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SiN Episodes - Emergence Review 198

Posted by Zonk
from the on-a-very-special-sin-episodes dept.
Along with pale imitations, it seems the destiny of genre-defining games to provoke a reversal in design decisions. The success of 3D platformers has lead to a renaissance in 2D gaming, World of Warcraft has pushed online game designers away from the fantasy genre, and Half-Life 2 has prompted a lot of story-light brainless shooters. It's this last genre that houses SiN Episodes: Emergence. A traditional run and gun First Person Shooter (FPS), SiN is a blood-soaked five hour jaunt you can download from Steam for about twenty bucks. At that price and that length, this Aeon Fluxian gorefest may just be a happy start for the age of episodic content. Read on for my impressions of a good-looking throwback that proves you don't need millions of dollars to make a fun title.

  • Title: SiN Episodes: Emergence
  • Developer: Ritual Entertainment
  • Publisher: Valve
  • System: PC

Calling SiN story-light might not be fair. It would be more accurate to say that this first episode of the 'season' isn't heavy on plot elements. Ritual plans on making these 5-8 hour gameplay releases a regular event. A 'season' will be a complete story made up of three episodes: a beginning, a middle, and an end. You're awakened at the start of this episode staring into the um, eyes of an attractive woman and a well-dressed guy. You're strapped onto a table, and have apparently been injected with something. Before you can really understand what's going on, another attractive woman comes to your aid, spiriting you away in her auto.

What follows is a textbook-standard FPS. You make your way through the grubby urban environments, a secret underground lair, and moist crawlspaces, shooting the faceless bad guys that get in your way. Weapons are fairly limited in this first episode; For most of the game you have a pistol, a shotgun, and grenades. Really, though, what else do you need? Enemy models and map creation are fairly generic, though they are competently executed. There's a couple of nice action set-pieces, such as a fight against jet-pack wearing baddies from inside a cargo crate being lifted over a body of water. The few explanatory plot moments are used with the in-game engine, as in cousin Half-Life.

If there is a differentiating element to SiN, it is the adaptive AI and stat-tracking that haunts you throughout the game. Every bullet you fire, which gun you use, whether it hits or not, all are tracked as you move through the title. The enemies will start off fairly dumb, but if you find yourself having an easy time of it you'll start to notice the enemies beginning to adopt new tactics. If you pwn the bad guys hard enough in the first few levels, you may even find yourself outclassed when the action gets fast and furious later in the episode. This intelligent adaptation to your gameplay is a little spooky once you start noticing it. The first time you find yourself in the middle of a well-executed pincer maneuver, with soldiers on all sides closing in, you'll know you've gotten the AI's attention.

Visually, SiN looks a lot like cousin Half-Life, which only makes sense; Emergence was created with Valve's Source engine. All the 'fun with physics' moments you can have in Half-Life 2 are here in SiN, with some extra surprises. Despite what the Mythbusters had to say on the subject, compressed air tanks make surprisingly good weapons here. The polish on the game's look is less pronounced than it was with Half-Life 2, the result of a smaller budget and shorter development time. The audio is run and gun standard, but the weapon sounds are surprisingly satisfying. They have a lot of heft, which partially makes up for the very few weapons you'll have access to in the game.

If Emergence was $15, this would be a sure thing; At $20 I'm not sure this particular ride is worth the price of admission. Just the same, if you've got the money lying around and are a fan of the FPS genre, you're probably going to enjoy SiN There's nothing particularly wrong here, just a general sense of 'been there, done that'. At only five or six hours play time, you probably won't even have time to get bored before the episode is over. Future episodes will elaborate on the plot, give us more enemies to fight, and more weapons to fight with. As such, the pricetag may be more justified for future episodes. For right now, though, here's hoping they drop the price to make this bite-sized FPS morsel taste just right.
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SiN Episodes - Emergence Review

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  • Really? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nos. (179609) <andrew@@@thekerrs...ca> on Tuesday May 30, 2006 @02:44PM (#15430144) Homepage

    Half-Life 2 has prompted a lot of story-light brainless shooters

    IMHO, HL2 wasn't about being a immersive story-telling game. It was about showing off the new engine until mods that made the first HL (Counter Strike, Day of Defeat, etc) so popular were released under source.

