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Sturgeon

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   Recently i completed number of games made in ex-Soviet republics (Russia, Ukraine) such as Vivisector, Timeshift, currently going through Collapse and aim to re-play Cryostasis: Sleep of Reason. Add here a Metro 2033/Redux and Metro: Last light (all completed) and i am probably will do a general post about action games of this part of the world.

 

   But now - Vivisector, or Vivisector: Beast Inside, Beast Within.

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   Shortly about a plot, so we can get to the game itself:

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   Inspired largely by the movie Island of Lost Souls and the story The Island of Doctor Moreau, which the movie was based on, the game is set in 1987 on a covert military installation on Soreo Island, where a riot has broken out by renegade geneticist Dr. Morhead's experimental human-animal hybrid soldiers against the corrupt general that ordered their creation. It is the player's job, initially, to help the General suppress the riot and regain control of the hybrid soldiers, but the player eventually switches sides against the General halfway through the game.

 

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Spoiler

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   Vivisector is a 2005 first person shooter that have oldschool genes and habits popping out almost everytime enemy appear on a screen, but tries to be modern in other parts of gameplay  - basically it is a mix of Serious Sam/Painkiller with a Far Cry. You start in a tropical enviroment and go through several different places/terrains, while fighting animal-human hybrids (primarily), with small amount of cutscenes time to time breaking the action and very few bosses. 

 

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   During first 20-30 minutes Vivisector tries hard to look like some sort of Serious Sam knockoff - devs put you in a wide semi-open "corridor" of jungles where they literally trap you in a cages periodically and forces to fight in those arenas against first generaltion of modified animals that spawns 20 meters or less from you (they are just animals with weapons glued to them or surgically put inside like tigers with flamethrowers mounted in their mouths teleported right next to player_1 tasty limbs).

 

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   Eash such section is a little bit unique as each time designers add something to those cages, like firerings with cool items in them, with number of lions trapped with a player, firing energy balls at you and running around (so you jump on a lion, ride it until get close to a ring on fire with something cool like M-60 covered in blood and jump through that ring to pick up that cool item) until one of last of them is multi-stage fight with several cages opening after certain stage of fight is completed and last cage moving up into the trees and open a hatch to jump out of it on a tree nearby to dodge flames from tigers on the ground trying to make a human fry out of you.

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   After those sections game no loger use those cages/traps and fights/enemy spawns become more organic, without those theatrical performances with cages, arenas created by leaked burning fuel and so on. Main hero goes through jungles, factories and labs, tunnels, mines, diffierent facilities in mountains, fighting with creations of local Dr Nutso and soldiers of General McMilitary, while being guided by a completely uninteresting and pretension plot (devs hired a well-known Russian celebrities and theatrical actors to voice characters). 

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Spoiler

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   Visuals.

   For 2005 graphics of this game were pretty bad compared to Doom 3, HL2 and Far Cry (all of which were released in 2004), but today it doesn't really mater as game became one of those "one from old times". Technically it is nothing interesting.

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   But there is something were Vivisector gets points back - it is art direction\level design. At first player see just standart jungle-like enviroment that looks like it was taken from one of those old Delta tactical/military shooters.

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   But after that level designer decided that he is too bored and started to make some not-bad looking and memorable enviroments.

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Spoiler

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   Gaint walls that go through big part of a map? Yes. Gaint trains that have size of a skyscraper but put on the side with attached train wheels? Yes! There are many more, but it is better to see them in-game, because graphics is not good, screenshots are not representative.  

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   This transforms enviroments from totally bland into rather interesting too behold and i was interestind too see what level designers will do in the next map/mission.

 

   Gameplay

   Vivisector have no reloading of guns, you always run at max speed (not counting upgrades), killing enemies give you health, single/low level enemies with "hitscan" weapons are easy to kill (you can just walk to them bouncing bullets from your steel chest with a knife in hands while laughing and just 1 or 2 hit them with said knife). Sounds familiar?

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   This is what Vivisector gameplay is about when you fight low and mid-level monsters. Fights against high-level enemies (Overbeast/Overbrutes IIRC) are less "meaty" and more cover-centered.

   There is a upgrade mechanics that you can use to boost health, resistance to damage, accuracy and speed of your avatar, points are given for finding secrets and for being utterly crazy mothefucker (dealing critical damage to enemy corps in short amount of time after their death gives points - "fatality", multiply kills gives points and so on). Devs want you to not just shoot non-stop, but to continue to fill enemies with shower of bullet during their death animation as well! 

