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SummaryEasy and smooth gameplay, a game that really feels epic
The GoodThe story of Advent Rising is rather sad. Sent to the game's hell by the critics, what was supposed to be a successful franchise, as it is the first of a trilogy, ended up being an underrated game that little people knows. It's sad because there are some things that make the game a worthy one. All its achievements can be summarize in the statement that this is an epic game that really feels epic. I'll explain myself. Both story and gameplay make this game remarkable, and both make the game epic and very spectacular. I'll star with the story.
We are before another revision of the recently hyped human race vs. alien race topic. This time, rather than the usual marine-fights-bad-aliens, we have a different story, closer to the Titan A.E. movie, as a lonely guy has the key to the destiny of the human race, and he must fight only one concrete alien race, while other races feel indifferent or helpful to him. You are this guy and through different levels of non-stop action and with the help of a friendly alien race, you will learn which the real power of the humans is. There are coop fighting, levels with vehicles and spaceships (a couple), a level about escaping out of a falling spaceship, fights in low gravity, vast scenarios, combats with more than 10 enemies at the same time, against giants too, and a lot of cool stuff that make not only the game to really feel epic, but also non-repetitive.
As for the gameplay, I really love it when you find a fast-paced game where you can control every aspect of your character in a very dynamic way. In Advent Rising, you barely control your character for something out of fighting, but far from being something negative, it really makes the game fluid and enjoyable. With time you will gain experience in three kind of combat disciplines: human weapons, alien weapons and human inner powers (don't remember the exact name, it's something like the force in "Star Wars"). With the mouse you control your right and left arms, you can have one and only one weapon/power in each arm at each time, and cycle between them while game slows down to make the change of weapon/power easier (notice that you can't do this just by mouse wheel, neither by number keys, as they are too much weapon/powers). The more you use some power or weapon, the more experience you gain with it and you gain new possibilities (like faster reload or alt-fire) with every one of the 5 levels every weapon or power has. The guy also jumps, dodges and fights with bare hands and gain experience in these abilities. This all help making every combat a different one, as you can combine different weapons and powers according to the situation; it's specially remarkable how well the powers fit in the game, with defensive and offensive powers, some of them really effective for mass-killing.
There are another aspects of the game that help it being a great one. Voice acting is good (nothing remarkable, but good), and the development of the characters is also well done. Even if you wont really care too much about them, you wont be willing them to die as in many action games or movies; and the hero tries hard to be a charismatic one. In addition, the graphic design is very well done. Some people say that they are to low quality, but I only know that it went superb in my Mobile Radeon 9700 Pro, and they don't look ugly at all. The textures are simple (one polygon, one color philosophy), but it gives a cartoonish look that works very good, and, as I said, it make the game run very smooth, even with very well used DirectX 9 effects. And just look at those scenarios, they are huge!
To finish I should talk about the sound. Like always I have forget how the game sounds, :) I have read a bit and they ("they" means a guy in imdb.com) say that the soundtrack is comparable to the one of Halo. As I have said, the feeling of the game is very epic, so I suppose that the soundtrack should really be something like Halo. As for the sounds, watching a trailer, I remember that they were a bit average, but in the context of epic battles (that is, a lot of sounds at the same time) they sound good. Maybe they have also choose average sound, so the superposition of a lot of them don't push the sound hardware to the limit, in analogy with what happens to the graphics.
The BadWhat happens to the game was sad, but the negative reviews have some point.
First of all, if you play it in an Xbox, it seems that you will find a lot of annoying bugs. That was probably the first reason for the infamousness of the game, and even if in the PC version most of the bug where solved (but not all of them), the company didn't seem to be like wasting more money on marketing at the time. For example, this is one of those games that fails to synchronize the audio in the intros. I usually think that videogames hate my laptop, and probably it happens only to me, but it happens. In any case, in the PC version the bug level is very low.
Another of the great battle horse of the critics against this game seems to be its similarities to Halo. It is not similar to Halo, but, as Halo is the king of epic anti-alien action games, the little resemblance to this game transform Advent Rising into something sacrilege. Advent Rising is not specially original, the powers look like jedi powers, some combats do make you remember Halo, and the graphics too have a lot details in common, and some parts of the story are very similar to Titan A.E.. You may think that this game is completely unoriginal, but just think how unoriginal the most of the games are. Advent Rising is actually more original than the average and I wouldn't point its originality as a flaw of the game.
Apart from that all, there is little flaws in this game. Maybe the usual linearity and usual combat-based nature of the game can be consider defects of the game, but those are so usual that people already think that videogames are just interactive action films. Even if you are fed up with action games, this is one of the best in the field of 3rd person shooters and that is a big merit.
Maybe there is some big defect in this game, and it's its marketing. As I mention at the beginning, this game is supposed to be the first of a successful trilogy, with novelization, some comics, some unnecessary merchandising stuff and so on. If we (the consumers, the gamers) have some luck, all the problems of the franchise will lead the company to only develop the three games and little more, and the game wont be as hyped as the publisher wanted. In the worst of the cases, the franchise will just die of lack of ultra-rentability (this well know paradox of the entertainment/culture industry), that is too bad.
The Bottom LineWhen any entertainment industry collapses, (as there are to much products to sell), the usual tendency is to develop the products as little doses of big emotions that will create some (cultural) addiction in the consumers, as there is nothing in real life that produces faster or/and bigger primary sensations. Those doses will be consume as fast as possible (How much time do you need to finish any PoP?) so the consumers need to buy another one soon (if you don't understand me, think why there is so many porn in internet). In videogames, this traduces to a big amount of products based in combat, with guns or blades/blunt weapons and explosives or cool offensive magics; and a successful horror genre. Most of the time, storytelling is a privilege for the gamer, and intellectual effort is just anecdotal.
You may think that this paragraph is unnecessary, but it really helps me stating what the place of this game is. This game is a big success in the philosophy of the big emotion, and it has an enough good story not to have that usual sensation that the developers think you are stupid. As this is not very usual, it makes me really appreciate this game. As for the game itself, the easiest way to describe it is through Halo (OK, there are some similarities with Halo, but it's not such a problem). Both are based on human fighting against aliens in alien scenarios, but AR is better. Apart from the human and alien fire weapons you have 10 special powers that add to the spectacularity and variety of the combats, that are also faster than in Halo. Plus, the main hero is not the topical supersoldier like "Master Chief" (it's a fancy pilot, pilots are better than soldiers, ;)) and the development of characters and story is more serious. Plus, Ati cards are not humiliated in favor to NVidia cards.
If you still don't know what to expect, another good point of AR is that the gameplay trailers are accurate to the game itself. Even if they look as over the top as the trailers use to be, when the game reaches its climax it does look that spectacular.