Game Over Online ~ Nerve

GameOver Game Reviews - Nerve (c) Climateware, Reviewed by - Fwiffo

Game & Publisher Nerve (c) Climateware
System Requirements Pocket PC
Overall Rating 70%
Date Published Monday, April 8th, 2002 at 01:51 AM

Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

Up until now, first person shooters have been a rare breed on the Pocket PC, despite on the latter of that moniker, the PC, where first person shooters are a dominant force. But even in that force, the games surely have split in half. In a grossly reduced fashion, we see one arm, choosing to focus on the tried and true multiplayer aspects. On the other hand, we have the first person shooters that are grafted on to elaborate storylines and manage to transcend its humble and simplistic origins. Nerve focuses on the former and more specifically, it focuses on the classic game of capture the flag, or popularly known as CTF. When it was released by Climateware, I don't think anyone was particularly expecting a CTF game, much less a CTF-only game built for the Pocket PC. It seems to have sprung up from nowhere.

The very game of CTF, however, has been around for quite some time, but the popularity of the first version of Quake brought a mod called Threewave CTF, proving to all other developers that they had better implement this or face being swamped by the plethora of creativity the third party mod developers endowed on that engine. Being developed for the Pocket PC, Nerve is far simpler in scope. Like Unreal Tournament, its focus is on the game of CTF rather than wrapping it around artificial ladders or storylines. It's methodological in nature. Thus, like Unreal Tournament, there is a start screen that allows you to specify options like which map you will be playing and how many AI enemies you can include. There are a total of nine maps and you can include a maximum of five AI players. Granted, by today's standards, that's not a lot of enemies but we need only to look at the Dreamcast version of Unreal Tournament where AI players there didn't exceed half a dozen and the Pocket PC has far less hardware at its disposal than even that outdated console.

Suffice to say, all would be good if the execution of CTF performed well. On the whole, the CTF portion works and the AI have a good sense of returning the flag. The big caveat is the fact that in this CTF game, it's always you against the whole world. There are two types of enemies that are sprung at you. One is your usual CTF player who knows where the flags are (often better than you do) and will do flag runs. But on your team, there's only you. One has to posit why there is a blue player included in the game. Could this have been slated to be on your team but the AI routines didn't pan out? It certainly seems highly suspicious since they are just thrown in to merely kill you; which makes them no different than the green players other than the fact that they have no flag to protect.

Often, developers hide AI problems with the incorporation of multiplayer. Unfortunately, no such veil exists for Nerve. The Dreamcast version of Unreal Tournament certainly recognized this and included a fairly flexible multiplayer component to alleviate its single player shortcomings. Because of this, Nerve's CTF feels not like the 'good old days' of Threewave CTF but more like the recent console shooters where CTF is basically a glorified version of the childhood game of tag.

Technically speaking, the developers have done an interesting engine for the Pocket PC. The game runs at a clip speed and the artistry does not find itself trapped within certain palettes or motifs. The last first person shooter I played for the Pocket PC, Infectious Ground, was able to speed up things heavily by dithering the graphics with a voxel-like effect. No such thing happens here but the Nerve engine depends not so much on 3D polygons as it does on the usage of sprites. The buildings, sporting square and ninety-degree concrete looks, are decent if not sterile, like the international styles of Le Corbusier. The pseudo-futuristic motif is punctured with the seemingly haphazard use of granite brick walls. Otherwise, most everything else in the game is a 2D sprite. Thus, a comparison with the classic Build engine is the most pertinent correlation I can make.

The audio effects are present and there is a soundtrack included but only in the menus of the title. Due to the usage of only one weapon within the game, you don't have much of a choice when it comes to aural diversity. The controls are a bit interesting. You can't depend only on the keys. Even with a newer PDA, you're bound to use the stylus along with your hand to cope with the faster gameplay a first person shooter demands of you. The fact that all of the AIs' guns are aimed relentlessly at you makes that poignant. The one thing missing is really a screen that tells you where the stylus should be pointing. At all times during the game, controls are divided up into virtual keys. They reside in specific zones on your screen. This isn't anything new but the informational overlay for all this is hidden by default and you don't realize that until you skim through a page or two of in-game documentation.

It's hard to find a suitable collocation for Nerve. I'm reminded by a paintball game that used the Build engine when that particular engine was in its twilight period (now value developers use the LithTech engine). In that particular game, one of the features was an AI 'flocking' behavior that really was an excuse for the game to have no AI at all. Luckily, Nerve's AI opponents execute far better here. But the fact that I'm reminded of that title, which by the way is named Extreme Paintbrawl, surely doesn't help. Nerve strives to follow in the tradition of recent multiplayer only titles, like Tribes or more precisely, Unreal Tournament. The latter, as we all know, has had extensive influence on first person shooters after its release. Nerve is clearly an example of that. However, it fails to truly capture the zeitgeist of its spiritual predecessor. And in the final analysis, the autochthonous nature of Nerve makes it far more a novelty, than a gem. That, at least, has to be rewarded but hopefully this can become a predicate to the emergence of mainstream games, like the first person shooter, on the Pocket PC platform.

[06/10] Addictiveness
[12/20] Gameplay
[12/15] Graphics
[08/10] Interface/controls
[10/10] Program Size
[02/05] Sound
[03/05] Discreetness
[10/15] Learning Curve
[ N/A ] Multiplayer


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