Heavy Metal F.A.K.K. 2 Review
developer: Ritual Entertainment
genre: Action Adventure
P233, 64MB RAM, 200MB HDD, 3D accelerator
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Aug 06, 00
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I must say she is kinda sexy. Even her digital incarnation that is... It's not War and Peace; it doesn't have the depth of an epic novel, but who cares. Wait, you've taken a look at the title, haven't you? So you know this is a FAKK2 review. And if you're reading this article you're probably very much aware of Julie Strain... Ritual and GOD have at last finished the long-awaited PC adaptation of the famous graphic novel. They've crammed all the polys they could into a round-shaped, skillfully textured behind of an actress with credits on more than 90 movies and videotapes, that has justifiably been called "Queen of the B Movies".
The whole "movement" started with the graphic novel "Melting Pot", published by Tundra Publishing Ltd. It was the 1990 preview to the upcoming Heavy Metal movie. Flashback fourteen years to 1986, the first concept drawing of the world to become the Melting Pot arrived on a plane to Kevin Eastman. Seven years later, with the talents of Eric Talbot and Simon Bisley, the vision was realized. One thing led to another, and it all fit together the day that Eastman met B-Movie Star Julie Strain. Working together, the character of Julie, a.k.a. F.A.K.K.² came about, followed by the first screenplay...
It's year 2000... The reports on the movie sequel show lukewarm response from the selected audience. Luckily, while "real" Julie was strutting her stuff on the film sets, with them red thongs and all, her digital mirror image was about ready to hit the store shelves with a sizeable degree of success. As with the graphic novel FAKK2 - the game carries that off beat sense of slightly sexual humor, and flashy violence - something we've definitely come to expect from an ex-Ritual - Levelord, Rob Atkins, and the rest of the boob-obsessed crew of coders over at Ritual Entertainment. Julie Strain's unique 6ft 1" physique, and seductive hotline voice were fully exploited in order to bring the character of "would-be God killer" to life... FAKK2 game features a sexy leading lady, modified version of the gorgeous Quake III engine, a lot of character, but is that enough to lift it above so many 3rd person action adventures out there? Ritual's previous big game, SiN definitely brought some fresh air into the single player FPS, so, chances were that FAKK2 could do the same for the genre that has the words Lara Croft written all over it...
In Heavy Metal players take on the role of FAKK2, a legendary hero of the multi-verse. Take her on a journey where danger lie in the most unsuspecting corners of the fantasy world --- Years have passed since the Julie a.k.a. FAKK2 defeated the would-be God Lord Tyler on the bloody battlefields of the Holy Land. FAKK2 on the long journey from the Holy land to the Galaxy of the Twin Suns has gathered those without a home in the universe and brought them back to her Home-world of Eden. With their help She and those she has brought to this place of perfect natural balance have once again rebuilt the ruined city atop the field of mystical bubbling geysers.
And while the people of EDEN rejoice in their great fortune, far away in the deepest nebulas of space a behemoth lumbers endlessly along it's eternal journey eating the worlds in its path like fruit from an over-ripe tree. At the helm of the ship that has eaten a thousand worlds is an ancient entity known to his people as their father, savior and soon-to-be God, he is GITH. "Gith Wants, Gith Gets" is one of many mantra's sung through the strangled voices of Gith Industries "employees". A hyper-evolved corporation it has annexed and merged itself by means of hostile take-over with every world it has encountered creating an unfathomable culture known as Belphegoria. Now GITH is coming to EDEN, and guess what? GITH is looking to destroy all existence... Who else to stand in the way of yet another successful merger than our hero, Julie. She once defeated Tyler, and if she rips off any more of her clothes during game, there is no "would-be God" alive that could resist her charms...
On To The Game...
As I said FAKK2 - the game gets a nice head start with a marketable license, hot B-Movie actress, and some Quake 3 polygonal loving. But does it do justice to the overall concept of Heavy Metal? Does it get past some of the limitations (standards) imposed by the more prominent titles in the genre? As always, there are no straight answers; only a number of observations that I've taken into consideration during gameplay. Let's get one thing straight though. I fully believe that FAKK2 is a fun and enjoyable game overall, and that no Tomb Raider/action adventure fan, will ever regret grabbing a copy of it. In fact, as much as you can compare FAKK2 in some regards to Tomb Raider, it would be unfair to suggest it's simply another Tomb Raider clone. FAKK2, like Omikron, Outcast, and a few other action adventures before it, looks to draw players into its unique, fantasy world; or at least that was the original plan. The game's design has elements of plot development, as well as character interaction, that at times make it exhibit even a few classic adventure properties. Ritual definitely had a more ambitious project in mind than creating a flaky, sub-par plot that revolves solely around the lead character. All the in-game cut scenes are designed so that they could emphasize the cinematic feel, with the dialogues intended to tease our imagination deeper into the realms of the game world.
