Keith's Crappy Videogame Blog

Scorpion: Disfigured (PC, 2009, Russia): Only Underdog Gamers Need Apply
August 5, 2010, 3:50 pm
Filed under: Scorpion: Disfigured (PC, 2009, Russia)

I obtained “Scorpion: Disfigured” (German-developed and Russian-released in 2009?) from a UK eBay seller for about $14. I seriously doubt the game will ever be released domestically, considering its technical limitations and flaws. If you are one of those people (like me) who enjoys AAA titles most of the time, but also feels compelled to play these little known, often underdeveloped, derivative, non-mainstream titles too (You Are Empty, Twin Sector, Kreed, Exodus from the Earth) then you should find this…adequate at best.

Here’s the pedigree: Its got slightly updated Doom III visuals (yes, it’s a 2009 game, I know); its got attempts at F.E.A.R.’s atmosphere and bullet-time; its got an attempt at Crysis’ power suit of armor (with shield mode, rage mode, shockwave mode, etc.); its got a pinch of Wolfenstein; a pinch of RE’s virus-made zombies; it desperately wants to be HL2. It’s a sci-fi / horror / modern shooter fps. Only, of course, it is NONE of these games…not even close. We are talking several rungs down the ladder. But if you, like me, are a fool for any fps with a sci-fi / horror angle, with a (tiny) bit of blood / (tiny) explosions / dark corridors in an apparently abandoned medical complex trying to locate a virus sample that turns humans into monsters…then please, have fun (it may be possible). If you like B-movies and have a patience of steel, go ahead and sign up.

The story, as vague as it is, tries hard. It’s 2048 and you enter a medical-industrial complex in a civil war-torn Sarajevo (you never see the night sky during the outside sequences–the sky is always tinged a nuclear pea-soup green blocking out any kind of draw distance) where human experiments are taking place. You have your Crysis-suit with special abilities (using the term loosely), and you get updates from your back-at-the-office mate Judith, whose voice is annoying. The game lasted a while I have to say (maybe 10 hours or so), which could be considered a good or bad thing, I guess. You run down cramped hallways or through big labs, you gun, you grab ammo, throw a grenade, you get attacked by zombies of 3 or 4 varieties and by special forces soldiers employed by the terrorist thug (called The Pharoah) who runs the place.

The list of positives are small: The game has a decent length (feels like a full-fledged game, unlike some 4-hour-long, corporate-developed “blockbusters” that have been released lately). The camera movement is fine. Grenade throwing works fairly well, though the grenades seem weak (like all weapons, see below). The game runs like a champ on my machine, which is not an earth-mover by any means; no freezing or stuttering. The game manages to create a wee bit of tension from time to time (dark, claustrophobic hallways and zombies with flamethrowers shambling about), but I’m prone to allowing myself to get creeped out by games for the sheer fun of it. Some of the environments are suitably futuristic with glowing tubular hallways that revolve around you and etc. Generally, the environmental graphics are serviceable (it is 2009 after all…) with nothing too terrible, but nothing outstanding either. The suit abilities seem OK and are varied, except I’ve not used them much, as the game doesn’t seem to require it to succeed. Nothing in the gameplay is overtly broken I guess. The AI is serviceable–no one really standing around waiting to be shot for the most part. Ragdoll effects are in order. If you get too close, some AI will do a roundhouse kick (or gun-butt) that will zap your health pretty good. Geez…is that it?

The list of negatives are lengthy: Music is bad, some of the sounds (like reloding a gun) are overmodulated (this game has taught me exactly how poor sound design can absolutely ruin a game). Your suit talks to you in the form of a female voice telling you that “You Cannot Use This Item!” or that “You Do Not Have a Gun That Uses This Ammunition!” or “Your Health Is Dangerously Low!” or that “Your Power is Dangerously Low!” AND MY GOD IS IT EVER ANNOYING! OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER EVERYTIME YOU WALK OVER AN ITEM OR GET SHOT! Yes, in the menu, you can turn this “dialogue” sound down, but doing so also cuts out any other dialogue you might need to hear from other characters calling in to contact you and provide direction. Yup. The suit-voice REPEATEDLY blaring at you absolutely KILLS any tension or atmosphere the game tries to develop: Imagine quietly creeping down a dark corridor listening for footsteps and waiting to be attacked by a zombie (allowing yourself to get scared on purpose)…and all the sudden your suit SCREAMS AT YOU when you walk over an item you cannot use. Unbelievably bad design choice. (I even unpacked and opened the soundfiles to change them, but after doing so I could not successfully repack the files to make the game run–so I was stuck with the suit-voice screaming at me). Its crazy to say, but this fact alone almost ruins the game, and of course the voice is completely unnecessary considering the always-on-screen HUD (that is also overproduced, too messy, and complicated) that tells you everything you need to know. Completely mind-boggling. All the voice acting–including your character–is atrocious. But you expect that from these games. The bad voice-acting and translation always shines through.

Also worth mentioning: The game lacks a damage-direction-indicator (a la the red circle in Gears of War, or just about any other game these days), so while you are being hit and blood is splashing on screen, you have no idea what direction enemy fire is coming from. Errrr.

Next, ALL of the guns feel like pea-shooters, no power at all. Bullets hitting surfaces sound like someone tapping on a tin can with a stick, no exaggeration. Several of the machine guns have so much kickback that shooting straight is impossible; one of the machine guns always pulls upward quickly and completely to the ceiling everytime you touch the trigger–impossible to use the gun at all. Another bizarre design choice. Next, there is a lot of visual occulation–more simply, the draw distance is seriously lacking; the devs seem to employ a blurring effect only a few dozen feet in front of you–regardless of how well lit or how large the area is (probably an effect of a limited graphics engine?). You feel like you have cataracts or something–it does take some getting used to, but you do get used to it eventually. Next, everything looks tiny, like a dollhouse. I can’t explain it exactly; I’m not saying everything is claustrophobic (some of the areas are actually quite expansive); I’m not saying that your character is out of proportion with the surroundings–everything seems to be in proper relative size. But everything looks tiny–like dollhouse furniture, dollhouse metal barrels and cars, dollhouse rooms. I don’t know exactly WHAT contributes to this strange effect or what the reason for it is, but the feeling is inescapable. Nothing has weight or heft. It may be because there is a certain lack of detail on textures or items, but…whatever. Maybe someone else can explain it. But I forgot about it pretty quickly as I played.

I could go on, but I won’t. Bottom line: You like sci-fi / horror FPS, you have low standards, you get a thrill thinking you are playing a game that about 25 other people in this country have heard of, you are willing to put up with some atrociously bad design decisions? Go for it. The vague story is serviceable–on the balance of time, I was more often irritated than enjoying myself, but there were a few hours here and there where I finally “jibed” with the pace and feel of the game to forget its faults and have fun. (A few nights ago after finishing a 2-hour session running around some monster-filled labs and sewers, I turned the game off and surprisingly said to myself: ‘Oh, I actually enjoyed that.’) If you have even bothered digging around to find out info on this unknown game, and if you are even reading this review, I assume you probably fit the profile. But get it cheap.