Title :RTX Red Rock
Platforms :Sony PlayStation 2
Publisher :LucasArts
ESRB Rating :Teen
Game Rating :5.6
Review by :Ken Gagne

In RTX Red Rock for PlayStation 2, publisher LucasArts, best known for games set in a galaxy far, far away, has its sights on a section of space a bit closer. Unfortunately, it's far, far away that this game deserves to be. 

In the early 22nd century, Eugene Zeno Wheeler is a Radical Tactics Expert (RTX) sent to Mars (Red Rock) to investigate the appearance of hostile aliens, jocularly called LEDs (Light-Emitting Demons). E.Z. Wheeler has been enhanced with an artificial eye and arm, and is accompanied by a portable artificial intelligence, anthropomorphized as a jealous bimbo, which can interface with local terminals and machines. 

Ideally, these gimmicks would set RTX apart from other third-person action-adventure games, but they offer little of consequence. The bionic eye serves the same function as Samus Aran's visors in Metroid Prime, allowing Wheeler to perceive various spectra. One mode acts as a heads-up map display, and another identifies nearby devices with which Wheeler can interact and which may otherwise blend in with the surroundings. The thermoscan and bioscan are a bit confusing, since invisible enemies may appear on one and not the other. The synthetic arm simply doubles as a tool kit, equipped with a torque wrench, grappling hook, and the like. 

Switching between the various items and weapons, whether inbuilt or acquired, can be accomplished by selecting from their representative and archaic symbols displayed on-screen. Until their meanings are puzzled out, it's far easier to pause the game and select the appropriate item there. 

The rest of Wheeler's repertoire functions without error. His jumps feel a bit floaty — an unexpectedly realistic acknowledgment of the lighter gravity on Mars — and is especially noticeable when he dons his Buzz Lightyear getup to venture outside. 

The main challenges are in navigating these environments and overcoming their inherent obstacles. The LEDs will wear down his health, but the game does not perform well as a shooter. Wheeler's cap gun-sounding firearm has unlimited ammo to dispense at LEDs, who present unusual threats only through trickery. Whereas the cloaked Pirates that Samus faced were fearsome creatures accompanied by a corresponding change in aural overtones, Wheeler's invisible LEDs simply stand by with a dagger, ready to backstab anyone who wanders too close, with nary a clue to their presence. It's often only after health has been depleted and Wheeler is licking his wounds — or is dead — that he has the opportunity to engage his thermal scan and lock onto the enemy. 

The remaining gameplay consists of typical seeking and puzzle-solving elements, in which players traverse bases and caves to find tools and unlock doors. In one early level, Wheeler must rescue station workers. With no homing beacons and incomplete maps, Wheeler is left to wander in search of the hostages. When he finds them, he is unhelpfully informed that a "tool is required to rescue," while the civilians simply stand there, equally unhelpfully. If he is equipped to save them, they mutely comply, offering neither advice nor encouragement; Wheeler could be collecting widgets, for all the player cares. 

The graphics are drawn in a stylized, cartoonish way, especially during cinematic moments. But during actual gameplay sequences, some actions are composed of few frames of animation, producing stilted movement. 

Though LucasArts touts the game's soundtrack by Dave Levison, it never caught my attention. The voice acting is decent, but as with the rest of the story's details, entrenches the game's tongue-in-cheek humor which continuously falls flat. 

RTX reminds me very much of both a farcical attempt at Blue Stinger, a Dreamcast launch title that was not well-received, and C-12, a more action-oriented PSOne game. RTX's unique elements are simply disguised innovations from other games, which is not in itself bad, but the execution isn't justified. No matter the medium, what few attempts to mesh comedic and sci-fi elements I've encountered have not been successful; RTX is yet another example. The mundane gameplay and presentation leave RTX to gather red dust.

This article is copyright (c) 2003, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Gamebits, 01-Jul-03