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The Fifth Element (PlayStation) artwork

The Fifth Element (PlayStation) review

"Unbelievable!! Kill cops and aliens (lots), fall off ledges (lots), hear opera music and see Zorg again (a tiny bit). "

Unbelievable!! Kill cops and aliens (lots), fall off ledges (lots), hear opera music and see Zorg again (a tiny bit).

The Fifth Element, as most people who have any interest in it will know, is based on the popular and unusually artful film which starred Milla Jovovich and Bruce Willis. Perhaps in a wise move, given the subsequent criticism that the game received, Willia chose not to permit his voice or likeness to be used at all. This a bit of a chicken and egg thing. Without him the game suffers, but if his footage had been in it would it have been any better? Impossible to resolve this, so I won't even try. However, the game does not follow the story of the film and instead mashes together random bits of footage, none of which show Korben, the character played by Willis, in a vague attempt to tell a coherent story. I don't mind that too much. It is nice to be reminded of the film and I do not play a game thinking that it IS a film. And so long as I get a bit of Zorg, the truly fabulous Gary Oldman villain, I can live without Bruce Willis. So now that the question of the link to the film is out of the way, what about the game?

It is classed as an adventure and as such it follows the two characters, Leeloo, the Perfect Being, and Korben, a sometime taxi cab driver, as they attempt to outwit bad cops who seem intent on killing them, and try to find the four elements that will enable them to prevent catastrophe. Quite why the police are after them is never really explained, and if it was just for a minor traffic violation you would think that the subsequent cop killing rampage in which they indulge is hardly a reasonable reaction of two responsible adults who ostensibly are trying to save the world from Ultimate Evil. However, such is the nature of video games that I embarked on the carnage with scarcely a second thought. There are a few aliens to kill off as well, just thrown in for good measure. Odd that the cops and aliens seem to have teamed up, but there was no explanation. That is the way it is in The Fifth Element.

Korben is the gun using tough guy and Leeloo, well, she appears looking as she does in the film. She has bright orange hair and wears a few bandages that barely cover her private parts and fights with bare feet and fists. (She does get a few more clothes after a while.) She can also do a sweet backwards cartwheel without any difficulty at all despite having been reformed recently from a minimum of surviving DNA after a near fatal crash. Other characters from the film make brief appearance: Zorg and Cornelius have minor cameos in a few small film clips, and Ruby Rhod, the leopard print catsuit wearing gorgeously over the top host from the latter part of the film, has a slightly more significant role.

Each mission is introduced by the wonderful "Unbelievable!" Ruby: memories of the film make this appearance especially nice, and at the end of each one there is a chance to save the game, repeat the mission, and check out your success in terms of time taken, items found and secrets discovered. Each mission is long and complicated and often hard to complete. There are automatic in-game saves at various points so if you misjudge a jump off a ledge, a frequent occurrence I might add, there is no need to worry too much as you will be back at the start of the section and not at the start of the whole level. You can only make a save at the end of the level. Fortunately enemies do not re-spawn and once dead they stay dead.

There are 16 missions, and Korben and Leeloo each have their own separate ones to complete which involve fighting, jumping ledges, finding items and secrets, and generally outwitting evil enemies. Korben can use guns and Leeloo uses grenades and hand fighting as well as her special psionic blast which kills everything within a wide radius. They both can pick up extra lives and health and protection along the way, and everything is kept fairly simple as there is no inventory or anything extra to think about. Neither of them carry a backpack or even a small bag, so quite where they keep all this stuff was never entirely obvious. No pockets visible for all those huge guns that Korben casually scrolled between. However, after playing lots of item rich RPGs this was a relief to me, and I really didn't mind the lack of realism.

The controls are easy to understand but difficult to implement well. Although you can change the camera to go behind you rather than the default third person overview, you have to adjust the characters' position with care. This awkwardness can result in you accidentally falling off a ledge or hitting walls instead of enemies. However it is not too much a problem if you are tolerant of such idiosyncrasies, and after a few minutes playing you soon get used to the controls. But some of the scenery is laughable. I actually did laugh out loud on more than one occasion, when I found that Leeloo had cartwheeled backwards through the corridor wall into blackness and then a new area. Running down a long hallway and as you go seeing through the walls to the scenery behind it was a strange experience too. All part of the fun in my opinion.

