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Advent Rising

Platform(s): PC, Xbox
Genre: Action
Publisher: Majesco
Developer: GlyphX Games

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PC Review - 'Advent Rising'

by Tim "The Rabbit" Mithee on Oct. 5, 2005 @ 12:38 a.m. PDT

Advent Rising is a 3rd person, action/adventure game presented in a stunning cinematic format that delivers an unprecedented variety of addictive game play experiences. Built on the Unreal Warfare Engine, it offers precise, refined play-dynamics with action-packed adventure and style, wrapped in a visually imaginative universe. Advent Rising is akin to a fast-paced action movie where the player is swept up in a continuously evolving series of sequences and events.

Genre: Action
Publisher: Majesco
Developer: GlyphX Games
Release Date: August 9, 2005

It's hard to fault a company when they're on a roll. Lately, Majesco's become one of the rising folk in console gaming, porting over a small string of titles like Phantom Dust or Guilty Gear XX #reload for the American Xbox audience. Since Majesco doesn't do their own development, whoever was picking their projects had a good eye, and that makes portions of Advent Rising an even harder love-hate relationship than it is outright.

Set in the far-flung future that we've seen and adored a million times yet, AR follows the adventures of Gideon Wyeth, soldier in the last remaining army of humankind. Nearly wiped out by the Seekers, the survivors have taken up refuge on a great space station. Thanks to the efforts of Gideon's pilot brother, the Seekers were knocked back and have not been heard from again. However, a new alien ship has arrived, with word that the nearly invincible Seeker forces are on the horizon, stronger than before and out for blood. In less than a few minutes, Gideon's day goes from "get milk, take gun tutorial, beat up people" to "run fast enough to not get killed, shoot really well, save the girl." It's very well structured prose from author Orson Scott Card, the clich├ęs not withstanding.

What that survival boils down to is a third-person shooting spree, one of the most basic game types there is; we've been playing them for years, and still keep coming back to them. Starting off on the base as it slowly comes apart under the Seeker assault, Gideon will plow his way up and out, into space, and on to the surface of a nearby planet. Then the real, deeper story begins: Gideon is a "catalyst" of sorts, a psychic warrior destined to destroy the Seekers and another great evil that threatens the remaining bits of humanity's future.

It's a great science-fiction blitz, elements of "Star Wars" and various other sci-fi tenants tossed together in a nice, soupy mix. Tacked on top is a lightweight skill system, making Gideon more proficient with his weapons as he goes on about his business. From basic pistols (albeit 90 caliber ones) to huge bolt throwers and energy weaponry, the man comes well-geared for battle. There's also a cache of psychic powers that come about later which throw the gameplay for a loop: after several hours of being totally overwhelmed, Gideon is suddenly too much for the enemies to handle anymore.

As an engine, things aren't exactly revolutionary, but they get the job done. Gideon and others are okay models with only average animation. Texturing is fine, and there's enough variety, but the feeling of "console-itis" is very heavy (this is a port from the Xbox version, and it shows). The "cut scenes," oddly enough, are rather low-grade compared to the in-game video.

Sound is also simply adequate, with musical swells as appropriate. The voice acting — and there's tons of it — is a bit grating, but that's not the fault of the voice actors here. They've done a fine job with slightly questionable dialogue, riddled with goofy bravado and silly technobabble, like something you'd see on an old episode of "Star Trek" or "Battlestar Galactica." It's as if they were headed for something camp, but missed their mark substantially under Scott-Card's harder sci-fi story.

There's only one damning factor in this entire adventure, and it pretty much puts things to rest rather early along: the controls. Gideon tends to slide about as if walking on motor oil, having to shift his weight awkwardly to change directions. A dodging system is in place — either tap the direction twice or hold shift while pressing it — but it simply doesn't work well. Enemies tend to track you as fast as you can dodge, and a bug in the timing (press W, then wait a second or two, and press it again—Gideon will still dive) makes it a threat to use in many hazardous areas. The Xbox version featured something called "Flick Targeting," where the player flicked the stick towards an enemy they wanted to target. It's still here, now used via the mousewheel, but it's primarily useless with mouselook available.

As if that weren't enough overall, the mouse — the central point of any shooter —totally falls apart. The view tracking is exceedingly loose, bouncing around even with the sensitivity turned down. Gideon can carry two guns (or a psychic power and a gun), one in each hand. Left button, left hand, and right button, right hand. It's awkward enough having to pick up and manage the guns you're carrying while dodging plasma fire, but the simple fact that you can only have one gun out at a time is hard to forgive. (If you're firing the left gun and change to the right, Gideon goes through a short animation where he puts the first gun away, gets out the new one, preps it, then starts firing. He does this if you don't fire either gun for a few seconds as well.)

Worst of all, the view tracking only moves the camera, not Gideon's viewpoint. For example: if you're running down a hallway and see a trooper come up behind you, you'd put the crosshair over him and let it rip. In AR, you'd be spraying firepower down the hallway in the wrong direction while the trooper ate you alive. Firefights are difficult enough with ammo coming from every direction, but it is exponentially worse when manually having to turn Gideon around prior to opening fire. This also ruins hand-to-hand combat, since you have to keep slowly turning to face whatever you're trying to attack, and Gideon won't do it himself. The Flick Targeting will turn him the right way, but there's still a problem: the aim tracks too slowly, so often you'll be a half-second behind what you're aiming at, laying round after round into the wall next to him. The mouseview mode is essential, yet brain damaged. This feeds back into the vehicle controls as well, but by this point, I need to just bury the horse.

I so want to love Advent Rising, I honestly do. It's good, stable science-fiction with a heavy supernatural sub-plot and enough action to make Han Solo's trigger finger hurt for days. Unfortunately, all of that wonderful stuff is damaged by a hare-brained control scheme that simply doesn't work well enough when it has to. With a slew of bugs stacked on (you may have to remove all your joysticks and their drivers, or during the intro, Gideon's ship will simply plow itself into another ship and explode over and over), I simply can't go much further than I already have. Such wasted potential. I'd still say give it at least a try: players with enough tenacity or dexterity may be able to power through and enjoy themselves, but I highly doubt it.

Score: 6.0/10


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