Although Ritual has, to a certain extent, managed to capture the movie atmosphere, and bring the multi-verse closer to players, the earlier mentioned limitations (standards) imposed by the classical predecessors (think TR -Ed.) didn't let FAKK2 go all the way. No matter how much Ritual tried to engulf us in the game's continuous universe, they didn't come anywhere near the depth of Omikron or Outcast. After spending some time on it, players will soon realize that FAKK2, in certain instances turns into a classic "pull the lever, push the crate" action adventure, where the player is left all alone with the heroine, (no, not like that) Tomb Raider style, jumping over the ledges and climbing dozens of hurdles. As the game progresses, you become more, and more aware of this fact. The initial impressions of meaningful dialogues and interesting characters slowly fade away. Instead of going for the completely immersive single player experience, FAKK2 gradually fades into the tombraiderish style of gameplay, and strays from what Ritual programmers, I suspect, originally intended to create. Mind you, not that such a turn of events is so bad... On the contrary, even the Lara Croft reminiscent style of gameplay has much more attitude to it, with a sexier heroin that's more athletic than Lara. Julie will grab, catch, push, pull, and hug walls... Meaning, players will be able to use their wits, and different schemes in order to get to some valuable parts of the map. On top of that, don't forget that she's so damn sexy! Unlike the more conservative Lara Croft, Julie is more of a teaser, and she definitely has the coolest little red thongs! I can only speak for myself, but if I was to choose between the two, I'd definitely go for Ms. Strain. She has more spunk, and she's definitely more life-like.
FAKK2 has a lot of things working to its advantage, gameplay-wise. I've tried explaining this aspect of the game in more detail; bring it closer to the people that still haven't decided on buying it. Yeah, FAKK2 has a lot more to it than classic action adventure gameplay. Even apart from the obvious specifics, like the introduction of Julie Strain, and the Heavy Metal license, it features more gameplay depth than Tomb Raider or any of its clones. FAKK2 plot is paced, and slowly unraveled (action movie style) dragging the player deeper into the world. On the other hand, it features far less NPC, or dialogue depth than any of the classic, or more immersive action adventures... It's like that song from Faith No More - "...because I'm somewhere in between..."
Finally, one other thing that really bothered me is the rigid linearity of the plot and the chain of events that initialize its progression. Considering that FAKK2 is more action-inclined, this was to be expected. If you set out to create an illusion of a large, and unexplored world though, you cannot restrict players' movements to predefined paths. If you do decide to go through with the idea, at least try not to make the programmed chain of events so obvious. Yes, the plot is interesting, (in that TV flick type o' way) but I feel more like a spectator than a participant. Although linear sequences add to the game's dynamics, they certainly take away from the impression of playing in an open-ended universe. Again, this example speaks volumes about the FAKK2's overall gameplay concept. And let me remind you; I don't categorize it as good or bad. It's dependant on each player's liking. I'm pretty sure that most of the lack of depth, other reviewers complained about, has exactly to do with the intangible gameplay concepts.
As for the puzzles, they rank in the slight to no-brainer category, with the accent laying more on action sequences than IQ. Partly because of Julie's athleticism, and partly because of the flexibility of the Q3 code they remain fairly interesting throughout. In contrast to the linearity of the plot, action puzzles leave a lot of space for improvising, making the puzzle-solving somewhat non-linear.
FAKK2 Quake III Engine...
As far as I know Ritual's FAKK2 is the first conversion of the Quake 3 engine to play from the 3rd person, and maybe even the first-to-get-released single player game based on it. A true test of Carmack's Q3 technology, and it's a mixed bag of impressions. FAKK2 world looks pretty. I especially enjoyed the sky and water textures. Open landscapes do not appear barren, and the weapon effects add a lot of poise and eye-candy to the overall visuals. What bothered me though were the models --- I swear they look like something coming out of Xatrix's Kingpin! I guess most of the available polys in the scene went into Julie's face and buttocks, and the remaining 20 polys got shared amongst the NPCs! There is an option that allows for a higher quality of models in terms of curves and detail, but even then, they look like mere Quake 2 work. It appears that Ritual decided to prioritize their models, giving the leading lady, and a few bosses most of the polys. As a result, the rest of the characters appear blocky, and plain silly. Certainly not something you'd expect from the much ballyhooed Quake III engine.
Using the Q3 code has certain other advantages to it. That elusive term "feel of the game", characteristic for Quake 3 is just as noticeable in FAKK2. FAKK2 combat is smoother because of it, especially with the melee weapons. The game's physics go beyond any other action adventure, and it all comes down to being loads of fun to play. Sheesh, when I think of Lucas' sub-par Indy 3D physics... FAKK2 seems like a revelation. Considering the enormous potential of the Quake 3 engine, I can't help but think that Ritual only used a small fraction of its possibilities. That doesn't necessarily mean that the game doesn't look good. Well, apart from the NPCs it looks all right, but It could've looked so much better if the programmers spent some more time on it, and did a bit more optimizing...
Bring it all down baby!
Ugh, I hate this part... You've read just about... well, everything I had to say... I didn't really talk about the weapons much, but I guess you can't mention everything in one review... Wait, you can --- the weapons aren't terribly original, but they get the job done. I personally favored using the melee stuff, like the battle-axe, as it's the right way of experiencing all the blood and gore the game has to offer. Controls are easy and intuitive, although the game could've used more combo melee moves...
In the end, my date with Julie Strain turned out to be an entertaining experience of light-headed fun & games. Yeah, I wish... At least I got to play the game... Now if I can only find that "Nude Julie" patch everybody's been talking about...
Enjoyable experience with great physics, and solid action. Julie Strain's thongs!
Shallow dialogue, identity crisis.
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