March! Offworld Recon (PC) review
"If March-exclamation-mark-Offworld Recon had simply flashed up a load of static images of killer robots and huge chain-guns, layered on top of its preposterous midi-techno soundtrack, I'd have had a hell of a lot more fun. This is a first-person shooter with about as much personality and intrigue as a beige wall. There's far less context to it all than the original Doom. It manages to spectacularly predate a fifteen-year-old game in every conceivable way apart from when it was released."
Earlier this month, I got lost in a tragic, soiled gem of a game called Pathologic. It's a title packed with inventive ideas, a constantly bleak and foreboding atmosphere and some genuinely interesting philosophical storytelling. Sure, when it came down to the nuts and bolts of it, they all fell out and the game collapsed into a big pile of nightmarish rubble with a raven's head sticking out of the top, but since it got the immersion factor so wonderfully right it feels unfair to criticise it too heavily.
Anyway, it took until just now to put two and two together and realise that Pathologic was released by Buka Entertainment. Heard of them? No, I didn't think I had either, until I realised - to my eternal astonishment - that this is the same Eastern publishing house that delighted us with March! Offworld Recon just a couple of years previous. I'd officially like to amend Pathologic's score to 74 out of 10 in light of this new comparative study.
What's so incredible about March-exclamation-mark-Offworld Recon is that it manages to take two utterly cool creations and throw them into a game so ludicrously bad that it makes my head swell and my eyeballs pop out. It's a game about shooting killer robots with a huge chain-gun.
Problem being, if March-exclamation-mark-Offworld Recon had simply flashed up a load of static images of killer robots and huge chain-guns, layered on top of its preposterous midi-techno soundtrack, I'd have had a hell of a lot more fun. This is a first-person shooter with about as much personality and intrigue as a beige wall. There's far less context to it all than the original Doom. It manages to spectacularly predate a fifteen-year-old game in every conceivable way apart from when it was released.
The introductory cut-scene told me we colonised Mars at some point, and then everything ballsed up. My assumption is that some robots we made turned against us, but that's pure speculation as the game never had the courtesy to explain that bit. Instead, it plonked me in a grey, lifeless docking bay, with no way to progress other than through a grey door. Down a grey corridor. Into a grey room. Into a swarm of killer robots.
Readying my chain-gun, I held down the fire button. The barrel spun... and, Christ, it might as well have been a fucking splurge gun. This solitary upgradeable bollock of a weapon is the weediest, most pathetic and weightless FPS firearm I've ever held in my virtual hands. The robots stood there for a bit, then fell over backwards in an odd, synchronised fashion. And then disappeared into the ground.
The exciting prospect of March-exclamation-mark-Offworld Recon's killer robots vanishes the very second you face them. They're rubbish. They look like something crafted out of Lego by a three-year-old child. They stand in a room and do absolutely nothing, except for occasionally charging at you with the trigger held down. More often than not, they forget to do one, the other, or both. The gratuitously positioned crates are more threatening.
For once, I'm struggling for words here. Ordinarily, I feel sort of bad about slating a game to the red planet and back, because even the most despicable software-excuses usually have a few redeeming features that you can tell were crafted on a labour of love by sweaty menfolk in a fluorescent office somewhere. But all I can think in favour of March-exclamation-mark-Offworld Recon is that it's some sort of deeply ironic joke. The evidence is all there: the clichťd, nonsensical "story"; the pathetic musical score; the entirely extraneous punctuation in the title; the fact that the end of every level has the word 'EXIT' plastered above it in big, glowing, low-res lettering. But I've read the press release. Buka believes in this one a little bit too much for it to be a satirical take on the predictable nature of the modern action genre. March-exclamation-mark-Offworld Recon is, apparently, "a genuine combination of FPS, arcade and tactical simulation." It's genuine! Well bugger me...
Eventually, March-exclamation-mark Offworld Recon swaps its grey corridors for grey, fenced-off outdoor areas with a red sky, but it's not fooling anyone with its supposed "variation". From start to finish, it's a game about shooting rubbish robots with a rubbish gun in rubbish, contrived environments. That is does this so incredibly awfully is beyond my mental capacity. I don't know how long I can keep this up before my brain shuts down and I slump over the desk, mashing the keyboard with my forehead to create a fitting end to this review.
I wonder if March-exclamation-mark Offworld Recon was supposed to be a kind of nostalgic, backwards-thinking take on the action genre, reminiscing about the games of yesteryear where all that mattered was placing enough enemies onscreen to allow the player to shoot something in the face every three seconds. But developer HBM seems to have missed the point of its favourite classics by a few light years. It wasn't just the sheer number of baddies that led to these gamesí success; it was the quality of the design, the weightiness of the weapons, the layouts of the levels and a hundred other finer points that March-exclamation-mark Offworld Recon seems to completely ignore. Instead, it's completely action-by-numbers, so clumsily executed that it feels like a piece of software made by an over-zealous nine-year-old using 3D Game Maker.
And the less said about the engine, the bett7gwhuglhwty97yt976ty4ytuyti767otiyigili7tg73vry2t4351hhhhhhh
Freelance review by Lewis Denby (December 16, 2008)
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