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SiN Episodes - Emergence Review 198

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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  • by technoextreme ( 885694 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2006 @02:43PM (#15430132)
    Despite what the Mythbusters had to say on the subject, compressed air tanks make surprisingly good weapons here.

    Ummmm... They didn't say that compressed air tanks don't make good weapons. They said that they don't make good IEDs. They make great missles.
  • by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2006 @02:46PM (#15430161)
    The game doesn't have a flashlight, unlike HL2/DOOM3/QUAKE4. There are some darks aeas where I could've used a flashlight. I think every law enforcement officer should has some kind of flashlight, either the small pen variety or the large billy club type. Not having one is inexcusable. Otherwise, I love the game.
  • by inkdesign ( 7389 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2006 @02:52PM (#15430233)
    I got it, mostly because it came with the first SIN game for free. Anyways, I played through the episode in about 5 hours.
    As for the game, it felt like a poor-man's half-life 2, and I can't think of anything remarkable about it.
    I definitely won't be buying any future episodes.
  • by sesshomaru ( 173381 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2006 @03:08PM (#15430367) Journal
    No, it's ok, I follow games pretty closely and I find that sentence to be pretty meaningless myself. 3D platformers have mostly been intended to replace 2D platformers. Which is why you can't get a decent 2D Castlevania game on a TV based console anymore (tons of crummy and awful 3D Castlevanias, though).

    Now, you could argue that there has been a 2D rennaissance, on portables. This is because portables have finally caught up to (or surpassed) the graphical abilities of the Atari Lynx. So, both the Nintendo portables and the PSP have some killer 2D games. ( Extreme Ghouls 'n Ghosts [], Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow [], Sigma Star Saga []).

    However, this has nothing to do with 3D platformers. In fact, I'm not sure how much longer 2D games are going to be available on portables. We're safe for the current generation, but as I look into my crystal ball, I see nothing but hard to control, ugly, dirty polygons as far as the eye can see. Of course, I suppose I'll be better off because I also see myself reading a lot more...

  • Re:EULA nastiness (Score:5, Informative)

    by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) * on Tuesday May 30, 2006 @03:14PM (#15430420) Homepage Journal
    No, I BUY games. Few people license any software (though most of us agree to EULAs at some point, but EULAs are not licenses.) Virtually nobody licenses music who isn't redistributing copies in some shape or form.

    The "You only license software" line is bullshit peddled by certain groups in the software industry. The copyright laws are the same for software as for books, music, and movies. If you've bought a copy, that copy's your's. Copyright prevents you from copying it (except under limited circumstances), but the physical media and copy is yours to use.

    In any case, your point is completely irrelevent. There is no reason to force your customers to register with a third party (or even you) in order to use the product they've bought.

  • Multiplayer. (Score:3, Informative)

    by JavaLord ( 680960 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2006 @03:25PM (#15430510) Journal
    I was a huge fan of the original SiN, but I won't even think about picking up SiN episodes until the Multiplayer is up.
  • Re:EULA nastiness (Score:2, Informative)

    by 26reverse ( 305980 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2006 @03:33PM (#15430561)
    Actually - you do license the right to run the software. If you ever read any of the "click-through" EULAs, that would be apparent. I, personally, disagree with this and agree with you that you SHOULD "buy" your game. Unfortunately, by clicking through (and accepting the EULA), you've already waived your rights. What you've actually "bought" is the packaging and distribution methods - not the stuff on the disk.

    To be fair to the manufacturers, the Steam method is an "interesting" business method. It's an immediate anti-piracy check for their software. However, it's a very intrusive method. As an example - you're supposed to be able to play through single player HL2 without being online (you do have to connect online when you install the game, after that it's fine disconnected). A couple weeks ago, my DSL was down and I was in the mood for some run-n-gun since I couldn't get into World of Warcraft. Steam, however, felt differently - and insisted that I first connect to them to check for updates before playing HL2 offline, since it had been a while since I had played it. No ethernet, no update check. Which meant that Steam bombed out and refused to play.
  • Re:EULA nastiness (Score:4, Informative)

    by Schnapple ( 262314 ) <tomkidd@[ ] ['via' in gap]> on Tuesday May 30, 2006 @03:36PM (#15430585) Homepage
    It's true that you have to go with Steam in order to play the game, store-purchased or not. It's true you have to have a Steam account and you have to associate your purchase with Steam using an Internet connection. If these are deal-breakers for you then that's a position you're free to take. The number of people who take issue with this notion to the point of refusing to partake in HL2 or SiN:Ep is small enough to ignore.