   Murdering monsters and humans in Vivisector is a little less bland that in most B-games thanks to their mechanics that allow to remove flesh and some parts from bodies. And this system is dymanic - holes are generated in real time and are not pre-made pieces that you can shoot out (not counting equipment on bodies like helmets and visors). It also matters for point system - shooting killed enemies give a lot of points, but hits to bones/places that were already damaged don't count.

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   You also can shoot weapons from hands of those animal-humanoids to leave tham only with their claws. I wish this system was developed futher, so you could damage some internal mechanism on bigger enemies. Interestingly enough, this gore system makes shooting feels more impactfull (as it leaves traces on their bodies like giant gaping holes in their stomachs).

   Essentially game whants you to sprint around and fire your MG/AR endlessly at enemies until they will become a colander while throwing many points at you. I approve.

 

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   Same system is also applied to boxes with ammo and health - you need to poke a hole in them to get what you want. And if you (or enemies) use those boxes/crates as cover, you (and enemies) can shoot them enough until both sides of those crates have holes big enough to shoot trough them without problem, so Vivisector at times have destructable cover (devs in some levels intentionally put enemies behind such boxes).

 

   AI and enemies.

   AI is at bare minimum in this FPS. Enemies sometimes strafe left-right trying to dodge fire, sometimes lay on the ground/crouch and that is all. It is not bad for a animal enemies, but when tactical soldiers shouting tactically in their radios some tactics, it is becoming disappointing. After first stage of the Vivisector is completed, spawns switch from arena- teleportation right next to you to more bland trigger-based, spawning scripted amounts of enemies from behind corners, next rooms and so on like in some sort of Call of Duty.

   Monsters variety is pretty good - 3 levels of creatures - animals with mods, Humanoid-furries, Overbrutes. Some are flying, some are big ass bears with tank gun on top of them, some are Tactical furry wolfs with HMGs.

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Spoiler

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That is not exactly an enemy, if you will act a little smart.

 

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   Sometimes enemies are humans, but they are mostly boring.

 

   Conclusion.

   Vivisector is B-level FPS that tries to annoy you in first 20 minutes, but after you get to Rams (with shotguns) base in mountains, game opens up and start to be creative with enviroments, game mechanics start to work (upgrades are becoming viable, double barrel shotgun and M-60 helps a lot with point grind) and this is where a bland and boring gameplay start to go away (at least for me). Try to get M-60 as early as you can (during that section with lions in arena with firerings), this gun really changes how game feels, which was surprise for me. I guess much higher damage per shot and 300 round belt gives you ability to shower yourself in upgrade points and mow down furries like in a scene of Animal Mother charge from Full Metal Jacket, but with concrete walls of building are replaced by Furries chests. Later devs give you PPSh for maximum communism spreading, and upgrade M-60 to sci-fi rapid fire HMG that fire at least 5 bullets per mouse click because reasons.

   I had fun with it, wish for a second, but with much better engine and budget. Next game of Action Forms - Cryostasis: Sleep of reason, showed that they could get into better graphics and better engine. Recommend to play it if you are in the mood for obscure old-school/old FPS with few interesting things going for it, can ignore uninteresting plot (game allow to skip cutscenes) and bored with some of modern sterile FPS designed by accounting department with team of 100s of people. Vivisector does feel like hand-made action by relatively small amount of devs and have a momentum and even a drive in combat parts. I played on maximum difficulty, but I was replaying it, so normal should be good for newcomers.

 

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With my comp spending a ton of resources on updating I can finally read loading screen quotes from HoI4

 

"No enemy bomber can reach the Ruhr. If one reaches the Ruhr, my name is not Göring. You may call me Meyer."
-Hermann Mayer

 

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So i finished Collapse in mid-december, but only now have a time to write a review.

@Collimatrix

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   Collapse is 3rd person shooter/slasher from Ukrainian game developer Creoteam set in Kiev that suffered some sort of interdimensional monster invasion/cataclysm/Maidan, relased in 2008. You are playing some boring protagonist that use guns and sword to go through enemies to his final destination, as you stumble across some cutscenes with camera work done by somebody drunked. Game is trying really hard too look like a movie, and those cutscenes are there to piece together a non-existant plot about YOU bieng important and connected to that event somehow. Collapse at times is trying so hard to look like a movie that even just pressing "aim button" makes camera not just zoom, but move closer to Rodan while shacking as it was held by invisible asshole guy that can't move camera for a 0.5 meters without misstepping and nearly falling down.

