Invasion of the body snatcher.
The first-person action category is one of the best-selling genres in the video game world. Ever since the classic Doom was released, gamers just haven't been able to get enough of the insane, fragfest action provided by first-person shoot 'em ups. Titles like Quake, Duke Nukem, and Half-Life sold better than Krispy Kreme Doughnuts on a Saturday afternoon.
Sadly, these titles have traditionally been developed for the PC, leaving console gamers out in the cold. With Maken X, Sega has finally taken matters into their own hands and developed an original first-person title that throws gamers straight into the head of a new action hero.
Maken, the lead character, is unlike any other hero you've ever seen. First of all, Maken is not a person, but a mutant, sentient spirit that looks like a pickle (Good on a cheeseburger - Ed.) It has encased itself inside a mystical sword and has the power to possess those bold enough to wield it. This power leads to one of Maken X's most interesting features: brainjacking, or mind control.
As the game progresses, Maken will encounter a variety of characters to control via brainjacking. This ability allows you to control up to thirteen different characters over the course of the game, which helps keep Maken X fresh. Bored with your current character? Well, get out of your mind, this is a brainjacking! Each controllable character has his or her own unique characteristics that definitely give the game a new look.
Along with the ability to take control of different characters, Sega has found another way to keep the Maken X experience interesting. Since each playable character can affect the direction that the game takes, the story can branch off down numerous paths. This makes it possible for a total of seven different endings.
The basic gameplay strays from the traditional first-person experience by focusing on hand to hand combat. You won't find any rail guns or rocket launchers whatsoever. By virtue of the different characters, you'll use an array of melee weapons, from the standard sword to the not-so-standard spiked tongue (really).
The graphics in Maken X are well done and make it easy to get into the game. The environments are beautiful and fill the screen with color, immersing players in Maken's globetrotting adventures. Characters are also well constructed. No blocky, mishmashes of polygonal enemies here!
Maken X's graphics are complemented nicely by good sound effects and background music that keep the excitement level at its peak.
So far, Maken X shapes up to be an awesome game. Too bad it falls short in some critical gaming areas. First of all, the control scheme is not quite up to the standard of other first-person action titles. It is impossible to look around while moving and turning around is pretty slow. This gets to be a problem when facing fast enemies. If there was an enemy that just ran in circles around you, it would be nearly impossible to kill.
Another shortcoming of the game is its lack of basic attack options. Since Maken X is based on handheld weapon use, you would expect a choice of a horizontal and vertical attacks. These options aren't here, and attacks come mostly through random combinations.
Fortunately, you don't need to worry too much about having various attacks at your disposal since the AI of the enemies is just horrible. The bad guys will almost always follow you in a linear fashion until someone dies. I guess Zombie Duke got to them before anyone noticed.
Especially funny are the self-destructing canines. Jumping over the dogs causes them utter confusion, giving you enough time to watch the entire Star Wars Trilogy before they find you again. The sheer mindlessness of the enemies is compensated by mass fire tactics, though, so don't think you're getting off easy.
Maken X is also plagued by the terrible voice-acting bug. Time and time again, you'll find examples of how bad voice acting can ruin a perfectly good gaming experience. Watching the full motion videos and cut scenes becomes depressing as you are forced to listen to the producer's father's cousin's neighbor's uncle's former college roommate stumble through the dialogue.
Overall, Maken X is one of those games that could have been great. It introduces some cool new aspects of game play and is presented pretty well. However, too many other problems drags it down and make it more of an average example of a Dreamcast game than a revolutionary one.