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K-Hawk: Survival Instinct Review

publisher: JoWooD Productions
developer: Similis Software
genre: Action Adventure

PII-500, 128MB RAM, 500MB HDD, 16MB 3D accelerator
ESRB rating: T

release date: Dec 27, 02
» All About K-Hawk: Survival Instinct on ActionTrip

There ain't nothin' better than a fine naked woman holdin' a gun. And it's really been a long time since I've seen a good-looking female game character. So, as corny as it may sound to some, I was rather pleased to hear that I will review Similis Software and JoWood Productions' stealthy action/adventure entitled K. Hawk: Survival Instinct. The game follows the strange fate of one female trooper - Kitty Hawk. She's ain't exactly the cutest digital incarnation of a female I've ever seen, but seeing how dead people get more action than me lately, Kitty just had to do (For what, VADAR?! For what?! - Ed).

This cute girl is a Navy S.E.A.L. and a helicopter pilot trained to deal with almost any kind of situation on the battlefield (What if you were to strip naked in front of her on the field? Would she be able to handle that? - Ed). Working on a simple reconnaissance mission, Kitty's chopper crash-landed on a mysterious island somewhere in the Pacific. Unfortunately, during the crash her boyfriend got killed (damn!) and that kinda pissed her off. Stranded on this unknown island, Kitty is forced to survive on her own. Soon afterwards, she discovers that the island is swarming with heavily armed sentries who don't really appreciate uninvited guests. From that point on, her life becomes a nightmare and the only way she can stay alive is to go deeper into enemy territory. After establishing contact with HQ, Kitty receives a new mission priority. Her job will be to locate and destroy the island's air defense systems. As she infiltrates the enemy base, she accidentally unveils a great secret that's been kept safe on the island, which has to do with bizarre experiments on humans. No way dude!

I don't wish to nitpick, but wasn't it possible to come up with a slightly more interesting plot than that? But, who needs that when you have a sexy chick to look at throughout the entire game (make a note of it Lacey, VADAR love's you and all female creatures; rats, bunnies, snakes - the lot). (VADAR, dude; I'd keep this to yourself. I mean really; bunnies, snakes? That's gross! - Ed) Anyhow, the situation is obvious. You're a pissed off revenge-stricken sexy babe on a deserted island, left to fend for herself. As luck would have it, Kitty has various close combat skills on her side and can also use a wide range of special weapons. You won't have much of an arsenal at the beginning, which means you're going to have to make your way into hostile territory without ranged weaponry in your hands. Obviously, this won't be a simple task at all.

One of Kitty's mission parameters is to keep the whole operation discreet. So yeah, stealthness is of the essence. As you start creeping your way past enemy soldiers, you'll notice that there are many factors that can reveal your position; such as loud footsteps, gunfire, and so on. Once the enemy locates your position, Kitty's chances of surviving will be slim. The first thing that irritated the hell out of me was the dreadfully balanced AI. A single soldier was given a solid AI, but was also endowed with incredible precision. In other words, when you're facing enemy fire it's more than likely you'll be dead after a few hits. It looks as though the developers have made a slight boo-boo in an attempt to keep players from resorting to action. It was a good idea to emphasize the stealth aspect of gameplay by making the enemy's aim very good, but this is just too much. Increasing the difficulty even further, the developers have made it almost impossible for you to take out enemy sentries with one shot. Perhaps the only way you can do this is with a lucky sniper shot, but then again, a sniper won't be readily available to you.

As the game's subtitle suggests, the whole idea is to help Kitty "survive" this ordeal. At the beginning of each level you receive orders via the personal communicator and the mission can begin. Sometimes Kitty will have to take out various military instillations by plating explosives, while in other situations she has to locate and assassinate a certain character. Of course, Kitty will be lucky enough to find diverse weapons lying around to make her tasks easier. Apart from your basic equipment, like handguns, you will have access to rifles such as the MP5; and, when the goin' gets tough, players get to use the MK-X Assault Rifle. Next to those, you'll receive some weapons that will help you remain a lethal stealthy assassin - for example, there's the Mark 23 Silencer pistol and the PSG-1 Sniper Rifle, both of which are very effective means for taking out enemies the quiet way. But, let's face it. None of these weapons mean shit if it will take a couple of rounds to shoot your opponents dead, even with a high-caliber rifle. It just seems weird to me that it can sometimes take one or two precise shots to kill an enemy with a Mark 23 Silencer, whereas, the MP5 and MK-X Assault Rifle need a lot more than that, even though I'm sure the high-caliber bullets are hitting the mark. That's just downright frustrating.

Also, I'll have to criticize the way the developers designed the main interface and inventory system. Accessing your weapons will be a piece of cake - no objections there (it's a simple matter of using your mouse wheel). However, players may have a hard time selecting various items, which are in most cases crucial to successful mission objectives. The time it takes you to cycle through your inventory is just too damn long. This is also presents a bummer when your character is in desperate need of health packs. What happens is that by the time you select one, those extremely accurate soldiers will be all over your ass and you'll find yourself in bit of a tight spot. The mission goals are easy enough (it won't take you long to figure what you need to do, and then do it), but the frustrating way in which the enemy AI has been designed, and bearing in mind the extremely resilient nature of the sentries, it becomes quite clear that K. Hawk has some serious balancing issues when it comes to gameplay design.

Visually, the game is a mixed bag of blessings. The good thing is that Kitty's model is rather life-like in her movement and looks really sweet (hey, remember what I said about dead people seeing more action than me lately), which means she'll be swinging those hips and walking in that tempting female fashion. Some of the indoor levels look passable, with various colorful details in the background and nifty lighting effects. Then again, most of the areas and 3D objects could use richer textures and ploys. In short, the graphics are outdated, poor, and they lack more striking effects like explosions and such. Well, you can see some explosions when you use your Rocket Launcher, but that's about it. Other than that you won't be seeing any particle effects, realistic water surfaces, etc. Another particularly annoying moment in the game is the rather unresponsive camera movement (even when you set mouse sensitivity to max) - sometimes you cannot shift it in time to notice enemies that are close at hand.

The sound effects are average and that goes for the music as well. The voiceovers sound okay I guess and the tunes that hum in the background are just enough to keep your attention for a while. Although, a few additional tracks would have hit the spot nicely...

Well what can I say; the game can certainly use more polishing - more like a proper make-over. Anyhoo, with a poorly balanced AI, laggy camera, and the outdated graphics it's safe to assume that it will be overshadowed with upcoming PC titles like Splinter Cell and Bloodrayne. In a nutshell, K. Hawk: Survival Instinct can be fun for a few hours, until you get terribly annoyed with all of the above-mentioned flaws and glitches. It's good to watch a new and attractive female character in action. But frankly, I'd rather play as a short fat bald guy and fight against lifelike opponents (with believable AI) than as a chick in sexy underwear desperately evading relentless fire from foes with supernatural aiming abilities.


5.9   Okay

The missions can be interesting I guess (if you try to complete them without setting off the alarm that is). Hm, I really cannot think of anything else;

Outdated visuals. The unbalanced AI - opponents are waaay too precise when they fire. Sometimes it may require a lot of bullets to take out enemy sentries. The camera plainly sucks and there's nothing you can do about it. The story could've been a bit more original; I'm really getting sick of all those damn mutants and scientist in white coats.



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