    That being said, I did enjoy HL2, but I didn't buy it for the story line. From what I've seen, most FPS shooters aren't built for the story line. They're built for action. And guess what, we got action with HL2 and the various mods.

  • Far too slippery (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Spad (470073) <slashdot @ s p a d.co.uk> on Tuesday May 30, 2006 @02:50PM (#15430219) Homepage
    I couldn't help but notice that whenever you're running (which is almost all the time since you run by default), any semblance of control goes out the window. It's like playing on ice half the time - you pretty much have to use "walk" for any kind of controlled navigation or platform jumping, which is annoying as you have to be running to make it across most of the gaps.

    It's also pretty buggy, with the game actually stopping at one point because the AI had "forgotten" to blow a wall that I needed to pass - thankfully there was a workaround, but I suspect that the short turnaround planned for this series will result in more bugs that usual.

    That said, aside from the length (under 4 hours playtime) it was an enjoyable FPS - although I did find myself getting by almost entirely with my pistol until the ammo started to become scarce in the later levels. One headshot will happily take out 90% of the enemies you face.
  • plots in FPS (Score:3, Insightful)

    by OmegaBlac (752432) on Tuesday May 30, 2006 @03:01PM (#15430307)
    ...and Half-Life 2 has prompted a lot of story-light brainless shooters.
    Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Quake, Duke Nukem 3D and a host of other FPS that were released way before Half-Life 2 have had little to no story at all. HL2 changed nothing.
  • Re:For 20 bucks (Score:4, Insightful)

    by B'Trey (111263) on Tuesday May 30, 2006 @03:03PM (#15430327)
    For nothing (other than the cost of the electricity), you can play Solitaire for 50 hours. Or 100 hours.

    My point is that yes, you can find other ways to spend your time for more or less money. But it isn't the same experience you'll get playing this. The real question is whether or not this game is worth the money, not what else you could do with that money.

    I agree with the reviewer that at 20 bucks, it's probably slightly overpriced. If it were a little longer or a little cheaper, it'd be a great deal. But, having played the entire game, if I could get in a time machine and go back and advise myself on whether or not to buy the game, I'd tell myself to go ahead. I'd probably grumble about it, but I'd give it a nod.
  • So right! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sammy baby (14909) on Tuesday May 30, 2006 @03:10PM (#15430376) Journal
    HL2 was only the latest in a long line of games to exhibit this behavior, but since it's the one I last played I'm gonna pick on it.

    It doesn't matter that the HL2 takes place in a future society where teleportation devices are becoming reality, self guided robots follow you around in order to either take your picture or slice you into ribbons, and we see a variety of directed energy weapons including a "gravity gun" (not to mention personal force fields!). Why? Because apparently, in this reality, nobody can figure out how to build a fucking flashlight with as much candlepower and battery life as the headlamp I bought at EMS in real life for about thirty bucks.

    Game designers, get the hint. Limiting the battery life of the flashlight is stupid.
  • Re:EULA nastiness (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 30, 2006 @03:24PM (#15430498)
    Yes. Because it's WRONG.

    I've licenced things before. There are lawyers and contracts involved. You sign things.

    Exchanging a 20-note for a box is NOT licencing something. Putting the plastic disc from inside the box into your CD player or PS2 isn't either.
  • Sin-tillating (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kin242 (789922) on Tuesday May 30, 2006 @03:54PM (#15430748) Homepage
    Despite the comedy breasts and the paper-thin plot, I found the game an excellent waste of not only the 7 hours at least it took me to first complete it, but the equally enjoyable 4/5 hours I took to play it again. Its not rocket science. Its not hugely original. But it is damn good fun! Yes its priced $5 too high but still- if you are looking for something fun I can heartily recommend it. I also very much enjoyed the sound- all the way through the game the sound production is excellent, and there is even a theme tune which plays on the menu screen which is absolutely fantastic! Anyone know who that is by the way?
  • Re:light on plot? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Roguelazer (606927) <`Roguelazer' `at' `gmail.com'> on Tuesday May 30, 2006 @10:11PM (#15432689) Homepage Journal
    I never had trouble finding the plot in HL2. I read all the exposés after I finished the game and found very little that I hadn't already figured out... Maybe you are just too used to having some sort of deus ex machina come down from the sky (or out from a chair in front of a bank of video monitors) and explain everything away and you are out of practice at analyzing fiction?

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