In this first-person shooter, "Chrome" is a valued resource that many corporations wish to control. The Valkyria System, where Chrome is located, is a recently discovered solar system of five planets that is now being colonized. Players take the role of Logan; a former elite soldier turned bounty hunter. Having been betrayed by the military, Logan now lends his skills to those who can afford them.
Logan can approach more than 14 levels in a number of ways that are dependent on implants, which give him the ability to turn into a stealth master or a battle machine. More implants are earned as the game progresses, and players will also have more than 18 weapons at their disposal, such as machine guns, rocket launchers, and plasma rifles. There are also eight vehicles available with which to explore the five planets of the Valkyria System.
Chrome features five multiplayer modes as well: Capture the Flag, Deathmatch, Assault, Team Deathmatch, and Team Domination. With support for up to 32 players, the multiplayer modes include all of the single-player game's weapons, vehicles, and implants.
Not since Serious Sam has a little-known company burst onto the scene with a shooter this intriguing. New from Techland, Chrome suffers from some rookie flaws, but while we're all holding our breath for big-ticket releases like Doom 3 and Half-Life 2, this title provides a decent diversion.
You're a mercenary with the embarrassingly testosterone-drenched name Bolt Logan. We learn little about Bolt, but we do know he used to be in the space military SpecForce, and when the game opens, that he's on a mission to swipe some blueprints with his partner, Pointer. Pointer betrays him, sets Bolt up to look like a murderer, and traps him in a hostile installation. There Bolt meets Carrie, a space faring woman who looks a lot like Uma Thurman. She helps Bolt escape and the two partner up for the remainder of the game. The plot, conveyed mostly through cutscenes, has its share of twists and turns and kept us riveted until the end. It involves chrome, a precious metal for which gigantic corporations are willing kill over.
Based on an engine developed internally by Techland, Chrome looks magnificent. Many of the missions take place in forested terrain, and the last time we saw a jungle this lush was in the voxel-based, underappreciated Outcast. Equally impressive are dry deserts dotted with buttes, towering, majestic mountains, and massive space stations brimming with bad guys. All are spectacularly detailed, with little touches that bring it home like bags of garlic chips that enemies were snacking on, and wild animals populating the alien worlds.
Chrome's levels are massive. Most take an hour or more to play through, so the fourteen levels that make up the single-player campaign should keep you gaming for sixteen to twenty hours. Unfortunately, level design is uneven: some missions have Bolt trudging ridiculous distances between objectives, which is boring and eventless. Most of the missions, however, are tightly plotted and engaging the whole way through. Typical objectives involve stealing secret documents or computer files, rescuing hostages, and helping oppressed people struggle against huge, faceless corporations.
Chrome is billed as a tactical shooter, but it's not going to be mentioned with the likes of any of the Red Storm Rainbow Six games, and there aren't any real-time strategy aspects to it. The tactical aspects manifest themselves in subtler ways: you have to watch your ammunition, use the terrain to your advantage, and pick your enemies off one by one. An inventory system similar to the one found in PlanetSide limits the amount of gear and weaponry Bolt can carry, and is simple to manage while adding some extra depth to the game.
The arsenal consists of a standard assortment of pistols, rifles, machineguns, sniper rifles, and heavy weapons. Thanks to the inventory system, Bolt can only carry one rifle-sized weapon at a time, so sometimes you have to swap weaponry to accomplish mission goals. For example, if you have to take out a bunch of bad guys and an armored vehicle, you might have to swap between a C9/S submachine gun and a GL Dragoon antitank weapon.
With the levels being so large, it's nice that Bolt can pilot a number of vehicles. The vehicle physics are terrific -- comparable to those in Halo. There are hovering speeder bikes like those in Return of the Jedi, four wheelers, and even mecha-style walkers.
Chrome doesn't always glisten, however. The cutscenes are sometimes intrusive and overly long. At times, you may wish you could be actively partaking in what it passively shows Bolt doing. For instance, early in the game, when you nab a speeder, it cuts to show Bolt flying helter-skelter through the woods, rather than letting you actually pilot it.
A promising system of cybernetic implants also falls flat. They have the power to help Bolt aim, speed up his reflexes (sort of like Max Payne's bullet time), harden his skin into armor, and offer other seemingly positive effects. Unfortunately, they have a penchant to overload too easily, making it easier to just leave them turned off.
Hacking computer terminals takes the place of the run-of-the-mill switch and allows you to open doors, turn off generators, and perform other necessary feats. In a word, it's just silly: it involves playing through an annoying game of concentration using goofy symbols instead of playing cards, with a limited number of guesses. Thankfully, the game doesn't dissolve into switch ... err, terminal hunts, too often.
Though it's flawed, Chrome is a solid FPS that should please fans of the genre. It's exciting when a relatively unknown development house like Techland can spring forward with such an intriguing effort, and if nothing else, we applaud its ambition. Chrome got our attention, and if Techland is able to build on its successes and iron out its flaws, we'll be looking forward to its next title.
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