Bibles worth of text have been written about and contributed to the hyperbole and hoopla surrounding the idea of the interactive movie. In theory, it sounds great; in practice, it's a crock - delivering no more than a motley collection of full-motion video clips, costing more than the development costs of an average Amiga game. A waste of resources and a waste of time. Especially when you consider the scope of games that could be turned out by the likes of Polish development team Arrakis with loss than half the money allocated to posturing PC game developers.
Take Citadel, their first commercial UK release. It represents what the concept of interactive movies should be all about. If ever there was a game that tries hard at being all things to all men, it's Citadel. No matter which Amiga you own, Citadel will run on it. No matter which Amiga the gamer owns, they can now engage in a 3D, first person perspective, immersive world.
Much like the brand name of Hoover becoming synonymous with all vacuum cleaners, Citadel has to suffer under the coined branding of 'Doom clone'. An unfair slander on Citadel and other so-called Doom clones, such as Gloom. Fears and Alien Breed 3D. The crux of the matter doesn't come down to what the game's called, however. The enjoyability of the game lies in the use of the perspective, the pace of the gameplay, the credibility of the plot, the actions of the denizens poised against you and the execution of the control system mechanics used to keep everything finely balanced and working in tune. Citadel is mostly perfect in these departments. But not quite.
The plot is strong and gives the gamer focus - find the pieces of a large bomb and blow a complex full of horrible genetic experiments into oblivion. This is your cue to play seek, destroy and collect throughout the seven main areas of the huge complex. Of course, it's not always the player who's doing the seeking. The nasties you're up against exhibit a fairly high level of artificial intelligence and behave in a manner which means that slack or sloppy play is punished mercilessly; even competent and inspired play can be penalised. More so if the hardest difficulty level has been selected.
In fact, much like Fears, there's a bone of contention here concerning a couple of the installed play mechanisms- Bumping into walls takes damage off your man. Admittedly, this only happens while playing on the hard difficulty level, but things are difficult enough without adding to the pain. What's more, on the hard level weapons eventually malfunction due to damage. When faced with a barrage of fire from all sides, it isn't pleasant to be left with a malfunctioning weapon.
Much more pleasant, but still managing to keep you on your toes, sweating with concentration, is the easy level. It makes the game accessible and opens up more of Citadel's pleasures to the gamer, but still remains fiendishly difficult - verging on too difficult. The reason's simple. Independent game testing. There wasn't any. Citadel was tested by the in-house development team at Arrakis. Admittedly, most of the testing was carried out by coders not working directly on Citadel, but they're still too close to the game.
But looking the positive side, there are many, many good things about Citadel, the multitude and variety of creatures, the weapons and ammo, the credibility of the surroundings, the skill required to proceed satisfactorily, the satisfaction gained from completing a level, the configurability of the program to suit your hardware and, most of all, the entertainment factor.
If we go back to the introduction for a minute and think of first person perspective games like Citadel as movies, then Breed 3D could be considered an action thriller, like Aliens, that's tense and always on the go. Gloom is a Steven Seagal movie with non-stop action that never lots up until you're mentally exhausted.
Citadel would be a horror movie like Day of the Dead. You know everyone's going to die, except for one or two people. That's what Citadel's like. Most times out you know you're going to die, but there's enough chance and optimism to make it through at least once. And that's what makes you come back for more and more. Exciting and dangerous stuff indeed.
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