 

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I bet Putin is somehow invloved in all this

 

   Main hero is a big muscle guy with 100% Ukrainian name Rodan, a 3rd person shooter protagonist that ate Prince of Persia before game event starts, suffer an autism seizures and on top of that have suffered traumatic lobotomy, which may explain why he can't move left or right when crouch. He also stole a piece of armor for his right arm from Gears of War soldiers. And there is a girl that helps you time to time while dressed in vacuum-sealed suit riding oversized motorcycle with exhaust pipes from local steel factory.  

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   Visuals

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   Game looks not bad for 2008, although majority of the time artdesign is ok-ish at most with very few sections having interesting visual component. Vast majority of time you spend in abandoned and destroyed Kiev after Maidan from other dimension spills in our reality. If you think Stalker, than you will be wrong - Collapse doesn't have such atmosphere as Stalker, it feels like Half-Life 2 knockoff: 

  • Big ass tower in the middle of the city
  • A mix of Soviet-styled buildings in bad shape or abandoned and sci-fi looking structures mixed together
  • City underground and remote places filled with alien-looking monsters
  • Linear levels
  • You fight with soldiers in military-grade gear that look kind of sci-fi 
  • Even lighting is somewhat similar - temperature of sunlight is close to HL2 

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   Sometimes main hero goes to other places, like undeground research bases, perimeter walls, etc., which add a bit of variety:

Spoiler

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Orange and blue. How original.

 

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   Levels are detailed,  most of the time they looks pretty good. Some of them are set in real places like Independance square, or Kiev railroad station (although it was rather bland-looking). Overal, visually Collapse is slightly above average as some nice-looking and a little bit atmoshperic places are mixed with totally bland and quickly-made boring sections. Vivisector had way more moments of "wow, that look dope" (Mountain base, Temple, Train, Factory, trenches to name a few), in Collapse there were probably 2 such wow moments - when you see Perimeter walls with guard towers overlooking vast flooded areas and Big ass HL2-esque tower (and its interiors) in the end of the game. 

 

   Gameplay

 

   Collapse is 3rd person shooter with couple of slasher genes stuck in it's body for no reason. And some (rather lame for almost half of the game) superpowers. And QTE-based boss fights. It have levels devided in "shooting" bits and "hit those guys with a sword 12 millions times" bits, mixed together awkwardly (will descrbe why this mix is awkward later). Rodan have no idea what cover system is, although map designer, while working on levels, stuck fingers in his ears and yelled "me wants cover based shootah like those Americans have!" and never pulled them out during whole time of game development. Interestingly enough, AI programmer catched a drift and made enemies with guns act as they are in cover based shooter, so they are sticking to walls and boxes while firing from them as in Gears of War and similar.

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3 enemies, all in cover and Rodan is in the open. Well, at least getting health points is not really a problem in this game

Spoiler

 

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Screenshot from early biuld. Yes, some cover is destructible

 

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Slasher side o Collapse

 

 

   And you may ask why i mention that game lacks cover system and if it matters if player have normal controls. Well, as i mentioned, Rodan apperently is a victim of brain injury and his control scheme is not really intuitive for both shooting bits and slasher bits.

 

   When bad guys fill a room in front of you, your first reaction will be taking cover, but when you almost reach it (let's say a box) you press crouch button. But resulting action will depend of which moving keys are pressed, if you press strafe keys with move forward, Rodan can deiced that it is time to do a roll instead of just crouching, so you are now in the open and need to go back to box behind main hero. But if you press only forward (IIRC) he will just crouch. Another example is that you can't move left and right while crouch, so Rodan stands up, move left/right and then crouch back. Or jump button - it also changes results of your input if moving keys are pressed. If you press jump and forward Rodan will jump forward (although depending if you have sword or gun equipped he can jump differently, with different animation and distance, height of a jump). But pressing left/right/back and jump will make Rodan roll instead of jump. WHY? 

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   Collapse have destructible cover, although only when and where level designer wants.  Example is in pic above, done by using pre-designated parts that when they are hit buy bullet/sword/explosion, they are deleted from a model with cloud of debris masking that. This is neat system for this game, i wish more of cover would have been made destructible. Interestingly enough, destruction of objects is rather detailed, for example a simple chair don't just disintegrate into 3-5 pieces of debrie after one hit, but you can destroy individual parts like chair legs independendly or each individual wooden plank in chair seat, which surprised me a bit. Well, we can give it 10/10 for chair destruction physics.

