, Chrome has potential to emerge from its developmental cocoon as one of the few FPS games of the year that nearly any fan of the genre should become familiar with. The game has potential, that much is for certain, and with a little love and polish, Chrome could quite possibly be chalked up as another great title from Strategy First.