Developed by: Probe
Published by: Acclaim
Reviewed by: Zachary Rounds
Earth has been forsaken....
This concept seems to be extremely popular right now. We have a fascination with the concept of Earth getting blasted straight to hell. Continuing with this tradition is Probe's Forsaken, a 3D shooter that lets you scavenge what's left of Earth after it gets wasted.
I'll make this short, mainly because I can't make it long. Taking place in the future, we find that mankind has conquered the stars. Back on Earth, an experiment in fusion goes wrong and burns the entire planet. The government condemns the planet, allowing the scum of the universe to scavenge to their hearts content. The government also puts robotic sentries in place for you to shoot at. From here on you choose a character (there are a lot, each with a different set of bland remarks to spout out whenever they get shot) and proceed to loot the planet. That's it. There is no story tying all the levels together. Your entire purpose is to fly around, shoot things, and collect gold bars (extra lives) and crystals (end of game bonus). Fine with me.
When I first played Forsaken, my initial thoughts were "Hey, this is just like Descent, only prettier. Much prettier." The game consists of you piloting a hover bike around different locations, just like Descent. You are in a zero-G environment that allows you to move in any direction, just like Descent. Almost all the enemies are robots hell bent on your destruction, just like Descent. This is where the similarities end. Unlike Descent (and Descent 2), Forsaken has levels that are actually interesting. While Descent had you flying around inside asteroid after asteroid, Forsaken takes you through levels that actually look (and sound... more on this later) like what you'd expect. One of the better levels has you flying around a sunken ship, complete with portholes, rotors, and a large, inoperative (unfortunately) forward cannon. These little details help make Forsaken much more enjoyable in the long run.
Another nice thing about Forsaken is its lack of the traditional "red key, blue key" formula for levels. Instead it gives you objectives and "puzzles", much in the same way Jedi Knight had you solving "puzzles". One level requires you to get the solar collectors redeployed so that the rest of the level has power, thus allowing you to open doors and continue your looting madness. By giving objectives instead of keys, Forsaken manages to stay away from the dreaded pit of redundancy.
Fortunately, Forsaken's levels are linear enough to cover up its first flaw: There is no Automap. The Automap was a vital part of Descent as the constant spinning, twisting, and turning could disorient you very quickly. This problem is alleviated slightly in two ways. First, the levels are somewhat linear. This prevents you from getting totally lost in the large levels. Second, the rooms in Forsaken are all fairly different from each other. It's easy to get lost whenever you're in branching tunnels, a la Descent, but Forsaken consists primarily of large rooms that look completely different from everything else on the level. As a result, good level design helps Forsaken to overcome what could have been a serious misstep.
Controls may be a bit difficult for some players. You can opt to use the keyboard (my preference), a keyboard/mouse combination, or a joystick. I used the keyboard because of the availability of keys. You can spin your bike about in a number of ways, and I found that the keyboard is the only way to handle it with any speed. You lose a bit of precision, but compared to the mouse (which I found hard to use in this kind of a game) and the joystick (which doesn't have enough buttons for me), the keyboard becomes very easy to use with a little practice.
One other problem I had with the game was its difficulty. I started the game on Normal setting. This lasted for about the first three levels. After that I restarted on the easy setting. The difficulty wouldn't be so much of a problem if lives weren't a factor. But as the game is, when you run out of lives, it's game over. You can save your game whenever you want, but like it or not, you WILL die at some point, even on easy. And since the only way to get more lives is through the collection of gold bars (ten for one life) and extra life pickups (rare), you'll find yourself on the thin edge of extinction for most of the game. What really bothers me is that even though I found Easy to be a good challenge, and Normal to be too hard, there is still a Hard setting AND a Really Hard setting. I can't begin to imagine how hard the Really Hard setting is (my guess is that you self-destruct upon entering a level).
The intelligence of the enemies is something of a mixed bag. On the good side, the robot guards range from rock dumb (if you were to shoot in a straight line crossing their path, they'd fly right into the hail of fire without a second thought) to "Hey! Who said you could dodge my bullets" to "Excuse me, when I shoot a homing missile at you I expect you to get hit by it, not outmaneuver it!" The amount of intelligence exhibited by the robots is proportional to their toughness and weaponry. The dumb enemies are there as cannon fodder, spraying bullets in what seemed to be a completely random pattern. On the other hand, the more intelligent enemies will fire at you, turn around, and hide. They come back to haunt you later if you don't hunt them down, and if you back them into a corner, they start shooting with annoyingly high accuracy. The only weak point of the AI was in the enemy scavengers that show up somewhere in most of the levels. While they may have the best weapons, they tend to stand around and allow you to open fire, rarely dodging my bullets and usually following me around a blind corner, allowing me to spin around and open fire. Still, if they manage to catch you by surprise they can unload a lot of hurt on you. Fortunately (as I stray off topic), Forsaken has lots of weapons that are quite effective at taking down any enemy. Guns range from a basic two shot gun to a gun that sprays bullets everywhere to my personal favorite, a nicely modeled flamethrower. On the missile side, you start with basic dumb fire missiles, but move up to homing missiles and the Big Daddy of them all, the Titan missile. Launch this thing and start running, because if you stay to watch the pretty lights you're going to find yourself smeared all over the walls. You also can pick up mines that will quickly "persuade" any following enemy to go somewhere else, hopefully in a blast of fire. Overall I found the weapons to be well designed, and found myself using all of them at different times to deal with different situations, unlike many other games where only a couple of the weapons are ever used more than once.
