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American McGee presents SCRAPLAND (Windows)

76
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100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.1
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Bet (634)
Written on  :  May 03, 2005
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  2.43 Stars2.43 Stars2.43 Stars2.43 Stars2.43 Stars

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Summary

A Grand Theft Auto killer in a large, gorgeous robotic city

The Good

The graphics, the graphics, the graphics. I cannot BEGIN to emphasize how flashy the graphics are. From the heat shimmers on the dozens of differently modeled (and colored) engines, mounted on the multitudes of vastly different-looking ships, that you can build and configure according to your desires, these graphics are eye-popping. The cityscapes are gigantic, and each has its own mood. The Commercial district feels like Casino Night Zone from Sonic the Hedgehog, but done up in 3D DirectX 9 splendor. Even after spending hours flying around that district, there’s always another new detail that will catch your eye after rounding the next corner. All the districts and buildings are like that. Similarly, all of the character models in the game are intricately detailed and animated, and are worth admiring. Of all the things this game does well, graphics are what it does best, and there are absolutely no complaints in this department, only endless praise.

The setting is also outstanding. An all-robot society that dwells in varied environments throughout the city of Chimera, which is situated on an abandoned human planet. As the robot D-Tritus, you’re given missions that fit your bottom-rung status in an all-robot society. Similar to the Grand Theft Auto series, you’re a pawn in the schemes of the bigger players in the game world, and your carry out your errands in a tricked-out ride of your choosing. You can take your time about it for the most part, and complete side missions in between the story missions. This is frequently done by taking on the role of other robots through Great Database terminals that are scattered throughout the indoor environments. This adds a very interesting twist to the game, which is highly reminiscent of the game Messiah, though its execution is about as different as it can be.

The Bad

The biggest part of this game is the combat, and it is not good. It’s pretty, it’s fast, it’s frantic, and it’s terrible. The AI takes on an air of cheating that is almost unbearable. The very second you push an enemy ship past a certain damage point, it instantly beelines to the next health pickup, regardless of where it is, even if it’s completely out of the line of sight, since the AI knows exactly where in space that all pickups are. The first dozen times this happens it’s... interesting, and the next hundred dozen, it’s infuriating. Especially with greatly annoying combat mission directives that are thrown into the mix, presumably to make the combat more interesting. Neither the questionable AI behavior nor the added mission directives add anything positive to the combat. The on-foot combat inside of buildings isn’t all that much better, but at least there are no health pickups for your quarry to dart for the second you take him to 25% health.

With the wide variety of ship chassis’, engines, and configurations of the ship as a whole, it really feels like there are only a few base ship classes, since all ships invariably feel like one another, especially since you’ll end up configuring them basically the same every time you upgrade. And upgrades are not really necessary, besides engines and a few of the earlier weapon upgrades. I usually ended up upgrading only when I wanted a change of pace, and usually just switching engines was enough to satisfy that desire.

The English translation of the game is very poor at times. While I caught the gist of nearly all of the cutscenes and narrations, there were a few late in the game that were completely off the wall due to the words choices. The voice acting suffers greatly because of this poor translation, I’m sorry to say, so the game frequently comes off sounding like a poorly dubbed (and subbed) foreign movie. The story was the one thing that suffered greatest from this, in my opinion. There is a lot of good humor in the game, and I can’t help but wonder if some of the humor that helped the story along in the most necessary of places was lost in the game’s translation. As it stands, many of the cutscenes are just laughably embarrassing to watch, with some of the worst offenders being downright uncomfortable. These are the scenes that I’m sure that some bizarre humor was lost during the translation, especially considering the well-done humor at other times in the game.

Finally, the game is very short. I have conflicted feelings about this, because towards the end of the game I just wanted it to be over. The questionable tactics of the AI, the bizarre story with no help from some of the English translations, and the same basic missions with some new ships, engines, and weapons thrown in; it all ended with a rushed desire to finish the game. In the end I lost sight of the Las Vegas-like vertical cities, and just focused on ending the game. Unfortunately, the end-game is drawn out to the point of absurdity, with one aggravating combat sequence topped by the one that followed it. I was shouting obscenities at the screen during most of those combat sequences, and that’s not playing on the Hard difficulty.

The Bottom Line

I really wanted to like this game, for the most part wasn’t disappointed. Going into this game, the setting and whole idea had me sold well in advance of playing it, and that sell let me float through three quarters of the game, enjoying every minute of it. Graphics, missions, everything; since I’m the kind of guy that actually enjoys a little bit of tedium in missions (as in Grand Theft Auto), the variety of the missions in Scrapland satisfied me, and exceeded my expectations most of the time.

By the end of the game, however, anger had replaced the joy and wonder that had accompanied the first three quarters of the game, since my tolerance level for certain AI difficulties started to get to me. Even with the detailed game world, it starts to feel small after a while, due to the limited number of places you actually interact with in the world. And the flashy ship configuration just ends up being a way to kill time, or mount new engines.