It’s been several years since Nintendo announced their partnership with
N-Space, and the shooter that would be the fruit of that union. Geist
has built up a lot of hype in that time, first because it’s a grisly
FPS that the GameCube desperately needs and secondly because it
promised a unique twist on the genre. Well, it’s finally here and I
have to report that it’s met most expectations. Geist
is certainly a new take on the FPS, and while it has a few shortcomings it’s an experience that no Cube owner should pass up.
The main concept behind Geist
is in its name, the German word for ghost. N-Space took the age old
idea of a phantasm haunting the corridors, put the player in the
perspective of the ghost and set the whole scenario in a gritty sci-fi
setting. Players take on the role of John Raimi, a biologist assigned
to the government infiltration team CR-2. Raimi’s college buddy turned
secret agent Thomas Bryson is undercover at the monolithic Volks
Corporation, a research conglomerate based at an undisclosed location
in Southern France.
CR-2 is sent into the Volks facility to
hook up with Bryson and extract him and the information he’s gathered.
Once Raimi and the team get in, things turn pear shaped and the real
story begins. After being supposedly killed, Raimi’s “soul” is
extracted from his physical body, leaving him a wandering ghoul.
Luckily, a fellow ghost in the image of a little girl comes to guide
The first mission, the infiltration, plays out like a typical shooter.
Shoot at bad guys, press switches, dodge, duck, dip, dive and...dodge.
Anyway, you’ll be shot, hauled off to the experiment chamber, ripped
from your fleshy shell of a body and thrown into what Nintendo was
promising: a truly innovative and fresh way to play an FPS. While the
fundamental concept behind almost every shooter so far has been to
hoard ammo and guns, Geist
does away with all that. The new object of the game is possession.
Numerous everyday items are all inhabitable, from a lethal auto-turret
to an absently placed stepladder. While the latter doesn’t sound very
dangerous (ha, I made a funny!), it and numerous other nondescript
objects play an important role in possessing the many NPC’s in the
game. Objects are readily available to jump into, but people take some
psychological weakening before you can take control of their minds and
bodies. And so the common household items become instruments in
frightening the bejesus out of hapless guards and base personnel.
This is also where the game’s puzzles come into play. You’ll often find
you need to set of a chain of paranormal events to make an enemy shake
in their boots. Startling a scientist with flying soda cans will turn
his surrounding aura yellow (as a ghost you can see supernatural things
like auras), and then turning water in a bathroom sink blood red will
finally freak the guy out enough that his aura is red. I don’t want to
spoil anything, but there are some pretty interesting things to possess
and you won’t always be taking over people. A hint to Metroid fans:
after invading the women’s locker room, look for a cool Samus easter
Once in a body, you won’t plow through the whole game
doom-marine style. You’ll certainly engage in heated firefights, but
most of Geist
spent jumping from host to host, leaving some behind when they are no
longer useful in search of a host with the right key or weapon. You
can’t just wander endlessly, though. Raimi’s spirit is being constantly
drawn toward the afterlife, as represented by a depleting red spiritual
energy bar. Spend too much time outside of a host or item and it’s off
to the pearly gates for Raimi, and then he’ll never accomplish his
mission of retrieving his body and stopping Volks.
This limitation keeps things fresh and simultaneously prevents Geist
falling into the dreaded shooter tedium of corridor roaming. You’re
constantly on the lookout for the next inhabitable host. Geist
is like its cousin Metroid Prime in that it’s a first person adventure, thought not to the extent of Prime. Geist
is level based, but each stage is its own little adventure
with plenty of puzzles, tricks, mini-boss fights and secret collectibles.
Along the way you’ll encounter the average FPS cannon fodder guards,
bizarre creatures from the rift to the sprit world, and some
sufficiently pretty graphics. Geist
’s visual style is comparable to
that of the TimeSplitters
series; it won’t beat you over the head with
beauty like Half-Life 2
and the technology is far from cutting edge,
but it’s the little things that count.
Details in the world make Geist
more plausible, like the way you
actually see a host reach out and push a button to call an elevator.
