Genre: First-Person Shooter
Developer: Spark Unlimited
Release Date: February 26, 2008
If you just bought this game, keep your receipt and don't open it. I don't think it's an accident that there's no demo available for Turning Point: Fall of Liberty because while the still screenshots might make it look half-decent, seeing it in motion, getting your hands on the controls, and feeling out the gameplay would have equated to zero sales of this title anytime after 1998.
The only interesting thing about Turning Point is the lead-in story, which occurs in the first five seconds. The premise is that Winston Churchill didn't survive a cab accident in New York and wasn't around to lead England through World War II. Thus, the Brits fell to the Nazi invasion rather quickly, paving the way for the invasion of the United States via New York City. From that point, the story dissolves into nothing. The resistance fighters employ your help, stringing you from objective to objective, with no cohesive organization or leadership, much less an overarching story to keep it all together. You just take orders from whatever peon you run into.
I understand that the developers were trying to recreate NYC in the 1940s, but there's a difference between taking older architecture and rebuilding it beautifully in a game world like Assassin's Creed, and simply making a game that looks painfully dated and uninspired. Everything is blocky and boring, and it actually makes the Unreal Engine look bad. With other UE-powered games available like Rainbow Six Vegas 2, Turning Point is bland as can be. Take Duke Nukem 3D, smear Vaseline all over your screen, and that's pretty much Turning Point. What's more, the resolution choices peak at 1024x768, with no widescreen options available. I thought it might employ the black-and-white color scheme for added effect, like that upcoming game Sabotage (or Velvet Assassin or whatever it's called these days), but no. There are a few rare touches to highlight the period, like a portrait of FDR hanging over the mantle in one house you'll meander through, but these instances of authenticity are few and far between.
While the environments may look so-so, the enemies look decent and animate fairly well, in a rag doll sort of way. They're dumb as rocks, though. They don't coordinate, flank, or even take cover behind the wisest of objects (Still hiding behind exploding barrels? Really guys?). This would make the game a cakewalk if the weapons weren't so woefully ineffective. Hold your hands out in front of you, spread about four feet apart. That's about the size of your reticle. The horrible weapon accuracy makes it tiresome to pick off enemies when they peek out, and you waste a lot of ammo doing so. Good luck hitting anything at more than point-blank range, and of course, many of your encounters are ranged, either on rooftops above you or down an alley you can't traverse, only spray and pray. Even guns with scopes require luck to use effectively.
All of the weapons lack punch. You can only carry two at a time, despite the game often throwing several at you at once, though they all feel largely the same. The infrared scope on one rifle stands out a little, helping you see laser sights on enemy sniper rifles. Trace them back to the point of origin and start pumping out rounds and hope you hit something. You really only use these unique weapons for a short portion of the game that's specifically designed for it. None of the other firearms feel like you have a serious weapon in your hands, though. With very little screen-shaking or ground-trembling when you fire a rocket or drop a grenade, it feels like running through a painting rather than a war zone. And when you finally drop a guy with a machinegun, he doesn't recoil from the impacts; he just flops to the ground. There's no weapon customization available either.
Your character is a drone of a man who never speaks, let alone undergoes any sort of development. In the similar but much, much better Freedom Fighters, your hero starts out an average plumber who rises through the ranks, rescuing and then leading larger and larger groups of people in the resistance against the Soviets until he becomes a figurehead for the entire movement. This point is made even clearer as wanted posters appear with your face on them and you hear NPC chatter of your played-up heroic deeds. Turning Point has nothing like that. Boring, basic, and bland, the story never engages the player or really goes anywhere. It just strings you along from one dull place to another. Shoot this guy, blow that thing up. Why? Some guy told you to, although you've never seen until a few seconds ago.
Speaking of blowing things up, Turning Point shoehorns a minigame in to set explosives where it doesn't need to be. You're pinned by a tank on the street that just happens to be parked right above a sewer cover, so you're ordered to enter the sewers (which conveniently have a demolished entrance right next to you) and set a charge on the tank's underside. You navigate your way there, getting snagged on everything in the environment as you do in the rest of the game, and go to set the charge. So opens the minigame. You have to wire the bomb manually using letters on the keyboard to match the colors, and then screw the bolts. I guess colorblind players are out of luck. By the time you complete this, the bad guys should have moved or noticed you, but that would require decent AI, which the game eschewed.
The interface is further made cumbersome by the over-reliance on the keyboard. At no point in any menu do you have a mouse interface to click on items. Literally everything is done with the cursor keys, Enter, and Esc. The Options screen somewhat explains this, as the game was clearly designed to be played with a controller (it is also available on the 360 and PS3). Everything defaults to controller mappings, and it even basically says, "Play it with an Xbox 360 controller" with a picture of one. Guess they didn't get the memo that keyboard/mouse is the definitive way to play an FPS on the PC. It started circulating around the time Quake 1 came out, guys, just FYI. This just makes it feel even more like a lazy console-to-PC port of an already miserable game.
The sound department isn't their strong suit either. Besides being fairly ordinary, there are cases where the sound plays a second or so after the event happens. This is exacerbated by the way the game grinds to a halt sound- and frame rate-wise whenever you reach a checkpoint or an autosave. It doesn't seem to be loading more of the level, and just saving your progress is apparently like more than the game can handle.
Multiplayer is perhaps the most underwhelming facet of Turning Point. You get a whopping four maps to play on, and the Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch modes. You can set score/time limits, but in terms of other options, forget it. Playing online requires you to have a Gamespy ID as well, so don't get your hopes up for direct-connect or private games … not that you'd want to after playing the single-player campaign for more than 30 seconds.
There are so many puzzling or simply bad design decisions in this title. More often than not, environmental hazards you could use against enemies appear nowhere near where they would be considered useful. The guns are wildly inaccurate, and ammo is sparse enough that you'll be running low in nearly every firefight. I'm not sure how Germany conquered so many territories when each soldier was only issued 20 bullets. You'll literally get hung up on the environment and run into invisible barriers. Objects you can climb or shimmy across have this ridiculous glowy effect to them since the level design doesn't make it clear where to go or what you need to do in some situations, and you can't look around or return fire while shimmying, so pray you don't get spotted.
It takes seven rockets to take down a blimp, which, in reality at the time, were filled with the very flammable hydrogen. The launcher only holds four at a time, too, meaning you have to hit it four times, go find more ammo, reload, and then empty another full salvo before they catch on. When firing from behind cover, your reticle may appear to be dead-on, but your rounds will actually be hitting the thing you're hiding behind. The run key only applies to forward motion, not sideways or backpedaling, making fleet-footed grenade dodging impractical at best. It's like they made a list of ways to spoil the fun, and then deliberately acted on implementing every one of them.
Turning Point: Fall of Liberty is a prime example of how not to make a decent FPS, and with so many better titles out there now and a lack of budget pricing, it's hard to imagine what the devs were thinking. The setting and almost-story are worthwhile, just very shoddily realized and executed. F.E.A.R. Platinum, Vegas 2, and TimeShift (among others) are all out right now, and each is easily more deserving of your cash than Turning Point. If you simply must play a WWII-themed game, stick with the earlier Medal of Honor or Call of Duty games, or pick up the oldie-but-goodie Freedom Fighters to get your fix of repelling invaders on American soil.
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