Oni

Platforms: Playstation 2PC

Overview

Like Haiku, life doesn’t always make sense, but it does always have lessons to teach. On some fundamental level, the order of things has always been the same, varying little. Occasionally, there is a bright, brief flare in the darkness, illuminating a few, that they may spread wisdom to many.If Oni was like this, it would be a classic. Unfortunately, it isn’t.

Oni is one of the latest titles from Bungie Software and Gathering of Developers, respected developers of computer games and this time out, they’ve created something both original and innovative. Set in the year 2032, Oni gives us glimpse into a nearly utopian future, where the world is controlled by a single government and people live in great mega-cities across the globe. Center stage in our story is Konoko, a new agent in the Technology Control Task Force or TCTF, for short.

With a mysterious past and near superhuman abilities, Konoko is a one-woman strike force, charged with investigating a string of robberies perpetrated by the mysterious Syndicate. The Syndicate, one of the last vestiges of organized crime, has come out of the shadows to take on the TCTF, growing more brash and aggressive with each victory. Konoko’s adventure begins with the investigation of a warehouse and manufacturing plant, both fronts for illegal Syndicate activity. Soon, she becomes embroiled in a plot that threatens the life of every man, woman, and child on Earth.

Stylized heavily with Anime elements, Oni is unique. A third person shooter / fighting game, Oni gives you unprecedented control over your attack style and movement. Each encounter with an enemy gives you the chance to empty a clip worth of bullets into their chests or deliver a stunning spin kick to their jaws. However, even with this clever approach to gameplay, Oni suffers greatly in some very important areas. Lacking any kind of strong multiplayer or non-story based play, Oni must stand on the strength of its gameplay and plotline. Unfortunately, this plotline is too little, too late, with only a few cutscenes (thankfully rendered in Oni’s beautiful graphics engine), weak anime-style story, and lack of follow-through with some of the game's more interesting plot tangents.

Gameplay, Controls, Interface

To start off with, although it can be a bit frustrating especially given the skill the AI exhibits when fighting, Oni is a blast to fight with. Konoko has a series of basic combat moves and special power moves that she can use to reduce her opponent to a pile of quivering goo and a full complement of throws allow her to toss her enemy to the ground. Its hard to express how fun it can be to completely cream an enemy Striker (one of the Syndicate thugs) and then toss him off of a building with a well timed throw.

You can also go the route I prefer to call ‘overwhelming firepower.’ With a collection of futuristic weapons at your disposal, you can deliver hot, steaming death to your opponents by the clip-full, while not even breaking a sweat. Believe me, when you’ve got weapons like the Wave Motion Cannon, gunplay can have its advantages over fist fights.

What’s better, you can do both at once! Imagine blazing away with a plasma rifle while sliding into an opponent's legs, only to spring up and do a leg throw on the opponent behind him! Granted, what I just described is probably the most difficult maneuver you can even attempt, but it could still be done. In a way, this is also one of the strongest drawbacks to the game, as it certainly seems like most of the enemies know a lot more about fighting than you do, especially when it comes to using firearms.

Without the ability to save anywhere (Oni relies on automatic save points), relative scarcity of weapons and powerups, and a strong, tough-to-defeat AI, it can be quite frustrating to repeat some levels the dozens of times necessary to pass them.

Bungie spent a lot of time trying to replicate much of the gameplay that makes fighting games like Bloody Roar or Streetfighter fun and then combining it with the gunplay that makes games like Half-Life or Quake into classics. Mix this all up with a third person perspective and you’ve got something worth talking about. An unfortunate lack of multiplayer or skirmish features severely limit its replay value, but most fans should get enough enjoyment out of the fighting to take it for one spin around the block.

Originality / Cool Features

Oni’s greatest strength lies in its gameplay engine, a drastic improvement over most third person fighting games seen before. With the ability to switch easily between gunplay and a fist fight make it entertaining in the short run.

Graphics

Although some of the level design is simplistic, without much clutter, all of the graphics in Oni are to be commended. With reflective surfaces, a wide variety of well designed textures, and gigantic level design, the game provides a good treat for the eye. Definitely one of the first in a new series of next generation titles, Oni exhibits strong level design and a sense for extremely detailed characters, adding to the suspension of disbelief that makes these titles strong.

Audio

With the relative lack of background music, one can easily come to appreciate the quality of sound effects and character speech you’ll see in the game. As a general rule, nearly everyone can talk and has more than just a couple of things to say, including the non combatant characters you can come across who will have pre-recorded dialogue, even though they’re just giving you extra ammo.

The music, when it comes around, is definitely worth a good listen. With a strange techno sound, the soundtrack helps reinforce the very anime style of this game. Although it doesn’t start and stop in response to the way the game is going, it will let you know when you’ve gotten near the end of a level

System Requirements

Windows 98/ME/2000, 266 MHz Pentium III processor or higher, 64MB RAM, 800MB free hard disk space, and a hardware accelerated 3D graphics card (OpenGL compatible).

