Frank Herbert's Dune Review
developer: Cryo Interactive
genre: Action Adventure
PII-400, 64MB RAM, 500MB HDD, 16MB 3D accelerator
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Dec 14, 01
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Branislav "Bane" Babovic
Frank Herbert's Dune is certainly one of the most famous science-fiction books, or rather, series of books. The desert planet of Arrakis served as battlegrounds for a number of computer games, the last of them being Westwood's Emperor: Battle for Dune. Frank Herbert's Dune is a poor excuse for trying to make an adventure game out of the original novel. DreamCatcher Interactive used to be well-known for its (pretty good) adventures like Time Machine and Atlantis. Their latest game is not a classical adventure; however, it could more precisely be described as a sneaker-arcade-adventure genre.
The background plot is all-too-well-known to all those who read Frank Herbert's masterpiece, or at least saw the movie by David Lynch... there is but one planet in the entire universe, rich with the substance spice M'lange. The numerous houses that rule the universe had been fighting for domination of this planet for ages... for who controls the spice, controls the empire. M'lange allows rapid space travel, and hence presents the basic resource for development and progress. Two houses most likely to control the Dune are: House Atreides and House Harkonnen, with the house of the ruling emperor lurking from the shadows. Baron Harkonnen and the emperor massacred the Atreides government on Dune, and tried to destroy the house by killing Duke Leto and his family. Fortunately, the Duke's son, and the protagonist of this game, Paul Atreides and his mother Jessica managed to escape from this evil fate.
You start the game as Paul, alone with your mother in the middle of some desert on Dune, with no obvious chance for survival. The first goal is to avoid the oncoming storm and the worms. In time, Paul will become a holy man and messiah to the Fremen desert people, and take control of the Weirding ways to finally overpower the notorious Imperial Sardaukar guard.
The game looks like a classical action-adventure with a third-person view, and free camera rotation. This is where you get to encounter the first disastrous bug in this game. If you use the option to control the camera with the mouse, the camera will at some point start orbiting around Paul, making the entire game unplayable. I guess the designers realized the problems people might have with this bug, so they introduced automatic camera correction, which always tends to keep the camera behind Paul's back. This only leads to new problems... the automatic camera correction system will tend to leave everything you needed to see out of sight. The next idiotic feature is the fact that you can only use the predefined keys. Further more, the laser gun can only target things on certain lines (top-down, from corner to corner). Possibly the worst thing that could happen to you in a game with such troublesome controls is that you discover that you simply cannot save the game, and that it is only automatically saved once you finish a mission within the profile you created when you started playing the game. Well, you just discovered that. This feature will make you endlessly repeat boring levels which you failed only because you couldn't make your character do what you wanted thanks to the poor controls.
The most appealing side of this game is its 3D engine and the beautiful deserts, Fremen Sietches and Harkonnen building interiors it displays. The engine supports dynamic lighting and the particle system. It is a real shame this engine has not been put to proper use.
The game also has several innovative gameplay elements. Paul's sneaking had been done well, if you master the controls first, that is. Eliminating enemies using only your Kriss-knife is very convenient when you bring Paul to the adequate position. Enemies will sink into sand moments after you kill them off, which does not make too much sense, but considering the number of enemies, and their tendency to spot Paul even if he is hiding behind something, having to remove corpses would only make the game too hard.
As for the audio aspect, I would only like to mention the good voice acting done by professional actors. The rest of the game is practically silent apart from an odd poorly done sound-effect. There is practically no music in the game apart from the tune in the main menu.
Frank Herbert's Dune is a huge disappointment for all adventure-game players, and might find some audience amongst hardcore Dune fans, but not for long.
6.5 Above Average
Sneaking up to enemies, visual engine;
Pathetic controls, ridiculous camera correction.
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