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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Cenega

 

Developer

Plastic Reality Technologies

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

October 3, 2006

 

 

- An instantly familiar action game

- Cool explosions and slow-motion diving

- Some good run and gun action for casual action fans

 

 

- Quicksave and quickload are "quick" in name only

- Uneven story and voice acting, even if it's occasionally unintentionally funny

- There's nothing substantial for hardcore action fans to sink their teeth into

 

 

Review: Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (PC)

Review: Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne (PC)

Review: Far Cry (PC)

 

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El Matador

Score: 6.5 / 10

 

A wannabe spiritual successor to the Max Payne series, El Matador spins a convoluted yarn about a DEA hitman named John Corbet sent to Columbia to combat the "narcomafia" and take down the La Valedora drug cartel but really it could mostly be described as "Max Payne Visits Columbia."

 

el matador          el matador

Outdoor or indoor, El Matador looks good.

 

From the bullet-time effects to the weapon inventory and layout; from some of the interiors to the dramatic flash-forward cuts to upcoming foes, El Matador is so much like Max Payne it made me wonder if it began as a mod.   (It's not a mod, it uses it's own proprietary game and physics engine, more on that in a bit.)  The action-laden sequences feel very familiar and so does the length of the game which is comparatively short to other action games.  This description doesn't mean El Matador is a poor rip-off of Max Payne (which I'll stop referencing, honest), but it does tell you right off what kind of action game to expect.

 

That said, El Matador actually promotes the use of cover.  Many of the run and gun portions of the game are usually preceded by a few moments of picking off enemies from afar, sometimes alongside your AI buddies (that act on their own instructions).  Holding down the right mouse button will either activate the gun's scope or shift to a tight, over the shoulder view which allows for more accurate firing.  It also also allows an easy exploit that allows you to fire through corners  

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without exposing yourself to any danger!  After targets have been dispersed, running and gunning targets of opportunity (explosive barrels, etc.) is the name of game.  Boss encounters often boil down to popping up from cover unloading a clip then crouching again; there's rarely any running around required.  It's a lot of action, and nothing else.

 

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You'll die.  A lot. Even with the plentiful amount of health and armor available.  It really doesn't help that the health and armor are displayed in the top left corner; it means glancing up to check your health bar, which can mean a sudden death because your attention is directed elsewhere.  El Matador does have a quicksave/quickload feature that is "quick" in name only.  Performing a quicksave stalls the game for a few seconds; a quickload takes six or seven seconds, which is only marginally faster than dropping to the main menu to load a game.  These aren't massive times but for an action game the break is annoying.

 

I'll give credit to the developers, I really liked the look of El Matador. especially the outdoor areas.  The detail is great and the physics engine, though definitely not perfect (witness El Matador's floaty jump), is effective in conveying a certain weight to the environments you explore.  Palm trees sway and the light sourcing/shadows are good.  The explosions in particularly are satisfying, even if they don't always affect objects around then.  You can't do much with the environment though -- some objects can be pushed around or knocked over or reduced to pieces but that's it.  The "bullet collision" seems to be slightly off.  Sometimes seemingly perfect shots go wide.  It necessitates unloading lots of shots just to be sure of a hit.  With a few more tweaks and some more refinement, El Matador's engine could provide an even more immersive and interactive environment.

 

el matador          el matador

A hefty explosion (left); Each weapon has a "secondary" mode, including a scope on the sniper rifle (right).

 

Gaining enjoyment from El Matador hinges on your experiences with the action genre.  The appeal is certainly there for casual action fans with limits on their playing time.  Taken in smaller chunks, El Matador can be stretched, which is perfect for those that just don't have the time to game in long sessions.  Hardcore action players will be able to blow through El Matador in six or seven hours because the gameplay and level design are very straightforward; it can't measure up to the most current titles or the promise of upcoming titles like John Woo Presents Stranglehold.

 

* Additional: While El Matador ran fine on my PC, other critics have noted numerous glitches and bugs, like the gamma resetting itself or the game crashing.

 

- Omni

(October 18, 2006)

 

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