Keith's Crappy Videogame Blog


Neuro (PC, Russia, 2006): The Greatest Game You Never Played
October 19, 2010, 3:56 am
Filed under: Neuro (PC, 2006, Russia)

Admittedly, the title of this post is an overstatement—calling it “the greatest” is evidence that I have an extremely soft spot in my heart for “Neuro.”  Probably more accurate would be this: “A Damn Fine Game You Never Played (if you’re a westerner, that is)” but that’s not the accepted cliché, and it’s too clunky for a title.

My relationship to this game, at present, is totally unique. It may not be an interesting story, but it might be an interesting study in borderline obsessive-compulsive disorder. I am always trawling the back pages of gaming sites to discover the lowdown on titles that have become vaporware, or were barely released, or were released but widely dismissed—I mean, that’s sorta the point of this half-baked blog, to provide some coverage to (and moderately friendly discussion of) modern games that, for some reason, just didn’t float in the public sphere (at least in the west) but may nevertheless have some modicum of originality or inventiveness (or even just plain old fun gameplay) hidden somewhere amidst all the general crappiness of them. (Geez that was a bad sentence.) Moving on.

In my research (see how serious I take all this?), I came across a dude (Marphitimus Blackimus) on YouTube playing a game called “Neuro” on his “Obscure First Person Shooters” channel he created. He covered quite a number of games I had never seen before, many of them from countries other than the U.S. But none of them caught my eye quite as much as “Neuro.” Maybe it was the artwork in the vaguely sci-fi-ish short clip he showed, or maybe it was the title, but something about it intrigued me—a lot. Even Marphitimus didn’t have a whole lot to say about it, other than it was in Russian and he didn’t understand what was happening exactly. So, I began my hunt for it (happening upon the similarly titled but unrelated game “Neuro Hunter,” which seemed sorta blah to me in comparison). Long story short, after a month of trying to find it (legally and illegally), and only digging up some outdated Gamespot and IGN links with what were clearly permanent “TBA release dates,” I gave up. If the game had actually ever been released way back in 2006, it had either never been released in the west, or it had sold 10 copies and long ago disappeared without a trace (which only made the entire affair more intriguing to me).

Another month passed, and a thought from the blue struck me: Why not ask Marphitimus where the hell he got it from? So I did, not expecting a response. But within one unbelievably short hour, this kind soul had written me back with the URL of an encyclopedic site called 3D Shooter Legends. The site was a trove of information about all shooter games from the early 90s to now—the site itself is dedicated to keeping alive the memories of past shooters from all over the world. I went crazy for about 30 hours straight combing the entire thing. I found at least 10 intriguing, bottom-shelf, nonwestern games I had never seen nor heard of before. Heaven.

Eventually, following a number of links and purchasing a membership to a different for-pay site, I located Neuro, downloaded it, and all giddy, finally got to lay my eyes on—wait, the entire thing was in Russian. I couldn’t even read the introductory menu. People on screen were speaking in Russian. But lucky for me, there were at least subtitles on screen—oh, all in Russian too. Fail, fail, fail. And it all looked so cool, for an eastern European sci-fi game from 2006 (so that automatically means the graphics were Doom III-era 2004, but I love that stuff). But I didn’t even know where to go or what to do in the game, what was happening, or who the people were. I guess I could have stumbled my way through it, but wouldn’t it have been more fun if I could actually understand it? After 10 minutes I turned it off, disappointed, but not beaten yet.

Cracking open the game files on my hard drive, I found the subtitle text files—the actual subtitles flashing on screen during gameplay when characters spoke. Hmmmm. But it was all in Cyrillic characters. I do not know Russian. I know English fairly well though (I’m a tenured Associate Professor of English at Penn State after all). With a few online clicks, I found a “type Russian on your own keyboard” website, and with the help of the Google Translator Kit, I was starting to translate the subtitles….line by line (or more accurately, character by character). Due to technical difficulties I won’t bore you with here, I had to translate the game pretty much one letter at a time. Not thinking at all about how long this would take me, I forged ahead.

