Better wait around for the Third Coming.
A little cherubic angel falls down to Earth, screaming and burning. Far below
him in the city of Faktur, an unwitting cop is preparing to serve honorably
as a human cushion and rental service to the divine. Comet ‘Bob’ soars to the
ground amid flame and fire (redundancy being a key characteristic in any proto-biblical,
archetypal personality coagulation) and he lands, much to the chagrin of a housewife
somewhere, in the cop.
Little Bob is a charmed creature. He has diminutive wings useful for gliding,
an innocent, can-do kind of demeanor, and, best of all, he can jump into people
and possess their bodies for use in cleaning up evil. But someone should tell
the little brat to lay off the hookers.
Bob is, unfortunately, the Messiah. Satan has taken over earth and
bad people are doing bad things to their bad neighbors. General brouhaha is
the rule of the day as everything is cast into a cacophonic state of utter higgly-piggly
by the Prince of Darkness and his willing human pawns. Save me, Jebus!
Messiah is the latest creation from Interplay and Shiny Entertainment
(makers of MDK, Earthworm Jim, Wild
9, etc.) Much like MDK, this is a third-person action/adventure/platform
style game with a biblical twist. It combines some genuinely unique, puzzle-based
gameplay with sporadic action and jumping puzzles, but only with partial success.
The basic premise is that you must posses a variety of denizens, from cops to prostitutes to bio-mechanical behemoth cyborg head crushers, in order to either get around an environmental dilemma or kill some stuff. There are a variety of ways to approach different problems, from the aforementioned killing of stuff to more stealthy methods. The AI is sophisticated enough to respond appropriately to your actions.
Control is relatively clean. Guns (the ones people carry – Bob can’t do anything
but move, fly, manipulate, and posses) can either be auto aimed or used from
a first-person mode with limited mobility. Movement and jumping are responsive
and the camera always seems to find the right place to be in order to avoid
the dreaded Tomb Raider clipping syndrome.
The game is entirely linear, essentially one fluid voyage through the sewers
and towers of Faktur. Areas are not quite regimented into levels as in similar
games. Rather, loading occurs at major doors and at certain points you can’t
go back. Within areas, things usually break down from a linear trek involving
combat or jumping puzzles to a somewhat non-linear area involving more cerebral
Although Messiah is packed from start to finish with interesting challenges
and varied locales, it’s over very quickly. A decent gamer who doesn’t screw
up often can get through the game in two days. Since Messiah is single-player
only, that’s it. That’s all there is… and that ain’t enough. Brevity was also
a problem with MDK, but Messiah lacks the ingenuity or polish
of that title.
Polish, in fact,
is a major issue. Although Messiah was in development for years, it has
arrived on shelves with a multitude of bugs, glitches, and incompatibilities.
These include missing audio in movies to outright unstable functionality on
certain video cards, processors, motherboards, and all the other complicated
components of a computer that exist to potentially interfere with sacred fun.
The look and feel is unabashedly creative and gritty, sort of how you would
expect Keith Richard’s brain to have registered Blade Runner. The 3D
engine is able to produce some fairly evocative if somewhat angular scenes that
well represent the godless, soulless, spiritless city through which you roam,
kidnap, and murder. The characters, however, were designed as incredibly detailed
models and then put through the burner of a scaleable system that reduces the
number of polygons to maintain framerate. Although this does help to make performance
less of an issue, it creates unsettling ‘pop & swim’ effects on all the entities,
which doesn’t help to suspend your disbelief.
Audio is well done. The voice acting in particular is highly tuned, whether
comic, menacing or enticing. The residents of Messiah will not wear down
your eardrums, and man, do they die disgustingly. Trust me, it’s not a pretty
sight to see and hear a man crawl along the floor with two broken legs before
leaving this world and going straight to hell, though it is admittedly kind
As much as Messiah throws some new concepts into the mix, as much as
it creates a brooding, dark, creative world of evil, and as much as I truly
wanted to like it, the brevity and bugs make it feel like a preview sparkling
with unrealized potential. From a design standpoint, Messiah has a lot
to offer, but as a game, it lacks content, polish, and ambition. Only the true
sheep of the upstairs shepherd need apply for this one – the rest of us cynics
will spend our time on earth playing better games.