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S4 League (PC) artwork

S4 League (PC) review

"I’ve played a lot of bad Korean MMOs in my day: FlyFF, Ragnarok Online, ROSE, Trickster, and Pangya Golf, to name a few. However, the worst of them all was a game called Gunz: The Duel. The major problem with Gunz was that even though it was supposed to be a third-person shooter, the entire game revolved around swords-only games and exploiting glitches. Then along came news of S4 League, a game that billed itself as Gunz without the suck. Naturally, I didn’t believe a word they said, and I was r..."

I’ve played a lot of bad Korean MMOs in my day: FlyFF, Ragnarok Online, ROSE, Trickster, and Pangya Golf, to name a few. However, the worst of them all was a game called Gunz: The Duel. The major problem with Gunz was that even though it was supposed to be a third-person shooter, the entire game revolved around swords-only games and exploiting glitches. Then along came news of S4 League, a game that billed itself as Gunz without the suck. Naturally, I didn’t believe a word they said, and I was right.

The first point where S4 League fails is getting the game itself.. Essentially, you have two choices: use an exploit and client download provided by people who have an account with the game’s publisher, PMang, or making an account with PMang. PMang is known for having an extremely draconian registration procedure that would put the Nazis to shame. The only way to register an account with them is to provide one of two things: a Korean Social Security Number and valid Korean phone number for verification.. or three forms of state-issued photo ID from another country scanned and given to them, one of which must be a passport. What the Koreans apparently don’t realize is that most people don’t have a passport, much less three forms of state-issued photo ID, unless they work for the U.S. government (in which case giving out your ID would be a no-no), or they are in the military. Getting past the Nazi registration procedure (or using the hack) gives you a generic third-person shooter that appears to be decent at first, but is then revealed to be absolute crap.

The first thing you’ll see upon running S4 and getting past the server menus is the character creation screen. There are only two or three different possible starting avatars. The next thing you’re tasked with is navigating through a bunch of menus to find the equipment screen, where you must equip yourself with two of three of your starting guns, a sword, and a special ability. You are also given 100,000 Pen (in-game currency) to buy other weapons and clothing with. This is the first major problem with S4 League. There are only two ways to get weapons and clothing better than what you can get in the shops for extremely high prices – that’s through the lottery. The lottery costs prohibitive amounts of money, has an extremely small chance of giving you a decent item, and an even smaller chance of giving you an item that doesn’t have a timed duration.

Apart from that, the clothes are practically useless. Sure, you can buy a hat and gloves, which give you 20% extra experience, but apart from that, they do nothing except cost you large amounts of currency to repair. That’s right, all your gear has a durability bar. Then you come to the weapons. Most weapons are locked until you sit through a “license test” in order to be able to buy them. You have to do a test for each individual weapon, which takes forever and is extremely boring (I mean, come on, how many times do you need to be told that pressing the R button reloads your gun?). There’s about fourteen weapons to choose from – but if you pick anything other than the sniper rifle and the special ability that lets you fly, you will be screwed over.

This is the third major problem with S4 – the horrible map design. There are only two gameplay modes: Team Deathmatch and Touchdown, which is a direct ripoff of Bombing Run from Unreal Tournament 2004. Certain maps support both gameplay modes, while others only support one. In any case, all of the maps are poorly designed. Take, for instance, the first Touchdown map, called Tunnel. Tunnel consists of a large, rectangular arena. High up on each of the short walls is a small, box-like room which serves as your respawn. Each side has a short tunnel which houses their team’s goal, and then a box-shaped maze in the middle. The key problem here is something no Western FPS developer would ever allow: from your respawn, you can see to just below the enemy respawn area. Since most weapons have infinite ammo, players can simply stand in their spawn box and pull out their sniper rifle. The sniper rifle has a charge time, but when fully charged is an instant kill. Further, there’s a glitch by which the sniper rifle can shoot through walls, which the game bills as an advanced technique.