Confession time: It took me about 60 hours. If you call me obsessive-compulsive, I wouldn’t contradict you. But 60 hours later, I had translated the game in its entirety (absolutely something I had never done before), as well as fiddled with some of the graphics files for the game’s menus so they could be read as well). When I first tried it out with the new English wording, it crashed, and crashed again. I fiddled some more, figured out some problems, and got it working, finally (but it was terribly finicky). The odd thing is, of course, having translated all the text files, I knew the story in its entirety and what the folks on screen were discussing. This, you might surmise, would take a wee bit of fun out of actually playing the game, knowing the narrative (with all its twists and turns) ahead of time. True. However, I knew it all completely out of context with the on-screen action. It put me in a strange kind of position when actually playing the game—having spent 60 hours with the game and not yet having played it. Odd, yes, but it did not ruin my experience of the game at all. I’d say I felt closer, and more forgiving of, the game than I would otherwise. Anyway, as you can see, this is the reason why I have such a soft spot for this title. Whew! OK, onto the game itself.

Less than a high-flying space opera, the narrative in “Neuro” is best described as a low-key crime drama with a futuristic backdrop that (in a typical Russian way) takes plenty of time to philosophize on the devolution of humankind. Its general premise is this: Even though we have spread ourselves out amongst the stars and developed technology to improve and enrich our lives, we’re still a bunch of low-brow, childlike monkeys who threaten and exploit each other whenever possible. Our hero—often called foolish by other characters—is James Gravesen, a law officer who is attempting to nab a smuggler, Ramon, who is dealing in “Purple Death,” a highly dangerous weaponized substance that can “blow a hole through a planet three times the size of Sorghum” (yes, I really did translate this thing). While James tries to take the legal and fair route to his objective, it turns out that Ramon is highly connected within the government and is able to slip out of James’ grasp. Slowly, the idealistic James becomes embittered, loses a girlfriend amidst the chaos, is possibly betrayed by a close comrade and fellow law enforcer, and hooks up with some questionable characters to help him kill Ramon (which he finally does, even though it sends him into a depression). Generally, everything works out in the end though.

Doesn’t seem like much of an adventure story, but there’s a lot of first-person shooting amidst all the philosophizing, of course. (I removed the traditional-lower-right-hand-corner-fps-gun-view in most of the screenshots here just because I love the environments so much and want to show them off—that, and the skins on the weapons are only so-so, nothing to write home about.) More cool is the “Neuro” part of “Neuro”—and that are the psi-abilities. As a policeman of sorts, James has biotechnology implanted in his brain that gives him a handful of pretty fun psi-weapons: From 30 feet away and only using his mind, he can light enemies on fire (very fun to watch them flare up, scream, and run frantically about as they die); blow them off their feet and crush them (when hit, enemies leap backwards into the air and wheeze like they’ve been punched in the chest, funny sounding); and make them go berserk and kill their allies (or bum rush you, which is no fun). He can also see through walls to identify where enemies lurk, and he can heal himself. All of this takes a psi-energy which depletes with each use but resets over time. The enemies, by the way, are mostly crooks trying to stop you from completing your various missions, and I was generally impressed with the AI. For a 4-year old game when I played it, the AI would do all the requisite hiding, rushing at you, dodging attacks. Enemy NPCs in today’s games are clearly much more sophisticated, but these dudes were surprisingly intelligent, and I enjoyed sparring with them—and lighting them on fire.

