Chasm: The Rift is a run-'n-gun shooter. As a Marine, the player has been sent inside a power plant to investigate the loss of power at the plant. They later discover that a group of monsters known as the Timestrikers are using the power to create ruptures in time that allow them to invade the Earth in three different time periods: present day, ancient Egypt, and medieval times. Timestrikers that have invaded the present day are also taking control of a nuclear plant in order to detonate a nuke that will destroy nearly all life on Earth.
The game starts in the present day, as the player goes inside the power plant and nuclear plant, battling strange-looking security guards and security systems that have gone haywire. They will then find the rifts that the Timestrikers are using to invade other time periods, eventually winding up at the Timestrikers' military base in the distant future.
"You are leaving - NOW!"
Your mission begins in a power plant. Energy has started to leak from the generators, and the engineers believe that this could have been caused by the TimeStrikers - evil monsters which can appear in any place and at any time within our dimension. Your job is to find an additional source of power for the plant, and this is where our game begins. "Too late, too late..."
Chasm: The Rift was released one year after Quake, and that is probably the main reason why it wasn't very successful. Many people call it a "poor-man's Quake," and to be honest, in some aspects the game does look like a modest brother of Quake. If the developer, Action Forms Ltd., had been able to release the game about a year earlier, it would have received more attention, as it has some interesting aspects of gameplay that were quite innovative at the time.
"It's Time to Travel!"
In case you haven't yet checked out the screenshots: the game is a classic FPS (first-person shooter). In light of the story mentioned at the beginning of this review, it was quite obvious that the developers had a gory killfest planned for the gameplay. At the time of its release the background plot was not really important, and players wanted to have some blood-covered fun.
The game consists of four episodes, each divided into four levels. Every episode offers a new set of surroundings and some new enemies. During your travels through time and space you will visit not only the power plant but also a medieval village, ancient Egypt, and some kind of futuristic Stronghold of Evil. The last mission of each episode contains a master TimeStriker whom you must destroy to complete the episode. These masters are very different from the regular run of monsters, and are immune to your standard attacks, so no matter how many bullets you throw at them they will not fall. You will need to find something special to kill each of them.
"The Lone Wanderer"
The maps created for the game are not particularly repetitive, as some of them consist of many narrow corridors, while others have a lot of rooms. Every time you play, you will have to walk through each room and corridor; that's how the game is built. In-game there are plenty of switches and keys, and if you miss one you will not be able to progress. It can be annoying sometimes that, if you miss a single switch, you'll have to walk back through the whole map and check the walls and other surroundings for that one special spot, as the openings are not always near the locked doors. You need to be very careful when flipping switches - nearly every time it means that you have unlocked not only the door you needed to open, but also some other trap-door, and enemies will attack you a few seconds after you press a button or collect an item. If they do not attack immediately, be careful on your way back - the enemies may have got loose somewhere between your location and the newly-opened place.
The engine is rendered fully in 3D, but the maps are somewhat limited. You will note that you can use an auto-map, but it is flat; there is no possibility that a room or a corridor can be above another one, but that doesn't mean that something can't be a little higher or lower than your current position. In many places you will need to find stairs to walk to a higher ledge or jump over a pit, but the overall plan of a level is always only placed on a single floor.
"Hurt me plenty!"
There are sixteen different types of enemies, and many of them can be harmful in more ways than one. Some of these creatures can damage you only in hand-to-hand combat so if you won't let them come near you, you can feel reasonably safe, but if they come close (especially in later episodes,) they can smash you in two or three blows. More than half of your opponents are able to shoot a projectile at you from a distance, and this is the most interesting part: the game can calculate where the enemy has been hit - be it an arm, torso, or head. If you are facing a heavily-armored enemy, you can try to shoot off its hand, thus disarming it. Without a weapon it won't run away, but will still try to kill you with whatever is left on its body - its remaining hand, or if it loses that, then with its head or legs. Remember to aim for the head as it is the most vulnerable part, and if you shoot it off, the target will no longer be a problem.
The enemies' AI is not very advanced - they don't know how to walk through doorways or other narrow entries, so if you find something like that - just walk out of the room and keep shooting. Sometimes when you do this they'll shoot back at you, but if they are melee fighters, you are completely safe.
The most dangerous times during the gameplay are when the monsters are spawning. As mentioned before, they often appear after you collect an item or flip a switch, and the places where that happen are sometimes too close to your current position to get out alive. A word of advice: save often, and walk backwards to collect items or press buttons.
"Hit me with your best shot!"
Your arsenal consists of eight different weapons. Many of these are standard weapons like the Super Shotgun or the Volcano machine gun, but some are nice additions previously unseen in the FPS genre. The BladeGun works like a machine gun, but instead of bullets it fires circular blades. There is also the Laser Crossbow - which looks like an ordinary crossbow, but emits laser fire. The game allows you to use mines, but these are not common.
"Let's do it together?"
The game originally had a multiplayer option which was usable only through either an IPX network, or serial connection. Later, the developer prepared an add-on to let gamers play deathmatch using a TCP/IP internet connection. I haven't had a chance to test the multiplayer option, but I did some research and I haven't found a single good word about it. Most of the complaints are about the level design - the deathmatch ones are not very interesting, and use of the single player ones is possible but highly unplayable, as all of the locked areas in single player mode are by default locked also in multiplayer games, and the number of weapons within is also very limited.
The add-on contains three extra single player levels with some new enemies and a boss. I don't know why the new enemies appear only in the first and the shortest bonus level. This episode has no briefings, so I can't say if it's connected to the storyline, but it's still fun to play. If you would like to install this extra content, you had better do it before you start a single player campaign, because saved games do not work in both versions.
The game is shown in full 3D, so if you want to play with resolution higher than 320x240 you need to have a decent computer.
People who downloaded Chasm: The Rift have also downloaded:
Blood, Blood 2: The Chosen, Blood: Plasma Pak, Chaos Engine (a.k.a. Soldier of Fortune), Clive Barker's Undying, Chrome, Powerslave (a.k.a. Exhumed), Codename Eagle
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