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SummaryJack of all trades, adequate in none
The GoodD-2 is a hybrid game trying to represent at least three genres: survival horror, shooter, and RPG. For good and for bad, it can't be denied that the idea itself is original and the ambition commendable.
Some of the minor gameplay features here are entertaining. In fact, the activity I by far enjoyed most in the game was hunting. Meat acts as a healing item, so you can hunt wild animals with your sniper rifle. Catching an evasive hare off guard and adding it to your menu is perhaps the most fulfilling and exciting gameplay element here. The short snowmobile-driving sequences are also moderately fun. For a while, first-person fighting is satisfying, with the monsters attacking from different sides and leaping straight at your face.
The game's setting is quite remarkable: most survival horror games lead the player into dark, narrow areas, underground, or into deserted mansions: D-2 throws us into Canadian snowy mountains - an absolutely open area. The sheer indifference of nature, the huge, majestic landscapes that make human beings look so little, the cold earth devoid of plants and any other colors but white and grey - all this makes the setting of D-2 an unusual and terrifying place.
D-2 excels on the graphical front. Character graphics here are even better than in Shenmue; wind, snow, fog, sunset, and other weather effects make the environment beautiful and realistic. It is enough to look at those grey trees, deeply sunk in snow, shaking under the wind, to feel the terrible loneliness of the place. And when you also must face monsters while desperately looking up at the pale sky, walking a narrow path between two mountains, the feeling of horror takes over you...
D-2 has a lot of cutscenes, and some of them are very long. Fans of trashy horror movies will be satisfied by gazing at greenish tentacled mutants trying to attack attractive women with suspiciously sexual undertones. It's clear that much of the budget went into directing those cutscenes, and some of them can give you a bit of a genuine scare.
The BadWell, for starters, the story of D-2 is either nonsensical, overbloated in a very Japanese fashion, or both. Some of the situations and much of the writing here would be rejected even by self-respecting B-movie directors. What could have been an interesting horror story turns into a supernatural mess with bad pacing and next to no credibility. The heroine of the game behaves like an idiot most of the time, there is little internal logic in the events, and what you get is basically a string of cheap horror scenes thrown at you time after time.
That alone would have been less than half the trouble: after all, I sat through the ridiculous cutscenes of Metal Gear Solid games simply because they were fun to play. Alas, the same cannot be said about D-2. All of its major gameplay elements are poorly executed and badly tied together. Just like in Koudelka, incessant random battles completely disrupt the otherwise convincing atmosphere, killing all suspense during exploration. Infinite monsters lead to another "great" idea - a gun with infinite ammo. Put two and two together and see how the supposed survival aspect of the gameplay is completely annihilated.
The battles take you to stationary screens where you are forced to shoot monsters without being able to move. I don't know why Japanese designers keep stubbornly rejecting the achievements of Western 3D shooters. The Japanese dominated the 2D shooter scene on their consoles, but the West beat them fair and square in the third dimension. I can't understand how you can enjoy standing in one place and unleashing clip after clip into monsters six years after Doom. The crippling, static combat is married to a simplistic, forgettable RPG-like experience accumulation. There is no other role-playing here, so if you keep dying in battles, just fight the same monster many more times and you'll be fine.
The sad thing is that D-2 doesn't even work as an atmospheric exploration piece. Don't be deceived by the seemingly open landscapes on the screenshots - the actual areas available for gameplay are narrow and straightforward. You'll be running around a lot, but there is very little to find, and all the paths are pre-determined. There is also a whole lot of backtracking in the game, with many of the missions boiling down to going from point A to point B to point C and back. To add insult to injury, there are no dungeon-like areas to explore at all. Once you enter an indoor location you'll have to submit to an inexplicably Myst-like interface, with the navigation confined to "jumping" from screen to screen.