bhlaab's Boiling Point (PC) review

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Not For Everyone

Boiling Point feels like a cheap knockoff of a more popular game, iterating on established mechanics to fill its own niche. The only problem is that I don't know what it could possibly be ripping off. The games it most resembles, Far Cry 2 and STALKER, both came out years later. Perhaps that speaks to Boiling Point's overstuffed nature and systems designed to appeal only to a very niche audience. Perhaps it also speaks to Boiling Point being a little ahead of its time... and ahead of its developers' ability.

Like Far Cry 2, the hunt for a missing person leads the protagonist into a third world country being pulled apart by civil war and crime. Here it is a South American island nation instead of Africa. Upon arrival the player is given free reign to wander as they like, whether that means going to the police to file a missing persons report, joining the mafia, or running blindly into the jungle and getting stung to death by bees. Unlike Far Cry 2 and more like STALKER (or perhaps Fallout:New Vegas), your choice of approach will have lasting consequences as progression is tied to allying oneself with one of half a dozen factions. Doing jobs for one tends to annoy one or more of the others.

Early on, this proves interesting. The protagonist, on the trail of his missing daughter, is told that she was last seen with the local Mafia don. After you find out where his mansion is, you can storm right up to the front gate and blast your way in if you so choose. You can also find the mansion's architect and bribe him for clues on secret passages and door codes. Or you can commandeer a boat upriver and into a slightly less guarded mansion entrance. Or you can do enough jobs for the mafia that the don will happily open the door for you without bloodshed. It's a promising start that unfortunately marks the end of any sort of substantive 'main quest' within Boiling Point. After confronting the don, Boiling Point's critical path will instead throw up a number of paywalls: 20,000 pesos for some information here, 17,000 for a little more there, and so on until you've successfully bribed your way into the final villain's evil lair. It's disappointing but also liberating, as it makes one point loud and clear. You are to go out and make your own story, because the one the developers made is just a flimsy pretense. Missing daughter be damned, faction sidequests are what this game is actually about.

Each sidequest pays out roughly 1,000-3,000 pesos per, so you're going to have to do a lot of them to make it past those paywalls. The quests are basic, but quite satisfying if you can forgive the long times spent traveling back and forth. Each one generally involves driving out to a rival faction's base and killing everybody there, sometimes with the caveat that you must also blow up a certain vehicle or take a photograph of a certain object. The action is adequate, but clumsy. Shots don't always connect the way you'd expect them to and aiming down sights (or the 2005 equivalent of ADS: slightly zooming the camera in) can't be done while moving. Reminiscent of a dodgier Far Cry 1, most fights require the player to pick their spot and dig in their heels, taking pot-shots from range. The most interesting part of shootouts in Boiling Point is how often your view will be obscured by foliage, so finding good vantage points is difficult. Your mileage may vary based on how interesting you think tactical foliage avoidance is.

The best parts of Boiling Point might also be its most divisive. Well, I'm lying, the best part of Boiling Point is its theme song (see the youtube link at the bottom). The second best parts of Boiling Point might also be its most divisive. There are a smattering of hardcore sim-like elements. Not enough to be truly fulfilling to sim fans, but just enough to be irritating to casual players who just want an open world sandbox. Personally, I think they add flavor. In a departure from every other open world game ever made, vehicles cannot be driven unless you own the keys. You'll have to buy every car you drive. These cars can run out of gas, especially if you forget to press the specifically designated "turn off engine" button and leave it idling while you go take care of a nearby military base. You can carry emergency gas in canisters. You'll also want to buy some spare tires because the tires can blow out. If something happens to your car, you may end up stranded 10km outside of town. Walking 10km in Boiling Point takes roughly the same amount of time it would take in real life. (Pro Tip: Take care of your car.)

The hero has a sleepiness stat that must be managed. His carry weight must be leveled up by walking around while overburdened. If you get shot in the leg too much he will hobble. You can heal yourself at any time with medical syringes, but if used too much the hero will develop a tolerance that extremely limits their effectiveness. In the middle of shootouts the hero's ex wife will call him on his cell phone to complain about a dream she had. See what I mean about divisive? You either read stuff like that and get super excited or you pinch your nose up like you caught a whiff of dog poop. I'm firmly in the former camp. In my view, most of these mechanics add more than they detract. The limit on healing items forces you to plan ahead of time, and the delicacy of your car gives it the unique property of being both a luxury and a burden. When you factor in that cars and weapons must be bought, and that any pesos spent is a setback in clearing on of the main quest's paywalls, it becomes even more interesting.

If you do find yourself wandering the jungle on foot, you'll quickly be under attack by bees, snakes, and jaguars. You will also meet the scouts of the local factions. The biggest failing of Boiling Point is in how these open world sandbox elements exist, but refuse to interact. Vicious wildlife will not attack NPC soldiers and vise versa. Soldiers from opposing factions will only fight each other in hand-placed events around the world. I attacked a Guerrilla Faction-aligned base within spitting distance of some Government Faction-allied patrols and no in-fighting occurred. There's also little persistent tracking of these actors. NPCs and wildlife just sort of appear and disappear at a fixed distance from the player, which is of course true of any open world game, but Boiling Point does a poor job of hiding it.

Boiling Point has a reputation for being a buggy mess. Nowadays, I doubt it would even crack the top third of most buggiest games on Steam (not that Boiling Point is ON Steam). That's not to say things were smooth sailing. Some bugs were amusing, such as how the military weapons suppliers I met all managed to get themselves lodged into walls. Or how everybody on one military base was in a constant state of losing their shit, running in circles and gasping over and over at nothing. Some bugs were less amusing, such as the two times my car vanished off the face of the Earth while my back was turned. An unavoidable, repeated crash bug forced me to reload a previous save and repeat some missions. If you play this game, make sure it's patched to version 2.0 in order to avoid the worst of it, but still prepare yourself with backup saves.

I don't know if Boiling Point could be considered a hidden gem. It's definitely hidden, and I admire its gumption to a great degree. In any case, I enjoyed it more than most open world FPSes, including Far Cry 3 and 4. Try it out if you're curious.

PS: Here's that theme music I was talking about. It's much, much better than the game.

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