|One of the best things a gaming software company can have is a franchise.
LucasArts has Star Wars, a veritable goldmine of gaming. Micropose has Star Trek. And
DreamWorks Interactive (DI) has Jurassic Park. What could be better than dinosaurs,
computer gaming, and 3D acceleration? Well, with DI's offering of Trespasser, apparently
I love 3D shooters...always have, always will. I bought Wolfenstein 3D directly from Apogee/ID when it first came out, and promptly wore out a mouse playing through every level and room. There wasn't much to it other than shooting German SS and zombies, but it was a blast. These days I have come to expect a lot more from a 3D shooter other than pretty graphics and explosions. DI hyped Trespasser as the first shooter to have a realistic physics engine, tied in with the Jurassic Park franchise. Great, I thought, something original, with the possibility of a plot...I better give it a go.
What story? Take the premise from Quake II or Unreal, and pretend it happens on the island from The Lost World. Okay, I'll go through it quickly for those who don't know. One year after the events of The Lost World, you (a woman named Anne) are vacationing in Costa Rica. You decide to take an air tour of the surrounding islands. The inevitable happens, yep, your plane crashes. You just happen to wake up on the sandy beaches of Site B with nothing to do but wander around and shoot dinosaurs. See? Pretty much the same basic re-hashed "story" as Quake II (crash-landed space marine) and Unreal (crash-landed prisoner). The ending cutscene is also pretty lame...Woohoo, I got off the island and get to listen to my phone messages!
I tried not to let the story throw a wrench into trying out the physics. Well, I should have stopped right then. The first problem I experienced was with the performance. My machine is equivalent to the recommended system, and I felt like I was playing a slide show...and this was with 3D acceleration. Framerates had to be hovering between 10 and 20 fps, tops. This, in and of itself, made the game difficult to play. I cranked down the resolution. Nope, still extremely choppy. I tried software rending. Nope...still slow, but the graphics looked like I was playing the game looking through a screen door.
Okay, I did all I could as far as performance goes, so I set off to play. There has been a lot of online hype about this game. Mind-blowing screenshots, heart-stopping action, and realistic physics. I had seen many screenshots of Trespasser on the internet and in gaming rags. The screenshots looked pretty incredible. What I saw on my screen was not incredible. Colors seemed washed out, entities were blocky looking, and distant objects where little more than blobs of color. I think the development team spent more time modeling Anne's cleavage (when you look down at her body) and heart tattoo, than the creatures and environs. Let me say something about the heart tattoo on Anne's chest. Whose lame idea was it to use this as a health meter? Anytime you want to check your health, you have to look down at your womanhood. Again, I think the DI guys spent a wee bit too much time on this "feature". Don't be misled by the screenshots used with this review. I was unable to take my own this time, so these were garnered from the internet. I have yet to see Trespasser look like the screenshots seen here.
Trespasser is slow, not only in the graphics department, but in the action department as well. I found it to be a snoozefest with intermittent wakeups from the narrations of Richard Attenborough and inner thoughts of Minnie Driver (Anne). Seven different dinosaurs is the limit of your competition...and to add insult to injury, they're not that challenging.
If you want to get any appreciable performance with this game, be prepared to invest in some serious hardware. I'm amazed that great looking games like Unreal and Half-Life can run silky smooth on my machine, while Trespasser is barely playable. Optimization maybe? One of the mysteries of software development I guess.
For me, playing this game was an exercise in futility and frustration which eventually ended with me simply uninstalling the game at the end, and writing this review. There were two sources to this frustration. The poor performance, as mentioned above, and the physics model.
Most things in the environment can be interacted with in some manner. You can pick up things and throw them at dinosaurs, you can push over crates, and carry objects (like 2x4s) to use as a weapon. One of the annoying aspects of the physics model is that is doesn't allow your character to do the obvious, like climb up a hill or jump a small ditch or ascend a climbable object. They seemed to have omitted including this modeling just to channel you through the game, or cause you to undertake obnoxious and tedious tasks just so you can make it over small obstacles. Firing a weapon in Trespasser is definitely a challenge. With this game you now have to control two things while in combat. Your movement and aiming the weapon. You literally have to aim the gun and look down the sights to hit your target. This is extremely difficult when you're running, aiming, and trying to cope with slideshow performance.
I'm a big advocate of including more realistic physics modeling in games, but only if it doesn't deter from the playability. I do commend the DI development team for going out on a limb and trying this realistic physics modeling. But in its current form it just doesn't work and doesn't make for a fun gaming experience.
DI touts Trespasser as "The Evolution of First-Person 3D Gaming." Hardly. I do give DI credit for taking a chance on their real-time physics modeling, and this is the only reason this game didn't get a one star rating. Ultimately, Trespasser falls flat on its face during the implementation of the physics, making the game unbearable to play. Top it off with the need to have a Cray supercomputer on your desk, and you've got another coaster for your collection. If you're looking to spend your money (and time) on a 3D shooter, go out and buy Half-Life, Heretic II, or Shogo: MAD. Save Trespasser for an object of curiosity at the bottom of the bargain bin...and then buy it only if you have some extra cash to burn.