I love the art work in “Neuro.” Again, this is a game from 2006, and I’d say the graphics hover somewhere around the 2004 Doom III timeline (eastern European after all), but perhaps spiffed up a bit. Unlike Doom III though, “Neuro” is a well-lit game that presents you with a generally slick, clean, future-like design, with smooth lines and curved surfaces. Details, such as they are, abound—floors are made of interlocking metal plates rather than monolithic plain surfaces, doorways have strings of lights surrounding them, lots of sci-fi machinery and computer screens everywhere as you’d expect. The use of color is outstanding and bold—gray metal walls with stripes of scratched burnt orange or bright yellow banners. You do not spend much time in this game crawling around dark spaceships. I appreciated that, and it was a nice change of pace. Many of the spaces are quite large, and while the entire game pretty much takes place indoors, the game never feels claustrophobic. A great example is the “city” where one battle takes places (and where your girlfriend blows up real good): It gives a very distinct feeling of a city built indoors, lots of chain link fencing and metal tracks where cars ride and catwalks where people stroll, but tons of bright, flashing neon signs, and interlocking buildings stretching up to the enclosed ceiling. Just really neat. I kept thinking about “Bladerunner” or something, but that’s perhaps a bit too generous of a comparison.

One weakness of the game: Much of the dialogue (that I spent 60 hours translating, just wanted to get that in there again), takes place on a static screen (it’s actually your PDA screen where your objectives are listed) with the two heads of characters chattering away, both facing you, but talking to each other. Talking heads, you might say. This feels old-school and makes it seem as though the characters in the game are not actually interacting with one another. A lot is said during these exchanges, much of it to drive the narrative forward, so paying attention matters. I realize that this sort of organization allowed for the next chapter to load, but it took me out of the game-space. Of course, facial animations are super-basic, and in general facial rendering is cartoonish—again 2006-cum-2004—instead of realistic, but the game tries. One other super-irritating aspect of the game had to do with the game’s memory cache (I say that like I know what I’m talking about, but I don’t). The upshot was that game saves could very easily be corrupted; if I exclusively used the quicksave function for an hour while playing, and then made a proper save, that save could not be loaded—game crash. Errrr. Similarly, if I left James standing in a safe place for a while as I went to go get a sandwich or something, I would come back to a jittery game that would crash. I don’t know why this would happen, but I imagine it had something to do with the game’s memory. I got through the game by not using the quicksave function, and just making proper game saves whenever needed. It was an irritant, but I managed.

Whenever I come across one of these not-so-well-known-in-the-west games, I assume it was never released here because it was considered to be junk, or there simply was no potential western audience. Sometimes that’s true. But in this case, I am quite baffled why “Neuro” was not picked up by a western publisher, even in some limited way. The game is clearly very carefully crafted, thoughtfully written, and the gameplay works really well, with some nice set pieces, some cool environments, and some high-tension moments (escaping a space station as it slowly burns and loses its orbit—real fun, almost on a Half-life 2 scale). I read a 2005 interview with the producer of the game where he was expressing his hopes that when they showed the game at E3 that year, they would find a western publisher. It didn’t happen. That’s a real shame because unless you’re OCD like I am, you are unlikely to be able to play this gem.

http://www.personal.psu.edu/faculty/w/k/wkd2/NEUROCD1.ISO

http://www.personal.psu.edu/faculty/w/k/wkd2/NEUROCD2.ISO

http://www.personal.psu.edu/faculty/w/k/wkd2/NEUROCD3.ISO



The Scourge Project, Episodes 1 & 2 (PC, Spain, 2009): Whadda GD Shame
October 12, 2010, 12:41 am
Filed under: The Scourge Project (PC, 2009, Spain)

Probably like a lot of people who purchased this download-only title, I had heard nothing of it, and I was looking for another cooperative experience. Spanish developer Tragnarian’s idea behind this game is a good one: Can we take a triple-A, futuristic, 4-player, third-person, drop-in/drop-out, co-op kinda shooter (think Gears of War) with flashy Unreal Engine graphics, but make it download-only, say like through the Steam distribution platform, and sell it episodically for a lot less (and make more money in the long run)? Could such an idea work?

