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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Shooter

 

Publisher

Whiptail

 

Developer

NuClear Vision

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

March 2005

 

 

- Interesting Concept

- Good Ideas for level design

 

 

- Graphics are poor

- Cutscenes are worse

- Sound effects are poorly mixed

- Voice Acting and dialogue is just as bad

- Stability issues

- Beta quality gameplay at best

 

 

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Psychotoxic

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.

 

psychotoxic review          psychotoxic review

 

You 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

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 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.

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The 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.

 

psychotoxic review         

 

The 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.

 

Along 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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