Eidos latest greatest video game title was revealed to the European game playing, and more importantly paying, public on the 13th of February. Yes, that is Friday the 13th. Friday the 13th has not been, if anecdotal evidence is queried, a good day for anything to happen, unless your name happens to be Jason Voorhees and you like kids, cornfields and drunken parties.
In fact, playing Shellshock 2: Blood Trails in a cornfield is probably the best place to initiate such an activity, as cornfields are notable for having no electricity supply, thereby forcing you to not play the game. Not playing Shell Shock 2 should be recommended by your doctor. Wanting to play it is an unhealthy habit. Not like smoking, that gives the promise of a long slow demise over time, or, if you are lucky, dieing quickly in a house fire started by one of your not-quite-stubbed-out cigarette butts, because playing Shellshock 2 is something that you will NEVER forget, but will always want to. What has been seen cannot be unseen. You may even long for death afterwards. No, in fact, you will.
Some back ground perhaps.
Shellshock 2: Blood Trails is the culmination of four and a half years of development by British developers Core Design. That may sound familiar, and so it should. They were the people who gave us the very first incarnation of Tomb Raider, back when the Saturn was the console of choice and Lara Croft was a mere handful of badly textured polygons.
It is the sequel to the extraordinarily mediocre Shellshock: Nam '67, which came out in 2004. The first game in the series sold to over 900,000 morans, I would be surprised if this most recent addition to the series sold 9.
According to an 'industry source', the development of the title can be surmised thusly. When Eidos let Crystal Dynamics take over the development of Tomb Raider, there was little for Core Design left to do, rather than make a sequel to their highly unacclaimed Vietnam shooter. In 2006, shortly after SCi LTD bought Eidos, they restructured somewhat. They let Core Design go for a song to Rebellion Developments as there was no need for an extraneous dev house. There was however one clause in this selling off of assets that stated that Core Design owed Eidos a "Next-Gen game".
I think you can begin to see where this is going. Now if I were Core Design, and owed someone a legacy game, and wished to get rid of that person sharpish, I would fob them off with something that was originally destined for the PlayStation 2. Something that no-one wanted, like a quadriplegic puppy with lactose intolerance. Shellshock 2 seems to be this very game. Four and a half years cannot save something that does not want to be saved. You can polish that turd all you want, but the turd is still there, albeit gleaming and shiny, a turd remains none the less.
If you have not seen any Shellshock 2 footage, purchased the game or even heard of it, allow me to enlighten you as to its grandeur.
It features level design of the flawed variety. Not flawed in some minor way, say a particular choke point that is more difficult than most to overcome, but flawed from the outset. The kind of level design that pains you to have to trudge through. The kind that makes you long for Left4Dead.
The levels are not only flawed in the empty phase, before they are filled with AI's, players and scripting, but afterwards too. There are some set pieces in the game, the kind where you must defend a position until for some reason you have magically accomplished something unseen and probably mystical, which triggers the game to allow you to progress forwards. The set pieces never feel like fun, they just seem to be devised as a means of extending the gameplay by forcing you to stay in one spot. If you can't move, you can't complain. Unless you look around you that is. Then you will find plenty to complain about. The obvious spawn points behind trees or rock outcroppings that send the same surges of enemies towards you again and again until you realise you must cross the invisible boundary etched into the floor by a scripter. Once past this point, the enemies seem to become adverse to you in the way that Fox News are adverse to reason.
The AI is what people 'in the industry' call abysmal. Actually, no, anyone would call it that. They seem to follow the same paths, relentlessly seeking their targets. You may note when playing that they can always see you. No matter where you may be, behind rocks, taking cover in thick bushes or tree trunks. They can always see you, and find it physically impossible to miss. I thought the days of this were over, what with the Conflict Series apparently ended. I was wrong. But I would rather be proved wrong, and that Eidos can still push out such trite than have them shock me with a genuinely good title. I am too young to die from a shock induced heart attack. Sometimes they may be so far away and hidden that the only way to locate the enemy is by using your damage indicator as a sort of 'pain radar', allowing you to locate the source of annoyance and eliminate it (in this case it is the game, not an errant AI).
The textures are amazingly of the 'Next-Gen-Brown' palette, despite this being set in a jungle. You read right, there is more brown than green in this game. This is the kind of texture and palette that I could create in MSPaint, with no hands. Or arms. Or Legs. In fact sheer force of would produce viscerally better results than that which is presented in Shellshock 2.
The shooting part, let's be clear about this, the main part of the game, is even worse than you could imagine. Even worse than the visible render lag in Killzone 2 that was passed off by the developers as them making it 'heavy' to increase 'realism'. It feels like your gun is wandering through a vat of treacle. A twitch based treacle, if you can even imagine such a thing. Bobbins, absolutely bobbins. There is not a single thing that appeals about it. One reviewer said this of the frag grenades,
"Throwing grenades is a complete lottery, and the explosive effect is roughly akin to a firework you'd take back to the shop for a refund."
If that is not enough to put you off, then I don't know what is. A colleague of mine thought that, perhaps, for a change, I should not focus on the negative, but on the positive aspects of the game. In my soul, I find nothing that could be represented as positive, but after trawling through reviews, I did come up with one. The loading times. They seem to be mercifully long. So long in fact that you may eventually get tired of waiting and put the controller down and do something else instead. Something validating with your life. Playing this game is not that.
It's not even like Eidos did not know. They knew. I know they knew because several people told them. They chose to ignore those people and put this offal out. I do hope Square Enix are pleased with their expansion into the western gaming market.
A friend of mine in the UK recently over heard someone talking about this very title in a well known Game selling outlet. They said that they "Can't wait to play it, it'll be like a deeper Resident Evil 5, but better cus it's FPS". That will be one of the 9 sales right there then. Only eight to go!
If for some reason you do not believe me, not only are you wrong, but I would like to draw your attention to the ever present Metacritic ratings for this game. The PC version is not out for another three weeks, presumably to add that last feces covering veneer, but the reviews are in and averaged for the PS3 and the Xbox360. At the time of writing the PS3 leads the pack with an average of 34%. One of the Ps3 reviews went so far as to award a 2/10. Here are a few select quotes just in case you are still having a hard time (I'm talking to you 'deeper than resident evil 5' man) figuring this one out.
"Had this been released five years ago it would still have stood out as a poorly made FPS" - VideoGamer
"Shellshock 2: Blood Trails is an insolvent try to bring back to life a forgettable war franchise, changing its context to the horror style. No matter from which angle you choose to look at Blood Trails, it’s a horrendous videogame. Boring, exasperating, and ugly in the most literal sense of the word." - 3DJuegos
"Up against World at War, Killzone 2 and Halo 3, it's a complete joke. The worst FPS I've played since Turning Point: Fall of Liberty." - Eurogamer
"Shellshock 2 is one of the most poorly designed and unplayable games this generation." - X360 Magazine UK
"Miserable graphics, poor sound and a story which isn’t able to fascinate – this game is a no-go. Maybe the king of no-gos. Don’t play this title, it will definitely be wasted time." - GamingXP
"The Vietnam War has never seemed so horrific in this shockingly poor first person shooter." - Teletext GamerCentral
Teletext! Even a text based free to TV service recognises what most of us can see without the aid of eyes! Shellshock 2 Shucks. There isn't even Multiplayer in it.
As one commentator said. It should be called Shellshock 2/10.
Do not buy this game. I will find you if you do.