Run Like Hell

Run Like Hell

Written by Cyril Lachel on 10/31/2002 for PS2  

Sometimes when a game is delayed it is for good reason; to make the product better, to add a useful feature, or even just polish up the general presentation of the game. It’s for this reason we don’t complain when companies like Rare, Namco, or Square announce a delay. We have come to expect the final game to simply be that much better. Unfortunately, this is not the case for Run Like Hell.

After months of delays, Run Like Hell, or RLH for short, has finally shipped nationwide, and frankly, as both a science fiction fan, and a survival horror fan, it disappointed even me. Its heart is in the right place, it plays like an homage to just about every classic sci-fi film since the 1970s. It even starts with a promising, movie-like opener complete with a dream sequence.

They say that “in space no one can hear you scream”, which might explain why Nick Conner didn’t have a clue what he was getting himself into when he came back from work. What seemed like a normal day on the job suddenly turned into a life or death struggle, when Nick realizes that the space station he currently calls home is now infested by aliens.

Not willing to accept his new roommates, Nick sets out on a path to find other survivors, and take vengeance for his fallen comrades. Most of the game involves our hero running back and forth solving simple puzzles in order to progress through this maze like space station. This may sound like Resident Evil or Silent Hill, but Run Like Hell is a little more geared towards action. Fact is, in just about every room Nick steps foot in he needs to dispose of at least a half dozen enemies before he can continue on his adventure.

At the beginning Nick is armed with a trusty rifle, but as he digs deeper through the corridors he will pick up a number of bigger, better weapons including a slow, but powerful shotgun, a pulse rifle, and a bolt thrower. Even with ten weapons at your disposal, only a few stand out, and even fewer offer that visual gratification we are so used to these days.

There is an awful lot to shoot at, sometimes too much. In Resident Evil you could avoid most zombies altogether, which was handy if you were trying to solve a puzzle to advance the story. Here, however, gamers actually have to address their attackers, and not just run (as the title would imply). There are moments in the game where the on coming aliens just wouldn’t let up, and the monotony of battle after battle after battle was just overwhelming. The game has a way of overshadowing its story with nonsensical, and ultimately dull, action sequences.

That’s not to say the story is particularly appealing, either. While I certainly didn’t see a few of the plot points coming, the game didn’t exactly have me on the edge of my seat. Most of the cut scenes are just people talking, and the story never gets above that “average” level. The story is certainly better than some I’ve seen, but has a tendency of dragging its pace, and never really gives you a sense of urgency.
The game tends to be a little on the easy side, too. Some of the puzzles may have you looking around a while, but none are extremely difficult, and if you’ve played through any other survival h orror game, you’ll likely breeze through this. The enemies are generally pretty easy, too. Just about all of them can be taken down in a matter of a few bullets, and only a few giant baddies offer much of a challenge at all.

Most of the puzzles take place in a small area, so it’s pretty easy to find what you need to do the majority of the time. If you ever get lost, you can look around for a yellow “exclamation mark”, which I might add is a lot easier to spot than the standard shining object found in the Resident Evil series. If you still can’t find what you need to do, the game is nice enough to chart your progress, and write down your next objective all in the journal section of the Heads Up Display.

Control-wise Run Like Hell does a few things right. Its combat system, for example, may be simple, but it gets the job done, even with multiple targets on and off screen. The game also allows characters to run in all directions; something games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill still haven’t gotten right. This is not to say there is anything original, or even interesting, instead it sadly illustrates how lacking this title is in every other department.

There are a number of out of place, and sometimes frustrating, mini-games that takes away from the general monotony that is looking around your environment. Not all of these mini games seem especially fleshed out, though. An arcade game you can play, for example, looks a little better than the 1970s version of Pong, but not much. Another mini game has you running down a hall and pushing the button it calls out, a la Shenmue or even that horrible Die Hard arcade game from a few years ago.

Visually this game is abysmal, it looks similar to a few games that were rushed to make the PlayStation 2 launch … two years ago. Considering that this game has taken so long to be released, it amazes me that the game doesn’t look any better than it does. The character graphics aren’t bad, but the backgrounds are dull and generally poorly detailed. Everything is shrouded in an eerie darkness that is less there to set the tone than it is to hide how poor the graphics are.

The animation tends to take a hit when characters move around sporadically or turn 180 degrees. Being as the game is already mind-boggling slow, it makes no sense to me why there would be any kind of frame drop at all. It actually never affected the game play, but was noticeable, nonetheless.

Since the game always takes place in a third person perspective, the camera tends to be an issue. You might think that with all the time they had to design this game they could have put in a workable camera system, right? Well, sadly that’s yet another thing that was over looked. Run Like Hell makes its user fight with the camera, manually pulling and pushing it in different directions just to make sure you see everything in the room.

Now, to be fair, if you are packing a weapon, looking around can be made a little easier. And targeting the enemies is generally not a problem. You have to learn a few short cuts, but once you have tamed the camera, it will be a much more rewarding experience. Well, as rewarding as the clunky story and poor pacing will allow.

All right, I admit, some of the criticism for the story is a little harsh; after all it’s nothing more than a video game version of a b-rate science fiction film. There were a few moments that had me laughing, and a couple scenes I wouldn’t mind seeing again. There’s a beheading early in the game that I must have watched three or four times before I was satisfied and ready to move on. And if anything, most of the annoying characters (which there are more than a few) are killed off, so you’ll never have to hear them whine again.

If there were more events like this, I might have enjoyed Run Like Hell a lot more, but as it is the game just takes itself far too seriously. Grizzly voiced Lance Henriksen (Millennium, Aliens) lends a lot to this problems. His voice, while perhaps fitting for a gruff video game voice, is just a tad serious for what he’s needed for here. His seriousness is just a little hard to swallow next to the supporting cast and unbelievable circumstances.

If you have grown wary of watching the Sci-Fi Channels original programming, Run Like Hell may be right up your alley. But frankly there are just better examples of this style of game on every platform currently available. It might have a unique name, but that’s where the originality ends on this long awaited, and ultimately disappointing game.
It’s been in development limbo for a number of years now, and has finally been unleashed on the public. But can Run Like Hell match the excitement of the Alien series, or does it end up being more like Battlefield Earth?

Rating: 5.5 Flawed

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

It's questionable how accurate this is, but this is all that's known about Cyril Lachel: A struggling writer by trade, Cyril has been living off a diet of bad games, and a highly suspect amount of propaganda. Highly cynical, Cyril has taken to question what companies say and do, falling ever further into a form of delusional madness. With the help of quality games, and some greener pastures on the horizon, this back-to-basics newsman has returned to provide news so early in the morning that only insomniacs are awake.
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