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Written by  :  Katakis | カタキス (40858)
Written on  :  May 25, 2019
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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Summary

Being lost in town can be dangerous to your health

The Good

Coktel Vision is a French game company that devoted their time making action and adventure games, primarily in their homeland. They were known for their popular Gobliiins series. Once they were done with all three games, they decided having a dig making interactive movies, with their first attempt being Lost in Time, followed by The Last Dynasty.

Their latest offering is Urban Runner, and the last game by Coktel before they got swallowed up by Mindscape. The game centers around Max, an American journalist based in Paris who was supposed to offer incriminating photographs to Tony Marcos, a big-time drug dealer in exchange for information on how he is connected to some influential politician named Paul Lagrange. When he arrives at the meeting point, however, Max finds Marcos dead and he is mistaken for the killer. Max is played by Brendon Massey who also played the detective in Police Quest IV.

The game starts with Max going through a warehouse, escaping from one of the thugs you encounter in the game. Immediately you are introduced to the first in many segments where you have a limited amount of time to move from scene to scene before you are killed. In these early scenes, a cut-out occasionally appears from time to time, letting you see how close the thug is to your present location. After dealing with another group of thugs, you proceed with your investigation while evading the authorities. Soon after, you meet an attractive woman named Adda, Marcos’s former lover. The two of you uncover the conspiracy behind the murders.

Since Urban Runner uses Coktel’s Gob engine, the interface is similar to their previous games. You control the one cursor that can manifest itself into different shapes depending on where you point it at. Point at the doorway and it changes into a green arrow to tell you that Max can walk there. Point it at certain objects in an area, and the cursor changes into a pointing finger to let you know you can interact with it. Right-click anywhere on the screen to quickly access your inventory. Drag the mouse to the top of the screen to access your inventory, control panel, and jokers.

There is actually two features added to the game, and that is the ability to magnify any documents that Max memorized. In certain parts of the game, you hear this “Windows 3.1 error”-like ding telling you that Max has recorded what he just saw, and the control panel will briefly appear and an icon marked “memory”. In this mode, you can view any listed documents to bring a close-up view of it, and you zoom into different parts of the document and even flip them over. There is also the “magnifier” that allows you to view any items you carry in 3-D. To complement the game’s first-person view, you hear Massey’s narration all throughout, just like Harrison Ford in the original theatrical releases of Blade Runner. Every scene in the game was photographed and digitally inserted into the game. I enjoyed watching the camera following Max from scene to scene. You don’t see this often in FMV-based games, and it is much better than what happens in Phantasmagoria 2, where the crew made the main character just teleport to a different area.

In my opinion, Urban Runner is the fourth game to allow you to play more than one character. Throughout most of the game, Max and Adda will stick to the same location, but other times they will split, prompting the game to ask you who you want to play first. It doesn’t matter which order, the game will always follow the same path no matter what, and you play the other character at some point. If you are playing one or the other, you can change characters at any time by clicking on their passport photos.

The game’s soundtrack is nothing short of excellent. I like the piece that plays when a cut-out appears showing a goon making his way toward you, and especially the you win/game over screen. That music has that Vangelis feel to it, and it is accompanied by a beautiful view of the Paris skyline.

The highlight of this game is the chase early on in the game from "Buffalo Bill", who growls like an ogre as he searches the room looking for you. Before the chase is on, you hear Massey taunting him. Instead of some credits at the end of the game, you get a dossier on every character you meet in the game. This is good news for people who couldn’t make sense of what’s going on, myself included. Several photos of characters are spread across the Paris skyline, and clicking on any of them causes one of the narrators to tell you about that characters. Like the rest of the game, it is a voiceover, so don’t expect a text description.

The Bad

Urban Runner is a French game and Sierra translated it into English. The company had to dub over all of it and leave just Massey's voice over to explain things. As a result, it feels so disjointed. There are even times when you see Max and another character have a conversation but the whole thing is muted.

The main action is restricted to a rectangle in the middle of the screen, and the image of the skyline and The Running Man-like figures, on the top and bottom of the screen respectively, take too much room. If the top part is reserved for the control panel, then why couldn’t Coktel have the user click on something to bring it up, and again to close it? And why not make the information that appears in the bottom part smaller?

The Bottom Line

Urban Runner is an okay game, but not the best FMV-based one I have played. It is similar in style to the Gobliiins series, but the graphics consists of a bunch of photographs that were digitally inserted into the game. Big pluses include the ability to play more than one character and the “memory” and “3-D” features. Downsides include the dialogue and the photographs being crammed in a rectangle in the center of the screen. Still, don’t let this stop you from enjoying the game.