    However, a few points to make:

    - You have to have an Internet connection all of once. If you only play SiN:Ep then you never have to have Steam online again. Like HL2, it can be played offline. Actually until the multiplayer addon is released, it's offline-only. It's not like CSS where Valve can reserve the right to ban you for cheating.

    - The main logic of having it done through Steam is to unify future updates. This way when they release new contents or patches, they do it through Steam and everyone gets it, no matter how they bought it. Ask anyone whose Direct2Drive copy of Oblivion is impossible to update how much this notion is convenient.

    Their use of Steam is less devious than you give them credit for. I think you may be confusing software licensing and episodic content.
  • Re:Far too slippery (Score:2, Informative)

    by fistynuts ( 457323 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2006 @04:16PM (#15430888)
    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.

    I have to say that I didn't notice this at all. I've jumped across the gaps no problem and never had to use the 'walk' key.

    That said, aside from the length (under 4 hours playtime) it was an enjoyable FPS

    The length is at least 5 hours. If it took you significantly less then you must've been playing on super-easy mode. Did you set the challenge level before you began the game?

    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.

    This is pure SiN - the pistol is a great weapon. However you have to be pretty sh!t hot to headshot every enemy (again, maybe you were playing on easy mode). The shotty is a great weapon for quick close-up takedowns. Ammo is always at a premium. These weapon characteristics have been kept faithful to the original game.

    It's a great title that's easily worth £11 of anyone's money. Take a look at the shareware game market - I've never seen such a good game available for so little cash.
  • Re:Really? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Jorkapp ( 684095 ) <jorkapp@h o t m a i l .com> on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:25AM (#15433075)
    What happened to Corporal Shepard (from HL: Opposing Forces)?

    Play the game to completion - the Gman put him in an alternate dimension (or something of the like) for all eternity to prevent him from letting the world know about Black Mesa.

    Where has Barney been?

    He escaped at the end of Blue Shift. More than likely he blended in with the crowd - so to speak - after escaping the BMRF.

    Shouldn't the Combine have known that he was at Black Mesa in HL1?

    Don't forget, the BMRF turned into a smoldering crater after the Black Ops set off a Thermonuclear device. Because he escaped, his body would not have been found in the wreckage of BMRF (if any), and he was likely assumed to be Vaporized.

    Where did the Antlions come from?

    Could be from one of many places. Either way, resistance discovered a way to turn them against the Combine. Ah, sweet justice.

    What happened to the Earth's military forces?

    When you are in Eli's lab at Black Mesa East, there is a newspaper headline clipped that reads "Earth Surrenders". Most likely, the military forces of Earth were disbanded. There are remnants, as Colnel Cubbage gives you an RPG launcher to shoot down gunships.

    Why aren't the resistance putting IEDs in the street?

    All those explosive barrels do a rather excellent job of functioning as IED's. If some stupid combine soldier gets too close, you peg the barrel a couple times and he gets taken out. If you have the gravity gun, you can pick them up and throw them at any number of targets.

    Those "hoppers" also work nicely. Pick them up, and they reprogram to take out the combine.

    Why hasn't Earth turned into an oversized model of Iraq?

    In this dystopiatic Earth, there are more forces involved than those in Iraq. Human sexuality is being supressed by Combine technology, so the population is naturally dwindling. The combine also have much greater technology - accurate strafing on gunships, cruise missile launchers on APC's, giant walking armor that can vaporize buildings and people with a single beam, you name it.

    Iraq vs America is still a one-to-one fight. Despite it's age, an AK-47 can still take down American soldiers with the same efficiency an M4 can take down Iraqi insurgents. In Half-Life 2, the combine soldiers have pretty decent armor, and can take several hits, even from their own weapons, while resistance can only take a limited number of hits. Unless you start throwing heavy weapons at them (RPG rockets, well-placed grenades, IED's, Combine plasma balls), a group of Combine soldiers can easily take down an equal-sized group of resistance.

    Why the hell am I using a damned crossbow as a sniping weapon?

    Simple, they can be built in an underground environment with improvised materials and equipment, and aren't as noisy as a rifle. Certainly, the strings releasing the tension creates some noise, but not nearly as much as a high-powered rifle. They make an excellent improvised stealth weapon.
  • My Impressions (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mantrid ( 250133 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @11:17AM (#15435717) Journal
    This SiN episode was a waste of money. Just was really medicore and I'm a touch bitter that it actually cost me MORE to buy it through STEAM than at the store.

    Big PASS from me!

"Turn on, tune up, rock out." -- Billy Gibbons