Monday, March 21, 2011

Destroy All Humans:Path of the Furon PS3 review

Another game going cheap. I've played the first two on the PS2 and was curious as to how they'd finish it off for the PS3. The basic premise is that you play an alien; your population is depleting due to errors in your genetic code introduced by widespread cloning. However millennia ago your ancestors tampered with human DNA and that now contains information that could be used to reset your species - go collect it.

The series can be summed up in three words - dumb, but fun. Sadly it seems the ball has been dropped for this version.

I'll start with what works - the script is as amusing (or not) as it was; the weapons are as fun to use and basic movement, shooting and aiming is fine, though not outstanding. Everything else comes with a big FAIL stamp.

At times it seems they got halfway and then stopped. The model for your character (Crypto) is fine as well as your 'mentor' the holographic Pox; everyone else are angular polygons with only about 6 models per episode to act as civilians and a few to act as the police/SWAT/soldiers. Model textures are un-uniform; from a distance everything looks fine but when the game using in-game cutscenes the fuzziness becomes all too apparent. This choppy level of detail carries through to the game; in some cases as you approach an object a higher resolution texture is dropped in (quite noticeably) for others it remains a fuzzy mess with little rhyme or reason as to what gets swapped and what doesn't.

Worse yet is the pop-in. Oddly this doesn't seem connected to the draw distance. At one point I was standing at the end of a pier looking across a harbour at all the buildings and watching the boats sail past at quite some distance. Floating in the middle of this was a collectable item. Flying over it in my saucer a navigation buoy drew itself into existence. Again what does and does not get drawn is a mixed bag, but it makes navigation via saucer quite jarring as buildings suddenly appear on flat ground or you're looking for humans to abduct and watch them drawn into existence as you fly towards them.

But graphics don't make a game; gameplay does. Shame that's bad too. Objectives are marked on the main map accessible via the select button; the mini-map shows the buildings, North, and an arrow pointing to your next Story Objective or objective within a mission. The main map displays the entire area; you can zoom in one level to your current location, but can't scroll. You can't set a waypoint so if you're trying to find a side-mission or a particular landing zone you have to keep stopping to orientate yourself using the main map. The mini-map is an obvious placeholder - it's the main map blown up in all it's fuzzy glory. As a result basic navigation is stop-start affair.

Next up is the structure. In the previous games you headed to a mission giver and did the mission. If you didn't visit one of them you could just roam around and find collectables. The same structure technically applies here, but you always seem to start an episode in a mission. Start roaming and Pox will keep nagging you. Finish a mission and you'll often be dumped to your starting point so there's a major sense of disconnect.

Playing through an episode I simply didn't seem to get around to finding the collectables, finishing one I was surprised to learn I'd missed out on three challenges. I consoled myself with the thought that they may be something that only unlock later once you've upgraded or acquired various items. Imagine my surprise when I happened to bump into one. They exist all the time - but they're not marked on the map. So part of the challenge of the challenge is finding them in the first place.

Interruptions also break the flow of the game - blank load screens between missions, between cutscenes, as you enter or leave your saucer. They're not long just a few seconds, but in some cases I have to wonder why they're there at all. It's not just loading screens conversations will also get interrupted. You can be holding a long-distance conversation with Pox when it will be abruptly curtailed by someone important nearby saying something. In a similar fashion conversations can start near the end of missions just as the load screen appears or when you've already hit the button to enter/exit your saucer.

An example of all these flaws can be found in one mission -Defend the monastery. You start in your saucer hovering over said monastery with attack helicopters moving in to fire missiles at it. Top right you get a gauge showing the status of the building.

To start with you're told to take out the helicopters. Except there are none, but there are missiles. Yep the helicopters are currently outside the draw distance so you need to move closer to them. Next joy - they don't show up on your mini-map radar; oh wait some do, some don't. Take some out and more arrive; although as you can understand you don't know where they are.

Next joy - I was locking some missiles on two helicopters when the monastery dropped 'health' by 25%. My viewpoint was whisked away to look at the building from ground level while Pox told me my task was to protect the monastery. Returning to my original point I find my target lock and opponents vanished, at each 25% increment this happened again and at times also moved my saucer to a different location.

As an  aside this provided the most pertinent dialogue I've ever seen in any game. Pox tells me to defend the monastery I say 'what the hell do you think I'm trying to do' and Crypto in game says 'what the hell do you think I'm trying to do'. The second time I shout 'Well stop interrupting me' and Crypto comes out with "Little busy".

The final crowning touch is when (not if) you fail to save the monastery; you get to start the mission all over again from the same starting point. If you've failed because your weaponry needs upgrading - tough; you need to land, upgrade and then start from the disadvantage that gives the enemy. Also just for good measure when you do restart there's a delay in the game removing the last enemy swarm; so instead of two helicopters you may have eight on the screen who might get a shot off before they're wiped.

One final point is the sound levels. I started the game; I got deafened on the opening blah. First things first; I opened up the options on the main menu and turned down the various sound levels. I started a new game and got deafened; I turned down the sound on the television; got control of Crypto for the first time and couldn't hear anything because I'd turned the sound down. Yep the pre-rendered movie sound is unconnected to the sound controls; as the game happily jumps between the pre-rendered and in-game movies this is one of the few games I have to remember to halve my television volume before I play it.

It's a shame really; the concepts from the first two games shine through the murk and still raise to the level of fun. It's simply the degree of problems that mar it. Accept the flaws and it's not bad; it's just really difficult to reach that level of acceptance. It's also pre-trophy and there's been no updates as such if you've not played the first two there's no reason at all to play this.