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Review by: David Laprad
Published: December 10, 1999
There is a catchword in gaming that is used so often and in reference to every genre that its use has almost become trite and meaningless. The word is “innovation.” Each new title must contain never before seen features or blend genres in such a manner that it offers an unparalleled experience. Innovation can be a wonderful thing but it can also mire a title down in misguided design decisions. Quantic Dream no doubt understood this going into the third-person 3D adventure Omikron, but decided the gamble would be worth the outcome. Their success or failure is the question at the center of this game, which attempts to blend one-on-one beat ‘em up sequences with first-person shooting, traditional adventure elements and even some light role-playing. How’s that for a heaping pile of interactive goodness?
What Omikron does perfectly from the start is present an alternate universe rich with thematic suggestion. As with most titles involving conflict, a basic good versus evil plot gets things going, although the precise nature of that evil is not immediately evident. Someone, or something, has been murdering the people of Omikron, and a police officer named Kay’l has traveled through time and space to solicit your help. Moments later, you are in control of Kay’l, wandering through a futuristic city without a clue about what is going on. After finding his home and meeting his wife, you learn he was investigating the gruesome murders with his partner when the two of them disappeared; although you managed to occupy his body and bring him home, his partner has turned up dead and you are the main suspect. This launches an investigation and ever-deepening mystery across four immense real-time cities. Camouflaged beneath all this are themes of oppression and revolution, though Quantic does not slam people over the head with its loftier pretenses.
Movement is accomplished from the third-person and most of Omikron involves conversing with other characters, investigating clues, hoofing it from location to location, shooting enemies and engaging on hand-to-hand melee battles–all in real-time. This is no mouse-based point and tap adventure and the navigation is less reminiscent of Tomb Raider than one might assume from glancing at the screenshots. Acrobatics are not the order of the hour, although exploration is, and what a world it is that Quantic has created for us! The cities are filled with people and motion, and although one cannot solicit conversation with all of the dozens of NPCs on the streets and in the buildings, conversing with the right people to get information as well as purchasing and selling equipment are central to progress.
This is where the adventure elements rise to the surface; the greater part of Omikron is spent gathering clues, solving simple puzzles, searching for the means of access to the next area, and preparing for combat through acquiring weapons and gathering the ingredients for spells. Yes, spells; Quantic leaves no design stone unturned. Everything you gather is stored and can be manipulated in a device called a SNEAK, which provides inventory management. Subsequent locations include more ancient and organic milieus, and Quantic has built all of them with such an appealing artistry that it creates images never before seen on the computer in real-time. Even though the maps are not seamless 3D environments–when you step into an elevator and press a button, the screen will fade and then you will be in an apartment–each self-contained locale embodies the spirit of the game through offering lots of detail and engaging interaction. Imagine tiring of the endless pursuit of clues, buying a beer and a David Bowie song, and listening to it on the stereo. There are a lot of distractions here that impart the feeling of a place that existed long before you came along.
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