The answer is YES. Such an idea COULD work. But in this instance, it doesn’t work. At all. And to me, it’s a goddamn shame.

It’s a shame because there are lots of elements of this game that I liked a whole helluva lot. The story is not especially new or clear, but it’s serviceable and even intriguing: In the near future, you are part of an elite group of mercenaries hired by The Tarn Initiative to deal a decisive blow against the power-hungry Nogari Corporation. Nogari has found and exploited an extraterrestrial energy source called Ambrosia which the world has pretty much become addicted to, and as such the world is generally being held hostage. Missions include finding a double-agent inside the Nogari compound (the dude, Dr. Reisbeck, who hired your team), and then also locate a fragment of a meteorite on said compound—the source of Ambrosia. As cooperative players, your team all use Ambrosia as well to power a few special abilities, such as a shield and a wave blast. But the affair is mostly shooting conventional weapons. Oh yeah, once inside the Nogari compound/labs, you find that it has pretty much been taken over by aliens—probably an unforeseen consequence of having fiddled with the meteorite fragment and extracting the Ambrosia from it. Once again: Save the world.

No significant part of the game was particularly noteworthy or groundbreaking, but some parts of it worked well.  For example, the four players who comprise Echo Squad are broadly drawn enough so that it is easy to make distinctions between them—maybe this lacks subtlety, but for me it made things very clear (much clearer than, say, who is who exactly on Noble Team in “Halo: Reach”—at least a few of the characters seem a bit carbon-copyish of one another and difficult to distinguish between at times). Not so in The Scourge Project:  You’ve got your vanilla white southern dude (Stonewall) , your hulking Irish bald dude (Mass), your wisecracking chick dude (Amp) , and your half-cyborg dude (Shade). The voicework for each character is exceedingly well done too, and I found the writing to be sharp and snappy, without suffering from too many clichés.

In addition, each playable character has his or her own backstory, which is fleshed out to some degree in individual cut scenes, depending on who you are playing. Ideally it works this way: I’m sitting at home online in Wisconsin playing as the Shade character on a team with three others spread out who knows where. At certain points in the game, cut scenes will play, but the only cut scene I see is the individual scene relating to Shade’s backstory. Everyone else will see his or her own individual cut scene. Cool idea; something I had never seen before. Only one problem: I wasn’t in Wisconsin (never been there, actually). Instead, I was cooping this on a couch with my partner (both of us have our own plasma screens side-by-side on the wall). So, when the cut scenes came—big, big mess of sound and motion, 2 different screens broadcasting two different video and audio streams. Ooops. Guess the developers didn’t plan on that happening. So the gibbering backstories were completely lost on us. Oh well.

The artwork is quite nice, the third-person perspective works well, controls are serviceable, the monsters are monstery enough. While playing, there were moments my partner and I had some real, immersive fun. Oh, but it always has to go sour. Why does it always go sour?

Being a drop-in/drop-out game, you can play with any number of real players and AI will control any characters not being played live. In my situation co-oping with one other person, 2 of Echo Squad were controlled by AI—or, better to say, they were “possessed” by an AI program that was driven to kill everyone on screen. Yeah, this has got to be the absolute worse AI on record. Ever. So bad, it ruined the game. You tell the AI where to go and what to do. They refuse. You get pummeled and go down and the AI, while possessing the capability to revive you, will stand within inches and…well, just stand there. (I’m pretty sure I saw one of them snickering at some point). The AI will rush headlong to their own demise, which eventually brings the entire team down. To make matters worse, there is an often-uncompromising checkpoint system. You’re looking at lots of unintentional replays—replays that aren’t any fun (and this included having to sit through unskippable cut scenes repeatedly. Oh, please). Time and again I wished I could just turn the other two demon-AI-controlled characters off altogether (like the option included in the recent “Lost Planet 2”), but no such option exists.

