kill.switch is a third-person shooter that takes place amidst war-torn Middle Eastern cities, underground submarine bases, and other places. Cast in the role of an elite commando, players must carefully take out enemy snipers and guards while seeking cover behind walls, barriers, or other objects found within the environment. While the character ducks behind an object or presses against a wall, players can perform a technique called blindfire, which involves spraying bullets toward the general direction of an enemy without directly aiming at a target. The benefit to this procedure is the character will avoid damage from counter fire, since he remains out of sight behind an obstacle while firing the weapon. Players must carefully plan their attacks in order to beat the overwhelming odds stacked against their success. Enemies will work together in teams to flush out players from their hiding spots and coordinate attacks, making each encounter a potentially deadly one. kill.switch's tour of duty is composed of six missions spanning 18 distinct levels.
kill.switch was originally released on the Playstation 2 to some decent critical acclaim. It can best be described as a third person cover and gun shooter, with a heavy leaning towards an arcade-style ease of use and playability. So how has the switch to the PC been made? Pretty damn well it seems.
This is a Playstation 2 game, and nothing less than a radical code and content overhaul was ever going to make this game look like the best of its PC counterparts. The level design is probably the chief villain here - the architecture is far too cubic and block-ridden. In certain levels this is fine, but certain others could have done with an overhaul, looking simplistic and a little drab. That said, the cut-scenes are right up there, the model animation is superb and there are some nice graphical touches here and there - reflective floors, some decent weather and fire effects and plenty onscreen running around at once. Indeed, that must be one of the plus points of the port - it runs great on fairly average machines.
The gameplay, however, is really what this game is all about. The premise, like all the best games, is simple. Run around the level to reach the end achieving one or more sub-goals along the way. In between you and this goal are hordes of intelligently behaving enemies - they dive for cover, attempt to flank you when you're pinned down and generally make quite a nuisance of themselves - and strewn all around is the cover and protection that becomes vital to your survival. This game, you see, is all about keeping your head down at the appropriate time. The protagonist is able to attach himself to most of the surfaces in the game, creeping along and peeking around corners. He can also duck behind any suitably sized object, including the usual barrels, crates, burnt out cars and whatever else comes to hand. The player, safely concealed, can then take his or her time to survey the lay of the land, scouting enemy positions and numbers. The enemies will be doing the same to you, attempting to keep you down with suppressing fire, flush you out with grenades or flank you. Whilst ensconced behind your barrel-shaped sanctuary, the player has several options of attack. He can use blind fire to keep approaching enemies pinned down, hopefully taking a couple out in the process - the player simply sprays fire in the appropriate direction without looking, in a nice Michael Bay, Bad Boys-style maneuver. Another option is to use a more focused aim. Leaning slightly out of cover in this way leaves the player vulnerable to accurate enemy fire, but affords the opportunity to pick them off one or two at a time. Or a grenade can be thrown, leading to a frantic enemy scramble away from the device and the rapid elimination of any not fast enough to find cover.
The player has a number of weapons and grenades to choose from. There's a suitably large and accurate sounding array of machine guns, from the traditional, slightly dodgy AK-47, to the more in vogue tango-down MP-5. Ammo is never really much of a problem, as enemies drop plenty, although it is usual to find yourself finishing a level armed with the gun that was most prevalent amongst the environment's enemies. Grenades come in several varieties. Flashbangs stun enemies (and yourself if you're not careful) for a few vital seconds, giving you time enough to melodramatically roll into a room and take everyone out. Traditional grenades do exactly what it says on the tin, while sticky bombs do much of the same, except they stick to things. Poncy Rainbow Six playing types may find they use the flashbangs a lot. Personally, I prefer my grenades to kill people not stun them, so I stayed clear of the hippy grenades and stuck to the real deal. In the words of George W., 'I don't do nuance''. I heartily recommend this approach.
Levels consist of the player running around from cover to cover, diving to and fro in the best Starsky and Hutch style and gunning down hordes of well armed troops. Who could want more? The game play is truly quite fun, in fact. It's easy and arcade-like, and most importantly the controls work extremely well, meaning that after only a bit of practice you can dive from crate to barrel without attracting any hits. The game is, of course, not without flaws - the aforementioned graphics do belong on the Playstation 2, not on a high-end PC, but really it's a minor niggle once you get into the game. There's also not that many levels, and like many a shooter these days, kill.switch really could (and was) breezed through first time in just over a day. Here we have an opportunity to play something that may be short, but gets it right in all the right areas.
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