|Developer:||Ritual|||||Release Date:||1998|||||Systems:||Win, Mac, Linux|
This week on Super Adventures I'm taking a look at SiN, the first actual game by Ritual Entertainment. Or 'sin' according to the box, title screen, menu, intro etc. (the manual just calls it Sin).
I used to play a lot of first person shooters back in the 90s (and every other decade), so if I haven't seen the full version of something, chances are I've at least played the demo. But SiN apparently slipped right by me. All I know about it is that it starts in a bank, I don't even know if it's 3D like Half-Life or 2.5D like Doom (though in my head I'm imagining it looking like Duke Nukem 3D).
Part of the reason I never got around to it might be that when the game came out it wasn't exactly firing on all cylinders. The game was full of bugs, it took minutes to load levels and save games, and a lot of people didn't even get sound. But now it's full patched up and it even runs on modern PCs! I hope!
(Click the screenshots to view the images at 800x600 res! I was playing in fake 3dfx mode so it's the best I could get.)
To be honest, I'm only whining as an excuse to show off this awesome menu border. Also the game menu does do something right: every player gets their own profile, with their own set of save slots! Handy for people with friends and/or family who might also want a go.
Blood II: The Chosen (Halloween 1998) and I can believe it, though this office is reminding me more of Deus Ex right now. I feel like I'm back in UNATCO again, except this time the wisecracking hacker in my ear is the one called 'JC'. That's JC Armack by the way, just so you know the level of subtlety the game's going for.
It's July 17th 2037, a time of gigantic CRT monitors and privately owned police forces. I'm playing as Col. John Blade, a man so badass that even his tech guy has a poster of him, and it's my job to go out into the city of Freeport and shoot crime.
LEVEL 1: OVER FREEPORT CITY BANK.
You'd expect us to have snipers set up on the rooftops seeing as we're the closest thing to police in this town, but unfortunately the thieves thought of it first this time.
Well seeing as I'm stuck here behind this gun I might as well use it to destroy the missiles flying towards my chopper. Who brings rocket launchers to a bank robbery anyway? The turret has infinite ammo and no heat gauge so I can unload on these assholes indefinitely, but I only have to destroy the three rocket turrets if I ever want this thing to land.
LEVEL 2: FREEPORT CITY BANK.
Quake II thing where the polygons keep shifting around; probably because they're both running on id Tech 2. When it comes to putting bullets into things though it's rock solid and deadly accurate. The game's a few years too old to have aiming down sights, but I do have a reload button to press!
Enemies are coming after me through doors and abseiling down from the windows, but once they're here they're mostly staying put and that's good as they'd be a bastard to hit otherwise. They, on the other hand, are very good at hitting me. They're all carrying pistols and submachine guns so I can't weave through incoming fire, and circle strafing only gets me so far. So my current strategy is to keep putting bullets into them so they're too busy flinching in pain to fire back.
Hitting the action key instructs Blade to grab everything he can from the corpse his floating gun arm is currently hovering over. I'm doing a lot better now that I've figure this out, as there's barely any weapons or health kits scattered around this bank. Probably because it's a bank.
Plus I'm also building up my head, chest and leg armour from what I can scavenge from bodies. Apparently where I shoot an enemy affects the type of armour I get from them, so if I want better trousers I need to resist kneecap shots. And I really do want better armour as Blade forgot to bring any and he doesn't have regenerating health.
Duke 3D! Except less interesting.
Also I don't get an auto map in this, which isn't a huge shock but it's still a pain. I'm really bad at memorising level layouts.
I'm starting to get the impression I'm not meant to be heading inside the vault just yet, so I'll go back to the staircase and check out upstairs instead.
I can also shoot the guns out of their hands, which is fairly impressive and more or less useless when a shot to the head is an instant kill. They don't just give up you see, they run up and try to hit you, and I've got no way to slap handcuffs on them anyway. Blade is worse than Judge Dredd, as the only punishment in Freeport City is immediate execution.
I decided to go up and see if Blade could chat with the hostage, and he actually did! Well he told her to run for it anyway. Minimising hostage casualties is one of my secondary objectives, but thankfully the enemies don't seem to be targeting them, so I just have to talk to each and tell them to get out.
Also there's a tiny key lying on that desk over there. I think I can use it on a door just before the gun turret vault room, so I'm making progress again!
That's what I thought anyway, until I searched this entire room from corner to corner, pressing action on every computer, book and hostage. I'm really stuck here, as I've got no clue how to get through... this... door...
... I just have to jump through the window don't I? Dammit JC, next time you want me to search for a vault code, tell me after I've gotten past the code-locked security door!
Doom 3-style GUI surface computer screens on the wall.
