Advent Rising (Xbox) review
"The first time I booted up Advent Rising, the game crashed while the Majesco logo was being displayed. "
The first time I booted up Advent Rising, the game crashed while the Majesco logo was being displayed.
Needless to say, I was not impressed.
It was an omen I failed to acknowledge. By the end my long, epic journey through the deepest corners of outer space, I had overcome many hardships. I’d encountered enemies that vanished into thin air, or that were invulnerable to all of my attacks, or that would continuously respawn without end. I’d fallen through solid objects to my death, gotten vehicles stuck to walls, and locked onto gun turrets that I couldn’t un-target – even after destroying them. Elevators wouldn’t move, events wouldn’t trigger, controls wouldn’t respond, and textures and objects would load as I was in the midst of an intense battle. And to top it all off, the protagonist’s hair seemed to magically change in length throughout the adventure.
So, yes. You could say Advent Rising is glitchy.
Rising was supposed to be part one in some sort of epic sci-fi trilogy (as penned by Orson Scott Card), and it’s got a decent enough plot and some interesting enough gameplay ideas that I’m sad the title’s poor sales mean we probably won’t be seeing a follow-up. (There’s this wretched cliffhanger at the end, too, furthering my disgruntlement in not getting a sequel.) I feel confidence in saying that had Rising actually gone through bug testing, it probably would have been a classic.
I’ve come to a dead-end already, as I seem to be unable to place Rising in a particular genre. It’s an action game, sure, but isn’t there a more specific title I can give it? No, there is not. It’s sci-fi, and it’s got Halo design principles, but the moveset is more like something you’d find in Psi-Ops or Psychonauts, with the combat acting like the lovechild of Max Payne and God of War. Confusing? Oh yes. Very confusing.
The tale told is that of Gideon Wyeth, a human on a future Earth who unlocks superhuman (I guess) powers within himself while contending with the increasing threat of an ALIEN INVASION! around him. The good aliens are the Aurelians, and they worship us like gods. The bad aliens are the Seekers, who believe that humans are EVIL! And that they must be EXTERMINATED! Most of humanity (or at least the three or four repeated character models that represent humanity) are killed in the game’s first few hours, and after that, our lucky hero and his companion(s) must take refuge on Aurelia and fight for their right to live.
Why do the Aurelians think the humans are so sacred? Why do the Seekers hate them so much? What is the past connection between these races? These questions were supposed to be answered by the sequels. Whoops.
The first few hours of the game are your typical space stations and futuristic cities and whatnot. You’re introduced to Rising’s combat, which revolves largely around a targeting system. You can dual-wield anything (rocket launchers included – hell yes) and while you’re locked on to something, you can pull off dodges and jumps to improve yourself in battle. It’s actually pretty simplistic for a while, as you fight through generic levels, shooting at generic enemies with generic weapons.
Only in the game’s second act do things pick up. Gideon has psychic abilities that can be used in conjunction with the game’s weapon set. You can do things such as lift objects, fire projectiles, create force fields and so on. In the first level in which you are able to utilize your newfound psychic badass self, you’re on the outside of a spaceship that’s being attacked by Seekers. As I ran through this stage, my key method of attack was to pick enemies up in midair and fling them off the edge of the ship into the vacuum of space.
And let me say, that feels awesome.
From there, the game morphs into something more than its initial few hours had you believe. Combat becomes deeper and more entertaining as you engage in Matrix-style bullet-time while juggling between psychic powers and weapons for a seemingly endless number of combat strategies. All weapons and abilities can be leveled up RPG style, and as you do this you’ll unlock new secondary attacks that really add a lot to the variety of battles. In addition, the art direction takes a unique turn when the journey leaves Earth's surface, and Tommy Tallarico’s fantastic musical score backs everything up with a poignant, emotional spin.
There are vehicles, too, including this one ridiculously overpowered tank that’s a hell of a lot of fun to drive around, if only for addressing the commonplace rule that says all gamers like to watch stuff blow up. Hey, if Rising had actually turned out the way the developers obviously wanted it to turn out, it would have earned a solid 8/10. I almost enjoyed it.
I need to address an important subject that I mentioned before, and that is the targeting system. Rising introduces something known as “flick targeting,” and it works like this: When you want to lock on to an enemy, you simply “flick” the right thumbstick in the direction of that enemy. All targeting is done quickly and easily by flicking the stick, and thus, selecting an enemy to target becomes surprisingly easy.
But here’s the punchline: The right thumbstick, the one used to direct flick targeting, is also used to control the camera.
Wow. One stick, two functions. Two functions that are battling for supremacy.
It’s stupid design choices like this, added with the nigh-limitless string of bugs and technical embarrassments, that prevent Rising from being all that it could have been. The game has so many truly novel moments – speeding through a war-torn city, battling through a council meeting gone violently wrong, epic stuff – that I often wanted to give it props for being so innovative and cinematic. Instead, I offer the developers some advice: Finish your games before you release them.
If you enjoyed this Advent Rising review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!