Developer : Bitmap Brothers
Publisher : HIP Interactive
Release Date : March 31, 2004
As a rule, I generally take console-to-PC ports with a grain of salt. Translating titles across platforms doesn’t work out too well because of totally different philosophies in design and hardware architecture. Console textures seem blurry anemic when they are rendered on high-end graphics cards that can put out a much higher resolution than a television. Alas, the debate of which is better will rage on even as the PC gaming industry seems to wane as consoles grow in consumer might.
For someone like me (single, no kids except for a 120 pound hunting dog that eats 5 ½ cups of dog food, yogurt, carrots and a few gallons of water) deciding which platform isn’t much of an issue because I rock all three consoles and a decent PC in my humble abode. With this in mind, Kill.Switch acquits itself as one of the better ports that I have seen in a long time.
For those of you who don’t know Kill.Switch is a 3rd person shooter/adventure game put out by Namco earlier this year to moderate commercial and critical success. While not setting the world on fire, Kill.Switch injected a healthy dose of originality into the run’n’gun shooter formula. While resembling your run of the mill “kill’em all let God sort’em out” game design, Kill.Switch is actually much more methodical and tactical in its judicious employment of firepower across the forward edge of the battle area.
The game is designed around a control interface which essentially allows you to realistically take cover behind objects and use your cover by peaking around corners and taking down enemies with minimal exposure to yourself. You can employ the blind fire tactic if things get a little too hot and you can traverse along cover so that you don’t expose yourself as you assault your objective. While the game play mechanics were intended for a control pad, Kill.Switch translates nicely to a mouse and keyboard interface. The controls are mapped much like a traditional FPS and once you get used to what does what, you will find that the controls suit your needs fairly well. If you want, you are able to remap the keys however it is a pain in the neck as you can’t remap the keys in-game, nor can you switch resolution (limited to 1024x768). There are not any other graphic options to turn on or off so what you see is what you get on just about every box with the exception perhaps of specific graphic card features and frame rates.
Another interesting design choice is the game’s narrative. It not too often that one encounters a console title with a strong storyline that is compelling and human. Gordon Freeman’s everyman performance was instantly accessible. Wing Commander’s over the top space opera’s story changed according to how well you flew your missions. King’s Quest was all about story. These values are finally evolving in console game design, albeit more influenced by a cinematic sensibility. Metal Gear Solid’s action movie presentation and Metal Arms’ robo-epic of Homeric proportions are testimony to these evolutionary steps. While Kill.Switch’s story isn’t going to win a Pulitzer, I found it strangely compelling. Without spoiling anything, the character that you “play” and play is not actually the same person. You actually play as the “controller” who is neurologically linked to a person in a different location whereupon the controller’s thought control this host. I found the whole concept to pretty interesting on all sorts of levels and the cinematic cut-scenes of these synaptic and mnemonic flashbacks were intriguing as well. The voice acting was decent; however the dialogue needed a little taming.
Back to game play. Kill.Switch plays at a pretty fast pace. By no means an Unreal pace, but much faster than that of a Tom Clancy inspired title. Mixing the somewhat realistic design values on cover and concealment with a bit of a running gunfight mentality makes for a tough game. While the enemy AI can be dumb as dirt in enclosed spaces with objects to navigate, I found myself getting laid out in the more wide open spaces.
The graphics engine that Kill.Switch is built out of is painfully console borne. High resolution rigs expose blurry textures and simple polygon models. Texture tearing and seams can be picked out by a discerning eye. The 3rd person camera is fine outdoors, but can be virtually unplayable indoors, which is only ameliorated by enemy soldiers whose brain cells are solar powered so when they go inside they become inept. The architecture and level designs are well laid out and provide interesting situations for you to negotiate. You can try and run across an opening with guns blazing but one of two things will happen: you’ll get illed in the head by ambush parties or you’ll run out of ammo and get illed in the head by an ambush parties. For those of you don’t get my meaning, “illed in the head” means getting shot in the face.
Kill.Switch is a good game worthy of a sequel to build off of the concept of run-for-cover game play. Not too many shooters promote this sort of tactical thinking. I would hope that the Ghost Recon 2 development team takes a good long look at what Namco has going here because these game play features are what every tactical shooter should incorporate. There are a lot of rough edges that were not ironed out in the porting process, but due to this title’s relative low level of notoriety that is to be expected. I dare say that this game might even play better with a mouse keyboard than a control pad. If one is to look past these cosmetic flaws and see the core game play then one can have a lot of fun with this game. I hope Namco keeps up with this one and continues to refine it into a high profile franchise as this game does what most don’t: bring something new to the table.
Score : 8.0/10
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