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Review by: Adam Swiderski
Published: June 2, 1999
Though bent on speed; so here the Arch-Angel paused;
Betwixt the world destroyed and world restored,
– John Milton, Paradise Lost
If you’re a fan of the sub-genre commonly known as first-person shooters (FPS), then you’re probably familiar with the standard setup for the mayhem these games offer. There have been scads of titles that placed gamers in the role of a space/fantasy soldier/marine/knight/wizard, tasked with taking down some sort of Foozle whose hordes of monsters/soldiers have overrun the lab/fortress/castle and made life miserable for everyone else. It’s a pattern that has been repeated time and again since the days of Doom; even Half-Life, everybody’s Game of the Year for 1998, didn’t stray very far from the formula (although Valve did it with more style than anyone had to that point).
As the first in what is sure to be a flood of next-generation FPS titles, 3DO’s Requiem attempts to break out of this oft-tested mold. Rather than recycling the same old sci-fi/fantasy story line, it draws instead from Christian mythology and the works of John Milton to create a universe and background that meshes futuristic trappings with a conflict of Biblical proportions. Players are cast as Malachi, an angel in the service of the Lord who descends to twenty-first century Earth in order to stave off Armageddon. His opponents: a menagerie of fallen angels known, ironically enough, as the Fallen, and the army of human cronies they have coerced into serving their purposes. As one of the heavenly host who remained faithful to God, Malachi must enter Chaos (more colloquially known as Hell) in order to find a portal to the mortal world, where he hopes to put an end to the Fallen and their schemes. In the process, he’ll take on a veritable legion of foes both human and otherwise, using a combination of angelic powers and more secular methods (read: big guns) to bring sacred justice to a world on the brink of destruction.
This theme is certainly unique, not to mention well integrated into the game itself. To be sure, the nightmarish vision of Chaos that makes up the first level drives home the impression that this is not your standard shooter. Blood-red walls pulse and run together, tormented souls wail and scream, and Escher-esque curves boggle the mind. The whole scene oozes atmosphere (amongst other things), and sets the stage perfectly for an unholy battle against the forces of darkness.
Unfortunately, once Malachi leaves Chaos and enters the human world, things take a sharp right turn into the mundane. Aside from the occasional foray into Chaos to take on a boss, players will mostly maneuver Malachi through a series of pretty, but relatively uninspired, futuristic urban settings. To its credit, Requiem does follow the pattern established in Half-Life by not working on a stilted “mission” system. Instead, it offers a large world subdivided by a series of short “level” loads, making backtracking through the environments easy and endurable. Still, the degree of complexity is low enough not to make a great degree of crisscrossing necessary. This is both good and bad — good, because it keeps the player from having to constantly cover old ground, but bad because it makes Requiem’s levels much simpler than those of its competitors. We’re talking good ol’ “find the key and open the door” gameplay; a step backward that does not jibe with the game’s otherwise up-to-date features.
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