This first-person shooter from DreamCatcher focuses on online competition, but also offers challenging 'bot battles for solo play or practice. In addition to a developed back story set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, Gore distinguishes itself by introducing a factor of "stamina" to the familiar frag-fests of first-person online battle. Stamina is a limited resource, replenished only by rest (or a few special power-ups).
This element of stamina may encourage gamers to play more strategically, waiting for the best time to attack, and also offers a balance for re-spawning characters against campers. Gore boasts highly interactive environments in which gas tanks, weapons, and even health and stamina power-ups can be destroyed, also adding tactical possibilities. Snipe that Health Pack, just before your opponent tries to grab it, and watch as both are gibbed to oblivion in the resulting explosion.
Contrary to its name, Gore is about as inoffensive as a first-person shooter can get. It's largely unmemorable, generic, and almost entirely without innovation. But to be fair, it's also competent, accessible, and occasionally exciting. It is a classic example of mediocrity in action.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Gore is that it ever made it to the shelves. After years of popping in and out of development limbo, it's finally been published by Dreamcatcher, a Canadian company known for its adventure games. Built by Nebraska developer 4D Rulers from their own engine, Gore is a "sort of" throwback to Unreal Tournament. Although there's a single-player game, the focus is clearly on Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and a few other game variations. The weapons are of the sci-fi over-the-top variety, and the maps are the sorts of levels you'd see cycling through a typical Unreal Tournament server.
Unfortunately, Gore is missing many of Unreal Tournament's strong points, including that game's flexibility or longevity. There are only 19 maps, almost entirely drawn from the single-player game, with only a few of them being notable (fans of LucasArts' Outlaws will enjoy "Trouble in Tucson," a Western ghost town map). There are a few different game types, but there's no way to configure the gameplay to tone down its hyperactive pace.
Gore fans will probably be stuck with no way to play it except as a single-player game. This bland and linear exercise in fighting enemies with bad AI is easily Gore's weakest element. Your enemy's actions seem entirely scripted and the AI seems incapable of anything other than standing in one place and shooting. There are only about a half dozen models, and their dopey taunts range from the inane (stuff like "Die! Die! Die!" "Freeze, jackass!" and "Waste that clown!") to the weird (a biker guy with a can of beer howls, "Not while I'm drinking!" when you shoot him).
The game's engine is pretty good, particularly if you're more interested in speed than aesthetics. Gore is great for lower end computers. t sports nice textures, with crisp colors and sharp ornamentation, especially at higher resolutions. However, in some ways, it's reminiscent Shogo and Blood 2, early Lithtech Engine driven games. The geometry is blocky and the attempts at details like clocks, soda machines, and bottles on tabletops are blunt. The fire and explosion graphics will probably be a matter of taste, but they're unique. Most of the special effects look a generation or so behind the times. The blood is especially ridiculous, spilling out of characters like a handful of rose petals. The character models themselves are well drawn (all half-dozen or so of them), but their moonwalking style of movement is a particularly noticeable problem in the animation. One nice touch is that armor, like masks and chest plates, actually break off the characters as you blast at them.
There are a few elements that distinguish Gore from most other FPS games. When you look down, you can see your feet and body. This is a little disconcerting, especially when you're going down a ladder and watching your feet shuffle in frantic baby steps. Pickups such as weapons, ammunition, and health will explode when you shoot them. This isn't unique (one of Unreal Tournament's earliest mutators added this), but it's a good way to deprive other players of powerups and possibly ambush them when they're making a beeline for a weapon or health.
Perhaps the most significant new feature is Gore's stamina model, in which your character gets tired the longer he runs around. After a while, he starts breathing heavily and then he can't move as quickly. Eventually, he'll sound and move like a fullblown emphysema patient. This can be rectified by stopping to rest or by finding powerups to recover stamina. It's a clever game mechanic that should force players to alter the patterns in which they run around a level, so as to take stamina powerups into account. However, because of the fast and lethal nature of the gameplay, you're more likely to get killed before you run out of breath.
As you may have deduced, Gore plays very quickly -- perhaps too quickly. It is easily as fast-paced as the original Quake, but the weapons are even more lethal. Instead of the standard ten or twelve weapons, there are 22. They consist of the usual arsenal of shotguns, miniguns, and guns that shoot colored light. There's a conspicuous lack of recoil effect, which makes Gore feel more like you're flying a cursor with your mouse rather than firing a gun. Another minor twist is that gas grenades and bombs emit poison clouds; anyone caught in these clouds is briefly knocked unconscious and loses consciousness. There are also impressive flashbangs and a shotgun with a defensive energy shield. However, most of these tactical nuances go by the wayside considering how quickly Gore moves.
The multiplayer games feature character classes with widely varying speed and health, as well as different default weapons. These classes are an interesting idea, but it would have been nice to be able to turn them off so everyone is on a level playing field. It doesn't help that there's no way to see what weapons and attributes a character possess before you select one.
Ultimately, it looks as if Gore is a minor flash in the pan. It's a competent game that runs quickly and plays unexceptionally. But without a fan base or bot support, it looks like it's going to end up being a lonely experience.
People who downloaded Gore: Ultimate Soldier have also downloaded:
Halo: Combat Evolved, Hellforces, Global Operations, Gunman Chronicles (a.k.a. Half-Life: Gunman), Gorky Zero: Beyond Honor, Freedom Fighters, Gladiator: Sword of Vengeance, Half-Life: Decay
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