Great Idea, Mediocre Execution
The genre of First-Person Shooters is flooded to say the least. Most developers take a cookie-cutter approach these days, which is why Geist, while not the best FPS by any means, is a welcome breath of fresh air on the genre. In Geist, you play as John Raimi, a scientist in a special forces unit set to take down the Volks Corporation. Volks is a subterranean labratory where many highly volitile experiments take place. Your squad is sent in to obtain evidence and shut 'em down, but of course things don't go as planned. On the way out, your squad is attacked by one of your own soldiers and you become the next experiment for the Volks Corporation. You become extracted from your body, like a ghost or "energy-based life form," and imprisoned for further testing. With a little help you are let out and embark on a quest for revenge and to save the rest of your crew before they too become part of these experiments. You cannot survive for long in your ethereal form, so you must constantly jump from host to host. Whether it's another human being, a dog, a plant, or even boxes and other inanimate objects is up to you.
The game does support progressive scan and widescreen, but even so, it's nothing spectacular. The environments and characters themselves seem a bit muddy and not what you would expect from the current crop of games. The lighting effects are good but don't make up for the less than stellar framerate. At times the game can look quite good, but alot of the time it seems dated.
Well, it's setup as you would expect for a FPS, but it just doesn't work as well as you'd hope. The aiming is a bit touchy to say the least, which leaves you tapping the C-stick trying to target something while leaving yourself wide open to take damage. Possession controls are fairly straight forward and the gameplay is quite linear. You can't actually possess everything, so when you come upon something that you can, it's quite obvious that you need to. This makes many of the puzzles easier to figure out since there is only one solution. In an original idea for a game such as this, a bit more freedom would have been nice. Possessing a human is trickier than say... taking over a trash can. To possess a human, you must first scare them by doing something to the environment that doesn't appear normal. This basically means finding an inanimate object nearby that you can possess, and then do whatever it is that item does to freak the guy out. While in ghost mode, NPC's have a visible aura that tells you what state of fear they're in. Only red ones can be possessed. It's reminiscent of Psi-Ops a bit, but it's still original.
Nothing riveting here either sadly. The game does have voiceovers for some parts, but mostly you get recycled one-liners from NPC's while what they actually say to you is in text at the bottom of the screen. The music adequately sets the mood but don't expect Advent Rising style orchestras. Overall the sound isn't bad by any means but it doesn't do much more than necessary.
The single player adventure is about as long as you'd expect (about 10 hours). The game also features a solid set of three multiplayer modes that are anything but tacked on for good measure. Each of them takes advantage of the game's possession features. You can have up to 4 players on these matches as well as up to 4 bots. The best of the three match types is probably Hunt, which pits 1 ghost against 7 humans.
The idea is a good one, but Geist doesn't do as good of a job with this new idea as one would hope. This is by no means a bad game though, and is still worth getting if all you've got is a GameCube. Just don't go in expecting Half-Life 2 or Halo 2. While not the best in FPS mechanics, the game does feature quite a few unique puzzle elements even if it does hold your hand a bit along the way.
*** This review was written for Flamevault.com shortly after the game's release ***