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SummaryA decent shooter with some nice touches, in the Serious Sam mould.
The GoodWith Russian developer Saber Interactive second FPS Outing, Time Shift, just around the corner, I thought I would throw in my two cents about their first baby, Will Rock.
As a game in the vein of Serious Sam, Rock sails a bit close to the wind in terms of “inspired game-play,” as this has just a few too many strong similarities to the aforementioned game. But we’ll give Saber a fair trial here however, cause’ after the dust has settled, I found it to be a good time killer with some welcome frills.
In terms of game-play, Rock moved well enough, and rarely had a dull moment. The action is fast and frenetic, where here sensibility takes a back seat to controlled bursts of insanity, where big guns shooting even bigger nasties are the upmost order of the day.
Often the flow of action is erratically disjointed, where you bounce around kinetically on trampoline things, get flung great distances on catapults, and concurrently battling with a cavalcade of nasties all at once, making for some genuinely hectic fun.
As in all Russian shooters, puzzle elements have been dispersed throughout, counterbalancing the more action laden moments. This facet of the game mainly constitutes much toggling of switches to bring about some kind of reaction, such as drawing a bridge, or summoning an elevator etc. Though, some more observational style head scratchers have been thrown in the mix, for example in one instance, you must somehow employ a giant Trojan horse, in order to . . . yep, you guessed it, gain entry into a fortified castle.
One of the things that grabbed me with this title was the ‘Titan’ power-up system, with such abilities as temporary invulnerability to enemy attacks, a damage multiplier for your weapons, and a slow-mo ability (read: bullet-time), OK, so the last one is really cliche’ now, but is still cool.
What’s interesting however, is here you have to find secret gold hidden around in the various nooks and crannies around the level structures, in order to buy the power-ups from special stations you find at predefined points during the course of the game.
Three keys are assigned to the keyboard for each special power, and any or all can be activated at will, and each lasts for a limited time, and is helpful during those heated firefights when you need that extra edge.
All of this stuff has been greatly expanded on in recent times, with the likes of the classic Polish shooter ‘Pain Killer’, but it was interesting to see where the concepts originated.
Your arsenal here is one of the games’ strong suits, with some suitably outlandish weapons. Of which incidentally, are smartly weighed out slowly during the course of the game. So there is an extra incentive to stay with this, as things get more fun in the latter stages.
One of my favourites had to be the Acid-Gun, which works as a burst of spray rather than a projectile, and makes’ enemies expand in a balloon like fashion, and ultimately explode into a green splat, which makes for a rather amusing effect, and proved to be a particularly satisfying way of doing away with enemies. Another neat inclusion is the Medusa-Gun, which, well, you probably have already figured it out. All the more traditional weapons are of course included, like a handgun, shotgun, machine gun, heavy machine-gun, grenades, rocket launcher, and so on.
Perhaps the games’ biggest asset is the very slick proprietary ‘Saber 3D’ engine. The visuals here are very crisp, colourful and pleasing on the eye. The overall styles of the proceedings have a kind of subtle cartoon flavour which contributes to an aesthetically pleasing feel.
The animation of the various enemy models is suitably well realised in this outing. A particular standout is the enormous Roman statues which suddenly come to life with gusto, prying themselves from the shackles of their stone slabs, and proceeding to bound about the level scapes, and in turn crumble into dusty heaps when you destroy them. The articulation of the movements in action simply looks astounding, as such really draws you into the action. There is a good mix of enemies from incessantly chattering skeletons, axe wielding Minotaur beasts (that subsequently split into two independent nasties when you shoot them), through to giant cyclops creatures, which often liberally fill the busy screens of gleeful mayhem.
As this title is a few years old now, so if you have even a half decent rig, you can go right ahead and crank up all of the advanced graphics options, such as full scene anti-aliasing, sky blooms, shade effects et all, for optimal effect.
No slouch in the audio department either, this one has a good array of meaty effects to compliment the action, especially the gun fire and explosions. The shotgun in particular has suitably crunchy accompanying sounds that are well satisfying.
There are some speech samples included in the form of hilariously bad quips and wisecracks from the protagonist, for example when you first encounter a skeleton warrior, Rock says “Is that you Grampa?” and in another instance which involves tigers, he exclaims “Here Kitty, kitty”, among other similarly silly things. Concerning the music, of note is mainly the good licensing of the ‘Twisted Sister’ song “I wanna’ Rock” that cheerfully plays at the title menu screen.
The BadYour progression is very controlled in most instances, e.g. only one route is usually available in order to progress, and as you go on, the new areas are opened up one at a time in a linear fashion. Being granted a choice of direction is rare, so moreover play can feel a bit one-dimensional in this respect.
A minor gripe is that some levels have occasional lulls due to design which includes a bit much backtracking. Given the environments are often quite large, makes for some tedium.