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PC Review - 'Torrente'

by Gordy Wheeler on Jan. 10, 2005 @ 1:18 a.m. PST

Get ready to take on the role of Spain’s most notorious police officer, Torrente. based on the top-grossing films of the same name, Torrente is a fascist, sexist, racist, drunk, and dirty cop who soon finds himself caught in the crossfire between drug cartels and the Mafia. Now he must blast his way through street thugs and hit men battling for control over Madrid’s seedy underworld.

Genre: Third-person Shooter
Publisher: O3 Entertainment
Developer: Virtual Toys/Cinemaware
Release Date: December 6, 2004

Over the course of my life, I've played a lot of really awful first person shooters. It's something of a life mission; I strive to have one day played all of the worst FPS games made. This helps me appreciate the good ones even more, and it gives me something to do on long, dull weekends. This odd hobby means I've gotten my hands on some of the worst games known to humankind, and while I'm not naming any names, some of them have been truly, deeply terrible and I've usually ended up throwing them across the room sometime long before I was done. It's because I have this kind of experience with the genre that I feel Torrente is not, in fact, one of the worst first person shooter games I've ever played, and I did not throw it anywhere.

On the other hand, it is one of the most boring examples of the genre I've think I've ever seen, and it hasn't been pitched across the room only because that would be a waste of the muscle movements needed to lift the case.

Torrente is a game based on a massively popular (in its home country) Spanish movie which I have never seen, but I understand the plot of the film revolves around one Jose Luis Torrente, a homophobic, racist, bigoted, massively overweight, drunken, name-a-bad-trait-he's-got-it jerk of an ex-cop. Torrente's all about easy women (not that he can find any) and slacking off, but still insists that he belongs on the 'glorious' police force, which he seems to idolize to a really alarming degree. From the Internet Movie Database, I know that Torrente the film earned several awards for filmmaking and acting. It would have been nice to see some of that talent funneled towards the game, because this isn't going to win anything at all.

Torrente the game isn't based on the movie plotline as far as I can tell, but it does star the same main character. The game starts with Torrente in a hot tub surrounded by women, and his voiceover purports to tell the player how he came to be there. From there, we're just dropped in a series of missions (no less than sixty if you count missions broken into sub-missions) that seem to have no particular link to each other. Characters are mentioned that are probably from the movie, but not introduced to the game playing audience. Mission after mission goes by, each a little less probable and a little more pointless than the last. Eventually, one decides one no longer really cares what would get two attractive females into a hot tub with this utterly repellant man, and despair sets in. Tossing the CD across the room begins to sound like a better idea with each moment.

Okay, right. Let's get back to the game itself.

Torrente can be played from either a first or third person viewpoint, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. The third person viewpoint often makes for incredibly imprecise aiming, but it does allow you to see when enemies are silently sprinting up behind you. This is useful because first person mode offers only a vague flickering of the screen to inform you that you've been shot or stabbed, and enemies make no noise whatsoever aside from gunfire. Thus, a thug pounding Torrente in the back of the head with a baseball bat is completely undetectable if you're already in a firefight with someone else. Torrente's head is apparently thick enough that the hits just don't register visibly, although perhaps some hollow thumping sounds would be a handy audio cue for the player. As a trade off, the first person mode allows you to actually aim and fire weapons with some semblance of accuracy. As an additional bonus, you don't have to look at Torrente's bald spot any more either.

The biggest problem with using Torrente's first person mode is that it exposes you even more to the hailstorm of fuzzy texturing that make up the game's graphics. Sun drenched Spain resembles something much more in line with a game from 1997, maybe one based on Duke Nukem 3D's Build engine, than anything that should be sharing shelf space with games of today. Every readable object or sign in the game is covered with a thick layer of blurriness, which is all right since you don't need to read anything to progress. Still, it makes you wonder what prescription Torrente's glasses are and if he should have them bumped up another level of correction.

The character models look all right in a stylized and cartoony way, until they start to move. Then they hover-drift along to run straight at you, kicking their legs in vague time with the motion of their steps. There's a bit of locational damage, but it only affects if you will be able to kill an enemy in one pistol shot, or if they'll fall over and get back up after a moment to resume charging at you. Often if you stand in the right place, you can make whole crowds of them blindly rush into traffic and get plowed over by a series of cars. This is not impressive enemy AI.

Torrente allows you to shoot people with a variety of weapons, including the ever-popular sniper rifle, shotgun, grenade launcher, rocket launcher, and pistol. Additionally it includes a number of hand-to-hand weapons, like sticks and big knives. As a last resort, you can fall back on punching and girlishly flailing away with Torrente's ham-fisted brawling. However, as mentioned above, you can take out pretty much anyone in the game in one pistol shot, either making them crumple to the ground or flash and vanish in old NES game style. This makes the other weapons handy only if you need to zoom in and snipe someone from a long way away or if you feel the urge to go blow things up, which isn't terribly worth it either. (It diminishes me somehow to say that, but it bears repeating: Even blowing things up isn't any fun in Torrente's world.)

Occasionally you'll also get to take part in a rail-shooter level as Torrente's car zooms around the streets of Spain. These are the parts of the game that have the best chance of being a good time, because you can focus on the shooting and not have to worry about getting from place to place. During the normal foot-based levels, he moves at a sluggish jog, jouncing along down the street at a snail's pace. Given that the first missions to open the game are timed and revolve around racing through the streets on foot to disarm bombs, and given that one thing Torrente doesn't do at all is move at high speed, you might wonder if maybe the entire game is one big parody, designed to mock traditions of the genre like quick-moving athletic heroes and decent gameplay.

If so, it's a little funnier in an elaborate concept joke sort of way, but it's still not worth playing.

Possibly the most maddening part of Torrente is the audio, which alternates between "Too much" and "Not enough". The game is largely silent in terms of music, aside from a little victory tune that plays as Torrente gets funky at the end of each level. (I wish I were making that up. He has more animation for his bizarre Curly Shuffle jig than anyone else in the game has for anything.) Sound effects are mostly just gunfire and footsteps, and the occasional grunt of a bad guy being shot in the head and bloodlessly falling over.

Then there's the voice acting.

Torrente comes with his own voice, the man who played him in the film version. I don't object to that. There are about ten Serious Sam style one liners, which Torrente blurts out randomly as he runs through the levels, and I do have a problem with those. They range from self-promoting ("Uh! Thank god Torrente's here, yeah?") to bizarre ("GOOOOAAAAAAL! Athletico Madrid, yeah!") to utterly nonsensical. His cry of "This is just like Night of the Living Dead! Take that, you zombie!" as he ran unimpeded through a totally empty parking garage left me wondering just what hallucinogens he was finding in the medical kits. Maybe I just missed that scene in the film.

Look, I could keep going about this game and trying to find some good in it, but when my notes contain lines like "How cute, pedestrians don't know how to handle stairs," and "Why won't this game just end?" I think it's a good sign that this is impossible. Torrente is tedious and only worth trying out if you can laugh at a game with very few redeeming factors. It's too long, it's too uninspired, and it just isn't much fun.

Score: 4.0/10

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