Game Over Online ~ Oni

GameOver Game Reviews - Oni (c) Gathering of Developers / Bungie, Reviewed by - Jimmy Clydesdale

Game & Publisher Oni (c) Gathering of Developers / Bungie
System Requirements Windows, Pentium II-266, 64MB Ram, 800MB HDD, 3D Accelerator, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 66%
Date Published Thursday, January 25th, 2001 at 07:58 AM

Divider Left By: Jimmy Clydesdale Divider Right

(cue Tom Jones)

Everybody was kung fu fighting
(do-do-do-do-do do-do)

So full of potential, so poor on execution. I can't think of a better summation for Gathering of Developers and Bungie's anime-style third-person action title, Oni. The game is similar in ways to meeting a hot girl at a dance club. She's got all the right moves on the dance floor, but once you finally sit down with her to have a drink and a little conversation… Whoa Nelly! If only the reality was as pleasant as the fantasy. Where was I again? Oh yeah, Oni. Let's get on with the review.

Oni's anime-inspired storyline takes place in the year 2032. You play the role of Konoko, a female officer for the TCTF who quickly discovers corruption among the world's ranks and must save humanity from extinction, as well as unravel the mystery of her own identity. It's all in a day's work for this purple-haired heroine. The story unfolds through text memos as well as dialogue from brief cut-scenes. In puzzling fashion, the dialogue is presented using close-up portraits of the characters that are speaking. The lack of animation in these cut-scenes is quite distracting and really takes away from the overall experience of the game. The plot could and should have unfolded in much better fashion.

The main drawing point of Oni is clearly its ass-kicking hand-to-hand combat system. There are a wide variety of kicks and punches, as well as a number of explosive combinations that are sure to land your opponents on their backs. As you progress through the game, Konoko will learn new moves and combinations to add to her repertoire (neck-breaker, devil spin kick, etc.). Perhaps the best part of the hand-to-hand combat is the fluidity with which the combinations are put together. The character animations are incredibly smooth and none of the combinations feel broken at all.

Besides her martial arts skills, Konoko also has an arsenal of weapons at her disposal, including the always conventional pistol, a machine gun and later plasma weapons and a grenade launcher, just to name a few. Interestingly enough, Konoko can only carry a single weapon. Combine that with the fact that ammunition is often scarce and you'll come to realize pretty quickly that Oni not only features a fantastic hand-to-hand combat system, it wants you to rely on it. This is even more evident in the fact that weapons mysteriously disappear as time passes if left on the ground. It's unfortunate that no blunt weapons are introduced in Oni, but the hand-to-hand combat is absolutely stellar and the long-range weapons do a good enough job to last you through the game.

Once you get past the initial shock of the intense hand-to-hand combat, Oni quickly spirals downward. Where does one begin? The levels were apparently designed by professional architects but I imagine these are professional warehouse architects or something of the like, because the environments are often large empty rectangular areas featuring numerous staircases and doors, with the occasional smaller room attached. That's not to say that Oni doesn't boast an impressive level here and there, such as an intense airport mission, but the overall scheme is disappointing. Most of the levels feature locked doors that are opened using computer terminals to bypass security. Later in the game, the pattern changes to having to use multiple computer terminals to open a locked door. It's frustrating to say the least, especially knowing you'll take a beating as you run around from one computer terminal to another. Luckily there are health hypos conveniently left behind that allow you to restore some of your health.

Graphically, there's more clipping going on here than at my local barbershop. Graphical glitches rear their ugly head around every corner and it even gets in the way of the gameplay. There was one instance where I literally threw an enemy right through the concrete floor. I was performing one of Konoko's tosses and I guess I got too close to the wall of the staircase. One unfortunate clipping error later and the enemy fell to his death. I probably wouldn't have complained if the situation hadn't reversed itself later in the game, which it did. In the same vein, I've also sent a guard's head through a concrete wall on several occasions, all because of collision-detection errors. As much as the character animations during fight sequences are impressive, they aren't so much at other points in the game. When you send an enemy down to the ground, they tend to drop as if they've suffered a concussion. They don't squirm at all, they just lay there for a few seconds and then they pop back to their feet, ready for round two. I've seen a lot of previews and reviews for Oni in which critics have praised the graphics as top of the line. Were they playing the same game as I was? Didn't they notice all the clipping errors?

The controls in Oni are similar to a first-person shooter. You use the mouse for orientation as well as kicking and punching, you use the WASD keys (or OKL; for lefties) to move Konoko around, and various other buttons are set for separate functions such as jumping, crouching and arming yourself. The problem here is that the keyboard layout is pre-set and there's no way to re-configure the controls, at least not without editing a non-documented file. Why such a feature wasn't implemented into the menu system is beyond me. You can't adjust even basic elements such as mouse sensitivity. On a high note, the camera angles that often plague third-person action games didn't cause as many problems in Oni as I expected. There was the occasional instance where the camera got in the way, but overall I was very satisfied with the camera movements.

Oni is frustrating in many other ways. Jumping sequences are annoying because it takes Konoko a moment to get a running start. Using stealth, you can sneak up on guards but I found this feature was far too underused. Oni automatically saves your game at certain points of a mission, but there's no way to save your progress whenever you want to. This is particularly annoying in the later levels, which are both longer and much harder. If you die just a door or two shy of a save point, you could end up replaying large areas over and over again. In the later levels, you'll almost always face multiple enemies at the same time and at least one of them will be armed with a long-range weapon. You'll quickly learn that if you don't charge right after the man with the weapon, you'll have little chance to survive. It's easiest, in fact, to run around corners and lure your enemies to come after you. At this point it becomes more of a routine to defeating guards. The creativity level in hand-to-hand combat disappears in the later stages due to the difficulty level.

I haven't touched on multi-player yet because Oni doesn't support it. Obviously third-person action games aren't known for their multi-player components, but Oni would have been a prime candidate for such a feature. The possibilities are endless in both co-op and deathmatch modes.

The more I played Oni, the more its faults came to light. Without question, Oni brings to the table an explosive and refreshing hand-to-hand combat system. Despite its presence though, Oni falls victim to a variety of issues including repetitive level design, an awkward control scheme, numerous visual glitches and a lack of multi-player. I really wanted to love Oni, but it simply didn't follow through on its potential. If anything, we can hope Oni influences the direction that future third-person action titles take.

[ 35/50 ] Gameplay
[ 06/10 ] Graphics
[ 07/10 ] Sound
[ 04/10 ] Controls
[ 08/10 ] Fun Factor
[ 06/10 ] Storyline


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