|Being a console junkie, I havent had the exposure to first
person shooters that someone who does a lot more computer gaming has. Sure, there have
been great FPS games on the consoles, like Goldeneye, but for the most part theyre
pretty rare. Segas looking to change all that and theyre starting with Maken
X, a first person shooter without the shooting.
Its swords, stun clubs, and wicked looking chunks of steel shaped in all sorts of dangerous ways. Your mission is simple. You must walk forward and beat the crap out of anything that moves. Okay, actually its a lot more complicated than that. A mega terrorist organization full of buff and mysterious people is planning to do something evil. So your father creates an artificial intelligence/ weapon called Maken X, in the hope of thwarting the dastardly fiends. Disaster ensues, and his daughter, aka you, must give up her psi/soul energy thing in order to power Maken X and save the day. As you progress through the game you find other people that you can brainjack, which means that you jump into their body and continue on with your quest. This gives Makken X a little bit of an RPG flavor, as you must constantly find stronger bodies in order to progress through the increasingly difficult levels.
The level design is magnificent. You travel around the globe to investigate new levels, so each one has its own particular geography, weather, layout, and enemies to encounter. You are not forced down a linear path, rather you are frequently presented with multiple levels you may move to. You may find one path too difficult, and be forced to try another city until you can find a stronger body. As each level clears, more paths are opened up, and the decisions you make will affect which ending you view. The graphics are technically seamless and the textures are all done well.
Each character has a unique weapon, and varying levels of speed, life, and jumping ability, and this adds a great deal of variation to the game. While the idea of running around with a giant sword slaughtering monsters and hacking apart evil doers has long been a fantasy of mine, Maxen X doesnt deliver the experience as I hoped it would. There is a great deal of repetition in the hack and slash, as each character is limited to two basic attack techniques and some players have a special charge up attack. As a result most of the game is spent running up to monsters and doing the same move: whack, whack splat, or occasionally whack, whack, whack, splat. This move changes when you brainjack a new character: thunk, thunk, splat, but soon this too will loose its charm. A few extra combos per character would have gone a long way. Not that the combat is entirely dull. You have a "lock on" button reminiscent of Legacy of Kain, which allows you to get into circling duals as you square off with your opponent, thrust, parry and look for an opening, but these are much rarer than whack, whack, splat. By far the most innovative feature is the ability to lock onto opponents and do a spinning jump over their head, land facing their back, and plant your sword in the back of their head. Once this move is down, life gets a lot easier and some of the bosses can be beaten in no other way. Still, this is only one more move, and that only takes you so far. There could easily have been more like it, and that would have spiced the combat up a bit.
The control is good, but long time FPS fans will notice the analog controller is more limited than the two handed mouse/ keyboard control many gamers are accustomed to. While there is a strafe toggle, it is directed by the analog stick. This means you cant do a lot of tricks like running backwards around a corner, and it also makes it more difficult to turn around quickly. Other FPS games have resolved this by simulating a D pad with four buttons, but Segas six button controller isnt up to the task. This is a minor problem in the game, but an unfortunate one.
Maken X is a good game for fans of first person adventures. The graphics alone take you a long way, and the game play is solid and difficult, down right hard at times. The levels have a lot of variety, so if you can look past the repetitive combat, Maken X will entertain for many hours. Fans who dont generally get excited about first person action games probably wont find anything to change their minds.