Game Over Online ~ Ecks vs. Sever

GameOver Game Reviews - Ecks vs. Sever (c) BAM! Entertainment, Reviewed by - Fwiffo

Game & Publisher Ecks vs. Sever (c) BAM! Entertainment
System Requirements Game Boy Advance
Overall Rating 88%
Date Published Monday, March 4th, 2002 at 05:56 PM

Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

Ecks vs. Sever is a first person shooter for the GBA platform. In spite of the many critics of the GBA platform, Ecks vs. Sever is rendered in full 3D fashion. Its technical achievement is a cross between Wolfenstein 3D and Rise of the Triad. It is like the first title because of the ninety-degree cornered rooms and objects. Moreover, there isn't much emphasis on height in Ecks vs. Sever. You can crouch and crawl in ducts but you can't control how high you aim; probably because everything is placed at eye level to you. On the other hand, it is reminiscent of Rise of the Triad because of its urban warfare connotations and semi-realistic weapons.

The premise of the story pits an FBI agent, Jonathan Ecks, against an NSA agent known only as Sever. The backstory for each character is rather interesting because it plays a role in determining why things play out as they do during the course of the game. Ecks vs. Sever uses a flashback mode where both characters are debriefed in a court tribunal. Sever is basically a cold-hearted professional assassin. She is raised from birth by the NSA and exudes this Seven of Nine (Star Trek Voyager) mechanical quality. On the other hand, Ecks is an irate ex-FBI agent who lost his family because of his anti-terrorist activities. They are instructed by the judge to recount their stories and during the action sequences, you will re-enact what they their accounts. The story is played out in court transcripts and it's rather a pity that all of it remains text without visuals because it plays a large role in justifying what you are doing throughout the missions. I wished there was a way to add some visuals to it. Cinematic sequences are probably out of reach for a GBA cart but the graphic novel or comic book format adopted by Max Payne did volumes in telling a compelling story. The conspiracy mood is brought out by the soundtrack included in the game. Unfortunately, this music goes mute in the 3D engine. Although there is a good amount of combat in the game, the lack of any ambient sound makes the title eerily silent most of the time. The effects, especially the gun, are well done and reminiscent of the ones we've heard in other first person shooters.

Viewing the missions objectively, the levels are actually quite simplistic. You're tasked to eliminate people, escape from areas within a certain amount of time or proceed to retrieve items. But all in all, you'll run into a gauntlet of enemies. The developers have kept the design simple. Limited peripheral vision and cramped controls impede the execution of a first person shooter on the handheld platform. That's why it's good that Crawfish didn't decide to include a lot of exploratory environments or sneaking around which would have turned out to be annoying.

What's most annoying about this title is the inability to configure your own controls. By default, the shoulder buttons strafe and the directional pad turns or moves forwards/backwards. One of the quintessential features of a first person shooter is the ability to customize your own controls. Why this wasn't included is rather beyond me.

Luckily, the artificial intelligence of the enemies you encounter in the game aren't spectacular. They certainly give you the benefit of the doubt. Aiming, without being able to aim your crosshairs directly, is going to be tough on the GBA but the enemies usually have a slight delay before they start firing. They also have a slight delay after each shot (for reload?) to make the game easier. You'll encounter a variety of opponents including security guards, FBI agents and SWAT teams. And the difficulty ramps up later because your opponents are able to field explosives and their firing delay is decreased.

Like Rise of the Triad, Ecks vs. Sever features some multiplayer levels, but they are mostly simplistic and the inability to add computer controlled bots makes it more like Rise of the Triad than most people would want it to be. That means if you only have two GBAs, you're only going to get two-player deathmatch. All in all, the story and background of Ecks vs. Sever fleshes out what might have been a fairly blasť first person shooter. It's interesting to see how the maps are oriented. For example, in one of the escape missions, Ecks' starting point is Sever's exit and vice versa. This is a pretty clever way of reusing older maps. The graphics themselves are not top notch for a first person shooter. Going up to anything close up will result in heavy pixilation but the GBA's anemic screen renders this problem a moot point (except in the screenshots you see in this review). Ultimately, this title's material comes out at an interesting post September 11th time, making the overall package all the more attractive. It's a short but wholly entertaining first person shooter, made more so by its intriguing setting and plot.


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