"Family values" takes on a whole new meaning in this first-person shooter built on the Serious Sam engine. Nitro Family has you tearing through 15 levels of destructive action as you take on 50 different enemies in an attempt to save your son, Red Chief, from an evil corporation. Along for the outing is Mom, who wields a mean whip while riding piggyback and can be launched like a missile at your attackers. Environments include such diverse locales as China, Russia, Las Vegas, an aircraft carrier, and more. Ammunition and armor can be bought from arms dealers found throughout the game. Weapons can be wielded in both hands, and combined for maximum effectiveness.
Ah, the good old FPS market. Ever since Doom really hit and put the game style on the map, we've seen no shortage of these types of games hit the shelves. Nowadays, you can play anything and everything from a medieval knight or ranger to a sci-fi action hero, shooting, slicing, and blasting your way through anything that happens to come across your path. Recently, I really got addicted to the game Serious Sam on PC (then later on PS2) due to the fact that it made no apologies for what it was ... a brainless, non stop shooter that emphasized lots of destruction without a whole lot of story line or puzzles to slow things down. Well, Valusoft has now decided to go a little more in the way of the Serious one with its newest FPS title called Nitro Family, and while it didn't provide the same overall enjoyment to me that Serious Sam did, it was pretty fun.
Nitro Family, like Sam, doesn't pull any punches on what it is intended to be ... an action laced shooter with plenty of guns, ammo, and destruction. The goofy story focuses on the Nitro family, Mom, Dad, and little Red Chief. One day Red Chief gets kidnapped by an evil organization known as Golden Bell, the makers of a product called the Happy Family drug. Rather than being healthy though, this happy drug actually turns users into brainless idiots who are not only addicts, but will also do the bidding of Golden Bell that includes killing or anything else their dark little hearts desire. Well, Dad of course grabs his guns and his bad attitude, Mom jumps on his back with her bull whip and jet pack, and off they go on a quest to kill anyone who stands in the way of getting little Red Chief back home safely.
Nitro Family plays out like many FPS titles, with the W,A,S, and D keys controlling movement while the space bar jumps, etc, so it's pretty easy to sit down and get into if you play FPS titles. One difference though is the ability to carry different guns at once (since Mom is on Dad's back he has both hands free) like packing a shotgun in one hand while carrying a machine gun or rocket launcher in the other, so you can reload separately and customize your best offensive techniques however you see fit to do. There are some additions to help break up FPS only gameplay too (one is a couple of paragraphs down), like one stage where Mom drives a speedboat while Dad gets to man the cannons in the back and blast away at enemies who are trying to sink you. Also, there is the use of a bullet time power mode, where everything slows down around you to help you have a little more aim accuracy and dodge bullets a little easier once enough kills are scored to fill up a meter at the top left of the screen.
One neat addition to the game that they made was the use of Mom who is riding along on your back. While controls to using her are limited to hitting the B button in certain areas to launch her off Dad's back so she can carpet bomb an area, she comes in handy in times of need. When enemies approach too closely, you'll usually hear her scream out "YA!" and in a sharp crack of the whip your enemy gets turtlenecked (decapitated). She also will occasionally hop off Dad's back and into a number of bad guys too to help out if things get a little hairy. Unfortunately there is no way to manually send her out into a fight, which I would have liked to have due to the fact that I'm not too trusting of AI a lot of times. All said and done though, she didn't do half bad.
Now, as Dad goes around blasting things, you accumulate money that can be used to upgrade weapons or buy an occasional new one. This is done not in between levels or at a shop, but instead through a scantily clad saleslady who is in random areas of the game. Talk to her, and she will sell you stuff like grenade launchers and damage modifiers to existing weapons provided you have enough cash, which can take a bit to accumulate, and will even do something "special" for you if you collect enough MagnumCard credit cards scattered around various places in the different stages. What is this special thing? I guess you'll have to try it out to find out.
While I thought that the game was pretty cool, there were a couple of things that may add or take away from the game for you depending on your tastes. First off, the game contains plenty of action and shooting as I've stated before, but the developers decided to add in some platforming elements. Now I know that a lot of you like platformers, and I sure as heck don't mind them, but they do tend to take focus away from action when you have to start worrying about jumping on springy canopies or jumping across disposal wastewater on tiny floating barrels versus running and gunning, which is what I was expecting when I sat down to play this. Run, shoot lots of bad guys, then stop to jump over the little barrels. It does add a little more to the game than just killing, but this could be good or bad depending on how you like your FPS games.
Another thing that I personally felt took away from the game was the fact that the weapons just really weren't that exciting. Sure, it's neat to pack different weapons in each hand, but for some reason I just didn't really find it that entertaining after the first few minutes. Finding a bigger gun makes the game more fun in my opinion, but getting enough firepower to technically go through the game as soon as you start really doesn't give you a lot to look for or do other than just try to get to the end of the stage.
Lastly, the multiplayer mode of Nitro Family was a cooperative only. I can give the developers credit for not doing the same thing that everyone else does, like capture the flag and deathmatch, but let's face it ... that's all part of the fun of online FPS gaming titles. Coop is neat to play for a bit, but after a while it's inevitable ... players begin to turn on each other and shoot at one another even though no damage is being done, apparently because they miss their DM mode to play on. Not terrible, but if you're not a huge Coop fan than the multiplayer mode probably won't hold your attention for more than a few minutes.
The graphics to Nitro Family were pretty bland and dull overall ... kind of like a 2000 title or a late 90's FPS game. Faces were blotchy, blocky, and distorted looking, and they had those squared off hands where all the fingers look like they are fused together. Animation was jerky and stiff at best, and while some of the enemies were funny, like Cuban looking guys riding angry pigs, evil weapon toting clowns, or scantily clad overweight women in leather, you kind of went up against the same ones for a few levels before changes were made. Environments suffered the same overall boring and older look to them too, with stages consisting of areas that weren't too built up with objects and no real lighting effects to brag about.
The sound to Nitro family mostly is what you would expect with lots of gunfire, screaming, and explosions. The problem with the sound here is that the developers apparently ran out of ideas near the end, since characters who look the same all yelled out the same phrases to you when you got near, and you could always depend on Dad or Mom making comments whenever you went to pick up armor or ammo when you were already full. Also, the music got REALLY aggravating after about 15 minutes. While the tunes that they added were kind of a catchy pop - punk style, hearing the same one over and over and over again one stage after the next tends to get extremely old. I finally shut the music off after hearing a tune that I think was named "When I Grow Up" since I had to hear that chorus verse about 100 times in 15 minutes.
Overall, Nitro Family won't be the next big FPS title to turn PC gamer's heads or anything, but despite some of the flaws it was entertaining for a while. If you are looking for a fast paced FPS title since you've gone through all of your other ones, this one may be worth checking out.
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