 

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Well, fights at least look cool

 

   3rd person shooting is rather bland in itself - shoot enemies in the heads for increased damage while trying to use cover. Majority of firefights are in room/box-shaped areas or arenas with little progress towards end of campaign. Each "shooting bit" area is designed as in Call of Duty or any other bland action game - you move forward until trigger is "pressed", it spawns enemies in such combination and at rate that level designer decided during a day when he was working on the levels, although having fingers in his ears limited his abilty to make something sophisticated or unusual. So you walk futher until next trigger is pressed and so on to make game happen.

 

   I am not fan of this type of spawns as when player enter a designated "fighting" place game starts spewing enemies at you without indication of which number of them will be spawn, where or which type. Sometimes bad guys or monsters are spawn based on timers, sometimes killing enemy is a trigger to spawn another one. This mean that player don't have information to work with before getting stuck into those fights. Good indication of how well-made fights are in Far Cry/Crysis, FEAR or Metro (and some other games) - all enemies that you can face are usually already on the map/in that place and you can see them, count, make a plan, basically play the game with intentionality. Not every action game should have this system (look at Painkiller or DooM, or just Vivisector itself), but in Collapse this system makes fights less interesting or mind-stimulating, while in said Painkiller and Doom devs go all the way to change arenas into "frying pan" for a player, creating specific challange with clear rules (destroy Nest to spawn enemies in Doom or enter area just after checkpoint rune was reached in Painkiller).

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   In this part those monsters with reversed skullfaces are spawn in waves and each individual enemy during each wave spawns based on timer. Maybe one of not many fun fights as after first wave you basically have a general idea on timing and places from which those creatures are coming because level designer didn't changed srcipts for each wave, as it would require pulling fingers out of his ears. So during 2nd and futher waves you can try something to counter attacks and increase your chances to get through with minimal damage and used ammunition.

 

  Sometimes you get into an arena where game become either a grind, or a somewhat fun, depending on exact situation and map dev mood. I remember a firefight IIRC in one of rooms of railroad station level, after game spawned all bad guys (hard ones, with a lot of health and rather powerfull "Grom" assault rifle) which was noticeable for being remotely fun. Arena was designed in such way that majority of cover where closer to the 2 opposite ends of arena and there was rather open area inbetween, creating "trench"-like situation. So i drawn enemies to one side of their "trench" by moving to the leftmost part of my own "trench", which resulted in enemies leaving their right part of arena exposed. I rushed from left to right side of my own "trench" and commited to attack on their positions via running/rolling through open area, taking cover on enemy side of arena, which allowed to flank them. And AI in Collapse programmed to respond to their cover becoming useless and tryied to relocate, taking new positions. Fight in this arena changed from middle-range shooting at small visible parts of enemies in cover while being pinned down, to rushing attack using AI behavior in your advantage (they tried to take closest covers to Rodan), flanking and rather fluid and mobile fight between plentifull covers in end of fight killing last of soldiers.

 

   Weapons are not really interesting, you have 3 types of usual weapons with each having "tier 2" version and just 3 slots for guns, one being sidearm only, second for almost all others and 3rd for "super guns" like gattling guns, plasma/rocket launcher. Pistol - Compact SMG as your first gun that can recharge on its own if you run out of ammunition, Futuristic AK - Grom assault rifle, Double barrel - Void semi-auto shotguns, 1 sniper rifle, and thats almost all arsenal of this game. No grenades ( i guess sword fighting would be harder to forces on players if you had grenades with you).

 

   Collapse is trying to mix shooting with slasher gameplay, when Rodan is supposed to use sword. "But wait, why you would use edged weapons when you have futuristic AKs and rapid fire SMG with ammunition that regenerate out of nowhere?" you will ask. Well, thanks for this question, my own voice in the head - devs just made enemies that you supposed to slash to be very resistant to small arms fire. 

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Your bullets will bounce from their pumped biceps and very dence head parts visible in their helmet, doing very little damage. USE YOUR SWORD, PLAYER_1 yells game designer with his finger still stuck in his ears.

 

   And how you will know which enemies to hack with a sword and which one to kill with a gun? Easy, they will carry a type of weapon you supposed to use against them. See a knife? Use your sword. See a rifle in enemy hands? Use guns. See mutant-thing? Use everything. 

