Phantom Dust

Review

posted 5/4/2005 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
One Page Platforms: Xbox
Thankfully the missions are more interesting than the living conditions. There are only a few locations you will be going to, but they are large fighting arenas that are almost completely destructible. There’s an amazing sense of damage in this game, as just about every missing fireball destroys some part of the environment. And it’s not just the big things, its little aspects of the game make you feel like you are a lot more powerful than you should be, so much so that I sat up a few times with my mouth wide open in amazement.

Although it may seem like you’re simply fighting in the same levels over and over, eventually you branch out and see some truly spectacular level designs. One of my favorite areas involves a strange city where cars and trucks appear to be suspended in mid-air, and you fight on top of a giant television set. It’s fun to see the area before the fight, and a tad humor to see it all torn up after the fight is over and done with.

Even with one of the ugliest protagonists of all time, the graphics in Phantom Dust are certainly worth talking about. It’s not the character models (which are sometimes blocky and other times just unattractive); it’s the way they perform their moves and fight in a crumbling environment. It’s hard to tell by the graphics that this is a $20 game; everything down to the weird little cinemas is done with a true sense of style.

Even better is the music, which manages to mix industrial sounds with traditional classical compositions. Even when it’s not famous orchestral songs, the incidental music is ripe with violins, horns, and things you might not normally hear in game soundtracks. None of the music seemed out of place and mixed with the sounds of machines working, it made for a truly haunting arrangement.

The game’s length is also impressive; with a good 20+ hours of game play on the single player campaign. Unfortunately the story telling gets to be a tad tedious, often becoming too wordy and rather preachy. Still, even with some cringe-inducing dialog Phantom Dust proves to have a better than average story. In fact, I found the story to be extremely interesting … especially towards the end. Through some twists and turns, Phantom Dust could end up ruffling some feathers with some serious talk about religion and how we look at our leaders.

The big reason to play through the single player campaign is collect as many skills as possible, customize your deck, and then fight others in the multiplayer battles. Not only can you play against a friend split screen, but you can take your deck online and play with up to four players in a single room. There are several types of games you can play, as well as a bunch of rule settings that the host can change, so it’s usually pretty easy to find some variety with the Xbox Live. Not only are there skills you can only unlock by playing online, but you can also trade and win other cards from the other players.

Phantom Dust is not a great game because of its depth or great presentation; instead this is a game that excels because it manages to combine action and strategy in a way I never saw coming. No matter whether you’re into all out action games or involving strategy games, you’ll find something to love in this game. It’s not without a few faults, but it’s hard to knock a game that takes such a huge risk and does so much right. At $20 it’s hard to go wrong, but this game would be worth it at full price … it’s that good.



B+
Phantom Dust is the sleeper hit of the year, with fast paced action and in depth strategy. No matter what kind of games you like, chances are you’ll find something to love in this $20 masterpiece.


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