What is this? Another WW2 shooter? Haven't we had enough of this already? I've talked about this before with Hour of Victory, so why would I even want to touch another WW2 game? Well, this one's actually different. The premise is a unique twist that came way too late for it's own good considering how tired we are of WW2 games. Today I'm reviewing Turning Point: Fall of Liberty, released for the Xbox 360 and the PC by Codemasters back in 2006. It's probably worth noting that this game also has a limited steelback edition with a bonus disk - ohh fancy, except countless games do that these days. We're being overflooded with pointless limited editions almost as much as we are music games and Tony Hawk titles.
Turning Point's plot is simple - We lost the war in Europe and now the Nazis are invading the United States. Alternate reality games have been done before, and sometimes they're really good like Just Cause 2. The game has virtually no story, but who cares when New York's being invaded by war zeppelins and paratroopers. As long as the graphics, sound design and gameplay are good, it's fine right?
Ah yes the graphics. These pics show the breathtaking artwork behind this game.
These are trailer pics, but it's not like anyone's falsely stated that their game will look as good as the trailers right? Oh, and while we're at that. Anyway, Turning point doesn't look that good, in fact it's nowhere close. Turning Point looks like a cheap PS2 game that happens to have high definition - no joke.
Yeah, and this is one of the better looking parts of the game. Ignoring achievements and high definition, there is nothing in this game that couldn't have been done last generation, and this game was released in 2006 using the UNREAL 3 engine - there is absolutely no excuse. Of all the systems that the Unreal 3 engine has built in, like lighting, body physics, the sound engine, this game uses none of that to its advantage. Let me explain.
First, the graphics. They're not just last gen, they're incredibly bland too. Pretty much every surface in the game, other than the occasional round pillar, is flat. Textures are more often than not one constant colour with no detail whatsoever. The game's often too dark to see anything, even with the brightness settings turned up (this caused me plenty of deaths because I couldn't see the guy standing 10 feet ahead and shooting.) To make matters worse, your screen darkens when you're shot, making it even harder to see. The game uses very few colours, so even if the lighting was good you wouldn't see your enemies against the walls anyway. I could go on, but I think you get the point - the game looks terrible.
Let's sidetrack for a second and talk about the HUD. The HUD shows each weapons ammo count in both numbers and bullet symbols down the side. What I find hilarious is that there's the same number of bullet symbols for every gun regardless of the number of bullets it can hold. Check out the picture below...
I know it's blurry, but I couldn't get a better picture. This is the HUD for the rocket launcher. The rocket launcher holds three rockets, and yet you see somewhere around 30 bullet symbols beside the ammo count. If you're too lazy to change the number of symbols for each weapon, why bother having them? Also, why bother having them if you're just going to show the exact ammunition number anyway? I thought this was hilarious though.
The sound is pretty bad too. I'm pretty sure there were only one or two voice actors for the entire game, because everyone sounds the same. Guns sound underpowered, especially the shotgun which sounds like someone with lung problems is blowing out candles. The sound programming is pretty bad too. For example, no matter how far away gunfire is or how many walls are in the way, you still hear it at the exact same volume. Same goes for conversations too - if you walk up to a door and trigger a conversation, you can backtrack halfway across the map and still hear the conversation at full volume. Even N64 games like Goldeneye and Perfect Dark made sound effects quieter when they were far away - how did they screw this up?
Another medieval aspect to this game's presentation quality is the animation - or should I say the most awkward animation I've yet seen this generation. Animations are stiff, slow, and even jumpy-glitchy on occasion. What's even worse is that you'll be stuck watching these animations constantly. You can't jump over anything, instead you jump at them and a completely pointless climbing animation takes over - EVEN IF YOU'RE CLIMBING A TWO FOOT OBSTACLE! You'll often have to grab onto an overhead pipe or ledge, and there's an animation for that. As you very slowly climb across the pipe/ledge, you usually can't change the camera angle. There's also a stupid animation whenever you drop off, dragging it out even further. You'll get so sick of these animations that you'll scream at the TV every time you see them, I know I did.
