Score: 3.0 / 10
When something is conceptually great, and at the very heart of it is a good idea, it's hard to so completely rip apart the end product, be it a video game, an album, or a movie. In some cases though, there is little else to do but see why something doesn't work, and pray that there aren't more games like this in development that actually get released in this state. To put it quite plainly, Psychotoxic is awful. Not only has it been released in a time where the video game medium is being taken to new heights technologically and conceptually, it has been released in a time where there is arguably some of the fiercest competition. I always like to imagine that for a bad game there must be a certain number of years you could go back in gaming history and place that game in that era. Then the game would be the best thing there was for the time. For Psychotoxic, that time would likely be right around the time of Doom, and even then, some of the production values would still prevent it from being the latest and greatest. Such is the nature of a bad game though; if it's bad, it would have always been and always will be bad. This is because it's not only the technological aspect that holds this game back, but the actual gameplay as well.
play as Angie, a gifted young woman, who is destined to save the world,
as the End of Days are now upon Earth. Half angel and half human, Angie
has special powers such as invisibility, super speed, the ability to
heal herself, among others. The cutscenes that introduce the storyline
are stiff and really don't immerse you into the world that is being
portrayed. The voice acting is poor, and the dialogue is completely
uninteresting. The game was developed, I believe, with many different
languages in mind so each translation of the game can simply have its
own audio track. This can perhaps explain the dilution of quality in the
cut scenes as the graphics of these along with the poor voice acting and
dialogue only distract the gamer from the story that is being told.
The game play is reminiscent of a game in its Alpha stages or of a game in its Beta stage from a few years ago. When I was faced with the first "You need the Yellow Keycard" you can imagine my surprise as I thought that this was entered into the Bible of Good Game Development; Thou shalt not force gamers to find colored keycards. In all seriousness though, finding the keycards does slow down the pace of the game and if you missed a keycard that you do need, you will be backtracking through some empty hallways as the level design is very linear in terms of enemy placement and navigation. The control scheme also could have benefited from some very simple design decisions for the better. Unfortunately, the controls make things
harder than they should be. Picking up weapons isn't as simple as walking over them. You have five slots and you must first highlight the weapon to pick up by hovering the crosshairs over it. Then by pressing the corresponding number key for which slot you want to place the weapon in, you can pick up and assign your weapon to a slot. The ability to assign your weapons to different slots doesn't add anything except complexity to something that should really be simple.
game offers a few difficulty settings, and playing on the medium
difficulty setting, was already very challenging. It appears that gamer
is forced into a frantic style of action gaming as the enemy AI, once
they spot you never miss. The only way to avoid their bullets is to
dodge wildly from left to right in the hopes of not getting shot.
Creeping carefully is only helpful if you spot the enemy first and are
able to take them down before they get a chance to start shooting.
Otherwise, moving slowly or attempting to take cover will not work as
the enemy AI is always a crack shot. Further in regard to the gunplay,
there are times in open areas where you will be attacked from multiple
directions and the damage indicator is not at all helpful in identifying
from where you are getting shot. This often leads to a quick death as
you attempt to dodge wildly in any direction while not knowing at all
where you are being attacked from. Overall, the feeling of this gunplay,
the meat of any first person shooter, is Beta quality at best as its
overall simplicity works against it given what we expect from today's
first person shooters.
During the game there are two types of levels; regular, real world levels and dream levels. You do essentially the same thing in both types of levels, namely, shooting everything that moves. However, the dream levels are abstract and unique in relation to the rest of the game and they are the most interesting areas of the game. In them, you play through the areas created in the mind of the character. Because you are in a dream state, the developers have creative license to create some strange worlds, filled with unique enemies and different weapons. Unfortunately, there aren't enough of these and at the same time, their uniqueness isn't quite enough to make the rest of the game's flaws forgivable.
production values mirror the gameplay in their mediocrity. The graphics
look decidedly flat and the world doesn't ever really feel alive. Blood
spatter is a flat two dimensional affair that you can really take note
of when you die. The camera spins around you as the focal point when you
are killed and if there is a blood splatter in the air, you can see that
it has no depth and is completely flat. While a minor detail, this level
of graphical beauty is about what to expect from the rest of the game.
The textures used are simple and not fleshed out. The animation of
character movement is rigid and seems unnatural. The lighting effects
are next to non-existent and effects are about as good as the
aforementioned blood splatter. Worth mentioning as another distracting
aspect of the poor production values is the sound mixing. Sound effects
are mixed in such a way that they truly are two dimensional. If you are
near the edge of a concrete building, it doesn't matter if the windows
are closed; you can hear the rain falling outside as if you were
standing next to an open doorway. On the level where you are playing on
an airplane, the cargo hold is open and you can hear the flapping of the
cargo straps as they flap outside of the open cargo hold regardless if
you are right next to the area or are at the back of the plane two
levels up in the passenger cabin. The game wants us to take it
seriously, but the voice acting, sound effects and graphics get in the
way and don't let us.
with all these technological shortcomings as well as the far below
standard gameplay, the game did suffer from stability issues. From
random crashes to random bouts of not being able to access saved games,
from a quality standpoint, this is plain unacceptable. I might be able
to understand if the game was running some fancy lighting effects or
some crazy textures, but for a game that looks 4 years old, stability
issues shouldn't be due to graphical limitations or stress. Currently,
I'm also playing and will be reviewing Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil. I
found it interesting to note that Psychotoxic is over 3GB when fully
installed, while Doom 3 is just over 2GB with the expansion pack. This
made me wonder about where all the programming was going, yet somehow it
seemed appropriate as an illustration of how not to make a game. With
all of the said problems, it seems apparent that the development cycle
was either cut short, or they ran out of funding. Had the game been
developed to its full potential, it could have been a gem especially
with the raw creativity that can be seen in the dream levels.
As an avid lover of video games, I try to budget my time appropriately to gaming as I am certain many of you do too, especially if you are here at the Empire. With this time, I find it hard enough to get to all of the great games that are out there. With so many games and so little time, this leaves a game like Psychotoxic a game for no one. The only gamers to play this should be reviewers who must play the game and in the end do their duty in warning the gaming public away from spending their precious gaming time and budgeted dollars on a game that is ultimately not at all rewarding to play.
- Mark Leung
(April 25, 2005)
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