We suffered through about 90 percent of the game (sometimes having some honest fun), only to come up against one of two multi-stage boss battles at the end of Episode 2 that (with the brainless, suicidal, noncompliant, idiotic AI characters) was impossible to complete. We turned the game off in disgust. We just turned it off. I can’t imagine this is the goal any developer wants to obtain.

Then a month went by, and I checked to see if a patch was ever released for the game. There was, and a large one at that. It included skippable cut scenes, improved AI, etc. So, I downloaded and updated just so I could see the end of the story (or at least the end of the these 2 episodes) on my own. The patch made the game finally playable (but only moderately). I also checked on Steam to see if anyone was hosting a session. Nope, not a soul when I checked. So, as it turned out, the entire affair left me (and so many others, considering the reviews and the whopping 44 Metacritic score, yikes) with such a bad taste that the patch was too little too late.

I suppose at some point on Steam, we’ll see The Scourge Project, Episodes 3 & 4 or whatever. But I won’t be bothering with them.  This is an especially weird thing for me to say, because I don’t often say it, but: I suggest you steer clear too.



Breed (PC, 2004, Germany): You Win, I Lose
October 6, 2010, 4:11 am
Filed under: Breed (PC, 2004, Germany)

I really hate to admit it, but this game beat me, rather than me beating it. It’s not the first time I’ve encountered a game that, for a variety of reasons, I just couldn’t entirely finish. Sometimes it’s because I simply don’t have the chops–blame it on the deteriorating eye-hand coordination of a dude in his mid-40s. But sometimes, it’s the game’s fault, period. Sometimes the game is so broken or confusing or imbalanced that finishing it is a near-impossibility (for me—that’s not to say that others aren’t able to finish it, but due to what I consider game design flaws, I was not capable of it). And considering the massive pile of crap I’ve managed to slog through (and enjoying every minute of it, mind you), a game REALLY has to be broken for me to uninstall it not having gotten to the end. “Breed” is bestowed with that rare honor. I came damn close—but two chapters from the end, I had to bail. Oh, well.

Breed’s history is just as rocky as my “interrupted encounter” with it. The game was Germany’s Halo-Killer, plain and simple. (EDIT: As noted in the comment by Spo below, Brat was actually a UK developer, not a German developer. The game was ultimately put on shelves by the German publisher CDV, but was completed by a team of Brits. [I’m using the term “completed” very loosely.] So perhaps it is safer to say that Breed was Europe’s Halo-Killer? Thanks Spo.) Brat’s plan was to release the PC-only title quickly to cash in on the Halo frenzy of the time. If they timed it just right, they’d have geeky consumers snapping up an obviously Halo-inspired title for PC, while the rest of the chumps could only play the actual Halo on their crappy Xboxs. More of the same is good, right?

Good plan, but they hadn’t learned the lesson we have all since acknowledged. Bill Gates owns you (and he can see into the future, actually). By the time Brat and publisher CDV got around to placing the (ahem) “game” on store shelves, Microsoft had ported “Halo” to the PC almost a year prior. Ah, the best laid plans…

Well, it wouldn’t have worked anyway, mostly because the game, as it was shipped, was apparently a massive wreck. It’s sort of a tiny bit of internet lore at this point in time, but the game, new on the shelf, was so buggy most people could not play it at all. After reports of game crashes in the hundreds, nay thousands, started to appear, Brat (the developer) said CDV had released an early, buggy, incorrect copy of the game. Publisher CDV said that they released what they were given by Brat—an incomplete product. Everybody called their lawyers, I would imagine. In the end, no one took responsibility, and this left loads of gamers with the same extremely bad taste in their mouth (and lots of expletives on various forums). A whole year later, some extra coders were brought in to “finish” the game, and it was released again, mostly in Europe (known as the “Xplosiv” edition). Xplosiv, indeed. Ouch.

