GunValkyrie (Xbox) review
Welcome to one of the most brilliant game ever created, or one of the worst you've ever seen. The third person game Gunvalkyrie is like that, you either love it or hate it, there's no in between...
Set in a post-steampunk universe, described as ''elekipunk'' by the developpers, in an alternate past, during the first half of the twentieth century. In that past, the Halley comet left traces of a mysterious energy at various spots on the surface of the globe. This fabulous energy has been harnessed by a scientist that will become the most powerful and influent man on earth because of his numerous revolutionary inventions that uses this new power.
Kelly O'Lenmey, a british nobility girl, and Saburota Mishima, modern japanese samurai, are both ''chosens''. Humans that are gifted by the power of Halley's comet when they more or less stepped in one of the raw power source scattered across the globe. This gives them unusual abilities, such as being able to harness a destructive force field around them...
The respected and loved scientist then goes apparently mad, sever his daughter's head in an experiment, leaves for a planet, plays god with the human colonists and transforms their genes into hideous creatures.
It's up to Kelly and Mishima, along with their commanding officer, lieutenant Poe (the severed head daughter of the professor), to stop the transformed insect-like humans and bring back the professor. For this mission, they are equipped with the usual big guns and a jump-pack. The whole aspect of the suits will remind some of Samus's suit in the more known Metroid series.
GunValkyrie is a superb game. Eveything is very well detailled, from the character design to the insect aliens to the environments, both indoors and outdoors. You can easily find more than a few dozen of well-detailled ennemies at the same time on the screen without any apparent slow-downs.
The whole graphic display is very colorful, making GunValkyrie's ''feel'' close to modern bright colored japanese-anime.
On the down-side, There are numerous slowdowns that can happen when special effects, such as sand or fire, comes too close to the screen. The the screen is blurred by sand particules, the game slows-down to a crawl. Those slow-downs are, for the most part of the game, very rare. They do occur a bit more frequently during some particular boss fights, such as the sand worms found in one of the latter level.
Music can be great or just so-so. To some, it may even be annoying at times. The atmosphere of the game can be as weird as it's hard to follow storyline. Just to give you an idea, one of the level features a toy-like music like those found in battery-powered baby toys, like a lullaby. While i loved this particular tune because of it's unique ability to create an atmosphere, i met a lot of people who were just annoyed by it. Overall, the music is something that is completely original and of a style simply not found in fast-paced action games.
The sound effects are, for the most heard part, borrowed from past games (or are very close to them). This doesn't mean they are bad or good, but they lack originality. Some effects are very well made, while others are just average. The giant insect's screams will send a small chill down your bone and make you scared of them the first few times around. Guns effects are more of the ''heard them before'', but they are adequate. Voice acting, for what little there is after the intro movie, is well done, if nothing to be remembered.
This is the area where you decide if you love or hate GunValkyrie. And remember that there's no in-between...
The jump pack gives the ability to make very high jump, as well as to skid across the ground at high speeds. The energy stored in the jump pack isn't infinite as it will run dry after a few short seconds. It will get recharged to full status after a mere second of waiting. That second of waiting means you'll have to fall down to the ground before being able to jump again.
Here's the trick: if you manage to control your jump by using a combination of jump and skidding across the ground (while your in the air), you'll be able to jump almost indefinitely, going through whole level while never touching the ground!
Before getting all-hyped about the potential of fun this game can deliver because of the jump-pack, let me warn you that doing unlimited flights with the jump pack is something that is hard to do. Combine this with the fact that you have to aim, shoot and dodge in the right direction incomming ennemies/projectiles at very fast speeds and you've got one of the toughest game to control ever released on the XBOX.
Besides the much talked about GunValkyrie jump pack that makes 90% of the gaming experience, there are 4 different kind of guns to be found in the game. They are:
- Kelly's main gun, which can be fired normally or with multiple aiming shots at once if you've bought the upgrades with the cash you're awarded after each mission.
- Kelly's Drive gun, which is a big machine gun. Kills a lot of ennemies really fast, but prevent your character from moving while you fire (which make it ideal for beginner players who are having difficulty maneuvering with the jump pack).
- Saburota's missile launcher, very powerful, but very slow.
- Grappling hook, can harm some ennemies in a minor way, but is mostly used in specific area to reach high places.
Kelly is faster and overall more agile than Saburota, which make the game a bit easier if you use her. Kelly, in the course of the game, will gain 1 or 2 suit upgrades (depending on if you can find the 3rd suit), which will make her more and more agile and powerful, eventually greatly surpassing the power of Saburota.
Here's the control scheme:
The colored buttons are mapped to correspond to a gun and serve as the inventory buttons. The right trigger shots up your selected gun, the left triggers jump upward with the jump pack.
The left analog controls the movement of the character and the right controls the aiming, kindof like Halo. Beware though, the aiming is inverted and cannot be changed. I didn't mind this because i always play inverted regardless of the game, but some may find this annoying.
Clicking on the left analog thumbstick while going in a direction will make the skid maneuver, wether you're on the ground or in the air. Clicking on the right thumbstick will make you turn your facing in the direction clicked (which is a must for turning while making a never-ending jump, which is most of the time). Clicking both thumbstick at the same time will lauch your special ''Halley's core'' ability (which vary according to character or Kelly's suit, but is usually a destroy any ennemies around your character).
Now picture having to:
- jump (left trigger)
- skid forward (click left analog while forward)
- Aim an ennemy on the ground (right analog up)
- Shot him (right trigger)
- Turn right (click right analog while left)
- skid backward (click left analog while going back)
- aim flying ennemy (release right analog to aim forward)
- shoot (right trigger)
- skid left to prevent falling down (click on left analog while going left)...
All this sequence takes something like 3 seconds to do. And you've got to do it almost endlessly as a mistake will probably means you'll touch the ground, where 90% of the ennemies are located.
Some may argue that the game suffers from not having any controls for ''straffing'', moving sideways. While SmileBit could've added the feature, i personally think it would've been useless. Most of the game should be played in the air. If you're stuck to the ground and are trying to play the game like a typical shooter, then remind yourself that GunValkyrie wasn't made to be played this way...
If you can master those controls, GunValkyrie will be one of the best game ever played and it will not be too difficult to finish.
If you cannot, then you'll have trouble going through the third or fourth level and you'll get indefinitely stuck on the sixth or seventh. Eventually, you'll just yell at it and say that the game is ''bad''...
GunValkyrie is a good game, but it's not made for everyone. If you're a master of videogames and you find Halo's control scheme too easy to control, then GunValkyrie may be for you. If you have even the slightest problem with games like Halo, then GunValkyrie will be a nightmare for you.
Community review by deedob (February 26, 2003)
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