Frank Herbert's Dune is billed as a combination of infiltration, action, and adventure. A more accurate description might be that of an action game pretending to be sneaky. In theory, there's espionage, as you try to stealthily maneuver your way behind an enemy soldier to dispatch him with one skillful knife stroke. In practice, the theory doesn't play out because many of the game's guards are static, and placed directly in the middle of a hallway or doorway, often resulting in a no-choice face-to-face confrontation.
For a variety of reasons, the game fares no better as an action experience. Enemies can be attacked using only a knife or ranged weapons. The former is effective for quick silent kills, but only on immobilized enemies and the very limited number of targets you can actually sneak up on from behind. Once an enemy notices you, it becomes nearly impossible to strike him with a knife, since your character, supposedly the best warrior of his tribe, can't step forward and attack simultaneously. Even if you manage to back your foe into a corner, most of the knife slashes simply pass through him without any noticeable effect.
Lamentably, that leaves the ranged weapon as the attack mode of choice for effectiveness, which is even less interesting than knife attacks. Simply run close to an enemy, hold down the right mouse button to target, and click the left mouse button to fire repeatedly until he goes down. If you're close enough, you never miss, and moving around doesn't decrease his chances of hitting you. Gunfights invariably devolve into a standing toe-to-toe engagement of mindless of mouse-clicks.
The most inexcusable aspect of Frank Herbert's Dune, though, is its failure to adapt faithfully or reasonably to the spirit of the storylines of the novel, movies or television miniseries. The game ignores important sections of the novel, especially the opening chapters. You begin in the desert, running from Harkonnen and then escape a sandworm; suddenly you find yourself as the Fremen's messiah and best warrior in your tribe. After ten minutes of gameplay you've covered about 75% of the novel.
Drinking water to magically heal is a stretch, but perhaps acceptable given the need for instant healing. But why call the well-defined stillsuit, clearly explained in the novel as a device that captures body moisture, a distiller? Are the Fremen wannabe beer makers?
In most media presentations, Dune, if nothing else, is normally depicted as a stark but breathtaking world. In the game, scenery is impressive in a few spots, but the overall effect of close ups of people and weapons is bland and uninspired. The hero runs like he's constipated and most of the population of Dune appears to be hideously ugly. Movement is choppy, with severe clipping problems, often putting the camera inside a wall. Sounds are not much better, with out-of-synch lip movements and weak weapon effects.
Fans looking for an exciting adaptation of the novel or miniseries will be terribly disappointed. In fact, most gamers, regardless of their exposure to the world of Dune will find the game dull and boring. The espionage aspect is just as disappointing as the poorly modeled combat and action sequences. At best, Frank Herbert's Dune is an insult to the science fiction classic.
Graphics: The graphics are mostly unimpressive, and game characters look hideous in close-ups. Weapons are bland with limited effects.
Sound: The soundtrack is forgettable, but has slightly above average background music, offset by the generally weak sound effects and voice acting.
Enjoyment: With its shallow combat model and almost nonexistent stealth aspects, gameplay is simply boring. Character movement is a chore and effects are laughable in some cases.
Replay Value: There is no compelling reason to ever replay the game, as nothing changes from the initial boring run through.
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