Beautifully campy, full of over-the-top violence and buxom women.
The original Sin was good, uncomplicated, violent and cheesy fun. It was also unfortunate enough to hit shelves at the same time as Half-Life, which, well, ended up being one of the most pivotal games in years. Needless to say, Sin got a bit lost in the shuffle - almost undeservedly so, as the game was a lot of fun to play even if it was a bit straightforward.
Emergence is a sequel of sorts offered up in episodic gaming form - like Half-Life 2's piecemeal chapters, Emergence is the first segment in a three or four part series. As such, it features both a budget price and a fairly short duration. Beginning with Blade strapped to a table with returned-from-the-dead evil CEO Elexis Sinclaire and her new henchman Roddick, the game charges you to hunt them down in an effort to discover what they injected you with. Naturally, this involves shooting endless waves of foes with an assortment of weapons.
It should be stated right off that Emergence is a good looking game. It doesn't feature HDR but the environments are well detailed, the characters look fantastic, and everything has a much brighter tone than Half-Life 2, with which Emergence shares the Source engine. Sin always had a slight comic book feel to it and that carries over well.
In the same way the audio is spectacular, mostly with the punch of the weapon sounds. The few voiceovers present are good, and the music is effective at setting a mood - it does, however, pale a bit when compared to the fantastic Bond-esque Sin theme at the main menu.
But it's in gameplay itself where first-person shooters are made, and other than a lack of quantity there is little to complain about here. Blade only has three weapons during the course of the game, but each has an alternate fire and can be used as a bludgeon in emergencies. The pistol is your standby firearm but it is in no way underpowered - in some ways it brings back good memories of Halo's pistol, as both are capable of taking down enemies with only a few shots and are extremely accurate. Running out of ammo for better weapons isn't a huge drawback in Emergence. You might also want to use the pistol for one of the game's most satisfying experiences - headshots. From close range or far away, all of the soldiers without helmets can be taken out with one well-placed shot. The result is a delightful coconut-like sound mixed with the bass thud of your magnum as the resulting body cartwheels end over end in an endlessly amusing way.
The other two weapons at your disposal are a shotgun and machine gun. The shotgun has a powerful close-range alternate fire (as well as a clip, which makes it a bit different from most games' shotguns in that reloading from empty takes the same time as reloading after taking a single shot) and the machine gun has a grenade attachment. You are, of course, also welcome to throw grenades whenever you choose, and Emergence offers a bit of a twist as they're incendiary grenades intead of frag. That's a good thing if you delight in the screams of your foes as they dance around trailing flames.
The levels fit well together, and calls back of a bit of Sin's level design in that it leads you through relatively mundane environments without it feeling overly linear. There isn't a huge amount of variety, but you also won't be spending enough time in each area to get sick of it, as the game itself lasts three or four hours of solid playing.
The story doesn't really take off in that time either. Roddick and Elexis get a number of little speeches but Blade himself remains mysteriously silent (Ritual has addressed this as a fan complaint to fix for the second episode) and the game itself ends a bit too abruptly.
But really, for $20 you definitely get your money's worth. A simple but extremely satisfying shooter that you can replay a number of times due to its short length, as well as an addictive Arena mode that plays like Max Payne's Last Man Standing with endless streams of foes and a high score to challenge yourself and use for bragging rights. That and the headshots. Those sweet, sweet headshots.