Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Foreign Legion: Multi Massacre Review

Foreign Legion: Multi Massacre, developed by Sakari Indie and GriN and published by Sakari Games.
The Good: Online play with lots of shootin’, only $7
The Not So Good: Constant defending quickly becomes stale, health regeneration limits difficulty, spotty hit detection, few enemy types with poor AI, weapons must be slowly unlocked and can’t be picked up from fallen enemies, only three maps
What say you? A cooperative third-person shooter heavy on repetition and light on content (and everything else): 2/8

In 1831, the French Foreign Legion was established to allow Non-French citizens to fight for the Kingdom in Algeria. This proud military operation was tasked with keeping the peace in French colonial holdings around the world. Thus, it’s only proper that the fine soldiers who gave their lives are honored in a game…where you blow up dolphins covered in dynamite. I bet they never had to deal with that in Algiers! This is a sequel to 2009’s Buckets of Blood (the title of which should immediately tip you off to the level of gritty realism in the series) and featuring (mostly) cooperative battles against waves of advancing foes. Does this inexpensive product march gloriously under the Arc de Triomphe?

Foreign Legion: Multi Massacre attempts a cartoon aesthetic, and the result is an uneven presentation. The graphics look generally unchanged from the three-year-old original (or, at least, they are outdated), with blocky character models that exhibit rough animations and a low level of weapon and model texture detail. The 2-D explosions are unimpressive, and the details feature a bland, sandy brown color palette. For gore being so heavily advertised, the game doesn't provide as much as I had anticipated. Sure, heads explode and things get bloody when you use shotguns or explosives (and, even then, results are canned and repetitive), but you don't see limbs flying off or gruesome animations for more traditional weapons. The third-person view is also a hindrance, with a restrictive camera and obstructive soldier. Foreign Legion: Multi Massacre also tries too hard to be funny, with misplaced “jokes” in the form of billboards and exploding dolphins: calling everything “WTF” doesn't classify as humor. The sound design isn’t any better, with typical sound effects, very sporadic (and repetitive when it does occur) voice acting, and a generic musical score. Foreign Legion: Multi Massacre clearly doesn’t impress in any aspect of the graphics or sound design.

Foreign Legion: Multi Massacre is a tower defense game without the towers, where you must shoot all the enemies that are attempting to storm your base. Although designed as a multiplayer title, you can still host a server yourself for a spot of single player action (and still gain experience), although you cannot pause the game at any time. The server browser needlessly separates games by map (although since there are only three, it doesn’t take much scrolling to find all of the hosts) and doesn’t display game options before you join. Matches can be customized according to the difficulty level and game mode: a five or ten minute game, waves of enemies (instead of a constant stream), and endless mode, or domination where you must capture a baguette, cheese, and wine (see, French Foreign Legion, ha ha!). At least the game seems to adjust the number of enemies based on the quantity of human players, so that's something. Online play, in my experience, features lots of lag whenever a large explosion occurs; whether that is due to a peer having a slow system or the netcode not being able to handle the physics is anyone's guess. There are only three map designs, and one is initially disabled: you need to unlock and equip the flotation device, and all you do is shoot explosive-laden dolphins. Yes, that's a game mode. The other maps offer all the same thrills (or lack thereof), producing repetitive gaming where you defend, defend, and defend some more.

Playing Foreign Legion: Multi Massacre rewards you, the player, with money and experience (much like the real French Foreign Legion, no doubt); these are spent to unlock weapons and decorative items. The eleven weapons in the game are divided into three categories: primary (pistol, submachine gun), secondary (assault rifle, shotgun), and “special” (RPG, sniper rifle, machine gun). As you level up, you can unlock new weapons by paying for them; having enough money is never an issue, but waiting for experience to slowly accumulate is. While my irritation with weapon unlocks has been well documented, Foreign Legion: Multi Massacre takes it two steps further: you can only carry one weapon of each type per game (even if you’ve paid a lot of money for other items), and you can’t pick up any weapons from defeated enemies. See that shiny rocket launcher? Sorry, can’t have it. Ammunition is also persistent, so each bullet costs money and you’ll need to tediously refill your weapons between matches (which, of course, means you have to leave the server you were playing on). I routinely forget to rearm and enter the next game with no bullets. Foreign Legion: Multi Massacre takes everything that’s not fun about weapon unlocks and adds several more layers of annoyance. Finally, you can pay to customize your character with different colors (including blue and purple), outfits, and accessories (like the proud French symbol: the duck inner tube).
Controls in Foreign Legion: Multi Massacre are typical for a shooter: the right-mouse button zooms in a bit, and you are given the ability to “honk clown nose” for no discernable reason (other than annoying other players). The game keeps track of your score (next to a bucket of blood, of course), pompously displaying the number of headshots, body shots, and explosions you have caused after each kill. The speedy health regeneration makes Foreign Legion: Multi Massacre a very easy game on anything but the highest difficulty level (which drastically increases the number of enemies and the damage they cause), especially if you have four semi-coordinated human players with some of the better weapons unlocked. If you do happen to die, you must wait fifteen seconds to respawn in a terrible location that’s almost always right next to (or in range of) an enemy unit. There are health and ammo pickups on some of the levels, the latter of which you will need constantly. Since there is no melee attack, if you run out of ammunition, you can't do anything (a significant issue on the dolphin level, where there are no pickups to be found). Shooting is not very satisfying, as the hit detection is inconsistent enough to be noticeable. There are only three enemy types: a suicide bomber, a rocket launcher guy, and an assault rifle guy (plus the dolphins, but they don't shoot back). The AI is not an intelligent foe, as it follows scripted, predictable paths, stops immediately upon sighting you, clips into nearby soldiers, and routinely runs into walls and other objects. Of course, when the human players can get stuck on dismembered body parts lying on the ground, maybe the AI isn’t completely to blame for its shortcomings.

Defensive games can be fun, but the uneven AI, weapon unlocks, few maps, and low difficulty makes Foreign Legion: Multi Massacre far too monotonous. The enemy soldiers are never a real challenge, due to health regeneration for you and idiotic behaviors (getting stuck on objects, following the same paths) for them. The weapon unlocks prevent new users from accessing the complete arsenal, and you can't supplement your loadout with weapons from fallen soldiers. Only having three maps (two for novices) and a single objective (except for the one instance of domination) also contributes to dull gameplay. The poor attempts at humor and limited (for most weapons), repetitive gore round out an uninspired package. Even for only $7, Foreign Legion: Multi Massacre offers little to make it a recommended title.