SiN Episodes: Emergence
|a game by||Ritual Entertainment|
|User Rating:||10.0/10 - 1 vote|
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The Words Emblazoned in red ink on a well-used whiteboard read. Have fun sinning!" Contrary to what you might think, I'm not in an Amsterdam brothel holding a fist full of twenties, but rather in Ritual Entertainment's Dallas offices about to have the world's first playtest of Emergence, the opening instalment of SiN Episodes, the other episodic, Source engine-driven FPS that'll be downloadable via Steam.
Emergence, the follow-up to the original SiN (released way back in 1998), sees you reprising your role as John Blade. As the commander of freelance security force HardCorps, you must protect the people of Freeport City, who are being threatened by the dastardly plans of brilliant geneticist Elexis Sinclaire, who also happens to be the head of the powerful and corrupt SinTEK corporation. A woman of many talents, Elexis not only possesses breasts you could hide a herd of cattle in, she's also hell-bent on advancing human evolution through genetic mutation. And you're (or for this playtest, I'm) the only person who can stop her. Better get to it I suppose...
My eyes flick open. A beautiful, busty woman stares down at me. Am I dreaming? Has the jetlag from the ten-hour flight overwhelmed me? Wait a minute. There's a bloke here, too. Pinned down to an operating table I listen intently as femme-fatale Elexis discusses my predicament with Radek, a gruff Ruskie with a comedy porno beard. Their lips move in perfect sync, faces contorting and contracting to convey genuinely believable emotions. Somehow, they've captured me and injected me with a serum of their own creation. But how did they manage to snare the hottest security officer in town? What the hell is this goop flowing inside my veins? How does Elexis not suffer from debilitating lower back pains with a pair that large? All shall be revealed... Eventually.
I pause the game to sup back some much-needed coffee, allowing Ritual's community relations manager, Steve Hessel, time to tell me a little about Radek. "Viktor Radek is the newest face among Freeport's local crime lords," he explains. "Blade suspects that lie's somehow tied to Elexis. He's kind of the main bad guy in this episode." Back to the action. Alarms ring out Explosions burst windows and my captors flee in panic as a rescue team storms the building - led by new character Jessica Cannon, a fiery all-action babe with a touch of amnesia when it comes to matters of her past. Lucky she remembered about me, otherwise I'd be screwed.
We charge out of the building. Hopping into a sports car (she drives, as I seem to have left my driving gloves at home) we screech around the city as I pass in and out of consciousness. A momentary dream sequence reveals a snippet of my past: a naked Elexis, waist-deep in a pool of water turns to look me sultrily in the eye.
I wake with a start, woken by the eager jabberings of JC Armack (a returning character from the original SiN, one of HardCorps' best technical whizz-kids and with a name of obvious derivations), whose face looms large on a monitor in front of me. He's got a mission for us that just might lead to Radek's capture and, hopefully, uncover some of the blanks from niy hazy past.
Radek's been tracked to a derelict tanker protected by a myriad of guards, ceiling-mounted motion-activated machine guns and a few, much nastier and more terrifying foes. Things are about to get bloody. I'm in. While Jessica stays in radio contact to keep me updated on any new developments, I head into the boat armed with a Magnum handgun and scattergun - both of which double-up as secondary weapons, thanks to some ingenious alternate fire modes. To the uninitiated, the Magnum appears to be a pistol like any other, firing standard wimpy rounds at a monotonously slow rate. But as I zoom in on an ensconced enemy, I hammer down the right mouse button and send a blue stream of depleted uranium scything through the crate he's hiding behind. He drops lifelessly to the floor point one to me.
Gunning For Glory
More enemies emerge, grunts with machine guns backed up by some mini-gun-toting, heavily-armoured bad boys who spill out of a nearby room and pepper me with bullets, forcing me to cower behind a wall. I lob a couple of grenades at the heavies, and watch witli no small degree of satisfaction as their metallic corpses arc through the air in familiar ragdoll fashion mutated creatures that spit bile, rake at your eyes and kick objects at your head, the behemoth bosses who are as agile as they are powerful, or the legions of enemies that bare down on you as you fire out of the window of Jessica's car during a daring raid on an enemy base, there's never a point where you don't feel stretched to your limits.
Shoot To Kill
In fact if anything, the enemies are still a little too accurate for comfort, hitting me with perfect headshots from the other side of a room even when I jerk from side to side. But with the boys at Ritual promising that the game is still being balanced, there's still plenty of time to get this right before release.
Perhaps the main reason why Emergence is so taxing is a feature called the Personal Challenge System, a mechanic that's been specifically designed for SiN: Episodes. Having just died another humiliating death, I turn to lead programmer Ken Harward who explains how the system works. "Our Personal Challenge System is built to tune itself to your style of play.
It monitors your abilities, your movement and how effectively you deal with the obstacles and enemies in the world. The game learns how good a player you are, and can adjust the difficulty level to your skill-set and playing style. There are almost 100 statistics that the game tracks."
Eager to put this bold boast to the test, I give it a try. Running into a room, I carve up the enemy, an angel of death bristling with firepower. All fall before me. I enter the next room, only to be utterly trounced by a legion of mini-gunners. Slapping reload, I replay the scenario.
7 This time, I walk in metaphorically handing out flowers to my enemies while reciting sonnets. Moving to the next room, I'm greeted by a pair of standard foes serving lemonade and Rich Tea biscuits. Well, that's perhaps that's not exactly what happened, but I think you get the point.
Emergence certainly saves the best till last The finale proves truly spectacular, a fitting crescendo to the symphony of destruction that precedes it These final few battles - interspersed with story-driven moments that perfectly set up Episode 2 - prove brain-bleedingly challenging, forcing me to approach every firefight with forethought and intelligence, despite having Jessica fighting by my side.
It's here that the game's third and final weapon - the assault rifle - really comes into its own, allowing me to spray swarms of enemies with bullets and take out concentrated clumps of foes with well-placed rocket-propelled grenades (the weapon's secondary fire option). Then, after six hours of non-stop action, the slaughter abates.
As I leave Dallas, it's hard not to feel positive about Emergence's eclectic mix of tactics and manic firefights. Sure, it's far from perfect boasting perhaps a few too many strategically-placed exploding barrels for comfort, and sadly, it slightly under-uses the Source engine's sublime physics system, above all when you compare it to Half-Life 2.
But these are more niggles than insurmountable problems. For the most part Emergence is shaping up to be a lively, challenging and at times, exhilarating romp of discovery, carnage, tactics and amusement filled with some excellent self-deprecating humour, powered by a cool soundtrack and rounded off by an intriguing plot with more potential twists than an '80s perm. If the AI can be tweaked before release, we could be in for one hell of a ride, one so good, it really would be a sin to miss it.
When seeing the green mist can help you see more clearly
OK. so Emergence does seem a tad overpopulated with exploding barrels, but this is offset to some extent by a far more original barrel-orientated feature. Spread liberally throughout the game are green barrels filled with Mutagen (noxious green gas). Fire at these containers and they spew out their contents, poisoning any human who comes into contact with the fumes.
Thanks to the Source engine's versatile physics system, you can pick up these barrels and place or throw them into strategic locations throughout a room. Then, when faced with overwhelming odds, you can backtrack, shooting the containers as you retreat And with the enemy hot on your heels, it's only a matter of time till they start choking to death. But won't that mean you die too? Interesting you should ask. Y'see, instead of poisoning you, this green mist actually heightens your senses, temporarily placing you into a kind of bullet-time mode. How's all this possible? All in good time my friends, all in good time...
Download SiN Episodes: Emergence
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP