Written by  :  Tom Cross (31)
Written on  :  Mar 01, 2008
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.5 Stars3.5 Stars3.5 Stars3.5 Stars3.5 Stars

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Spot-on Atmosphere, So so Implementation: Great Game!

The Good

This is a surprisingly good game, and I mean very surprising. I expected a cheap knock-off, a badly ported version of the Buffy game that sported a bad Indy stand-in, a worse plot, and platforming gameplay that made the 3rd and 4th Tomb raiders look amazing. Imagine my surprise when I realized that the graphics were fun, the engine worked well, the fighting was fantastic, and the platforming was competent. Plus, Indiana Jones is only kind of bad. To be honest, in less they pulled a From Russia with Love and hired Harrison Ford, there was now way I was going to be that impressed. Onward.

This game is truly epic. You’ll travel from the jungles of Ceylon to old German castles (those wonderful, pesky Nazis are at it again!), Istanbul, China, and ultimately the Underworld. You’ll quickly run into a new character, a Chinese secret agent named Mei Ying. She kicks ass, but my appreciation of her was slightly marred by her stereotypical accent. Honestly, not all people from foreign countries who speak English sound like this. Not even back in the awful, scary, dark ages of the thirties. Still, she provides a good sidekick for Indy, and you really won’t care too much about the details as the story bounces from continent to continent, city to city, and land of the living to the underworld.

Along the way, you’ll use guns, whips, your fists and practically every item you can pick up as weapons. The great fighting mechanics of the Buffy (FULL NAME) game are completely intact here. When Indy head butts a Nazi goon or bashes him in the face with a wooden chair, you feel the impact of every punch. I have never played another game that comes this close to replicating the sudden, violent and forceful encounters portrayed in the Indiana Jones movies. Along those same lines, when Indy takes punches, he staggers, twists and falls. Sure, it isn’t as good as watching Harrison Ford let people beat the shit out of him, but it’s pretty close.

The environments aren’t awfully pretty, but the engine gets the job done, for the most part. Everything looks solid, if not flashy and the animations are all believable, if a bit exaggerated. The platforming and exploration portions of the game are amusing enough, if a bit tricky. Plus, the ability to use that magically lengthening, shortening and tightening whip to swing all over the place is not to be missed.

The Bad

While the game’s engine may provide for amazing fist-fights, it suffers in the platforming and camera-angle department. You’ll curse the camera, and the controls, over and over as you try to line up Indy to leap across a gap or grab onto a handhold. The number of load screens I saw due to missed leaps was horrendous, and remember that there isn’t a save anywhere function in this game, it’s all autosaves and checkpoints. Even worse, the underwater portions of the game are almost impossible to get through. This camera and engine were never designed for swimming.

Likewise, gunplay can be pretty frustrating. Aiming at specific objects is a chore, and the auto-aim function can get you into a lot of trouble focusing on the wrong bad guy (or on nothing at all). Indy himself is not as nimble as you might hope. While he isn’t stuck on a grid like the pre-Crystal Dynamics Lara was, he is tough to control, turn and jump.

Gameplay-wise, there are a few awful design choices. Some enemies have unfair vantage points from which to shoot at you, and you’ll often find yourself dying because you can’t shoot back at them, despite their being in plane sight.

Much worse is the advent of a new enemy, in the later portions of the game. I won’t give anything away, but he is triggered by alarms, is invincible to melee attacks, and takes a hell of a lot of shots to take down. Plus his weapon is almost instantly deadly. Speaking of alarms, the stealth mechanics in this game should have been completely erased from the game. Indy hardly ever sneaks in the movies, and when he does, he gets caught and has to throw a few quick punches. He doesn’t have to fight nigh-invincible enemies, except once or twice a movie. Why should I have to do the same every two or three minutes?

The Bottom Line

Despite its problems, Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb is just what it should be: a rollicking good time, a worthy successor to the films (better than one of the films, to be honest), and a good game in its own right. The combat, setting and gameplay are all classic Indy, and you’ll have a lot of fun on the way to the game’s silly conclusion. In the end, you’ll love this game if you can get past the most dangerous enemy, the camera.