Players: 1+ Player Game | Release Date: 05/09/06 | Genre: FPS
John Blade isn’t exactly what you’d call a household name in the world of video games, but the hero of Ritual Entertainment’s Sin series is carving out a nice niche for himself with the newest Ritual title Sin Episodes: Emergence. This game is everything a shooter fan could ask for delivering huge explosions, intense action and boss fights that return the genre to its roots. This is definitely not a game for the kiddies; expect plenty of cursing, nearly naked girls and loads of bodily dismemberment and beheadings. Now switch that safety off and get your trigger finger at the ready because we’re going in-depth with this engaging new title.
First and foremost, do not go into this game expecting a twenty hour, fully closed story arc because as the name suggests Sin Episodes: Emergence is meant to be the opening chapter in what will be a series of smaller, episodic games. As such, the game is available for purchase via Valve’s Steam network and will only cost you twenty bones. When I say smaller, I mean the game will probably take the average player around five hours to complete and that’s not a bad thing by any means. I was skeptical of this new business model for games, but after playing Emergence I find that my tune has indeed changed. Enough about all that though; it’s time to give you the scoop on this new take on an old series.
When the game begins, the first thing you’ll notice is the size of the boobs you’re looking at. It’s true, our hero John Blade finds himself strapped to a medical table with a pin up girl and some creepy guy with a really long goatee looking down at him. Just when you think things are about to get a little freaky in the room the two take off as gunfire rattles around you. Before too long you find yourself being saved by rookie team member Jessica Cannon. Throughout the game, you’ll have random contact with her and you’ll also get some info from Blade’s tech geek J.C. through a secure audio channel.
The driving force behind the plot in this first episode is catching the pin up girl, Elexis Sinclaire and her boy Viktor Radek to find out what they injected our protagonist with while he was strapped to the medical table. Elexis is a mad genetic scientist with some diabolical plan that probably involves world conquest at some point, but for now she seems content with turning humans into freakish mutants with an appetite for destruction. At first, things progress rather slowly, but after a nice car ride and a really nice dream sequence featuring the lovely Elexis herself, things gradually begin to pick up and before you know it you’ll be dodging bullets left and right…or not dodging them and just kind of dying a lot.
Thankfully, you’re not totally defenseless through all the chaos. Rookie Cannon will give you a pistol to begin with and as you progress you’ll acquire a shotgun and a machine gun as well. Each gun also has a special secondary firing function that is activated intuitively with the right mouse button. You’ll also be able to pick up grenades along the way and these will simply become indispensable to you in the latter portions of the game. Another handy trick for taking out enemies without wasting too much ammunition is to utilize your environment. Bullets and grenades aren’t the only things that hurt the enemy. Shoot flammable barrels to make them explode or try blasting a pressurized air tank and watch as it blasts off causing damage to any targets it hits. Be careful though, these can hurt you as well, so make sure you get out of the way when you see tanks or debris flying right at you. One thing about this game is that almost every object in the environment is interactive. You can walk up to a computer, a locker, a paper towel dispenser and pretty much everything else and get some kind of result when you hit the use button. This actually comes in handy a bit as you can pick up crates and stack them in order to reach new areas or find a secret health/weapon stash.
Visually, Emergence is a huge step up for the series. The game looks incredible from start to finish. With the right PC, you can bump the settings all the way up and enjoy a beautiful romp through sewers, skyscrapers and abandoned oil tankers. The system requirements for the game are relatively low so even if you can’t take advantage of the higher quality settings, you can still enjoy the game with whatever settings work best for your machine.
The audio in the game is also another strong point. While Blade himself may sound kind of weak, the majority of the characters are well-voiced and the enemy chatter goes a long way in making an already good experience a great one. Enemies will holler for backup and comment on how things are going for them. You’ll hear voices echoing throughout the large halls of SinTEK’s Supremacy Tower skyscraper and special forces units will taunt you during battle and scream in pain when you set them ablaze. The musical scores in the game are also nice. Nothing to really get excited over, but they fit the game well enough and the title screen theme is actually a really good song.
While the game is a definite new high for the series, it is not without its share of problems. Chief among these is the fact that you can often become stuck on debris lying on the floor and in the middle of battle this can mean certain death. Along those same lines, there are times where you and Jessica meet up and fight together. The problem is she can sometimes get in your way. For instance, you may come out of a room only to be greeted by a hail of bullets from the enemy forces. You try to back up and take cover in the room you just left, but find yourself a sitting duck instead because Jessica is standing there blocking the doorway. Another problem is that sometimes enemies just seem to appear out of thin air. You’ll sit there blasting away and just when you think you’ve cleared the room you move forward a step and start getting shot from behind.
There was one other annoyance with the game and that was the loading sequences. Its not that they were terribly long, but they came up at random times throughout the game. It is almost as if the game is “zoned” much in the way an MMORPG might be. You’ll just be walking along and suddenly you get a loading popup. It is similar to the way the loading was done in Red Faction only not quite as bad because the load times are significantly shorter.
Despite its problems, Sin Episodes: Emergence is still a great FPS experience. Things really heat up as you near the end and when you do complete the game you are treated to a preview of the next episode, much like any good television series. You also get to see some really funny “outtakes” featuring the main characters in the game. These are great and I really hope Ritual adds these to the end of each episode in the series. For all the action this game provides, you really can’t go wrong with the twenty dollar price tag. Give Sin Episodes: Emergence a shot and you’ll be anxiously awaiting the next release; I know I am.