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ups: A solid, old-fashioned FPS title.
downs: Patches required; no real innovation; poor AI.

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GORE Review (PC)
game: GORE
three star
posted by: Aaron Stanton
publisher: DreamCatcher Interactive
developer: 4D Rulers
date posted: 09:10 AM Tue Sep 10th, 2002

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Be it Halo on the Xbox, or a gripping bout of Return to Castle Wolfenstien on the beige desktop, the experiences offered up by the first person shooter genre are some of the best in the industry. I still find myself battling an urge to lean over to whomever happens to be nearby and brag a little whenever my thoughts fall on the first days of Quake ? I had some dang good shots with that rocket launcher, let me tell you ? and that was some time ago for sure. I can still taste the midnight snacks that kept me alive on those weeklong vigils to Nerddum; I can still visualize the images that were burned into my mind by the adrenalin rush that accompanied the warm backwash of exhaust from the tail of my rockets. That popularity has spawned many a clone. Drop by your local software dealer and you'll find a number of FPS titles trying to grab onto a passing rung on the success bicycle wheel, and a good number of them can be had for budget prices and played briefly for a budget experience. GORE, though it carries a price tag of less than thirty dollars, avoids that pitfall altogether, offering some fun gameplay and a very smooth (meaning functioning without a glitch) interface for finding other GORE games running over the Internet (courtesy of Gamespy). Sadly though, GORE is a game that is defined by the quality of its coding, not the experience of the gameplay. Plagued with technical errors, crashes, and odd behavioral quirks, GORE is a pretty solid game for the price, but only after you get it running.

To start with (I'll just get this out of the way), it took a lot of work to bring this game up to a functioning level. It took at least one trip to the Internet (the Keeper of Patches) to acquire a reliable start menu, since half the time the \"new game\" button would loop me back to the main menu again. While the patch did seem to take care of that problem, it still managed to eat several of my saved games that were, though I'd only managed a little actual game play at that point, the only testament to the fact that I'd played at all. Additionally, I was never able to force my carefully built surround sound system to blurt out anything beyond a single solitary note that quickly vanished and was never heard again (I'm a little suspicious it just had gas or something), and while my computer's sister system had sound, it also froze solid less than 60 seconds into every game. On top of that, one of the gaskets on my kitchen sink gave way and flooded my trashcan, which ? though I'm not exactly sure how yet ? I think is somehow GORE's fault. Finally, after three re-installs, one patch, a roll of plumber's tape, and a pair of old BDUs from my paintball days, I managed to be back in the game. It was about that time that I realized that underneath the coding there was a game that was not only entertaining, but really pretty well polished ? well worth a look for those of us seeking to hone our skills a little before Unreal II appears on, and then disappears from, the store shelves come the end of 2002.

In the near future an all out war has broken out in the streets of America between the U.S. Government and an organized crime ring known as the MOB. In an effort to win that war, the U.S. Military develops a training system that simulates the brutalities of warfare, hardening its new recruits before they even see the flash of a rifle. That's the setting as laid out by the game, which is odd, since almost none of the game actually takes place in the training program (we'll not count the training mode, which preps you for battle before an attack by the MOB has you outside on the roof chasing down hackers in the \"real\" world). After the opening sequence, you spend your time single handedly bringing down those who would commit crime through a variety of missions.

While not exactly about to rock the world with the intensity of its storyline ? it never claimed to be out to win any Oscars ? GORE is fun to play. In single player mode, the levels are entertaining, if not spectacular, with imagery that fits in with the storyline. During one of your first real missions, for example, you'll step out of your training program unarmed, preparing to defend your headquarters against an enemy incursion. Fighting alongside one or two of your fellow defenders, you'll find yourself in an environment that feels convincingly like a real headquarters. Not huge metal doors and expensive security systems, but instead boardrooms and lobbies, places for visitors to sit near large fish tanks; in short, an office building located in an urban city. While they didn't reek of stark imagination, the levels were generally well designed; including one or two that really impressed me. Additionally, though the graphics aren't fantastic, they are easily up to par. As far as FPS go, GORE falls in right with the party lines, offering little that's new to the field, but still more of a winning formula.

