Hell hath no fury...
What do you do when readers no longer care about your amphibious, green-skinned ninjas? You use your newly earned dollars to purchase one of the most famous adult-themed comic anthologies America has ever known, Heavy Metal. To help awaken this ancient comic behemoth, you go get your 6-foot amazon girlfriend, arm her to the teeth and send her in to kick ass and make money.
Oh, and you hire Ritual Entertainment to make your game. The result is the new third-person action/adventure title, Heavy Metal F.A.K.K. 2.
It's your standard Quake III engine - chopped, lowered and lubed -- with loads of weapons, a lush 3D world, and a whole slew of the ugliest and meanest adversaries ever dispatched to crush a universe…and, no, I do not work for Ritual.
Heavy Metal is set on the lush planet of Eden. This is the new home of Julie and her remaining family, 30 years after the megalomaniac Tyler destroyed their homeworld (events from the Heavy Metal 2000 movie). Now Julie must gear up and prepare for the fight of the century as a new menace plagues Eden's viridescent lands. Its name is Gith and it wants Eden. Why? Buy the game...this is just a review buddy!
The game is 60% action and about 40% exploration. Most of your game time will be spent running, gunning and eviscerating Gith's malevolent denizens. The action is not quite as heavy as what G.O.D. has planned for Rune, yet it's sheer mayhem nonetheless.
The remaining portion will be spent climbing, shimmying and searching for power-ups. Thankfully, there are no keys or passcodes needed in this game. However, this is still a video game and ample health is your major concern. You will find fruit lying around Eden (as well as fruit-bearing trees) to partially restore your health points. Your strength? Well, that's another issue.
Julie gains her power from the sacred life-giving liquid of Eden known, unsuprisingly, as 'water.' To power her enchanted lightning or fire-sword, Julie must have her water meter up to a certain level. Water ampules are also scattered around the lands of Eden. By standing in a spring or waterfall (usually found near hordes of enemies), Julie can raise her water meter to half mast, though only by collecting water ampules can she reach full. Upon achieving 90% water retention (sorry, I couldn't resist), Julie will then be able to run faster, jump higher and have more power behind her attacks.
Speaking of which...
Our heroine has an arsenal of weapons that would make prissy Lara Croft cancel all plans for a fabled yet ill-fated upcoming quintuplet and retire behind an black currant scone and a cup of Earl Grey tea. Not only does she has an ever-changing set of weapon and armor-based combos, but she's ambidextrous, meaning she can carry and use different weapons in each hand. A flame sword in one hand and an uzi in the other, for example, allows you to go about slicing, kicking, and elbow-thrusting at point blank while perforating enemies at a distance.
You would think that your enemies might have some reservations about approaching you, seeing as how you're armed as a Machine Age amazon battle valkyrie. But if you've ever come face to face with a Soul Harvester, or stood close enough to a Grawlix to feel its breath on your skin…well, you wouldn't have to wonder.
One of the most outstanding features of this impressive title is the plethora of enemies you will face. Not only are they many, not only are they hell-bent on your destruction, but they have come prepared for a fight. Many have guns and canons poking out of nearly every orifice. Quite a few of your standard enemies are of mini-boss stature in hit points, aggressiveness, and slaying power. At times the smartest thing you can do is simply run away…or you can wade right on in there and give as good as you've got.
There are moments in this game - and lots of them - where the combat ranges into the sublime. The scope and intensity of the fighting often reminds me of the first twenty minutes of Saving Private Ryan…the carnival of carnage and slaughter, the spilling of entrails, the lopping off of flailing limbs, Tom Hanks sinking slowly into darkest oblivion, writhing in a lake of his own blood… wait a minute, got carried away a bit there. I guess this is one of those games that's supposed to make charisma-deficient adolescent shut-ins commit heinous crimes against their peers and dysfunctional family members.
But for the mature and sane amongst us who barely have the time to play video games and have absolutely no windows in our schedules for running around killing a bunch of people and basically acting stupid, F.A.K.K. 2 is one of those rare epiphanies that reminds you how fun gaming can be. It's the kind of game you'll get all misty and nostalgic for later, the kind of game that reminds you why you still play games.
Heavy Metal F.A.K.K. 2 looks incredible. The environments are rich, varied and excellently detailed. Although shadow effects and light sourcing don't stand out in this game, the graphics team managed to assemble a very flashy and attractive product. The particle effects for both the lightning sword and the flame sword truly have to be seen to be believed (And you lucky Dreamcast owners won't have to wait too much longer to get an eyeful of this game, Sega-style.)
Unfortunately, some of the animated movements in Julie's repertoire are a bit awkward. Her monkey bar climbing and rope swinging are comical and stiff. She could have managed to get a little bit lower when crouching so that she didn't so much resemble an ostrich trying to lay an egg. But these are only petty grievances. Our girl Julie can monkey climb, shimmy across poles, scale walls, and ease around narrow ledges in addition to the standard run and jump. The girl has moves, that's the important part, not the fact that she's got arms and legs Reed Richards would kill for.
Speaking of super-heroism, it would take the Infinity Gauntlet to save the control for our new battle-ready bombshell. The Quake III engine is still primarily for first-person games, and although chopped and lowered, it falls short of being fully optimized for third-person gaming. The axes sensitivity is much too sensitive with a control-pad or joystick.
Also, HMF2 failed to recognize either of my standard control pads (Gravis GamePad Pro & Gravis Xterminator Digital). If it were not for the smart programming software of the Xterminator, I would have been playing F.A.K.K.2 with the keyboard and mouse (not the control device of choice for this gamer). The moral of the story kids: When buying a game controller make sure that the software allows you to program the buttons to take on keyboard functions.
Ultimately, F.A.K.K. 2 is an incredibly simple, linear, third person, 3D action/adventure game that hits the nail firmly on the head by actually delivering both action and adventure. There's plenty of exploring for goodies in between kicking ass and running away. And the story behind the game is intriguing enough to keep you wondering what they'll throw at you next. Definitely worth the $49.95 express ticket to Eden.