 

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Even their necks are hard to puch through.

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   Slasher gameplay in itself have some meat - Rodan have basic attacks, combos, finishing moves. Some combos that you unlock futher give your sword new attacks - they turn your "basic" sword into a big Claymore, or separate it into 2 small but fast swords, or Rodan unleash a deadly whip with pieces of basic sword spread across in length (i think it is most powerfull). Each combo is simple to execute - it is done by pressing LMB several times in specific order/timing and movement buttons (like Press forward and LMB LMB _Pause_ LMB LMB). Add here super powers (3 out of 4 of them are more usefull in close combat) and you will see that this part of gameplay is not underdeveloped. 

 

 

   But enemies, when they get hit, don't respond much to hits (just short "i being hit" animation sometimes is played). This sort of damages feel of the weapon, making sword a looking fancy - but not doing fancy / not creating a fancy reaction on enemy. Animations are good, though. If they had some sort of dynamic animation of similar quality for enemies, and decreased number of HPs, sword combat would have been great. 

 

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   Still, even if slasher part is not totally bad, transition from Gears of War to Devil May Cry in matter of single level, multiple times, is done very awkwardly, especially for the first time when they "introduce" this completely arbitrary mechanics of melee enemies with only protective vests being almost immune to small arms, and forcing players to fight with melee attacks just seconds after player used his guns to clear half of fucking level from soldiers in heavy bodyarmor and helmets.

 

   As plot progresses, Rodan get's superpowers, and after defeating number of human bosses he gets 4 of those magic attacks - first is wave of energy that pushes away and stun enemies in close proximity to protagonist, second is creating your phanton/double/distraction, 3rd is directional energy blast with like 10 meters at most range amd 4th is slow-mo. Not much, although all of them are usefull (at least i used them). 

 

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QTE monster is attacking, Rodan!

 

   Speaking about bosses - here is where Collapse open it bullshit box and shower player_1 in shitty QTEs. Every boss EVERY SINGLE ONE is defeated ONLY with QTEs.

   Worm is encountered like 4 times and he is unskippable, BTW.

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   Each QTE is well animated, but because button proms located far from center of the screen your attention is not concentrated on cool action, but on pressing buttons to continue cutscene. This is capital offencive, game should be dragged out and put in front of firing squad for this.

 

Spoiler

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Stab this QTE monster with a sword, Rodan or it will unleash cutscene attack!

 

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This is only semi-boss enemy that you don't need to QTE to death.

 

   So in short - Collapse gameplay is ok 3rd person shooter that have controlls made by random number generater with rather well-developed slasher game bits surgically inserted into 3rd person shooter using stapler and glue, and all this is dressed into linear level design with QTE bosses, cutscenes, phonecalls (Metal Gear-style) and upgrades that you can't get through in-game meachnics, but only as plot-given upgrades after pressing enough buttons in yet another QTE cutscene boss fight. 

 

   AI and enemies

   Collapse have some variety of bad guys - humans, vehicles, monsters.

   Monsters are usually melee type of enemies, with some of them having range attacks. Humans are 2 types - melee and range attackers (soldiers, snipers, turret gunners). Vehicles are sort of minibosses, very rare to see. Most of melee enemies are defeated in exactly same way. Turret gunners and snipers are pretty much the same - they stand still in one place and shoot, difference is a weapon.

   The real annoying part of melee enemies is huge HP pool they have, making even melee combat (that you supposed to use against them) feel weak.

   Vast majoirty of mooks in Collapse have basically same very simple behavior of a guided missile.  

 

   The only enemy type that posses some level of computing power above pathfinding from point A to Rodan arse are soldiers with guns.

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   AI of those guys is rather standart cover-based shooter enemy AI - run to cover, duck, shoot, with way less polish than in "AAA" level projects. Although they are actually a bit more sophisticated than in others similar 3rd person actions and have some features that you can see in AI praised by players (like in FEAR).

   First, it appears that cover system is partially dynamic, as i saw enemies moving through certain area, but after destruction of piece of the level above that area enemies used those debries as cover. They also take cover not in specific spot behind box (usually done by placing cover node by level designer), but in area near the cover, which result in slight differentiation in enemies taking cover behind exactly the same box, sometimes leading to hand/bits of body visible. They also are able to navigate to places that don't have obvious way to it by doing multiply jumps, which i observed myself by pushing soldier with magic attack into a 3 meter deep hole in the ground. They do it dynamically, and do this with covers as well when they can't get into said cover object fast enough by simply running, they can jump over it and then jump down behind it. It leads to sometimes not-very human looking set of actions, but still, unusual level of independent navigation through maps.