Another drawaback about the game is that it is really quite tough. I played it on normal difficulty, and there is an easy and hard option which simply make it easier or harder to kill an enemy. The levels are long with many stages to them and can take at least half an hour for each, if not longer, in fact very much longer, if you don't know where to go or what to do. There are small puzzles to solve and secret areas to be found. This usually means smashing a wall that has a crack in it, or edging along a long narrow ledge, or finding a room that does not at first appear to be one. You find extra lives and ammunition in these areas and have the satisfaction of getting 100% score for items and secrets at the end of each successfully completed mission, at least if you don't die too often and get a game over.

All in all it is fun IF you are very tolerant of an incoherent story, poor graphics, simplistic combat and long levels. However the music is good on the whole, and sometimes eerily appropriate with slow and haunting sparse melodies. It also features the wonderful operatic singing that is heard in the film. And you get to see Zorg again for about two seconds. And finally, if for any reason you have a grudge against New York cops and green aliens, you might enjoy killing a few.

threetimes's avatar
Community review by threetimes (February 08, 2009)

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bloomer posted February 09, 2009:

Yeah, I quite enjoyed this in its imperfect Playstationy way when I tried it back in the early 2000s. The only reason I stopped playing was I got totally stuck at one part (couldn't work out what to do / where to go) and no-one had written a walkthrough back then. I see you wrote one a few years later! Well, if I get back to playing games, I might bust this one out, confident I can get unstuck if it happens again.
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threetimes posted February 09, 2009:

Yeah, I've probably played this more than any one else on the planet. I loved it, imperfections and all.
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zippdementia posted February 09, 2009:

You have the basics for a good bash review here, but the form isn't really together yet, and you haven't found your style. For instance, to tear apart this last paragraph...

"All in all it is fun IF you are very tolerant of an incoherent story, poor graphics, simplistic combat and long levels. However the music is good on the whole, and sometimes eerily appropriate with slow and haunting sparse melodies. It also features the wonderful operatic singing that is heard in the film. And you get to see Zorg again for about two seconds. And finally, if for any reason you have a grudge against New York cops and green aliens, you might enjoy killing a few."

This is a very odd way to end a review. You start with a good solid point: this game has little going for it. Then you try to back track and point out some random good things, but it doesn't really fit. If you wanted to talk about music, you should've done so earlier.

Better would be to combine the first and last sentences into a concluding bash, like so:

Fifth Element suffers from a number of incurable maladies, including an incoherent story, poor graphics, simplistic combat, and long levels. You might enjoy it, anyway, if for any reason you have a grudge against New York cops and green aliens.
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bloomer posted February 09, 2009:

Trouble with those ideas is, he likes the game :)

I think the target is the difficult 'I like this even though I can see 1000 things wrong with it' review, with the corresponding 5 or 6 score. The review certainly goes that way, but could probably use some improvements.
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zippdementia posted February 09, 2009:

Yeah, if THAT'S the case, then there's all sorts of bad confusion here. Sorry to say it, True, but it could use a rewrite.
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threetimes posted February 09, 2009:

Trouble with those ideas is, she likes the game :)

Yep. That's true. :D. I liked the game despite all the ridiculous things. I wrote the review a while ago, and though I edited it a bit, seeing it posted here made me realise all the things I'd left out. I don't give any examples of the missions or what's involved, and the tone is confused: hence that conclusion, trying to redeem something. If I'd not seen the film I wouldn't have given it the time of day, so maybe that's the crux of it.
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bloomer posted February 10, 2009:

Sorry :) Uch, you know what's weird? I had a premonition about that. Seriously, after I typed my last message, I thought 'I don't if threetimes is male or female.' Weeeell, I should have acted on my premonition, dagnabbit!
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zippdementia posted February 10, 2009:

I meant Three times, not true... sorry :P
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threetimes posted February 11, 2009:

Awww ;) Apologies are unnecessary. I've redrafted the review, and maybe will get around to updating it. Thanks for the comments though.

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