Sunday, July 20, 2008

Boiling Point

Just got and played a little Boiling Point, since someone on the SA Forums recommended it as in some ways similar to Deus Ex. I'm not sure how true that comparison was. It's much more freeform, since you can jump in and do whatever you want, even ignore the main mission. The voice acting is just as terrible, if not worse, and the graphics are barely better. The environments seem awfully sterile - there's really no little details to make it seem like a real world - no clutter, no one doing anything more than walking around or fighting. That and all of the NPC respawn in the exact same place, no matter how many times you kill them. They could have mixed it up a little, have them randomly spawn, give them "jobs", that sort of thing. They tried, some of the details are compelling - the villager walking from town to town that you can give a ride, for example. But, you always see the same guy a mile down the road, carrying the exact same sack. It needs some more variety. Since they've added more depth to the game, more actions you can perform, the game can't get away with the cardboard characters in other sandbox games. Hell, San Andreas did a better job of giving the characters depth. Pedestrians in SA would look at store fronts, carry on conversations with other people, and could jump out of the way if you tried to run them down. The same can't be said here. They did a good job of giving the player more options on how they want to play, and more depth to his actions, but lended little of this depth to the NPCs. Some of it might be the translation, but the conversations are tedious. The conversations take too long to get anywhere, and don't really tell a whole lot about the world. I've been playing for a few game days, and I'm not sure I even know what city I'm in. Apparently there's something going on with drugs.

Then, after all that, there's absolutely no polish to the game. I was just given a mission by a man outside the bar, so I drive out, and I find out it's for the bandit factions, which hates my guts. So I fight my way in, hoping to meet my contact, and I end up following the mission marker to a corpse. Great. So I try and drive off, and I get shot through the windshield and die. Alright, all good. I then proceed to respawn in the middle of the bay, just above my car. I can see my arm resting on the door - apparently I'm having an out of body experience as well. I'm also trapped in the roof of the car, so I can do nothing except wait for the player to drown. Hmm. Another little deal is that children can't be killed, or even knocked down. That's fine, I don't need to kill them - but they have a tendency to stand in the middle of the road, and hitting them with your car is like slamming into a brick wall. Just the little things.

Some other details - the weapon wear system is terrible. The percentage of wear determines the percentage of shots that misfire. So if you pick up a fully automatic rifle that a bandit was just hosing you down with non-stop, it's usually about 50% worn. That seems to mean that every other shot jams the weapon, and I'm forced to click again to clear it. This might be alright if the AI also had to deal with this, or if it didn't waste all of my ammo, but it does. I'm the only one with a crippled weapon. I'm alright with the jamming or misfires, but no weapon would jam like that, in bad condition or otherwise.

There are also little details they could have added. Stuff like changing where you respawn or are healed depending on your faction standing - say you're on good terms with the army and poor ones with the civilians, you wake up in an army hospital and get to keep your weapons. I say this because I must have executed the doctor six times, and he still brought me back every time. I mean, there are limits to the Hippocratic Oath...

Besides all that, it's still sort of fun. Driving up on rebels fighting it out with army soldiers is pretty sweet - at least, until the soldiers are ran down by passing civilian cars that don't bother to stop, and that the AI refuses to avoid. Pretty broken. If they'd spend some more time on polish, it could have been really great. Hell, it probably could have been patched better and fixed most of it, outside the uncompelling dialogue. Make the AI seem a little brighter, make the inventory system more intuitive , and do some serious bug hunting and optimization, and this could be a really fun game.
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