Monday, February 9, 2009

GunFace 6: an OmniReview

Some say that any given monkey pounding at a typewriter for long enough will produce Hamlet. Eventually, a warehouse full of monkeys will make a game called GunFace6, and somewhere, an office of monkeys will write this review:

GunFace is an alien invasion game set in the year 2020. When last we left Sgt. Awesome, he was headed towards Earth, determined to stop the Harbinger of Righteousness and his cadre of Deathlings from destroying the universe in a blaze of zealotry. Lady Lovely had been captured by the TombBreath, a disgusting creature intimately tied to the Swarm. Most won't be disappointed, as the story eschews some of the ambiguity of GunFace 5 and tells a more straightforward narrative. Events play out like a sci-fi action blockbuster.

The story leans on ample action-movie clich├ęs and grunted dialogue, as you'd expect, but it adds some character to the characters. Rodrigo, as the last game hints, is willing to take major risks to find his dog. Of course, you also have guys like the 10-gallon-hat-wearing, gung-ho Milton, who's as one-dimensional – and likeable – as you could want.

Clearly Digital Artisans was listening to the criticisms of GunFace 5. Not only is Sgt. Awesome in the driver's seat once more, but the environments are varied enough that each level feels distinct. Though you will still need to backtrack in a few areas, it's not as tedious as in previous iterations. The levels in GunFace 6 lend to spectacular pacing that weaves from close-quarters, intense battles with Chief and a few soldiers, to more epic arenas. It does feel as if the marine presence is lighter than it should be, but there's enough chaos in the field to at least make it appear as if the Sarge is part of something grander.

Most of the nine levels are hunky-dory, but the penultimate chapter is so bad, just thinking about it puts a rotten taste in my mouth. It's the kind of level where, if playing through GunFace 6 again, I might just stop once I reached it and not bother finishing the skirmish, much less the fight. The one criticism that can be leveled on the story is that it leaves you screaming for more. You still don't want the game to end on the note that it does. The single-player campaign is around eight to 10 hours long, which is a healthy amount for a shooter.

The enemy AI is generally solid, but the same can't be said for your teammates. It's been said that the world would be doomed without Sgt. Awesome. After seeing the other marines in action, that makes a lot of sense. The AI drivers are less like marines and more like Mr. Magoo.

When you take damage, find cover and your armor and health will regenerate. If you die, you reload to the last checkpoint or quick save.

Meanwhile, the gunplay and ballistics modeling make this shooter feel as if you're handling real weapons. Trying to hit a target at long engagement ranges is challenging thanks to weapon recoil and other factors. The Deathlings are encased in body armor, so they take some time to gun down, unless you aim for the head, which usually puts them on the ground. At your disposal is a variety of firearms, like shotguns and assault rifles.

DeathFace 6 gives you all of these toys and ratchets the action higher and higher the deeper you get into it. The first level of the game introduces you to the sandbox combat and the battlesuit. From then on, the battles become larger and more intense as the action escalates. You'll storm Deathling-held villages and bases; encounter their counter to your battlesuit; take part in a chaotic assault on a Deathling harbor; and from there the game accelerates. Next is a wild tank battle in a tropical mountain valley, with helicopters and jet fighters roaring overhead. There's a sheer rush as your tank plows through vegetation and knocks down trees as missiles and tank fire erupt all around you.

The vehicle explosions are convincing, right down to the way ammunition cooks off and sends spirals of smoke outward. It's visual poetry of destruction. You're not confined to your tank the entire time, either. You can jump out at any time and use your suit powers and rifle to take on enemy infantry. When they're dead, pick up their dropped rocket launchers and engage vehicles in a cat-and-mouse-style game.

Graphically, GunFace 6 looks photorealistic at times -it's that amazing. DA has managed to achieve a visual fidelity that blows away anything seen to date, and there are countless moments when you'll just stop and gape at what you're seeing. Sometimes it's just the ordinary, like the setting sun casting all sorts of shadows and rays through the jungle canopy. Other times, it's something epic, like watching a huge alien war machine stomping toward you. The impressive aspect of the graphics is just how it manages to render huge, open, dynamic, interactive levels. Everything looks amazing up close or far away. The sheer fact that many of the trees and buildings are destructible just adds a level of realism that's staggering.

You'll need a fairly high-end system to make the game look its best. Dial down the detail settings to high, which is the next-lower setting, and GunFace 6 still blows contemporary games out of the water. Results are a bit mixed at medium and low settings, though. At the lowest detail settings, objects pop in and out with a fair degree of consistency. The visuals in DX9 are impressive, but they really come to life in DX10, provided you have the hardware.

As great as the campaign is, the game will see its longest legs from multiplayer. And from the multitude of competitive match types to the addictive and strategic co-op Swarm mode, what felt like a hugely entertaining afterthought in GunFace 1-5 now easily stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the campaign. Among the notable additions, the matches now support up to 10 players and bots, who, depending on their difficulty, do an adequate job holding their own.

The campaign, which is very good, is GunFace 6's weakest point. It doesn't capture the cavalier spirit of the original Halo, but you'll still have fun playing through it. There's no first-person shooter on 360 that can equal GunFace 6's blend of cinematic action, adrenaline-pumping shootouts, and male- (and female)-bonding gameplay. Look beyond the gameplay and you have a rich feature set unlike anything ever delivered in a videogame. The replay functionality raises the bar for console shooters so high, it may never be surpassed this generation. There will be plenty of aspects for fans to nitpick, but it's hard to argue against GunFace 6 as the most complete game available on any console.

Rating: 14/10

Latest Comments:

Anyone who says ‘GunFace 6 sucks' for whatever the reason, is either a SONY FANGAL WITH FPS ENVY, or THEY NEVER PLAYED IT, or THEY GOT THEIR ASSES KICKED BECAUSE THEY SUCK.
Posted by DrFellatio on February 07 2009 23:33 PDT

Okay put it this way with the graphics, in movie terms.

If I took the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy of Star Wars, which one would have better special effects. Obviously its the prequels, with the environments and awesome lightsaber battles.
But which one is... full comment
Posted by: NinjaFace007 on January 29 2009 12:15 PDT

ShirtsOff!, it is true that games are not all about graphics... but GF6’s graphics are SO BAD, that it makes the game almost unbearable to play, even in 1080p. After playing games like MGS4, GOW1 and GOW2, COD4, and many others, it almost hurts your eyes to play GunFace 6. This is the year 2009! The... [+] Full Comment
Posted by: ILikeIke on February January 15 2009 12:30 PDT

Surprise! This review has already been written: reviews of Halo 3, Gears of War 2 and Crysis from IGN, Gamespot and 1Up (not respectively) helped compile this monstrosity. Only game, character, and studio names were changed. Everything else, sadly, remains the same.