The game has a melee attack...sort of (they call it grappling for some unknown reason,) but every time you use it you'll get stuck watching a pointless animation where you either take your enemy as a human shield or smack him to death. Why not just have a melee attack and be done with it? Seriously just tap the melee button to smack down your enemy or hold it for a shield, it's that simple, but I guess Codemasters doesn't think that way. Also worth noting is that these melee events can get you killed. Your playable character takes so long to fight the Nazis down that another one can spawn nearby and shoot you. Half the time this melee attack doesn't even work. If you're ground isn't exactly level with your enemies ground, or they are ducking, you can't grab him. If your enemies nearby a mounted gun position, you'll grab the gun even though the melee symbol is showing up, which will also get you killed. This is quite simply the worst melee system I've ever seen in an FPS game.
The controls are so obsolete you'll think your playing the original Medal of Honor on the PS1 - and they're incredibly clunky too.There's always a delay between pressing the action button and when the action takes place, whether it's pushing a button, grappling opponents, grabbing onto a ledge or pipe, zooming in and out, reloading, and even crouching. I played it again just to make sure, and yes these controls are often as delayed as Dragon's Lair for the NES (warning, language.)
Hit detection is very inconsistent too. Sometimes you'll manage to hit an enemy if you aren't aiming at him properly, and sometimes you'll be aiming directly at someone's stationary face with an accurate weapon and no obstacles in the way yet somehow you won't hit them no matter how many times you fire. There is no animation for the enemies being hit unless your using the big machine gun or a sniper rifle so it's very difficult to tell whether your hitting the enemy or not. Also, sometimes you'll get shot when you aren't even in anyone's line of sight. How? Because even though this game has no bullet penetration physics, sometimes the Nazis can shoot through walls anyway. I guess they somehow managed to modify their wimpy little pistol so it can shoot through 1 foot thick brick walls!
Grenade damage isn't just inconsistent, it's downright cheap. For you, grenades seem to have a blast radius of 15 meters, and yet sometimes an explosion will go off less than five feet from an enemy and won't affect him in the slightest. Oh yeah, there's grenade spam too. I hate this fricken game.
Stepping back to talk about the animation once more, this game has virtually no ragdoll physics even though the Unreal engine has them built in. The enemies just have several boring death animations that you'll see over and over again. Occasionally you'll see a dead body lying several feet in the air, or sometimes their foot will be half way through the wall. Not only did they completely fail to utilize the Unreal engine to it's fullest potential, they flat out removed elements from it. This is simply inexcusable - if you're paying to use a 3rd party game engine, at least take advantage of its physics. I realize I've only been talking about the gameplay and the game engine so far, but I need to talk about one more thing before I move onto the story.
The AI in this game is about as smart as a block of Lego. Wait! I'm sorry, I just insulted Lego. Sometimes your enemies in this game will look directly at you and not react in any way. Usually, the enemy will just stand in the open and fire or slowly jog toward cover where they'll predictably duck in and out. Once they pick a piece of cover, they'll almost never move from it - even if you throw a grenade directly at their feet. They'll often walk up to you and stand there while you shoot them or melee them...sorry, "grapple" them. I've literally seen smarter Lego, if Lego robots count.
So at last we can talk about the story, and to be honest there's not much to talk about here. You play as a construction worker - that's right, a civilian. He starts the game in a high-rise construction yard (what a co-incidence) when the Germans attack out of no where with blimps and paratroopers. Seriously, nobody saw them from a distance and set off the alarms? You have to somehow make it to the ground safely, although it's much easier than it sounds. You fight your way through several levels of New York and then travel to Washington via. train. Nothing noteworthy happens in New York, save for some new gameplay problems I haven't addressed yet.
This game uses a checkpoint system like many games have since Halo: Combat Evolved. The problem here is that these checkpoints are too few and far between, and when the game has as many cheap deaths as it does, that quickly becomes a problem. Not only that, but the checkpoint placement is downright mean. I lost count of the checkpoints that are placed right before 2 minute-long sections of nothing but walking. Sometimes you'll even have two loading scenes directly after the checkpoint before any action happens. Also, what is the game loading? And why doesn't it load again when I backtrack?
As you finish New York several more questions begin to pop in your mind like...Why does the American Sniper rifle from the 40's have infrared vision? Why does the military constantly rely on me, a civilian, to do everything for them? Why do all vehicles, regardless of size or type, require exactly 6 rockets to destroy? Be it a hydrogen-filled zeppelin, a tank, or a fricken armored submarine (you face one later in the game.) Also, why does the game suddenly decide to break that rule in the second last level for no apparent reason? Why do the Germans love shouting "Grenade" after the grenade they threw already exploded?