That, in fact, is one of GORE's great failures. Though it pulls off the established elements of a FPS rather well (there isn't a whole lot to complain about, really), there is a noticeable void where either innovation didn't happen, or didn't succeed. The efforts that were made weren't strong enough to make GORE anything more than another budget FPS on the market, which isn't the most appealing of positions to be in--even if it's one of the better ones. For example, along with health and armor, GORE interjects a third stat that you have to keep an eye on while dodging the bullets of your next door neighbor: stamina. Whenever you jump, carry heavy weapons, or get hit by a particularly nasty blast, you lose stamina. This can ultimately result in blacking out or the inability to move. Unfortunately, its actual impact on the game is negligible. In the single player missions, where you set your own pace and are rarely short on resting time, your stamina is an ignorable factor. Only in multiplayer does it have any impact at all, and even then it normally only appears in the extremes of combat, like just after being hit by a rocket launcher. Laying unconscious and near death, watching your stamina try to recover, knowing that your enemy is probably now standing above your head with a pistol ready to finish you off, wondering how long it will be before the bullet tears apart your skull...it's neat, but not ground breaking.

The moments of genius that flair at unexpected points in GORE are counteracted by other limitations in the game. Not glitches, this time, but a number of small elements that just don't have the level of detail that we'd like. Small things, like the fact that you can't shatter the glass of the fish tank, or break windows. Bullet holes disappear after a few seconds, and the police cars that make an appearance from time to time can't be blown up. You'd think a rocket launcher could flip a vehicle, or at least move it an inch, or that a flame thrower could make a tree burn, but you would be mistaken. And perhaps I'm just being a pain in the rear, but it wastes a second starting you back at the beginning of the level whenever you die instead of your last save. To be fair, there are small plusses as well; you can see what type of armor an enemy is wearing because it shows up on his body in the right locations. If you shot a fellow in the head, it snaps back as he collapses to the ground. Shoot them in the groin, and you can watch their knees buckle (don't ask me how I figured that one out). These are all neat things, but when added together and compared, the list of bad outshines the list of good.

Friendly and enemy AI is equally poor, which at first glance would seem to cancel each other out, except in reality it just means that both those fighting for you and against you are equally annoying, and therefore make equally good targets for the trigger happy. There are times when you'll find yourself blocked from a passage because of your big muscled and little brained comrades that sometimes adventure with you. It would also have been nice to see a little more variety in the characters. If I'm fighting aliens it's ok if they all look alike ? those guys all look the same to me anyway ? but I can sure as heck recognize when I'm killing the same two ton gorilla for the twentieth time, and it'd have been nice to see a little more variety.

And that brings me to the weapons. The box makes claims to over thirty individual weapons, most with a secondary form of fire. I didn't check their count. I didn't have to. Aside from one or two things (like the shield that comes equipped as the secondary fire for the shotgun), there isn't enough actual variation between the weapons to make a difference. If one character has a machinegun under button number five, you can be sure the other characters will have some form of fast shooting toy tucked away in their numeral five key sleeve as well. Who cares if it looks different; most of GORE's weapons boil down into the standard fair, many times with weak secondary functions (I've seen tennis balls do more damage than the gas grenade launcher on your machinegun).

When it comes down to it, GORE is a competent game. It's not a waste of money if you're looking to tide yourself over for a little while in anticipation of better games to come. Budget titles are hard to pull off. Often the designers are given half the resources and half the time of the bigger budget titles, and are expected to produce more than half the game. From that perspective, GORE doesn't have to worry about a thing. Sure, there are some minor glitches in game design, but overall it delivers what it promises to deliver. Five years ago this game would have amazed people for the evolutionary steps it represents in FPS games, but now it's just a competent game. No landmarks made, no records broken. There are worse things a game could do than that.