Saturday, 30 April 2016

SiN (PC)

Sin title screen
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.)



Sin main menu
Uh, where's the 'Options' option? I want to push all my graphics sliders to full and spend ages trying to figure out if 'mipmap' is better than 'trilinear'. Oh I see, they've labelled it 'Controls' just to throw me off. Well I'll just click on that and... awesome, there's no mouse control in the menu. Way to make a first impression, SiN.

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.

Ah, it is all polygons then. The game apparently came out the exact same day as 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.


There's a robbery in progress at the Freeport City Bank and they've got hostages, so Blade's flying over in his ugly-ass assault chopper to do what he can to resolve the situation. I wish someone would resolve how nasty his helicopter looks; just tapering the tail a bit and adding some fins would help.

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.

The game's starting off with a helicopter turret sequence? Aren't we in the wrong decade for this, I though turret levels only really started to appear in first person shooters during the 2000s.

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.


After a short cutscene showing the criminal mastermind looking over his giant vault hole, the game shoved a gun into my hand and left me in a bank full of lunatics. It's a very wobbly gun too, as it's doing that 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.

Three in one shot... isn't what happened here. But that's fine as I can just loot more ammo from the dead.

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.

The game's pretty much just letting me roam the entire bank from the start, except for a few rooms with locked security doors I need to sort out. It's just like the cinema at the start of 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 love those bouncing sparks coming off that ceiling turret. I don’t love being shot at though, and it seems all the bullets I've scavenged aren't enough to blow the things up.

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.

Hostage rescued! I love that I can get headshots from across the room with this thing. Or at all in fact, as locational damage was definitely not guaranteed in your typical 90s first person shooter.

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!

Crap, I was making progress, until I ran up against another locked security door. Fortunately JC's always in my ear giving me advice, and right now he's telling me I need the vault combo to get in. It's apparently somewhere in here though so it shouldn't take to long to find.

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!

Well that's interesting, looks like they've got one of them Doom 3-style GUI surface computer screens on the wall.

Well it fills the whole screen when I use it and I can't use the crosshair as a mouse cursor, but the monitor is definitely being rendered as part of the level. That's really clever!

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.

Holy shit, it's literally a DOS command prompt! There aren't many commands I can type in, but I can change directories and snoop at all the files. Turns out that autoexec.bat files in the SiN universe are pretty much equally as exciting as they are in our universe.

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.

That's easily fixed though! I already knew the last name of the game's main villain, so I got the computer to give me her details too. Now John R. Blade can treat himself to a yacht when this is all over (the R stands for Rusty by the way).

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.


There's that bastard in the suit I'm meant to be catching! Some guy called Mancini. Trouble is he pulled the old collapsing stairs trick on me so I have to go around the long way.

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).

The game wants me to jump that? In first person? Well thank fuck for quick saves is all I'm going to say.

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.

Reaching the end of the abandoned buildings earned me another (skippable) cutscene.

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.


Well I did some more running and shooting, then I ran into this guy in one of those construction offices and a cutscene started! There's no dialogue options though, he's just offering me some blueprints so that I'll spare his life. I don't even know who he is, I'm chasing bank robbers!

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.

So I went back outside and noticed the crane outside with a wrecking ball hanging off it. Like many action heroes, Blade has an instinctive understanding of construction vehicle controls, and automatically knocked over some beams with it, giving me a way to get up to the fire escape. But the thing is, there's absolutely nothing up there, it's a dead end! The game's just wasting my damn time.

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.

A little further along I got stuck again, except this time I had to resort to a walkthrough to find the way. Turns out it game's pulled the same trick that 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.

Damn man, I wasn't expecting it to knock me right out of reality! I can see the whole map from here!

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.


Look who I found on the next level! It's my good buddy Mancini... except Sinclaire injected him with a drug that's turned him a shitty bullet sponge boss that chases me around the room eating up all my ammo, and I have to fight him four times on this stage. I usually love underground train station levels, with their shiny tiled walls and ceilings, but Mancini's gone and ruined this one for me to be honest.

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.

The death of Mancini ended the chase, but now the Hardcorps are after the people who manufactured the drug that turned him into a monster, and signs point towards Sinclaire's company SinTEK.

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.

Okay, that loading screen picture is basically art. I'm going to have to write a note somewhere so I remember it when I'm making my next Screenshots of the Year article.

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.


Okay, what? I haven't even walked in the front door yet and I've already got a security turret firing at me while JC whines that I've failed the mission.

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.

Oh come on, I crept past reception this time! I was even crouching under all the windows.

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.

There, I waited until the secretary was standing well away from any security alarms, crept up behind her and gently punched her lights out. It was all very slick and professional... until Blade just had to quip "I'm gonna make you my bitch!" To be fair he says that to lots of people.

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.

Sin Duke and Lara to wed message board
Duke and Lora to wed huh? There's not many conversations to overhear in this, so the incidental jokes come from these message boards instead. I guess I need to know sign language to get this one though.

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.

Oh crap, there was someone right behind this door! Now he's going to run past me and alert the others and I won't be able to stop him because I can't shoot moving targets for shit. I thought Blade was going to wear the scientist outfit as a disguise so I could walk around freely!

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.


The second floor's a lot less strict about alarms, but they do insist on sending out infinite enemies after me as long as it's going off. Trouble is I have to find the computer that controls the alarm to deactivate it, and have you ever tried accessing a computer when infinite men with shotguns are shooting you?

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.

THAT’S the way out? Holy shit game!

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.


Whoa, there's Cheezy Poofs here? That means that 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.


I probably shouldn't be trying to kill these guys with a forklift, but the grin on my face is worth the awkwardness of getting it lined up.

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.


Uh... I think I took a wrong turn.


LEVEL 16: FREEPORT CITY DAM.


Yup, this game was definitely the true successor to Duke 3D (I can also confirm that the toilet is flushable).

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.


HARDCORP HEADQUARTERS.


Ah, it's a variety of tedious shooting ranges and simulated combat levels that kick my ass in seconds. Turns out I'm fairly good at hitting stationary targets with a mouse, and absolutely terrible at telling the friends apart from foes. But I knew that already.


CONCLUSION

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.


Next time on Super Adventures, some point and clicking RPG action on PC

Comments are encouraged, especially if they're good ones. Not that I'll be judging them. This isn't a comment competition.

9 comments:

  1. Played this when it first came out. Loved it.

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  2. Hang on, does that bit of hacking and money transfer have any effect on the game, or is it just an easter egg? Either way, that's quite fun attention to detail; I like it when games do that.

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    1. Seems like it's just an easter egg unfortunately. I wanted Fallout-style ending slides showing the outcome my actions and choices had made on society, but nope.

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  3. I ordered this game back in 1998. Somehow there was a mixup and they sent me Half-Life instead. Maybe it was for the best.

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  4. Do you think the all-time classic metal slug could be covered on this site someday?

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    Replies
    1. Sorry if this sounds mean, i did not mean for it to sound that way.

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    2. It's definitely something that belongs on my 'to play' list.

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