We’ve been hearing about the promise of episodic games for the last few months. The concept is pretty simple, instead of having one massive game, the game is broken into smaller chunks and sold at a much lower price. The easiest analogy is to think it as getting a one hour TV show instead of a three hour movie. Gamers don’t have to plunk down a lot of money all at once, they get new content on a regular basis, and they actually have a chance to finish the game. Developers get their games out quicker (and theoretically cheaper) and can react to the gamer feedback more quickly since there is a shorter turn around between titles.
Ritual’s Sin Episodes: Emergence is the first big episodic title to utilize this new concept. The game is the successor to the late 1997’s game Sin although you won’t need to have played the first game to enjoy the current one (although it helps). The general gist of the back story is that you are John Blade the head of an elite security force called HardCorp and it’s up to you to defend the city of Freeport against rival organization SiNTEK and their evil leader Elexis Sinclaire (you know she’s evil because she’s sporting about 2 miles of cleavage and isn’t exactly modest about her assets). Backing you up is your tech guy JC and rookie cop Jessica Cannon who provides back up and spunk during the game.
You start the game out in the clutches of SinTEK but you are quickly rescued by Jessica. Before she can rescue you Elexis and her henchman Reddick inject you with a mysterious serum that you can bet is not penicillin. In the chaos Reddick and Elexis escape and it’s now up to you to track them down and figure out exactly what they’ve injected you with.
The real key to Sin Episodes: Emergence is managing your expectations about the game. You have to remember that this is the first part of what will hopefully be a six to ten episode game arc. This was the hardest thing for me to get around with the game as there are only three weapons in the game (thought each does have an alt fire) plus grenades and only four or so different enemy types in the game. That doesn’t seem like a lot for one game but if you factor in that it’s part of a larger game then it makes a little more sense. That said I would hope that the next chapter adds a few more in as you can only mow down people with a shotgun for so long before it gets a little old.
It took me about five one hour sessions to get through the game. I did focus on getting through the game though and didn’t spend a lot of time hunting for the 40 some secret areas in the game. I did find 12 of them though so if you were to really hunt throughout the game you’d probably take a little north of six hours to complete the game and find everything. The one thing that was a bit odd about playing a game that you know is fairly short going in was that I was constantly asking myself “Is this the last level of the game?” or is there more to it. The first part of the game did seem to drag a bit but after a while the game picked up and it got very entertaining.
The Sin Episodes series will use Valve’s source engine so the game does look and play a lot like Half Life 2. That’s not a bad thing as Ritual has taken an already great engine and added a few of their own gameplay mechanisms to the game.
While you don’t have the gravity gun from Half Life 2 the game does use the physics engine in subtle fun little ways. The best example is the jet pack troopers you’ll encounter through out the game. Shooting flying bad guys and watching them fall out of the sky is always cool but when you shoot their jetpack and they go zipping around the map and then explode it takes it to an entirely new level of awesomeness.
Another new feature is the use of gas clouds in the game. While not something new, the game does make it more of a play mechanic than other games in the past, Sin: Emergence really perfects it. You have the standard hit a barrel and it emits a toxic gas kind of effect but you can also shoot a health canister and stand in the fumes and it will heal you which is pretty cool when you need a quick heal and don’t want to be vulnerable while you heal up.
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