 

4:18 have example of this behavior. Also shows what i mean under "unpolished" just seconds after with second soldier acting stupidly.

 

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"Deploy our mildly capable enemies, sergeant!"

 

   They also can recognise when being aimed at (at least later into the game) and try to dodge, roll from aim circle if cought in the open. If they are in cover and being shot at, they switch to blind fire. Enemies also understand when their are flanked and exposed, leading to quick cover change. Generally they are somewhat competent and have number of features that could have been developed futher and used by level designers (like their above average navigation/moving abilities), sadly it was not done. Some of their actions look unpolished because their set animations is not enough for needed actions, like quick change of cover is done via several standart animations of standing, running, slowly walking to cover when enemy is very close to it and running animation is too fast and will push AI to far from aimed point - instead an seprate animation of leavng cover, running and taking cover would make it way more flewed and quicker.

   In middle-sized arenas, where those soldiers AI can work well, shooting part of Collapse become fun, quick and hectic, as those guys are aggressive and guys with shotguns trying to rush your position. 

 

   Conclusion.

   Collapse is action game stuck between "A" and "B-level" 3rd person mix of shooter and melee fighting/slasher, trying to put Devil May Cry into Gears of War, while also trying hard too look like a movie at times when dev team had budget. Would not recommend to anyone outside of those who are interested in gamedevelopment in ex-USSR countries, as it is rather bland, empty and shallow game. If you are trying to get some culturally-affected "features"/views/etc, you will not really find them here (Metro and Stalker are way better for this), game have sense of product that was supposed from early part of creation to be marketed to Western players and tries too look like western-developed game. With many charachters names, behavior, diologues and visual design looking distilled from features (with small exception of early level soldiers looking like Russians in Sfera helmets and futuristic AKs) and feeling like "everyhuman". It also feels like a HL2 knockoff not only because visuals, but also because some parts of Collapse are almost directly "inspired" by HL2, like fight in a tower being rather close to end of HL2 tower fight.

   If you are trying to just play something unusual, this is also product not for you. Or if you are searching for fun/engaging story/gameplay - Collapse is far from being anywhere near the top 10 list of what i can recommend to you. It doesn't have any original bone in it's sceleton and meat on those bones is not really tasty, sometimes tasting like dry cardboard. 

   For those, who decided to install it i recommend to play on average difficulty, play in 1 hour sessions and not every day, with something in between those sessions. 

 

   I liked sountrack for Collapse made by NewTone very much.

 

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Well, I've been having a smashing time with two games that went through Kickstarter and Steam's Early Access program: War For The Overworld, the spiritual successor to the Dungeon Keeper series; and Planet Coaster, the spiritual successor to the Rollercoaster Tycoon series. I'm delighted to say that both series appear to have landed on their feet from an impressive aerial cartwheel. Both are worthy successors that have been snapped up by dedicated developers who are continually adding interesting new things, and both enjoy a good supply of Steam Workshop custom content. On top of this, the developers of Planet Coaster are now working on a new Jurassic Park management game, which I feel the urgent desire to hawk at you:

 

 

5/5, life has indeed found a way.

 

 

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Managed to launch Venom: Codename Outbreak today after several attempts. 

   It is a FPS from GCS Game World, released in 2001 IIRC. Later those guys will create a STALKER. Venom is tactical-ish FPS set in future where you fight humans under alien parasites control and alien parasite themselfs who can develop into rather big creatures. Venom is essentialy a Crysis in many ways, but instead of suits with several mods you get a futuristic gun with several mods.

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   I probably should review Timeshift as i played it several months ago. Cryostasis became so fucking boring that i don't even want to try it for some time. Venom is kind of fun to play, although it is somewhat not stable. 

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Timeshift. 

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   Timeshift is FPS developed by St. Petesrburg-based Saber Interactive and published by Sierra. Saber is a stuido that was and currently is involved in different well-known projects and made few not bad games and couple of crappy shooters. Currently they are involved in Quake Champions, in 2017 they made also relatively well known Spintires: Mudrunner offroad car/driving game, or "Russian roads simulator".

