H.G. Wells meets Starship Troopers
To my loyal readers: (All five of you) You know why GR's reviews are so cool? It's because I get to put whatever I want in the review. Well, I've recently been informed that "freaky-deaky" doesn't cut it, so almost anything (how freaky deaky of us...Ed.). We get to write in our reviews what the boys over at EGM and GamePro are afraid to say. Specifically, Body Harvest sucks. On Tim's Fun Factor scale, this game ranks somewhere between playing Chopper Attack and getting rusty spikes jammed under your fingernails.
If Body Harvest is representative of the new games coming out for the upcoming holiday season, then this system's got some serious concerns about its future. This game is either average or below average in every major category (graphics, sound, gameplay, etc.) and the sad part is, besides Zelda, what other top-notch adventure oriented games can N64 owners look forward to? As far as I'm concerned, if games like this keeps popping up for the N64, game developers will watch helplessly as droves of former Nintendo addicts head towards the PSX Promised Land. But once again, I digress. On with the review!
The year is 1916. The place is Greece. A mysterious comet passing by the Earth is actually a vehicle for some space bugs (see Starship Troopers) who erect an unpenetrable barrier for 24 hours and proceed to feast on every human within this boundary. As soon as the 24 hours have elapsed, the alien pests return from whence they came. However, their comet orbits the Earth once every 25 years - so guess what happens next. Well, early in the 21st century, mankind has been almost completely decimated. Their only hope is a time-travel machine and a genetically-engineered super soldier who will hopefully exterminate the insects once and for all.
Basically, you control the genetically-engineered soldier, who is equipped with orange-colored armor making him look like a futuristic firefighter or a linebacker wearing the old Tampa Bay Buccaneers colors. The game proceeds in a linear fashion with your female partner sending you messages every now and then hinting at what to do next. "Head for the southern land mass" or "We need to find a way to move this rock" being some of the more intellectual examples. As soon as you complete one task, she'll be ready with the next one lickety-split. In fact, sometimes she moves at such a frantic pace that you'll be getting transmissions about your next move before you've even finished the first one!
In addition, certain areas are timed (unbeknownst to you) and if you don't arrive at the designated area soon enough, you die. Game over, man. Start the whole level again from scratch. This contributes to some very confusing and aggravating gameplay.
Body Harvest looks and plays like such games as Star Wars: SotE and Mission: Impossible. However, there are some RPG undertones running through the game, such as talking to people in towns for clues to generally easy puzzles. The RPG aspect of Body Harvest is really a half-assed attempt at trying to inject some depth in the game, but it fails badly. More than 2/3 of the houses you encounter all have their doors boarded shut. It's really painful to search a town of five houses looking for a door that you can enter (if it even exists).
Of course by now you've all heard about the amazing variety of vehicles in the game. Yeah, it's pretty cool to go tooling around in old Dusenbergs or even tanks and helicopters, but this can only hold your interest for a limited amount of time. Gameplay centers around pulling a switch here and finding an important item there, all while fighting casting-call rejects from Starship Troopers.
Body Harvest looks like any other mediocre N64 game out there. Polygonal graphics, fog on the horizon, rainbow-hued explosions and some lighting effects. Yawn. Nothing new or original in the graphics department. The sound effects are slightly better, especially the bugs' piercing death screams. Ultra-satisfying.
Just when you thought it was safe to play this game again, you get more lameness. A huge problem with Body Harvest manifests itself in crappy controls. There are two modes of play - walking around the map and entering a building. You can rotate the camera when you're on the map, but when you're inside a building, you can't. Bizarre. Obviously, you're going to have a definite advantage fighting the bugs in a vehicle, but the controls put you at a huge disadvantage when you're on foot. If you're shooting an enemy, you can't move, which make you a sitting duck. In addition, the auto-aim really isn't and the manual "sniper mode" is really slow and stupid. One cool thing to mention is that if you're in a turreted vehicle like say, a tank, you can move in any direction and you're also able to rotate the turret and shoot at the same time.
Saves are allowed only at the completion of a level. This is one of my biggest pet peeves with video games. It's damn silly in this day and age not to have a game where you can save at any point. You want gamers to really hate your game? Here's how to do it. Make the gameplay repetitive and uninteresting, then let them complete 99% of a level only to have the character die inexplicably and restart the level all over again. Body Harvest fits the preceding bill to a "T". This game has neither the innovation, the depth, nor a halfway interesting story to keep you playing for any extended period of time.
"E3 showstopper!" proclaims some hype on the box. Boy, E3 must've been horrendously slow this year. Either that or the quality game developers boycotted the show. Most gamers shouldn't give Body Harvest a second glance. Once again, I pity da fool that buys this game.