Every character has a distinct appearance like the ones in Free
Radical’s parody shooters, though not nearly as cartoony or comical as
Sgt. Cortez and friends. Textures aren’t as detailed or high-res as
they could’ve been, but they were probably kept simple to balance out
I’ve heard numerous complaints about the framerate, but I don’t see it
as a major problem. It never bogs down completely, and the most I saw
were some stutters when there were a lot of enemies on the screen. I
personally don’t consider it a huge issue, and it certainly shouldn’t
make you think twice about buying this predominantly great game.
The sound is a real treat for the ears, if only a morsel. You’ve heard
most of the sound effects before, but that doesn’t diminish their
effectiveness. Voice acting is all very professional for a title of
this nature, although there isn’t enough of it. Cutscenes are fully
voiced, but talking to characters in the word is like playing Zelda;
you’ll get a word or two accompanied by a text box. Admittedly, adding
dialogue for all the text would’ve probably required a second disk, but
it’s a minor gripe nonetheless. Music is much like the voice work.
There is a collection of really great tunes to accompany the action
sequences and some creepy sneaking-around pieces for exploration, but
the final number of tracks is rather short. You’ll be grooving to the
hectic and well-scored battle music, which reminds me a little of
, but the music ultimately needs more variety. This issue
is most noticeable in multiplayer, where the list of levels is longer
than that of the music tracks.
Speaking of multiplayer, I’ve rarely been so pleasantly surprised. I
was expecting a churn-out, because somewhere in the Ten Commandments it
says that “thou shalt put a multiplayer in all shooters.” I think it’s
the seventh commandment. But I digress. N-Space put a good amount of
effort into the multi aspect of Geist
, and for a split-screen affair it
isn’t bad. I expected the possession aspect to be clumsily tacked on,
or worse totally omitted, but it is actually well integrated.
There are only three modes to choose from, but the ghost scenario makes
them all feel like new. Possession deathmatch is the most conventional;
there are idle hosts scattered throughout the level, and all the
players start at ghosts. You can then float around inspecting the
hosts, checking out what guns they have, and make your choice. A bevy
of powerups is also available, from jump and speed boosts to the
“hijack” pickup. Hijack is especially fun. After grabbing this one as a
ghost, it lets you kick a fellow player out of their host and steal
him. So, if your friend has the rocket-launcher guy, you can piss him
off buy snatching his host right from under him.
Deathmatch points are scored by fragging the other players while they
inhabit a host. You can’t cheat and dump a nearly dead host in a
firefight, though; hosts must be left vulnerable for at least three
seconds after dispossession, and if the host is taken out within those
three seconds, your opponent is still awarded the kill.
the host is a clever reinventing of the stale capture the flag mode. In
this scenario there is only one flag base, but it flashes two different
colors. Possessing any host and dropping him on the base at the right
time will gain one point. Players can score extra points by racking up
kills while in the host, and then depositing him at the base for an
accumulated kill total. This mode was confusing at first, but played in
a big arena with four friends it becomes hectic and thoroughly
Hunt is the third multi mode, and is wholly unique to Geist
In this mode the ghosts are completely visible to the opposing human
team who happen to be armed with ghost-killing guns. The humans attempt
to send the ghosts to their maker with repeated blasting, while the
ghosts try to inhabit the humans and make them commit suicide. This is
accomplished by walking the human players into the convenient traps and
hazards throughout the specialized levels. More conventional means,
such as firing a grenade in close quarters, are equally effective. All
the while the humans try to force the ghosts from their bodies by
hammering the A button. Humans also have limited movement control,
giving them some ability to avoid deathtraps.
is a meaty addition to an already intriguing game that has a lot of
potential as a franchise. It is unfortunate that Geist
had to come so late in the GameCube’s lifecycle. I see Geist
a cult hit, with a following of core fans that explore its every corner
and write petitions for a sequel. There’s certainly room for a
Revolution iteration. As a shooter, the game’s somewhat flaky control
scheme could be turned into a dream layout with the new controller, and
the ghost element opens up a whole new door to some very exciting
possibilities. Nintendo owns the rights to Geist
, so I’m confident we’ll see John Raimi and his ghastly exploits on the Revolution sooner or later.
Nintendo and N-Space have created a haunting shooter experience that turns the traditional FPS on its ear. Some minor control issues, slight framerate stutters and a brief musical selection prevent Geist from being perfect, but the intriguing story, innovative multiplayer and spectral gameplay keep the game fresh and make it a must-have for GameCube owners.