 

   Timeshift was somewhat ambitious project and early concept art was interesting. Game was promising Steampunk FPS with timetravel theme and ingame time manipulation mechanics. It was released in 2007. So today i will review it, after completing it like 4+ months ago and 11 years after it's release date (very timely review!)

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TimeShift Screenshot

 

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   Visuals

   Imagine a bad mix between Doom 3 and Half-Life 2 visuals - Doom 3's dark grey metal corridors with Half-life 2's concrete/brick buildings and tunnels. Maybe even FEAR endless industrial maps. Add even more darkness and non-stop rain, make everything grey and this is how game begins and continues for some time. Later it switched to color pellet of turd, making some things brown and this combination of grey mixed with brown continues for almost whole singleplayer with few outdoor episodes that breave life in Timeshift's grey body.

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   Grey soldiers hiding behind grey chesthigh walls while skies are covered in grey clouds makes Timeshift look boring as fuck, although capable to sneak into any Soviet concreate building as this amount of grey can work as a good camo. 

   Technically it is not bad - bump mapping everywhere, shadows are rendered on everything from every object like in DooM 3, but overal picture is not great for human creature to behold as it invokes all those boring rainy days behind the window.

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   I think a reason for such choice was to make grim atmosphere of opression (as main vilian time traveled back in time and became HronoHilter). But Half Life 2 was colorfull, and still managed to pull 1984 in the begining. Game do manage to opresses few things - my eyes and my desire to play it.

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   Majority of the game is like this:  

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A sad story of robot being in such known movies like Robocop and then... went to Russia to continue his work.

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And for several levels Timeshift decides to have a color:

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   Buildings, locations, enemies and so on through a whole campaign uses 1.5 colors- grey-ish green, grey-ish blue and grey-ish grey. In case of HronoHitler's basic soldiers - they have exactly same gear in every level of the game made out of generic armor painted by same 1.5 colors as everything else.

 

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   Animations of enemies are good and feel very smooth, which surprised me, facial animations - not so much. 

   Overall - technically competent, but art design is lacking. 

 

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   Audio

   Usualy i don't mention it, but in Timeshift devs decided to make player uncomfortable with some of sounds choices. Main weapon for a big protion of Timeshift is a Generic Assault Rifle that during firing shoots grinding sounds. Quadbike also managed to poop some seriously generic soundfiles out of its exhaust pipe. Music is so generic that i would expect to hear it in movie that RLM watches in their Best of the Worst series. It is like everything was made to be grey, even music!

 

   Plot.

   In the far future people created 2 Crysis suits that are capable to turn on Maximum time manipulation superpower, and 1 of them was used by HronoHitler to sneak back in time and appear in Valve's Half-Life 2, where he created his Reich that painted City 17 in grey, made music generic and created a machine that make endless rains in Oppressedburg. Knowing what XXXGordon_FreemanXXX made to City 17's previous main villian, HronoHitler put his own Evil Tower of Evilness on top of giant grey metalic spider robot that walks around Oppressedburg by stepping on innocent childrens.

 

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   Our main hero - Mr. Silent protagonist, discovered what HronoHilter done via unskippable cutscene and in his furious unexpressed emotion jumped back in time through cliche threshold to fight HronoHitler. HronoHitler than done something against main hero, Silent Protagonist done something back, but i don't remember what, why and where, as story writer of Timeshift also jumped back in time before he became competent. 

   After jumping back in 2004, Main Hero discovered that not only he travaled into Half-Life 2 maps painted grey, but also in Half-Life 2 game structure where time traveling supersuit wearing scientist have few driving sections, solves puzzles, attacks Nova Prospekt jail (or something similar), have another driving section, then fight main villian. But during penetration through cliche threshold Main Zero clothes managed to catch few of cliches mixed with low budget, so he discoveres himself to be locked in crappy turret sections, but sadly his time bending powers don't allow him to skip them. 

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   During his tourism through Grey 17 Main hero also found rebels that mixed up our time traveling scientist with the other time traveling scientist with beard and glasses. They try to help us to fight endless waves of generic Comb... i mean Magistrate soldiers that got part of their AI brains snugged by HronoHitler from FEAR because he heard that FEAR AI was better than any other choices he had. Rebels are lead by Secondary NPC 1 and Secondary NPC 2, who are custom models of guys in grey with grey assault rifles speaking grey mission objectives onto main hero. 

