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Review by: David Laprad
Published: January 10, 2001
Ever watch someone deathmatching? It’s rare to see a person smile or laugh, even when they are winning. Players approach QUAKE III Arena and Unreal Tournament with an ironclad scowl that betrays an all-too-serious attitude about something that should be fun. Perhaps it’s not the players that are overly solemn, but the games themselves. It seems most 3D action releases these days are filled with either cheerless dungeons or corrupt aliens bent on universal destruction, the latter of which always seems self-defeating. Death always results in the player being reduced to a shower of gore as a thundering voice proclaims their failure to avoid being ionized with a rail gun. Sheesh. Acting as digital Prozac for depressed shooter fans is a comical new multiplayer title from Funcom called No Escape that aims to wipe that scowl off players’ faces.
As soon as I read the box, I wanted this game. The time had come, I decided, to play a title that, and I quote, “takes eight contestants, puts them in front of a live studio audience, then throws in the guns.” Not since Postal had marketing materials promised so much. However, the object in No Escape is not to score the highest frag count, but to earn the most money. Players begin by selecting a character from a gallery of eight contestants, none of which vary in terms of playability, then jump into one of the levels and start shooting. Each character is introduced with a witty, rip-tickling and very well directed cinematic that, collectively, are almost worth the price of admission. In one, Agent Massimo, who seems to be a cross between James Bond and the shade-wearing bad guys from the film, “The Matrix,” soars across the sky in a supersonic jet. Even though he is enclosed in the safety of the plane’s cockpit, his hair whips back as though he is driving on the open road. The characters range in makeup from a cigar-chomping survivalist to an artificially intelligent robot, but again, the choice is an aesthetic one–which explains the inclusion of a few lithe female contestants.
No Escape is modeled after Q3A and UT, meaning players can connect to the Internet and compete against friends, or launch a single-player adventure loaded with computer-controlled bots. The primary game mode, the titular No Escape, involves fragging for dollars. As enemies are shot, coins and small bills bounce out of their pockets and can be gathered to add to your score. Do enough damage to your opponent and he or she will be “knocked out” of the match, leaving behind an even larger wad of cash. The winner at the end of the round is not the one with the most kills, but the biggest bankroll. Like Donna Summers, you have to work hard for the money, as bringing down an opponent requires multiple hits, even from the most powerful weapons. Besides No Escape, there are six additional multiplayer modes, including three team variants: Team No Escape; Knockout Match, which is, essentially, a pure deathmatch mode; Team Knockout Match; Tag, in which players must avoid being “tagged,” or the last one shot, for the longest period of time; Countdown, in which players carry time bombs set to 30 seconds and earn more time by shooting opponents; and Capture the Flag. There’s also a Practice mode in which players can load up any level and compete against bots of varying difficulty. Funcom definitely did not skimp on the game modes nor cheat players who prefer team-based competition.
The maps in which all this jingling mayhem takes place are unlike any I have ever seen. Imagine, if you will, being able to run around a miniature globe. That’s what the levels in No Escape are: tiny worlds born long ago in Dr. Seuss’ drawings and built out of quirky little puzzle pieces. As players rollick across the landscape, the scenery rolls toward them, creating a weird, eyeball-catching visual effect. Bizarre angles, misshapen landscapes and impossible juxtapositions combine to form levels that are, ultimately, very simple to learn and navigate. There are a total of 18 maps, divided evenly among small, medium and large arenas. Also included is a selection of dedicated CTF maps. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of vertical space to romp around in; rather, players remain close to the surface, occasionally jumping across a pit of death or leaping onto a single-story rooftop to grab a power-up. As unique as the maps are, No Escape offers even more surprises when it comes to weapons.
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