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Volatile Games


ESRB Rating
M (Mature)


Q4 2006




- Plenty of head-bopping '70s tunes, if you're into that sort of thing



- Needlessly ugly character models

- Horrid voice acting

- Frustrating gameplay

- Lackluster execution of a shaky concept




Review: I-Ninja (Xbox)

Review: Grand Theft Auto Double-Pack (Xbox)



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Reservoir Dogs

Score: 3/10


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Before Kill Bill, before Pulp Fiction, even before From Dusk Till Dawn, Quentin Tarantino's best known work was Reservoir Dogs.  As a film, it breathed new life into gangster movies and almost single-handedly made the world pay serious attention to independent film.  A twisty and non-linear presentation revealed to us a deceptively simple story: six armed robbers raid a diamond wholesaler for a fortune in polished stones, only to find themselves trapped by the cops and likely betrayed by one of their own crew.  We never see the heist.  We have only the recollections of three bandits who escaped unharmed and whose honesty is suspect.  What is not shown, only alluded to or suggested, is what gives the movie its tension and its sense of unavoidable tragedy.


With a film that was definitely heavy on dialog and character interaction, making a tight knit and satisfying action game out of Reservoir Dogs seems like quite a challenge.  It is a challenge that Volatile Games failed miserably to complete.  Much like the heist at the heart of the film and the game, almost everything turned out to be a botch.


Graphically, Reservoir Dogs is passable, nothing stellar, nothing painful.  The textures seem to be well done and do not show any signs of cracking or rendering issues.  But this minor plus is offset by the atrocious character models.  While only one of them actually looks like a member of the original film cast (more about that in a moment), the others not only are wildly dissimilar to their film counterparts, they're also lumpy, jerky in their movements, and seem almost perpetually hunched over.  I can understand the need not to make the in-game characters look like the film characters but Volatile Games went way too far.





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Sound is another area where small positives are radically offset by serious negatives.  The sound effects for firearms and explosions are nothing spectacular.  The "K-Billy Sounds of the Seventies" soundtrack from the original film is mostly present, but it lacks the monotone delivery of Steven Wright's retro DJ character introducing the songs which made it


work so beautifully in the film.  The voice acting for the principal characters is done by a completely different cast from the film with the exception of Michael Madsen, who lent his voice and visual likeness to the game.  Because of this, the game as a whole suffers.  While Madsen's reprisal of "Mr. Blonde" is nostalgic and still dead on, it only serves to highlight the lack of the other original cast members.  Of the game's voice cast, only the actor performing as "Mr. Pink" comes closest to the original performance by Steve Buscemi, and even then it's a little iffy at times.  The other characters come nowhere close.  It's not bad enough to make you want to cut your own ear off but it does diminish the impact of the characters.


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As far as gameplay goes, Reservoir Dogs wants to give the impression of Grand Theft Auto, but ends up closer to the first Hitman.  You take on various roles during the game and go through sequences that "answer the questions" about what wasn't shown during the film, such as Mr. Pink hiding the diamonds and Mr. Blonde's infamous rampage which brought the cops down upon the robbers.  Each of the game's chapters involves getting your character from point A to point B without dying.  On foot, this isn't so bad, as you can save often and dying returns you to the last checkpoint you reached, but it gets frustrating as you try to noodle out the specific path the developers wanted you to take.  Behind the wheel of a car, you find yourself at the mercy of iffy physics, crappy drivers, and vehicles which are far too easy to lose control of once you get moving beyond crawling speed.  The compass and mini-map on the screen do nothing to give you any hope of reaching a destination either intact or on time.  Trying to slog through this game once is torturous enough, but anybody attempting to attain all of the game's multiple endings is either a world-class masochist or completely incapable of discerning what is fun and what isn't.


Overall, Reservoir Dogs proves to be another in a long line of lousy games based on cool movies.  In attempting to capture the essence of Tarantino's first masterwork, the developers mutilate it.  By not bringing the rest of the original cast into the game, they leave all the heavy lifting to Michael Madsen, with predictable results.  Could this have been a great game?  Doubtful, but it should have been a lot better.


Axel Cushing

January 26, 2007

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