Alright I've turned off the hated security turrets and grabbed the vault combination, but I've also opened all the security doors so I can go snooping a bit more before heading back to the vault.
Though before I log out there's 'Customer Accounts' and 'Command Prompt' options I want to check out first.
I managed to get Blade's own account number and PIN out of it too, and went off to find an ATM, but the thing wouldn't let me make a withdrawal. Also he's apparently broke, so that explains why he came here without armour or proper weapons.
Anyway I just had to head down to the vault and I was done here, but JC's picking up thermal readings from the abandoned building next door so on the next level I'll be chasing the crooks through an escape tunnel they've dug.
LEVEL 3: ABANDONED BUILDINGS.
And of course the long way is lined with hundreds of goons, because the important thing to do when making a getaway is to leave your crew standing around to wait for the cops. Maybe it's a cunning way to increase his share, as 50 million split 500 ways isn't all that much any more. Especially when they keep dropping bags all over the level.
I've got a secondary objective to collect all the stolen money lying around, so the game's become a collect 'em up! It's purely optional though. In fact I've got no idea if I even get anything for secondary objectives; it's not like there's a level select screen keeping track of my results (though there totally should've been).
I've been leaping across beams, balancing on planks, running around ledges on the sides of buildings, jumping onto ladders etc. so the maps can be a bit of an obstacle course, but not to the degree of Half-Life. The game's more about shooting folks and finding switches than navigating the scenery.
Seems that Mancini is actually working for the main villain of the game, Elexis Sinclaire, and she's not massively impressed that he's got Blade chasing him. He was only supposed to get in and steal a single safety deposit box but he just had to go full Reservoir Dogs and it's screwed everything up.
It's funny how much this reminds me of the time I chased Vinnie Gognitti across the rooftops in Max Payne. Except in this characters have three dimension ears... and two dimensional waists. It cannot be healthy to have a torso the width of your neck, especially with all that weight to support.
LEVEL 4. CONSTRUCTION ZONE.
So now I've got SinTEK C.P. Blueprints in my inventory doing absolutely nothing. Well it wasn't like I was using the space for anything else, as in all this time I haven't found one jetpack, f. aid spray, tome of power, quad damage, or any kind of power up at all, collectable or otherwise.
Oh I see, it lets me drop down into the fenced off area. Well that'd be handy, except I found the key so I can just unlock it.
Painkiller did on me a few months ago, hiding the thing I need to shoot at way above my head. I knew I needed to flood the area, but it would've never occurred to me to drop some girders to break the water pipe. Sucks for the players with no ammo left.
Okay, before I pull the trigger there's something I need to do... stand under it.
I reloaded my quick save and did it properly this time, flooding the trench so I could swim up into that pipe network on the top right. That completely pitch black pipe. It's funny how hard even the simplest of mazes can when it's too dark to see if you're moving or how much you're turning. I tried dropping some glow sticks but they weren't much help. The game really needs a flashlight.
Oh, when I had the walkthrough open I learned that there's actually more than one way to beat this level, and it affects where I start off on the next one. I can either drive a bulldozer through a wall or ride an ATV over some jumps... so I did both and I'm struggling to decide which was more disappointing. The game has the vehicle physics of a 1998 first person shooter, so it's just very slightly better than driving the forklift in Shadow Warrior.
LEVEL 5. ABANDONED SUBWAY.
Him, and the rats that keep nibbling at my ankles. Go back to your basement in Baldur's Gate and bother someone there, you wee bitey bastards.
I was going to write something about the dialogue in this game, but it pretty much speaks for itself. Nuanced it ain't, but it definitely has character.
Hang on, I just realised that the company's called SinTEK instead of SiNtek. Where's the game title's weird capitalisation coming from then? The company's run by a woman called Sinclaire so its name actually makes sense, but the name of the game's only getting more baffling!
LEVEL 6: SINTEK CHEMICAL PLANT, PART 1.
Oh damn, is this an actual proper stealth level? Seriously? A forced stealth level in a game that's a cross between Duke 3D, Quake II and more Duke 3D? That's... awesome! No really, it's been a whole year since I've had the chance to really complain about a game pulling this crap on me. Maybe if I'm really lucky it'll give me an escort mission next. With a time limit, dogs and snipers.
Well at least now I know that "This is supposed to be a stealth mission!" doesn't get any less irritating the fifth time you hear it.
The game's given me a pistol and zero armour for this level so I don't stand a chance against these 4-legged spider bots and ceiling turrets. As soon as someone hits the alarm it's all over, primary objective failed. Wait... ‘disable secretary watching the security cameras’ is one of my objectives! Well that explains a lot.