So you win a few matches and you begin levelling up. Level-ups do nothing but give you some money and allow you to buy and equip more useless clothing. Oh, but eventually, you get kicked out of the newbie channel (which only plays Tunnel and one other map) to the Free Channel, where all the 35 year old Korean men go after their twelve hour Starcraft binges. The Free Channel plays some of the more “advanced” maps, all of which not only condone sniper camping as a method of winning, but REQUIRE it. Take, for instance, the third-tier map, which supports both Touchdown and Team Deathmatch, known as Trench.

Trench consists of two sides, separated by a building with large windows that allow sniping between both sides. Each side has a tall building with one room at ground level that serves as a spawn, and a massive trench, spanned by two destroyable bridges. At the bottom of the trench is a stack of boxes that takes about thirty seconds to climb – provided the boxes aren’t destroyed, and a tunnel that leads to the middle building. The first thing players will do is destroy the bridges and the boxes, leaving anyone who didn’t take the flying ability and the sniper rifle as cannon fodder for the people who can fly and have a sniper rifle. The haves can fly onto the top of their spawn building, which gives a direct line of sight to the enemy spawn. The have-nots get farmed for experience and money, as they cannot leave their spawn area without falling into the trench and getting farmed anyway.

So, okay, maybe it’s only those two maps that are problematic – except it isn’t. All of the maps are like this, with points that only flying snipers can use to spawn camp. The game essentially becomes Sniper vs. Sniper. Despite billing itself as being more fair than Gunz, S4 League is not at all.

The final and deciding piece of evidence against S4 League is its terrible community. The game has not been released in English, and non-Koreans are not supposed to be able to play it. Speaking English in-game will result in a prompt ban – even if you registered a legit account with PMang using three forms of ID and all that. Further, getting kills with any weapon that isn’t a sword or sniper rifle will result in a mob of angry Koreans shouting phrases in broken English such as “SPRAYER NOOB PIG AMERICAN” and “AMERICA IS MURDERER BAN”, followed by a swift ban.

One final note is about something that PMang really should not have included: Fumbi. Fumbi is Pentavision’s mascot, a retarded-looking yellow thing with stumpy arms and legs and a face that consists of a giant eyeball. For some reason, the developers thought it would be a good idea to let you have more than one character per account – even though the characters share the same money, and you will never have enough to properly equip three characters. The developers decided to let people change characters halfway through a match, at which point it goes to the “halftime show”, consisting of Fumbi shaking its ass at you for a full 90 seconds, even though you are only given ten seconds to switch characters. The mere sight of Fumbi is enough to make you want to gouge your eyes out after a while, and should someone walk in when Fumbi is dancing, you will probably get more than one question regarding your sexuality.

Overall, S4 is probably the worst excuse for a shooting game I’ve ever played. If you want an FPS, this isn’t the game for you. Go buy Team Fortress 2. If you want to play a game, this sniping simulator is also not for you. Between the bugs, including a particularly nasty one which will crash your game and/or Windows if you happen to enter a room that has too high of a ping, and the horrible map design, gameplay, and community, it would be impossible to give this game more than a 3. However, Fumbi tips the scales into me giving S4 League a 2.

timrod's avatar
Community review by timrod (June 23, 2008)

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Kimakaze posted September 07, 2008:

man have you played european version? please try it people speaks english with no lag.
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timrod posted September 07, 2008:

This review was written months before the Euro release, which is even more of a grindfest.
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Asayake posted February 15, 2009:

Bad review is bad.

It sounds biased and sounds like some scrub wrote it who decided to buy clothes and put priority on looking like an individual without caring to read anything about statted clothes.

Not to mention as an American player, I've had nothing but good reception from Koreans.

This review is basically a giant flamefest because some scrub doesn't know how to play.
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Lewis posted February 15, 2009:

If we're going to discuss this review, perhaps we could do so without resorting to insults?
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JANUS2 posted February 17, 2009:

It's those Korean Counter Strike gangs that you have to watch out for.

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