Review: Sin Episodes: Emergence

Original Article Here


So, the future is here, and if Ritual, Valve and quite a few others are to be believed, the future is Episodic. A system where instead of one game and then it’s sequel or expansions are released with a gap of many months or even a year, Episodic gaming delivers smaller, but more frequent chunks of hot gaming goodness to your PC, and rather like your favourite TV shows like Lost or 24, each Episode is part of a larger series, which together comprimise the whole game.

However – I’m here today to review the first of the upcoming Episodic revolution, with Ritual’s latest offering: Sin Episodes: Emergence. And the future looks good. The sequel to the 1999 FPS Sin, Sin Episodes follows the continuation of main protoganist John Blade, still assisted by his trusty hacker sidekick JC and yup, he’s still after the beautiful, yet deadly Elexis Sinclaire and her SINTEK coorporation, detirmined to recreate the world in her own twisted vision of the perfect race through her grusome experiments. If it sounds cliche, that’s because it is- but the difference is that Sin, and indeed this sequel, always knows it. With tongue firmly in cheek, you begin laying on an operating table, with Elexis herself injecting you with an unknown substance, you and almost immediately being freed by your new fellow HARDCORPS rookie, Jessica Cannon.

Jessica is, at her most basic level, the Alyx to your Gordon Freeman. Although she really only appears in her (quite obvious) pre defined areas,she does make useful company, helping to shoot those pesky bad guys for you, and take some of the hits when you need a breather to reload. Ritual have given her a personality of her own as well, so she doesn’t seem tacked on in any way, and you do grow quite fond of her. The only problem is that the game doesn’t really spend much time on the story. It firstly assumes you’ve played the original Sin (which if you bought Episodes over STEAM, you probably should have done) and so spends little time in throwing you in at the deep end. Additionally the episodic format means that little story is actually revealed, an obvious tactic to get you to buy the other episodes when they’re released…

Jetpack Soldiers

So the gunplay then, well – as you can probably expect – it’s over the top fun here. Although only three weapons appear through this Episode, they all have quite a satisfying punch to them, and you can feel your cheekbones stretch whenever you manage to score a headshot with your trusty shotgun. As I already mentioned, it’s quite over the top, and heads explode at quite the alarming rate, but the shooting is a heck of a lot of fun. However, a minor critcism could stem from the lack of weapons, and – especially in later levels, the ineffectiveness of some of them. However, this can be aimed at another feature in Emergence: Dynamic Difficulty.

You see, at the start of the game you select, using two sliders, how much assistance you would like (if any) and how long before it should kick in. With this inormation, the game can decide how to treat you as you play. Finding it a little easy? Expect the game to throw more goons at you in the next section. Dying a little too much? Expect the next section to be slightly toned down for you Sir. The system works fairly well, although it does seem to require a bit more tweaking in subsequent episodes, as especially towards the end of the Episode the difficulty does seem to ramp up a little regardless. Of course, you may relish the challenge, but it will all depend on the individual.

Other things in the game worth a mention are the set pieces, including a section where you’re in a crane, swatting down goons with jetpacks, which always seem to generate a bit of excitement, the in car sections – which are brief, but quite fun. Additionally, the health spray – requiring you to fill up the health dispensers on the wall – is a nice touch, especially when you find out it can actually also be used as an offensive weapon. The Mutagen Gas too, is a nice little touch, although it does seem a little gimmicky, and most of the levels do not have any real reason for you to do this other than for the heck of it. Personally I managed to get through the game without using it once.

Skyscraper

The one major niggle with SIn Episodes: Emergence is something that is to be expected with Episodic games, and that’s it’s length. Now, whether £13 an episode is good value or not is down to the gamer, but as this first epsiode clocks in at just 5-6 hours gameplay, it may be a little much for Ritual to ask us to pay this much for every episode if it’s going to be over this quickl – although there are also a shedload of secrets to be found, which could offer some extra time for completists. Obviously it will depend on how this episode is recieved to decide the fate of future episodes…

So overall, the first Episode can be considered to be: Rather Good. It’s sexy, shallow but a heck of a lot of fun. With some tweaking to the forumla, Ritual could make a very successful foray into Episodic gaming, and Emergence is well worth a blast, even if it does seem over a little too quickly. The future does indeed look bright, but whether Ritual will be able to keep this up remains to be seen. TUNE IN NEXT TIME FOLKS!

Final Score: 82%

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