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Incomplete Games with Progress

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Kill.Switch - Retrospective

I'm probably not going to go as in-depth into this game review as I have with others. For one thing, it really didn't last long enough for me to really find it memorable. An 8 hour timestamp tends to do that. But for as long as it did last, I did enjoy it. To a point.

The first issue I'd like to bring up is something I've noticed in a lot of recent video games, mostly ones that are based around real-world situations like Kill.Switch, Call of Duty, Splinter Cell, or the previous bane of my existence, 24: The Game. What on earth happened to calling guns what they are? In Wolfenstein and Doom, you had pretty standard weapons and they were called rather universal names: Pistol, Shotgun, Chaingun, Rocket Launcher, Plasma Rifle, Flamethrower, etc. The only exception to the rule was the BFG-9000, which gave an excellently ominous and mysterious feel to the weapon when you read about it and finally found one buried in the lava in Pandemonium. But Kill.Switch, like so many other modern games, uses this naming convention for every weapon in the game. Why do you have to call it an MCRT 300 or M1 when you can just as easily say Sniper Rifle or Shotgun?

Kill.Switch also very much lacks variety in its weapons. You basically have a shotgun, a sniper rifle, a grenade launcher, and then 7 different kinds of machine guns that all use different ammunition. This is really the only distinguishing characteristic between these guns; the fact that enemies drop ammo depending on the weapon they're using. So it's in your best interest to use the same gun as they are. With the exception of the first 3 I mentioned, all guns feel very similar to one another, with minor differences in accuracy, recoil, and clip capacity.

Kill.Switch's story is forgettable to say the least. The premise of the game involves a controller taking command of a field operative via a neural uplink. This means you are controlling a soldier, being controlled by another person, who is in turn being controlled by you. Gameplay-wise this, of course, means absolutely nothing. While the plot involves a rogue agent trying to use the main character as an instrument to start a war and then profiteer from the arms rush, the missions really don't get any deeper than "Go here" "Get this" and the occasional "Kill this person." And that's really all you need to enjoy the game.

For what it's worth, I did find Kill.Switch quite enjoyable. You literally can not just run right out into the open or you will be torn to ribbons within a matter of seconds. The entire purpose of gameplay is based around finding and utilizing waist-height and head-height cover. You can lean around corners or over low cover in order to fire, Which is also the only time you can use the scope on your weapons, but you can aim your crosshair at any time, whether hiding or exposed. You can also blindfire without exposing yourself, which greatly decreases your accuracy, but allows you to remain safely out of harm's way. This engine is very well done and makes most levels very systematic to complete, which is a plus for people like me who prefer a slow methodical approach to war than an overzealous twitch-laden trigger-fest.

However, the engine is not without its flaws. There are many times when the game's idea of "cover" will not agree with the enemy placement, and you will find yourself having to choose between not being able to hit anyone from a semi-exposed position, or being able to hit most of the enemies, but being fully vulnerable yourself. You can also only turn a limited amount in any direction while you're using cover, so many times you will be forced to completely reposition yourself to hit a target that is just out of range. Additionally, the location of the crosshair and your character's ability to actually hit that target are two different things. Often you will be able to see a shot in third person mode that you can't see in first person scope-mode -- The trajectory that actually matters.

Despite its incredibly short length (As I said before, I was able to beat this game in under 8 hours) Kill.Switch is an enjoyable playthrough, although these days it is forgotten in favor of other games that use cover like Gears of War or Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, but Kill.Switch was one of the first to use the cover system, and if you like the newer games, it might be worth it to you to check out the system in its infancy, especially if you can find it in the bargain bin.

The Good
  • Fluid integration of the then-innovative cover system.
  • Clever AI that will use cover as well.
  • Grenades actually feel necessary to complete certain levels rather than superfluous.
The Bad
  • Too short: only 5 scenarios of 3-4 sections apiece, plus a 1-section training arena.
  • Insubstantial plot and pointless neural uplink story premise.
  • Weapons are not very memorable.
The Defining Moment
  • Throwing a flash grenade around a corner to blind an enemy, then diving over a tripwire and meleeing the guy in the face. Sweet!
The Burning Question
  • Okay, what is with the dot in the title anyway? It's always shown as in online listings as "Kill.Switch" with a period, but my punctuation knowledge tells me it's an interpunct, and should be "Kill·Switch."

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