The one problem I had with the enemies was the fact that the game would just teleport them in. While some enemies would be in a room when I entered, many enemies would suddenly appear around me. This isn't so much a problem with the dumb enemies, as they just fly around and get shot at, but when the game starts teleporting in enemies with homing missiles things got a bit unfair. On the plus side, you do get used to it after a while, and even learn to predict when they are going to show up. Another plus is that your bike comes equipped with a nice rear view camera. It sits up in the top right corner of the screen, and as long as you give it some attention, you'll never find yourself getting too surprised (On another nice note, the camera doesn't slow down gameplay one bit, unlike every other game I've played with a rear view camera).
Here's where the game really shines. If you have a 3D accelerator card then expect to be treated to some truly amazing effects. All of the weapons have their own color, and there's nothing like spraying down a dark hallway with green energy bursts and watching the walls light up with the passage of the bullets. Probe seems to have had a field day with translucency effects as you fly through corridors of glass and over giant crystals. Panels spark with a convincing flare of electricity and the blue-white arcs of damage inducing electricity that course through some rooms really give a sense power. One of the nicest effects is water. The liquids (some dangerous, some not) found throughout some of the levels looks very cool, and even cooler when a drop of water hits the surface, causing a neat ripple effect to occur. The enemies look fairly nice, although not all of them are on par with the rest of the graphics. While some of the enemies look amazing (one enemy can become translucent green), I found the ground vehicles to look a bit on the blocky side. However, since your supposed to be shooting them and not looking at them, I don't have much room for complaint.
The other really cool part of Forsaken is the frame rate. Even on my aging P133, I got silky smooth gameplay throughout the entire game. The only time that my computer showed any limitations was when the computer started teleporting in twenty ships, at which point it started to chop up slightly. To be honest, I wouldn't play this game without a 3D card. You'd really be missing out (NOTE: If you don't have a 3D card and have an S3 based video card, watch out. In the readme file is says that the game does NOT support S3 chipsets. This is true. I have an old Diamond Stealth 64, an S3 based card, and the game wouldn't run at all.).
Sound and Music
I'll cover music first. There isn't any. On to the sound effects.
While Forsaken doesn't have any music, it more than makes up for it in the sound effect department. The background noises in the levels adds a lot of atmosphere to the game, especially the sunken ship levels (getting the feeling that I really liked this level?). The sound of dripping water is great, and the sound of the hull creaking under the pressure of the water really gives you the feeling of being there.
In fact, I found the lack of music to be a plus. By the time I finished the game I could tell what enemy ships were coming near me by the sound of their engine, giving me time to select the most effective weapon, or in my case, run away. This also comes in handy during multiplayer. One of the power-ups available is a cloaking device that lasts for a minute. By listening for the sound of engines, I was able to get an idea of where the cloaked enemy was, at which point I started to spray the entire area with gunfire. Even if their cloaked, hitting an opponent causes their shields to flash, at which point you can really open fire. This brings us to our next topic...
Forsaken comes with the four now standard options of multiplayer, meaning TCP/IP, IPX, Serial connect, and Dial-up. Starting a game over the Internet was quick and easy. Forsaken provides quite a few ways to play against others. You have your basic free for all, capture the flag, and three or four other variations of multiplay. This gives Forsaken a lot of replay value.
The game is fairly well balanced, giving no player an advantage if they manage to get every weapon available. All it takes is a Titan missile or a few mines to take out an opponent, keeping the game fun by preventing any one player from getting all the weapons and blowing the crap out of everyone they meet. Of equal importance is the cloaking device that can be found. There's nothing like watching an opponent fly around in a frenzy, shooting constantly as they try to figure out just where you are. The game also ran well with little lag, even on my 28.8 modem, and Forsaken comes with lots of options to fine tune your connection for optimal performance (although a lot of it is trial and error).
The Final Word
Overall Forsaken is a great way to spend your gaming dollar. With great gameplay, great graphics (if you have a 3D card), great sound, and lots of multiplayer options, Forsaken should keep you busy for a while.Our rating out of 10: 9.1
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