I was completely unaware of this ancient history. So, years later (and possessing technology far outweighing the game’s recommended system requirements), I bought an original crud copy for a few pennies on Amazon. And, indeed, it would not run. It would not recognize the CD in the machine; then once I managed to overcome that problem, an “invalid CD key” message floated persistently on screen and locked me out of the game, something to do with the copy protection scheme not behaving properly. Sheesh. I hunted around for update patches, applied one, and still no go.

Like many folks (when they bought the game brand new in 2004), the only way I could manage to play the it was due to the efficiency and inventiveness of the internet gaming nerds themselves. I downloaded an “illegal” no-CD-crack (that allows you to play the game even if you never bought the CD and downloaded the game illegally). This “crack” bypassed the problem (even though I did have the CD), and voila! “Breed” came alive on my monitor. (Well, such as it is—in fact, even after overcoming this issue, when I failed a mission and had to restart a chapter more than three times, the game would invariably crash to desktop. Sigh. So I had to do the unthinkable and download all the gamesaves for each chapter, simply so I had access to the entire game—and, yes, I had to use them when a few of the single-player chapters went so haywire that I could not finish them.) Playing on a machine that is 6 years newer than the game itself and outpaces the recommended specs four-fold, you wouldn’t think I’d have all this trouble—but no planet-moving CPU can outrun poor programming.

So, was it worth all the trouble? It’s a tough question, but if you were to ask the extremely hardcore 20 or so online players who call themselves “the last of the breed” (look them up on Yahoo groups) and still host matches from time to time in the year 2010, “Breed” is first-class, old school gaming all the way. I can hear the drunken cries now: “They just don’t make them like this anymore!” Not being an online player myself, my take on the game is slightly different. But before that, story first.

And yes, there is an actual backstory. Like many of these epic European sci-fi shooters, there’s a bulky booklet accompanying the game that discusses—in detail—the backstory. It is also a given that this backstory rarely, if ever, actually materializes in the game itself. It’s like the 2 things—the printed story in the booklet and the videogame appearing on screen—are two separate entities connected only tangentially. Even worse, the story is not all that compelling: In the year 2600, we’ve colonized lots of planets; eventually we come into contact with a hostile race we call “The Breed”

(ohhhh—never saw it coming). We take a year to build and send two massive ships full of supplies and grunts to defend the outer colonies. We reach the area, have a big fight lasting years, and sorta win. Only one of our massive ships, the Darwin, survives to make the trip back home though. But OH NO! When we return to Earth-proper in the year 2625, we find that the battle was merely a diversion and that The Breed circumvented us and have taken over Earth, enslaving mankind. Boo! (But you know what’s really funny? At this point in time, again 2010, I’m playing another little-known game on the side called “Halo: Reach,” and the story [while perhaps more detailed] frankly isn’t all that different.) So, from there in the Darwin, which orbits Earth but is shielded from The Breed’s scanners, you and your pal grunts (genetically whipped up aboard the Darwin whenever needed, none of which are named, including your faceless self) embark on 18 distinct missions to try and take down the invaders.

In the hierarchy of clichéd narratives, this one is WAY down there—even I, a complete sci-fi sap, have difficulty getting stoked about this setup. But there you have it.

Graphics running on the Mercury Engine (apparently developed by Brat Designs specifically for the game about 3 years before the game was “finished” [I’m being facetious]), the maps are massively massive, and most of the game takes place outdoors. (The developers, at some point when hopes were still running high, planned on releasing modding tools, but it is hard to really know whether or not this came about in any official way; some modders wrote scripts to change aspects of the game, but these are not entirely user-friendly for the non-technical game-lovers among us.) Nevertheless, the draw distance of the Mercury Engine stretches for miles, easily outdistancing the original Halo, and perhaps even Far Cry; it feels like you can see into infinity. You can climb mile-high structures and look far below at ant-sized opponents. You can scan far into the horizon where flying warships float in the sky and disappear into the distance. The only problem is that this gigantic universe of space is pretty much empty; par for the course and for the time, the maps lack a decent amount of detail, and repeated patterns can often be seen in flat surfaces at a distance. What you get here are huge spaces, yeah, but they’re generally devoid of…anything. A few trees, a few hills, a few structures, and a massive empty blob of repeating blue lines indicating an ocean, or a gigantic empty square of brown indicating land. It’s basic. So sightseeing is not really on the agenda, generally speaking, but no one can complain of the game feeling claustrophobic (after all, there are plenty of other issues to complain about).

