Sunday, April 30, 2006

ÜberSoldier Review

ÜberSoldier, developed by Butut CT and published by CDV.
The Good: Outstanding graphics (if you have the system for them), some interesting components
The Not So Good: Very difficult (even on easy settings) due to being greatly outnumbered, dumb AI, no multiplayer
What say you? A generic shooter with alluring graphics and shameful difficulty: 5/8

According to various sources, Adolf Hilter was interested in the occult and other mystical powers during his tenure as Germany’s top man. And by various sources I mean the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark. What if Hitler had found something that could grant unworldly powers? This is the premise of ÜberSoldier: the Nazis use powerful technology to raise the dead and produce powerful soldiers to take on the Allies. But the resistance gets a hold of an ÜberSoldier and can use it against the Nazi regime! Oh sweet revenge! You are that rogue ÜberSoldier, bent on shooting as many Nazis as possible.

ÜberSoldier has some great graphics for a first person shooter. All of the aspects of the game are highly detailed: the environments, weapons, and characters. This is something that is almost expected when a shooter is released nowadays, and ÜberSoldier doesn’t disappoint, as the graphics are by far the highlight of the game. Of course, the graphics come at a steep price, and you need a pretty good system in order to experience them to their fullest. Luckily, I just bought a new computer and my specs are up to par. The sound is a mixed bag. The weapon effects are very well done, an impressive mix of authentic, powerful sounds. However, the speech of the characters in the game, especially friendly forces, gets old very quickly. Allies pretty much have two things to say: “Nazis!” and “I see Nazis!” There’s no dynamic speech or ongoing conversations in this game, just the basic, repetitive “I see an enemy” comments.

ÜberSoldier is just a single player game, a rare and disappointing occurrence in today’s gaming market. The game is a classic first person shooter with some minor wrinkles to the action. Since the game takes place at the end of World War II, ÜberSoldier features World War II-era weapons from both sides of the European conflict. Your character can hold one weapons of each type: pistol, rifle, automatic, heavy, and grenade. Weapons of the game class are essentially the same, so you’ll drop weapons that you have less ammunition for. ÜberSoldier has the Walther P38, Colt M1911, Mauser Kar. 98k, SVT-40 sniper rifle, s.Pz.B-41 anti-tank rifle, MP-40, FG-42, StG-44, PPSH-41, M39 grenade, MG-42, M1918A2, Panzerschrek, Phoenix flamethrower, and others. Reload time is very slow, which is accurate for the day but disrupts the constant flow of the game. Each weapon has a specific ammo type, so you’ll end up using the weapons of the enemies since they’ll be carrying that kind of ammunition. The game has an arcade health system, where it takes many shots to kill you (well, you are an ÜberSoldier, after all) as well as the enemies. This has a couple of exceptions, notably head shots and grenades. It took around 20 direct shots to kill me, but only one grenade? Hmm. Once you do get shot, there is a plethora of health packs littered around the map, clearly indicated on your minimap.

The semi-original aspects of ÜberSoldier results from the time shield and emotions. You can activate a shield that stops all incoming (and outgoing) bullets while the shield is active. Bullets then either drop to the ground or fly forward then shield is deactivated, depending on the amount of energy left. The time shield power is regenerated through killing enemies or the emotion bonuses. If you shoot three people in the head in a given amount of time (around 10 seconds), you get an “anger” bonus that results in more time shield energy. There is also a “rage” bonus that results from stabbing three people in a row; this gives more maximum health (above 100%). Although these are basically lifted from The Matrix and Unreal Tournament, they make the game a little distinct and original. Without these components, ÜberSoldier would have been a completely average shooter. The AI, both friendly and enemy, of ÜberSoldier is not good. Friendly soldiers don’t follow you or take cover much, while enemy soldiers spawn in scripted locations behind heavy cover to compensate for their poor behavior. Every once in a while, they will lob a grenade your way, but for the most part it’s run forward and shoot. The difficulty in ÜberSoldier results from large numbers of enemies being in good locations, namely hiding behind sandbags with machine guns and unlimited ammo. I don’t like this at all. Unfairly stacking the deck against the player makes the game frustrating to play. Muzzle flare makes it even more difficult to pinpoint the centimeter of enemy peeking out above the defenses. And your allies are of no help against the strong enemy forces. Despite the other trimmings, the AI of ÜberSoldier makes it wearisome to play.

Another day, another sub-par first person shooter. Granted, ÜberSoldier has a semi-original concept and semi-original parts, but not even the outstanding graphics can save itself from the realms of average. The carefully hidden and overly powerful AI makes the game exasperating to play, and almost an exercise of hide and seek. Although the time shield is an interesting addition, getting head shots with any weapon other than the sniper rifle is extremely difficult, especially when you are being shot. Just killing enemies doesn’t recharge the time shield enough by itself to make it a worthwhile addition to the game. The developers of the Max Payne series were smart enough to allow for plenty of “bullet time,” because that was the draw of the game. There just isn’t enough time shield play in ÜberSoldier for my tastes. Yet again, an interesting premise falls to the wayside as sub-par features dominate the scene.