marino's Advent Rising (Xbox) review

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A Game You Want to Like, But the Game Just Won't Let You

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Advent Rising has been in development for quite a while at rookie studio GlyphX.  From the beginning, Advent Rising has always been an ambitious project.  Taking a sci-fi script written by Orsen Scott Card and implementing it into a cinematic third-person shooter game has proven to be a difficult task.  Advent Rising is one of those games that you really want to like, as its brimming with potential, but in the end you just can't recommend it.  The game, while fun at times, is marred with glitches, hiccups, and generally frustrating moments that are so close to being memorable gaming experiences (in a good way) that it's almost depressing.  Advent Rising is supposed to be the kick-start of an epic trilogy, but it seems to have stalled in the gates. 
You play as Gideon Wyeth, a rookie space pilot and younger brother of one of the more respected pilots in the area.  When a mysterious alien spacecraft shows up at the space station, you and your brother are chosen to fly the human ambassador to the ship to meet the aliens.  Fortunately, they are extremely kind.  Unfortunately, they bring news of a second alien race that is coming to wipe out the humans as one of their own has given up their location to the enemy.  Assumed mythology suddenly becomes hard truth as the alien race known as The Seekers soon arrive and begin laying waste to everything around you.  Early on you must make a decision between saving your fiancee or your brother, and the story unfolds from there.     
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The first thing you'll notice in AR is that the human models are slightly distorted in an anime-esque way.  Their legs seem to make up 2/3's of their body which makes for some unique running and jumping animations.  Other than that, the models are fairly generic until you meet the alien races.  The aliens are so detailed that it makes the humans look half-assed.  The aliens are also the first obvious thievery in the game.  They look like they're straight out of Halo.  The special effects in the game are good but many of the levels seem a bit bare and dull.  The aliens, with their flourescent skin and neon shields, are the most colorful things you'll see most of the time.  Where the graphics really fail though is in the framerate department.  The game is constantly hiccuping for no apparent reason.  It's not like there are 50 guys on screen or Half-Life 2 graphics here.  The game struggles just to chug along through regular hallways at times.  There's no real excuse for it.  In short, the parts that look good seem stolen and the original parts look dull.     
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Advent Rising tries to be ambitious with the controls as well, but fails again.  First of all, you can dual wield weapons much like Halo 2.  This works great most of the time but the button layout becomes an issue when you want to swap weapons.  For some unknown reason, GlyphX decided to have separate buttons for dodge and jump, when they could have easily been fused together.  Dodge (X) is used similarly to games like Max Payne and Jump (A) is your standard platformer leap.  As if that wasn't hectic enough, to pick up a weapon with your left hand you press X.  So, if you are running through a firefight and need to pick up a new gun full of ammo, you must come to a complete stop on top of the gun on the floor then press X, or else you'll go into a slow motion dive forward and completely miss the gun.  It's simply maddening.  The design team also tried something new with the way you target enemies.  Instead of manually aiming at each one, you simply "flick" the right analog stick in the general direction to lock on to an enemy.  This sounds great in theory, as you can do it at any time and have pinpoint accuracy, but the problem with this new approach is quickly apparent.  Since the right analog is also your camera, and the game constantly forces you to move quickly before being overrun by enemies, as you start to run, touching the right analog stick at all will cause you to lock onto the very things you're trying to get away from.  This cuts your run speed down significantly and also makes it impossible to see where you're going.  You need 3 thumbs and 3 thumbsticks to make this control scheme work correctly.  It's not unplayable, it's just awkward.  As the game progresses, Gideon learns some telekinetic powers which make the game more playable, but honestly it makes it too easy.  On occasion you will have use of vehicles, which control exactly like Halo.  The "Scythe" is pretty much a Warthog anyways, so it only makes sense. 
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The sound is the high point of the game, but also has a huge down side.  Tommy Tallarico, of Electric Playground and Judgment Day on G4 fame, is behind the music in this project...and no that's not the huge down side.  He's put together quite an epic soundtrack with the help of a 70-piece orchestra and a full choir.  The soundtrack has that dramatic feel of a film and fits the game's story nicely.  The problem is that sound design team apparently didn't know what to do with these marvelous pieces of music.  Most games now days deftly ramp the music up and down to fit the player's situation.  Not in Advent Rising.  If I'm driving my Scythe (Warthog) along a cliff and jumping ravines with my boosters, the orchestral score works great.  But if I'm walking through a hallway and trying to listen to what someone has to say, TURN THE MUSIC DOWN!  It's just sorry management of an otherwise beautiful production.  The voice acting is actually pretty good and the sound effects are as well.     
Replay Value 
I'm not sure if I should be disappointed in the game's 8ish hours of length or glad it was done and over with quickly.  After beating it, there's not much point in going back as the story is fairly linear.  They're planning on a trilogy, so they can't give the player too many liberties in the first chapter.     
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Again, I really wanted to like this game, but they made it very hard to do that.  I like the idea, but they needed to flesh out the character development a bit more and make me actually care about these people.  I didn't get that from this game as much as I would want from a story such as this.  Advent Rising seems to be a case of a group of ambitious people with good intentions creating a game they didn't have the means to produce, and that's a sad tale.  Their scope was so grand that they forgot about some of the little things such as when I pick up a weapon, how about telling me what the name of it is on screen instead of just an icon of the gun type?  Or how about a map or some type of guide to aid me in finding where my next objective takes place?  Several times I became stuck in the game world and had to restart from the last checkpoint just to continue.  Advent Rising may be worth renting but it's not worth $50.  If you can hold out for a month, you can get it for $30 on the PC, but I don't know if you'd really want to.  Hopefully GlyphX learns from their mistakes, as this was their first title, and the next installment will fare much better.     
*** This review was written for shortly after the release of teh game. ***


Other reviews for Advent Rising (Xbox)

    A Flawed But Worthwhile Game 0

    Advent Rising is not a perfect game. There are big issues with the graphics engine such as poor frame rate in places and some see-through textures, some minor bugs such as staying locked onto a target after it's dead and gone, and some of the cutscene camera work is jerky. If you can't look past those things to see a good game, stop reading now. Advent Rising isn't for you. If, however, you're willing to look past these things you're in for a game with some unique gameplay and a stellar plot by ...

    2 out of 2 found this review helpful.

    Max Payne Meets Sci-Fi 0

    Every one has a game they consider a secret, because it isn't favored elsewhere but you cannot stand but to love it. That game for me was Advent Rising.  The story is little overdone but it was fun to see it play out, plus the choices you made early on could effect the ending of the game. After (Spoilers) the earth blows up you join a group of aliens who are being bullied by another group of aliens.   From here you gain magical powers that you can play with. You get things like shields, energy s...

    2 out of 2 found this review helpful.

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