Game Over Online ~ Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever

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

Game & Publisher Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (c) BAM! Entertainment
System Requirements Game Boy Advance
Overall Rating 80%
Date Published Friday, November 1st, 2002 at 06:58 PM

Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

Following hot on the heels of the theatrical release, Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever is actually the sequel to the original Ecks vs. Sever game and via extension, the movie. The muddled motion picture was directed by the Thai director Wych Kaosayananda - Kaos for the rest of us. Fortunately, Ballistic avoids the action overdose that plagued the film and manages to put up a solid but not incredible first person shooter experience.

The original Ecks vs. Sever had an interesting premise going for it. It pitted Ecks versus Sever in a courtroom recounting why they were fighting each other and you basically played the side of whoever was recounting. There might have been inconsistencies but the mirror level play actually added to the challenge of the game. On one mission as Ecks, you might be infiltrating a facility. On another as Sever, you might be fighting your way out of it. On the space-cramped Game Boy Advance, it's a smart decision that makes use of all the space available.

No such smart decisions appear in the sequel, which forces you to fight through a series of linear missions, shooting bad guys, solving simple puzzles, finding key cards and opening doors. The ninety-degree design is still apparent, as Ballistic does nothing but dress up the new locales with more colors and variety. Thankfully, the game no longer operates within confined warehouses and metal spaces. Moreover, there are more outdoor environments put in but they are novelties more than anything and placed in at the expense of a smooth framerate. It's a marked improvement but then when you think of first person shooters released this year, it's not a phenomenal leap. Think of what Doom II did to Doom, instead of what Quake did to Doom.

In light of id's Wolfenstein and Doom appearing on Nintendo's handheld system, in addition to Duke Nukem, Ballistic begins to lose its luster. One noted improvement made, though, is in the audio department. The sound effects are beefed up with crisp, clear digital effects of gunfire. That's something that should have been in the original game from the very beginning.

Luckily, Ballistic manages to avoid the inane plot elements of the movie and strikes out on its own. Agents Ecks and Sever will try to foil a plan involving nuclear weapons; a hot and popular topic this year. Many of the missions take place in areas where there are civilians so discretion and discipline are crucial to success. However, it's the puzzles and mazes that continue to put a damper on the action. There is a limit to how much wandering one can take without a credible map system. Moreover, such devices tend to be hemmed in between levels only to artificially extend the lifetime of the game. Ten hours of good gameplay is a laudable feat. But ten hours of gameplay extended by another five of mindless wandering will turn a great game into something passable.

Finally, despite the audio-visual sprucing, there's no in-game music. But I won't fault the developers for that. Even the recently released Unreal Tournament 2003 has the music on a muted level in comparison to the sound effects.

Ballistic continues to use the standby password saves, which is slightly less irritating to use than the first release. I still would have preferred a quicksave/quickload function that most first person shooters have adopted on modern consoles and of course the PC. However, a bright spot shines on and that's in the multiplayer component. With so many improvements to the weapons, levels and architecture, you're bound to have a more enjoyable deathmatch experience in Ballistic than in the original Ecks vs. Sever.

Ultimately, Ballistic is a solid game. Its improvements can be summed up into two halves. The first half is polish. They polished a lot of the things that made the original Ecks vs. Sever great. The second half consists of genuine additions to the game, like the brighter colors and the new sound effects. However, I miss the tit for tat tête-à-tête that Ecks and Sever had in the original game. The recent movie release has truly bewildered the direction of the franchise for BAM! Entertainment. Originally, Sever is an NSA agent (however implausible but then again we saw not one but two in Vin Diesel and Samuel L. Jackson in the mindless XXX) trained as an assassin. In the movie, she's part of the Defense Intelligence Agency or DIA. Something has to give if these two continue to develop in parallel to one another. It's too bad this sequel had to move on to more prosaic themes, like yet another nuclear armageddon waiting to happen. I would have liked to see the game ditch the 'Kaotic' movie altogether and just work on what it did best earlier on.


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