So, let’s complain a bit: Some of the missions are timed, which seems ludicrous. The developers provide a massive world to explore, but then take away the exploration possibilities by timing the missions. Wow, was this ever frustrating to me—a natural sightseer in games. This is purely nonsensical.  Don’t meet your objective in 5 minutes? Game over. Yes, a timer achieves the goal of adding tension to the gameplay, but to me the cost—becoming less immersed in the playspace by refusing players the opportunity for lone exploration of this giant world–is too great. Bad move, Brat Designs. Ugh.

In some ways, it seems the game attempted to accomplish too much. What I mean is this: Sections of the game where you are walking with your squad across the massive terrain, taking out enemies, sniping alien encampments at a distance—those segments (while not necessarily inspired) worked fairly well in Halo-style, and there was some good gaming to be had in small doses. There were “on-foot” moments where I was completely enamored with the game—fun stuff. But this game had bigger notions than immersive on-foot missions. So, we move onto the flying sequences–which were some of the most broken gaming moments I’ve had the misfortune to encounter. The various ships are difficult to fly and seem to inexplicably stall (inevitably leading to a crash), and aiming at opponents in a dogfight is next to impossible, even with guided missiles. I’m no regular flight sim kinda guy, but I don’t think this is how any flying vehicle—simulated or not—is supposed to handle. To make things worse, a serious design flaw can completely hinder any possibility of finishing a mission without a serious restart: Namely, these flying doohickeys have limited ammo. Don’t meet your objectives within the allotted ammo? You are out of luck and back at the beginning of the mission, grumbling loudly. Now, maybe I’m a wuss, and maybe I’m spoiled, but piling limited ammo on top of a handicapped flying vehicle that behaves inexplicably a times? Insult added to injury. (These flying sequences were actually why I couldn’t finish the last 2 chapters—when seeing that each of them began with flying, and after dozens of earnest deaths later attempting them, the game went bye-bye off my hard drive. Instead, I watched the actual [lame cliffhanger] ending of the game on some dude’s YouTube channel who, apparently, is a much more patient and persistent gamer than I.)

But flying wasn’t the only big problem here. Let’s not forget the driving sequences—equally awful and irritating—slow tanks that refuse to steer (which, by the way, you are allowed to exit for about 15 seconds, but if you don’t climb aboard immediately, a nonsensical “mission failure” will appear). Not done yet: Then there’s the on-rail shooting sequences which are mind numbingly irritating as well—watching helplessly as enemies (who you cannot target due to the limited range of a turret gun) pound you into the ground—oh, and the turret guns run out of ammo too (mission start, here we come again). Ugh.

All of this comes down to a simple case of reaching too far. Seriously, for me anyway, if the devs had left it simple (a variety of on-foot missions in various locales with varying objectives, and a few other types of sequences sparsely thrown in here and there), we would at least have had a playable game—middling, but playable. But any immersive fun offered by the on-foot missions (and, trust me, there’s a lot of good stuff here) quickly dissipates when a cut scene takes you back into the cockpit or a ground vehicle for some repeated crashing and dying. Groan.

I really wanted to like this game, and I had a brief love affair with it…but ultimately, it’s an ornery, broken game that beat me into the ground. The cliffhanger ending suggests, with no hesitation whatsoever, that there WILL be a “Breed 2” and that you WILL, indeed, play it. Time (and sales figures, no doubt) had completely different plans on that front. In other words: Not gonna happen.