High concept, low quality.
Turning Point: Fall of Liberty is a World War II game with a twist: What if British Prime Minister Winston Churchill died in a car accident and the Nazi army won World War II as a result? Before you or I can answer with "unspeakable horrors", the introductory text fades away to reveal a lighter outlook: blimps! Rocket-powered blimps! Nazi blimps tearing through the Big Apple like Cloverfield. To learn how this Hollywood-sized spectacle degenerates into a cheeseball Hollywood mess, just keep reading.
[image1]Turning Point delivers a few compelling moments, propped up in front of a barely complete game. I can deal with the goofy premise and the B-movie theatrics, but uncomfortable gameplay and dull, repetitive graphics suggest an alternate timeline where Turning Point sits on my shelf, never to be unwrapped.
You fill the boots of a New York steel worker caught atop an open-face skyscraper when bombs start to drop. These first minutes pack quite a punch, with fires exploding at your feet and jets whizzing by the windows. It’s a little cheesy, but each disaster is timed well enough to land right in your face. Once you reach the dust-coated streets, sadly, the clones of gray-suited Nazi soldiers are as vibrant to look at as polar bears in snow. Turning Point simply disintegrates into a monotonous series of drab shoot-'em-up corridors.
The precious premise of an unlikely hero in alternate timeline story is the worst casualty in Turning Point. What steel worker can leap down a skyscraper, shoot a whole army, and disable tanks on his own? Why does every American soldier in the U.S. know him by name? Key characters and plot points are rushed to disappointing and laughable insignificance, right up through to the ending movie.
Most of the information, like your hero's first name, are buried in the manual and other promotional materials. If you actually want to see what happened from Churchill’s imaginary death to the opening moments of the game, you'll have to troll around the game's website. Whatever happened to telling the story in the game?
[image2]A sniper rifle and rocket launcher headline Turning Point’s collection of historical rifles and submachine guns. The arsenal is rather unremarkable at the start of the game, where Turning Point also pushes its only real twist on the shooting gameplay, turning you into some kind of wrestling champ. You can turn just about any Nazi into a human shield, or knock them out with a kick in the junk, or with any of the dozens of equally cartoony attacks.
Having a one-button kill move is the only forgiving aspect of the Medal of Honor-style controls. You move like a Sherman tank, especially when you’re trying to line up with a button or a ladder. The aiming speed feels either too slow or too fast no matter the setting, and poor feedback effects make you wonder if you’re hitting targets. At least enemies make easy targets - each difficulty is only a slightly harder battle of attrition, pitting Costco-sized volleys of Nazi bullets against your patience for sitting behind cover.
The various finishing move animations provide the game’s most dynamic visual moments, though on Xbox 360 at least, Turning Point is an average-looking next-gen shooter. Levels are lined with lots of details like scattered debris and destructible statues, and a clean, minimalist interface stays on-target from the opening menu to the in-game display. The only complaints come with the few unfinished animations or particle effects which pop up rarely.
When you tire of shooting up the streets in Story Mode, you can shoot your way through online deathmatches. Multiplayer doesn’t have fancy weapons, grappling, or any of the game’s standout features; it’s straight run-and-gun with a few unremarkable rifles. After two hours, the server had rounded up a whole seven stragglers and we were going at it like hell, until I realized with horror that the game wasn’t ending. The host must have set the score goal to some ridiculous number, and we were just shooting each other ad nauseam on this one demolished street.
[image3]An eerie minimalist piece of music was also killing my multiplayer mood. Though Turning Point’s orchestral score is actually very good, some pieces occasionally play at the wrong times. The slow, dreary mood music hovering over the battle only highlighted the hopelessness of the endless deathmatch. We clearly needed one of those pumping marches or maybe a little Hammer Time.
Turning Point always feels a little unsettling, and not in the “creepy and fun” sort of way. The ugly unpolished moments and Looney Tunes character animations are so silly, especially when the dead civilians everywhere are much more depressing than whimsical. Sloppy parallels to Pearl Harbor and 9/11 are frustrating - you wonder if they were intentional or just thoughtless products of the Michael Bay School of Movie Explosions. The whole “America under siege” premise is very interesting, but it misses the mark by making so many irresponsible narrative and playability oversights.
The market is drowning in high-concept shooters right now: You can control time or hunt dinosaurs, shoot with a buddy or a bank robber, and even shoot up if that’s your thing. But there’s so little to this particular Resistance send-up that you’ll wish for a timeline where you played something else - anything else - instead.