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GF! Archival Version Copyright 1995-2004


Europe is mostly known for its great beer and great board games. (And all that history stuff.) While Americans suffer through Coors Light and idiotic "party games" like Pictionary and Scattergories, Europeans spend their weekend evenings drinking Budweiser Budvar and playing way cool games like Formula De and Tikal and The Settlers of Catan. So you gotta wonder—why doesn’t all that talent translate to PC games? Up until now, our European brothers haven’t produced much of anything worthwhile for the PC—but that may change with Odium, the brainchild of Metropolis, an ambitious Polish design group. Monolith will be publishing the game in the States (it goes by the name of Gorky-17 in Europe), and what we’ve seen of the beta looks awfully good.

In Odium you take the role of Cole Sullivan, commander of a small group of elite NATO commandos. (Though, oddly enough, these supertroopers begin the game armed only with single-shot rifles—Rainbow Six never had it so bad). Your mission is to infiltrate an abandoned Polish city and gather information. Sounds like a routine recon patrol, but soon enough things begin to go very, very, wrong. It seems that the city had been the site of some top-secret Soviet military experiments, and the monstrous results of those experiments lurk in the ruins.

Like the monsters you’ll hunt down, Odium is a hybrid. It reminds me a lot of a combination of X-Com, Fallout, and the Final Fantasy series. Combat is much like X-Com’s: it’s turn-based, and each member of your squad has a limited number of actions per turn. Like Fallout, the game has a strong RPG element—as you gain experience, your team members will also gain skill points they can use to buff up their competence in a variety of areas. The game’s also set in the gritty near future, and Odium’s maps will remind more than one gamer of the post-apocalyptic world of Fallout. The game’s overall form is much like Final Fantasy VII’s—you wander through the ruins in real time until you hit a hot spot. Then the game whisks you away to a combat interface in which your men face off against whatever monsters inhabit the area. It may sound like a bit of a mish-mosh in theory, but in practice the designers have implemented and synthesized these different genres very well, so Odium plays like a combination of the best elements of action, RPG, and adventure games.

And not only is the gameplay excellent—the game looks stunning. The backgrounds are amazingly detailed and atmospheric 2D works of art, and your units and the monsters they face are rendered in very sharp 3D. Weapons effects are excellent, especially for the flame thrower and napalm launcher. But most impressive are the mutated creatures that infest the city. I gotta hand it to Metropolis: these monsters look fantastic, like some demented combination of psychedelia and Hieronymus Bosch.

From what we’ve played of the game, the interface is exceptionally clean and easy-to-use. Accessing inventories, changing weapons, exchanging items with your squadmates—all of these actions are very easily done, usually with nothing more than a little clicking and dragging on the main screen. The combat interface is also very clean, but also a little strange—weapon ranges seen very stylized. For instance, ranges are extremely short, even for rifles, and your arc of fire is limited, depending on your weapon. Sometimes you can shoot only directly to your right, left, front, or back; sometimes you can also shoot at the diagonal. This means that in many cases you can’t shoot at a monster two squares away until you waste some movement to line it up correctly. Though this adds a certain dimension to gameplay, I’m not sure its one I want to visit.

But that’s about all I’m not sure about when it comes to Odium. Its tense and X-file-ish story line, its biting sense of humor, its promising combination of the best of action, RPG, and adventure—all of this adds up to one of the games we’re anticipating most this fall.

--Rick Fehrenbacher