I hope I do find evidence that SinTEK are screwing around with human DNA here or else this is going to be awkward. Then again a photo of her should be all he proof I need. She looks like she was grown in a lab by Rob Liefeld.
After a few failed stealth runs I finally managed to find myself the access card I need to get to the next floor, and it was attached to a scientist uniform hanging in a locker! The locker suddenly slammed shut on me and cost me some health, but it was totally worth it.
Fortunately I'd saved in the previous room so I loaded it up and quickly knocked him out this time. Or knocked him dead judging how his body faded away. It's fine though; some games are really strict about scientist casualties, but this doesn't give a damn as long as they don't hit the alarm. You know, I think I'm just going to run into each room and beat all the scientists to death. It'll take a dozen or so reloads to pull it off, but that'll be true whatever I do, and at least this way will be cathartic.
Incidentally that mirror back there behind the sinks doesn't work. Very disappointing.
LEVEL 7: SINTEK CHEMICAL PLANT, PART 2.
I love those boots by the way.
After a while of wandering around confused and collecting second hand shotguns I finally deactivated the alarm and stumbled across a computer that turns off the fans for 30 seconds. Which would be great if I knew where the fans were.
I eventually deactivated the fans, crawled through another tunnel of absolute darkness, shot the scientist, stole his key, got the password to collect the drug and put it into the scanner for JC. Mission complete! Now I just need to look around the pipes for the way out. I think this is another job for the walkthrough though, because I'm really stuck again.
I'm starting to think the developer's monitor brightness was set way higher than mine, because that's almost total blackness for me. These level designers should've really considered adding some lighting to draw my eye towards the place I'm meant to be, especially when it's a tiny vent above an inky abyss.
And guess what, it led into another pitch black tunnel... that then led into a sewer.
LEVEL 8: SINTEK WAREHOUSE 1.
F.E.A.R., Condemned and SiN all take place in the same universe! Oh hang on, they're called Cheezee Pooz in the other two games. SiN's brand is closer to the 'South Park' source.
LEVEL 9: SINTEK WAREHOUSE 2.
It wasn't my plan to keep playing this so long, but I keep expecting to hit a point where the game becomes unbearable and it's just not happening. Sure it's a late 90s FPS with late 90s FPS problems, like maze-like identical hallways, unsophisticated combat, and ladders, but I'm enjoying it for what it is. And this isn't nostalgia speaking as this is all new to me.
LEVEL 10: BIOMECH FACTORY, PART 1.
LEVEL 16: FREEPORT CITY DAM.
It's nice that I'm still running into these crap tier thugs so far through the game, as they're a nice break from all the cyborgs and super soldiers with grenade launchers I've been running into these last few levels. Also the snipers that keep taking me out with two shots to the back. I'm not really complaining about those other folks though, they've just been making me work for my kills.
Oh this is a dam level by the way, so you can tick that off the checklist as well. I'm still keeping my fingers crossed for the cable car level. Though actually I think I should stop here before I accidentally finish the game. I'm only halfway through I think, but time flies when the game you're playing isn't crap.
But before I turn it off I should check out the 'Headquarters' option on the menu and see what that does.
I don't know what it is about SiN that makes me want to name-drop every other first person shooter I've played, but to me feels like a cross between Quake II, Duke Nukem 3D and Soldier of Fortune, in both gameplay and style. It's a series of distinct levels stitched together with macho dialogue and excuses to go kill bad people.
No wait, it feels like the original incarnation of Duke Nukem Forever that got scrapped when they moved to the Unreal Engine. A gleefully dumb showcase of cutting edge 1998 technology and tongue in cheek misogyny.
Actually it's like a competently made Blood II, with enough ammo lying around to actually play it properly.
Basically what it is, is a game of its time, and a pretty good one.
One thing that stands out about it is the scarcity of pick ups. There's no use backtracking for a health kit or hiding behind a wall for a few seconds, you have to press forward if you want to recover. Plus the way health ticks down when you get past 100 is even more motivation to play aggressively and charge out into danger. Blade's a really tough bastard compared to some other FPS protagonists, and scavenging armour from enemies keeps him that way, so I found myself tanking shots to put enemies down faster. A few times this tactic left me cowering with 3HP, hitting quicksave any time I managed to pop out of cover and pull off a kill without dying from a graze, but the game always gave me what I needed to pull myself back out of the hole. Like proper dynamic action music.
From what I've seen of it I'd definitely recommend the game to people looking for a late 90s shooter to play (or replay), but only if you've got built up a tolerance for all the janky bullshit that comes along with that.
Comments are encouraged, especially if they're good ones. Not that I'll be judging them. This isn't a comment competition.