Reviewed On: AMD K6/2 400mhz, Win98, 64MB RAM, 4GB HD, Diamond Viper V700U, Creative Labs Soundblaster AWE 64, and a 24x CD-ROM drive.

This section of the game deserves a brief mention because, as you can see, Oni can run on a 2MB 3D Accelerated video card. Given the nice visuals and even better gameplay evident in the Oni engine, the fact that it only needs a 2MB video card is incredibly impressive.

Bottom Line

Oni’s strengths lie in its level design, graphics engine, and most certainly gameplay. If Bungie licensed the Oni engine, modifications based on it could prove to be the next wave in fan created games. As a stand-alone title however, the weak story, lack of multiplayer capability, and a difficulty that can sometimes be expressed as ‘insane,’ mean that Oni loses several points for lack of vision.

A worthwhile purchase for a big time fighting fan, just remember that with this one, you’ll be left feeling a little deprived, and without much replay value, it will probably collect a lot of dust on the shelf.

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Overview

The world is a miserable place to live. There is only one government, the masses live in fear of "Big Brother," and the last two superpowers are going at it with no real care for human life. In this corner, the TCTF (Technology Crimes Task Force), the World Coalition Government's watchdog whose sole purpose is to keep the population under its thumb; a task they accomplish by using the propaganda that the abuse of technology is bad and that the TCTF is the only thing protecting the populace from all forms of crime. Too bad they operate like a Gestapo in their investigations.

In the other corner we have The Syndicate, an evil only slightly worse since they provide the desperate and downtrodden with all the weapons and explosives they need to kill one another. The syndicate is headed by Boss Muro, a man who eliminated all other crime kingpins to make himself the number one. With him running the show, crime has gotten worse and an epic showdown of biblical proportions looms on the horizon.

As Konoko, a rookie agent for the TCTF, you have been charged with the bone breaking task of infiltrating The Syndicate, figuring out their evil intentions, and taking them down. Along the way expect conspiracies, betrayal, and a lot of action. Gun blazing, hip throwing, jaw breaking action.

Gameplay, Controls, Interface

First off, I want to say that being a fan of Anime (Japanese Animation) or Manga is going to be a plus for you when playing this game. Many elements that are present in those mediums are implemented here: ultraviolence, martial arts action, two fisted gun toting, and of course doe-eyed characters. Fans will also appreciate the fully animated intro sequence.

The game is played 3/4 view with a familiar feel to those who have played Tomb Raider, Fear Effect or Soul Reaver. As far as the controls go though... oh, boy. Let me say that the control configuration is incredibly difficult as every button is used frequently including the never used L3 and R3 buttons. In addition, instead of the camera constantly following behind Konoko, you must steer it with the right analog stick while controlling Konoko's movements with the direction pad. Yes, this can get difficult, especially when fighting multiple enemies from all different sides. However, once you do become prolific with the control interface, you are treated to some incredibly cool action sequences as Konoko punches one bad guy in the face, uses him as a springboard, spinkicks another bad guy in the chest and then draws her mercury bow and freezes a third bad guy who heard the commotion from the next room. It takes a bit to get used to, but toughing it out is worth it. Yes, you control the action and unless you don't enjoy Jackie Chan fight sequences you will not find this game to be any fun.

As the game progresses, Konoko has to complete various missions such as infiltrating corrupt corporations, shutting down a supercomputer that achieved self awareness, and fighting a bevy of original assassins in climactic movie style. The characters, both good and bad, are all unique and bring a real feel to the game. Personally, I liked watching the cut sequences showing cool looking assassins talking about their nefarious deeds and how they are going to kill Konoko.

During the various missions, Konoko is constantly being monitored by her android assistant Shinatama. Shinatama advises her of any changes in the mission and reports Konoko's status to Commander Griffin. Griffin, being the Regional Commander of the TCTF, is constantly barking out orders to TCTF personnel but keeps an exaggerated interest in Konoko who may or may not be an advanced form of human/android hybrid. Of course Konoko must deal with her Oni which means demons in Japanese, proving that this game has several layers of content to it, making it much more then a straight-up action game.

Graphics & Audio

Like I said before, if you enjoy Anime, you will think Oni is the stuff. The graphics look good and the action occurs at a breakneck speed. I like Anime and thought that this game was pure eye candy. The architectural designs of the buildings in the game were done by modern architects, giving the game a Blade Runner or Total Recall ambiance.

The audio came through my surround system like an action movie and the voice acting was done better than most. This game looks and sounds top-notch. Rockstar Games and Bungie teamed up to make a worthwhile videogame experience.

Bottom Line

If you can tough it out through the interface learning period you will be happy with this game. Plenty of action, depth, and original characters mark this as a PS2 winner. Cool scenarios with neat looking locations coupled with the fact that it feels like you're playing a movie should make this game a staple in an otherwise lacking PS2 library. Cool fun.

reggie posted a review
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