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Trespasser (PC) artwork

Trespasser (PC) review

"An experiment gone horribly wrong"

Trespasser has a reputation for being an overly ambitious first person shooter with utterly terrible execution. This reputation is well deserved. The game does almost nothing right; everything from the physics engine, the combat, and the overall aesthetics are a mess.

The game takes place two years after the events of the movie The Lost World: Jurassic Park. The protagonist, Anne, survives a plane crash with a broken left arm and lands on Site B, an island originally used as a research and development site for Jurassic Park. The island is abandoned, except for dinosaurs who still roam free. Anne's goal is to find a way to escape the island without being killed and eaten.

It isn't necessary to have seen the Jurassic Park movies to follow the plot, as it is largely original. At times during the game, John Hammond, who is voiced by Richard Attenborough, the actor who played John in the movies, narrates and gives background information. The quality narration is the game's strong point, and only positive quality. However, there are times when Anne reacts to his narration, as if he was there speaking to her. If Anne was picking up documents or playing audio logs this would make sense, but it sounds more like she's reacting to voices in her head.

Trespasser (PC) image

Trespasser differed from many first person shooters in its time by the way the player interacts with the world. Anne doesn't pick up weapons or objects by running over them or by pressing a key to interact with them. Instead, the player has to control her right arm and hand. Picking up a rock or a gun requires the player to get in front of the object but not stand on top of it, and use the mouse and Control key to pick it up and carry it. The player can only hold one object at a time, and have one weapon or key holstered, and the player can't bring any items from one level to the next. Curiously, Anne can carry very heavy objects, such as a rusted steel beam, in one hand.

Anne's right arm and wrist can bend and contort in some unusual ways. It may have been intended for her to use her wrist to turn door handles or pull levels, but this is never necessary. She can open doors by putting her hand on one and then walking backwards. In a couple of parts, it is necessary to input numbers onto a keypad to unlock a door, and the player must control her finger to press buttons on the keypad. It's way too easy to press the same number twice or press the wrong number by accident. Entering a six digit code means pressing one number, walking backwards, realigning her hand and finger over the right number, then walking forwards to press it, then walking backwards again and repeating until it's completed. It could take five minutes or more for a new player to do this on the first try.

Several areas of the game require the player to jump on piles of boxes or crates to scale a wall or reach an otherwise inaccessible area. Collision detection is very poor. Objects tend to slide off of one another as if they have no friction. If the player accidentally knocks over a box stacked on top of others, It takes a lot of effort to get that box back into the right position. In addition, many objects like guns are initially found hovering slightly above the ground. In one place, a tree is hovering so high above the ground that it is possible to walk right underneath it. Anne starts each level by falling a few inches to the ground too.

Trespasser (PC) image

Aiming and firing a gun is an awkward experience that requires the player to move and position Anne's right arm and use the gun's iron sights. Because Anne's left arm is broken, she struggles to hold some of the larger guns like rifles. Machine guns are surprisingly weak and have poor accuracy. Moving too close to a dinosaur could cause her to drop her gun due to bad collision detection, and trying to pick up a weapon is cumbersome enough without having to avoid being bitten. Using a melee weapon such as a bat, or throwing rocks, is near suicidal.

The player doesn't have an ammunition count or meter. Instead, Anne comments on how many shots she thinks the gun has left. Large weapons like the machine gun might be "nearly full" or "half empty" but she doesn't give a precise count. She gives an exact count with some of the smaller weapons like handguns. In the middle of a battle with a dinosaur, it breaks immersion to hear her calmly state the gun has six shots left, then five, then four, and so on. There are no ammunition pickups, so guns must be discarded when empty. Fortunately guns are usually abundant and there are typically a few at the start of a level.

Trespasser is infamous for its health display. There is no traditional health meter or number showing Anne's total health. Instead, the player has to look down at a tattoo on her left breast. The more red it is, the more damaged Anne is. Besides the obvious, this was a terrible idea for three other reasons. First, checking health is very difficult to do in the middle of a fight, which is when it's most important to know, because of the tricky aiming mechanics. Second, Anne has regenerating health. so if Anne isn't fighting her health is probably full. Finally, Anne is capable of healing from bites from dinosaurs in a matter of minutes yet her arm remains broken through the entirety of the game.

Trespasser (PC) image

The game features a very limited variety of dinosaurs. Stegosauruses and brontosauruses are very infrequent, and are herbivores that will never attack the player but will be attacked by other carnivores. The tyrannosaurus appears about a half dozen times, and has so much health that it is best to sneak around it or avoid it in any way possible. They tend to be in areas where the player can keep a decent amount of distance from them.

Velociraptors are the most prominent enemy, by a wide margin. There are three different types, and they all have the same inconsistent behavior. Sometimes they notice the player and chase them down. Sometimes they chase the player for a time and then stop and wander off somewhere. They tend to get stuck on large rocks and have trouble navigating slopes. Only their mouths can harm the player, so running into their legs or getting hit by their tails don't cause damage. Occasionally they appear to trip and fall and it can be hard to distinguish a dead velociraptor from one that fell over. The game doesn't truly have a final boss, but in the last area of the game there is a velociraptor that is larger than the others but doesn't otherwise behave or act differently.

While the game takes place largely in outdoor environments and forests, there is no wildlife whatsoever other than dinosaurs. The lack of small woodland creatures like squirrels or birds is noticeable. Indoor environments tend to look very barren. No dinosaurs are ever inside buildings. Office buildings lack a lot of furniture and have many several empty rooms.

Trespasser (PC) image

If all of this wasn't bad enough, two levels focus on running around between places to find small, hard to find key cards to unlock doors. These key cards are very small and can be easy to lose in the game's large areas. One vital key card is hidden next to a nondescript rock outside of a building.

Ultimately, Trespasser tired to do several things that would later become commonplace in first person shooters, such as having a limited inventory, using physics based puzzles, and having a diegetic interface. Even if all of these features worked well, the game would still be very dull due to its lack of enemy variety and endless backtracking to find key cards. Other than the narration, it's hard to find anything worthwhile in this game at all.


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Featured community review by Bouchart (September 20, 2017)

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