jrclem's Oni (PC) review

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An under-rated action game that falls just short of greatness.

 Oni is a third-person action title from Bungie Software in which you take the role of Konoko, a member of an elite police task force. Konoko knows very little about her past ,and throughout the game you will learn who she is and what her place is in the world of Oni through a series of 2D anime-style cut-scenes. In Oni, the planet has been ravaged by a poisonous plague that makes living outside of huge, quarantined megacities impossible. A terrorist group known as the Syndicate is in conflict with the World Coalition Government and seems to want to introduce the plague to the mega-cities and bring destruction to the world.

An interesting setup, but action is the star of Oni. Konoko is capable of bringing a whole lot of pain to the party through a devastating selection of hand-to-hand maneuvers, ranging from simple punches and kicks to strings of combos and incredibly satisfying neck- and -back-breaking throws.

There are also the firearms to consider, including standard pistols and machine guns, as well as the more interesting (and useful) swarm-missile launchers and frozen-mercury firing rail-guns. One neat bit of gameplay that bridges the visceral melee combat with the more strategic use of firearms is Konoko's ability to steal an enemy's weapon before she takes them out (which can be invaluable in later levels). While the firearms are certainly necessary to completing the game, they don't provide quite the same sense of achievement as when Konoko takes a guy down with a well-timed jumping back-kick to the face.

The controls in Oni are a little difficult to get used to and are unfortunately not customizable in the game's options. However, in the PC release the commands are simply written to a text file and it may be possible to rebind them (I've never tried). But, once you have the controls down pat, Konoko will be beating down pretty much anything that crosses her path.

That being said, Oni is a difficult game. There are somewhere around 15 levels in Oni; during every one, you will be fighting a seemingly unending horde of incredibly well-armed henchmen. To break up the action there are some jumping puzzles and sneaking sections that are difficult both because of Konoko's floaty-feeling jump, and your enemies' ridiculously good eyesight. So more likely than not, you should expect that some sections will require multiple run-throughs due to the fact that there isn't a save system. The distance between the save points seemed unnecessarily long (kind of like other, more recent Bungie titles). And although this can lead to a fairly high amount of frustration, you can always take it out on the unsuspecting minions in the game, usually in spectacular fashion.

The graphics of Oni are average for their time. The sound effects and voice-acting however are both good even in comparison to some of today's titles. Like nearly all PC games, Oni has retained absolutely none of its initial value in stores, and can be had for as little as $1.00 on eBay. For that price, Oni is a must-own title for third-person action fans, and a game that is absolutely begging for a sequel that takes advantage of the gameplay innovations of recent genre hits like the Prince of Persia series.

The bottom-line is that Oni is an under-rated action title that despite unoriginal and somewhat tedious level-design offers a fun fighting experience that should not be missed. 

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