Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 05/31/05 | Genre: Action
Advent Rising is a title I have been waiting on for the past several years. Majesco has been shown off this title in their E3 booth for multiple years and finally-after the longest wait-the game shipped to retailers. Combined with a "Million Dollar" contest, a huge advertising campaign, and even special previews before the premiere of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, this title was guaranteed to be a hit. Unfortunately, someone forgot to remind the developers that they had to actually finish polishing the game before releasing it.
GlyphX Games is a developer that has never made a video game before. They specialize in cinematic sequences and have worked on this feature in a variety of games for other companies. Advent Rising is the first title in a trilogy of games with an addition PSP title scheduled to be released later this year. The PSP game will not be a part of the "official" trilogy. But before we get ahead of ourselves and begin talking about what the planned sequels and side stories GlyphX Games has in mind for the Advent Rising universe, we must first address the major question: Is there a reason for them to make more titles in the series? From a gameplay perspective, the answer is no. However, from an art and cinematic perspective, the answer is yes.
Putting in Advent Rising for the first time, I was very pleased to find that the game loaded up very quickly. Within mere moments I was able to start up a new game. From there I was treated to an epic opening cinema that even had me control a ship while the credits and story were going on around me. This immersed me in the environment and I really believed that Advent Rising was going to live up to the hype. Once I landed my ship and began exploring a space station on foot, I was impressed with the artistic style. While the graphics are not the best I have seen on the Xbox, they had a unique style. Since gamers are always craving something unique, this will not be disappointing.
Immediately I was given a mission objective and the developers did a nice job of teaching me about the gameplay mechanics. However, I began to notice some choppy gameplay. Despite this, I overlooked it and continued on thinking that it could be a bug that was overlooked. But once I entered several combat sequences, the framerate issues only got worse. On top of that, the innovative "flick targeting system" that GlyphX Games introduced in Advent Rising created more problems than it was worth. Players use the right analog stick and flick it towards the direction of enemies that they want to target. The problem is that you also move the camera with the right analog stick. Since the camera is so horrible most of the time, you have to move the camera in order to have a good viewpoint of the action. But most of the time when moving the camera during combat, players will instead begin to target enemies. This becomes increasingly frustrating when concentrating your attacks on one particular enemy only to have the combat interrupted due to a faulty gameplay design. Unfortunately, the developers provided no way to turn off the "flick targeting system." do commend them for trying something new. However, they should have realized very early on in the play testing that this system would not work without causing unnecessary frustration.
Despite the rising concern with the framerate and the "flick targeting system," continued on in Advent Rising. The first chapter was very enjoyable and playable--even with these issues. But as I progressed to chapters two and beyond, with more and more enemies at once on the screen, these issues began to get even worse. The framerate consistently ran at under 15 FPS during heated combat moments and I continued to loathe the targeting system more and more. Unfortunately these are not the only issues that plague Advent Rising. The game is so full of bugs that it appears GlyphX Games did not even attempt to debug the game and rushed the title out the door hoping that people would buy the game because of the "Million Dollar" contest, enormous hype, and huge marketing campaign. I have never seen a game released to this much hype that was virtually unplayable due to bugs, slow frame rate, and horrible targeting system. What were they thinking? Why would Majesco sign off on this title being published with their name on it?
To make matters even worse, their massive "Million Dollar" contest was just as buggy and unplayable as the game. For months before the release of Advent Rising, Majesco had been advertising this contest in print magazines. As the release date drew closer, they expanded the advertising to television, movies, radio, etc. Everyday you were bound to hear about this contest in some shape or form. This gave Advent Rising a ton of good press and gamers were all excited to try and win a million bucks! The way the contest worked is each week, for 6 weeks, players would download a new Easter Egg into the game. You would be given a clue and then look through the specified chapter(s) to find the Easter Egg. It would appear in the form of a glowing Advent Rising icon within the game. Starting with week one of the contest, I was able to locate the icon. I was given a unique code and told to enter it at a specified website. Extremely excited and hopeful that I might win some sort of prize, I scurried over to my computer and entered the code. "This page cannot be displayed" as the message that flashed on my LCD when I clicked submit. In disbelief, clicked back and tried it again. Same result. I tried it in several different browsers, on a Mac, and multiple computers. Still the page would not allow me to submit my Easter Egg code. Majesco denied any problems wit the contest. Frustrated, I gave up.
The next day the page mysteriously worked and Majesco released a statement that they did in fact have a problem with the contest page but assured us the issues were resolved. However, things got much worse. In what could only be described as a PR nightmare, Week 2 introduced even more problems to the contest. A great majority of players were unable to download the Easter Egg and to add to that, the submission page for the Easter Egg was working. The contest was not going well. Microsoft admitted that their servers could not handle everyone downloading content at once so players were grouped and were only given access to download the content off Xbox Live at scattered times. This caused an unfair advantage to anyone that may be given the download first.
Despite not awarding any prizes for the first two weeks, the contest was for week 3 was ready to begin. I dropped everything in my schedule to spend time with the game but was perplexed when the downloadable Easter Egg was not available to me. I finally decided to view the official website and was greeted with a message stating that Microsoft has suspended the contest while they investigate the problems and how to fix them to make the contest fair for all. Since then, that same message has stayed on the contest page, still no winners have been announced for weeks one and two, and the contest has been "Mysteriously" removed from the Xbox Live Events page. Majesco will not comment on the status of the contest and Microsoft has also refrained from any comments that would shed light on this subject. While it is possible that the contest will be resumed sometime after this review is published, I still am grading Advent Rising based off of all the frustrations seen in the game and in the contest that was sold to players of Advent Rising.
Not all is bad in the world of AR though. The music is very good and gives you inspiration to continue on despite all the bugs, slowdown, and gameplay issues. However, the real saving grace of this title was supposed to be the story. Written by famous sci-fi author Orson Scott Card, the story is weak and boring. For the first title in a trilogy, to say I was expecting more with the game's storyline is an understatement.
So lets take a quick look at what Advent Rising gives us. Game in development for several years--check. Over-hyped as the beginning of an epic trilogy before Episode III--check. Lackluster story from famous writer--check. Gameplay that runs as slow as molasses--check. Incredibly short adventure--check. More bugs than all the exterminators in the US could kill--check. A heavily advertised Million Dollar contest that was suspended indefinitely due to nobody testing if it could work--check.
This sums up the worst game I have played in recent memory. I would normally rate a game like this below average and move on to my next deadline. However, when you combine the incredible hype and a poorly implemented contest with what is obviously a lackluster game, you have the worst game released thus far in 2005.
For those of you who are bound to ask, I am not going to go into detail about the story or specific weapons and powers you get over the course of your adventure. If you are wondering why I would skip such critical details about this game, I invite you to re-read this review. When a game is plagued by this many problems, the small details don't matter. Just avoid this game at all costs. The only positive thing about Advent Rising is that I now have a candidate for Worst Game of the Year.