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I don't remember if he is important or not

   After completing those mission objectives by pressing endless buttons our suitcarrier have a climax fight with HronoHilter that doesn't happen inside of EvilTowerBottm as it would require to model it and accounting department is already very angry because of amount of budget used.

 

   Gameplay

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   Timeshift for almost first half tries not only to wear parts of Half-Life 2 maps and structure as a sweater, with surgically implanted Doom 3 metal corridors with labs and FEAR's industrial levels as pants, but also tries to play like Half-Life 2 with it's action-puzzle gameloop. It gives us rather generic guns, slows down speed of our silent hero, and than spawn squads of not stupid enemies from FEAR in generic grey levels and claims that this is a gameplay of the FPS based on time travelling abilities. 

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   Than those firefights are mixed with very basic time-powers puzzles, which games allow to solve by pressing "solve puzzle" button.

   Time travel powers are Max Payne's bullet time, time stop and rewind. In the rain those powers look cool with raindrops stopping or starting to move back depending on pwoers used. All those time manipulation are limited - you can't rewind much or stop for too long. During this moments game became slightly interesting as during slow mo you can move faster, during time stop you can take enemies weapons from their hands (not always), fire many bullets in them, kick them and after time stop ends they fly away as impulses are summarized.

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Spoiler

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When you took all their weapons:

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   Rewind is for psychos that want to kill same guy several times, but usually used to solve puzzles like "bridge was blown up but you need to cross it! What you will do, Player_1?"... and this game is so terrified of player not being able to figure things out that before bridge explodes your build-in AI (one of plot devices stuck in your suit from cliche fields travel) will say to you what to do next and gametip will point at "solve puzzle" button. During rewind you can't do anything with obejcts around. And this is all powers you get through whole game.

   Shooting itself become not completely bland after getting Fully semiatomatic crossbow with explosives bolts and SMG that fires incendiary rounds and have underbarrel flamethrower, with first and secondary firemodes setting enemies on fire. But all other guns are bland and what you expect from FPS.

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SMG from early build of Timeshift before devs deleted details and painted it in grey  

   

   AI and enemies

   AI in Timeshift is rather good, well animated enemies doing some competent things. They communicate with each other, although in low-budget bad acting kind of way. AI can take cover, mooks move around, throw grenades and remind me FEAR Replicals a bit. Hell, in an inteview one of devs directly said that they were looking at how other games were programmed, and seeing some of familiar behavior of FEAR replicants i am almost 100% sure they copied at least part of AI system from FEAR. One of enemies even have a copy-pasted helmet design from FEAR, haha.

 

Some of them could be easily mistaken with bad guys from FEAR based on their looks and some parts of behavior

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   Vast majority of main hero opponents are those soldiers. Sometimes there are snipers, turrets and robots, but it is rare. Near the end part of Timeshift devs introduced special types of grunts with time powers that result in... grunts moving faster. Well, at least they move very fast in bursts, which mean some sort of variety as they can run past you and you will have hard to time to catch them without using slow mo. It is rather obvious that devs wanted to do FEAR-like shooter and bad guys, but enemies in FEAR had character and emotion in actions and speech, while those guys - not so much. When you kill those special time powered mooks they die and voice their death in bored "i guess i am dead now" way, :mellow: Also any action in FEAR, even a fart, resulted in series of explosions and human babies sized pieces of walls flying around in uncountable amounts. In Timeshift you get some sparkler here and there with devs standing near and saying "sorry mate, this is what we can get for a budget".

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For Vladimir Putin!!!

   As already was mantioned i was surprised by quality of work done with visual part of models/AI movement - animations not only feel smooth, but i never saw (or can't remember) AI jerking/interrupting animation is some very inhumane way or to brake and not work properly, stare at walls and so on.

 

   Conclusion.

   Timeshift have very little original inside. Sabre used other popular FPS to frankenstein their creation mixing themes, pieces of plot and gameplay loop from Half-Life 2 with FEAR firefights, adding little with basic time bending powers. Result is mostly bland shooter with very few moments of potential looking through layers of grey paint. Sad part is that technical skill is presented - game is polished, no serious bugs and even small problems were spotted during playing Timeshift. But for what it is, Timeshift is well made block of grey concrete.

 

   

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Far Cry storylines are the fucking pits.....Fun games, but the stories are just bollocks! 

 

Let me know your thoughts when you get to the end of Far Cry 3 (the coop mode is great fun in that game, you can do the maps in some very unique ways).

 

 

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