Why does the game love locking doors behind you? Some people might like to backtrack to gather extra ammo, but this game refuses to let you do that. Often you can't even backtrack more than two small rooms at once. Like Hour of Victory, the game also likes to spawn enemies in impossible locations too, like rooms you've already cleared out when there's no possible entrance where he's coming from. This is a rare occurrence though, I'll give the game that much.
Anyway, back to the story. In DC you are tasked to assassinate the fake president, who is working for the Nazis. Alright I'll give the game this much, that is a pretty cool mission. At the start of this mission, you charge the White House with a large attack force. Oh wait I'm sorry, there are only three allies with me, and yet the charging sounds like I'm with a force the size of the Normandy beach invasions. Why are they shouting like barbarians in what should be a covert operation? Why does it sound like all the shouting voices were done by the same man and intentionally muffled? I'm getting tired of asking "why" questions game, please start making sense...please.
So you fight your way into the White House and meet up with the demolition crew. They begin planting bombs all around the building while you charge in alone to shoot the president personally. Firing your way through the White House to assassinate a fake president is fun in concept, but wouldn't just blowing up the White House be just as effective? You'd still kill the president that way - just saying. And again, why is the military relying on a construction worker to do this when they'd more likely hire a special forces team? I've given up, there's no hope for this game.
(this picture only looks mildly OK because the water is built into the engine -
at least they didn't remove that part)
After that mission, you head to London, England. The Germans have created the Atomic Bomb, and they're planning to use it on New York. Again, interesting plot device, and the game finishes with the conclusion to this plot-line. On the way to the Zeppelin housing the atomic bomb you have to cross the underside of the London Bridge. On the way, you're attacked by the fully armored submarine I mentioned earlier (the one that takes exactly 6 hits from a rocket launcher, just like a regularly sized tank and hydrogen-filled zeppelin.) The sub circles around you once, drives around in a wider circle, then stops. Seriously, that's all it ever does other than shoot at you. No AI whatsoever, no looping patterns, it just circles around the bridge once and stops. It also fires its machine-gun with precise accuracy no matter how far away it is, which is unfair considering the German soldiers are also firing at you from other parts of the bridge underside. And as for the submarine, why not use an explosive weapon at that distance? It would make the game even more unfair, but from a strategical standpoint it makes more sense. Why not loop the submarine to keep circling around the part of the bridge that you are at? This has been done on the NES, it's not that hard.
Shortly after the fight with the submarine on rails, your allies contact you and say they're being chased by tanks. They say they're being chased, but they really aren't. They ask you to raise the bridge to stop the pursuit, but as you reach the control room, you'll notice that the tanks are just sitting in the middle of the bridge doing nothing. Some thrilling chase this is; are they chasing a rock? Even Goldeneye 007 for the N64 had a better tank chase than this...actually it had a good tank chase. This failed tank scene just makes me feel like playing the new Goldeneye 007 on the Wii, or at least the original's tank level.
(See, Goldeneye almost looks better despite being on the Wii)
So you end up on the blimp for the final level. This level is a culmination of everything wrong with this catastrophe. From baddies spawning in front of your eyes to glitchy enemy movements. At the same time, this level has some almost dramatic moments...almost. There's a big battle in a hanger where you can blow up fuel tanks to kill nearby enemies, but first you might want to take out enemy snipers. It's one of several silver linings in the thunderstorm of suckage that this game is. Unfortunately that is the last good moment of the game.
You then fight through the crew quarters and hallways which are full of glitchy clipping, glitchy enemies, and glitchy graphics. The ending would be dramatic if the game gave you any reason to care about the main character, but you won't. All you ever learn about the playable character is that he's a construction worker. Long story short...actually short story even shorter, he blows up the atomic bomb and destroys the german fleet before they can reach New York. I would call him a hero, but the blast is close enough that the statue of liberty should have been destroyed. Also, I'm sure this isn't the only German fleet left, so you really didn't win anything - something this game fails to realize. Oh, and if you beat the game on hard, you don't get the achievement for the normal difficulty - just like Quake 4. I fricken hate it when developers do that.
As bad as this game is though, it looks like they tried...sometimes. It has a neat concept that was executed very poorly, and a weak story with a lame ending that could have been good if it was fleshed out more. It's certainly a bad game, but it's no where nearly as bad as Hour of Victory was.
Two word review - Wasted potential