|Review by||:||Ken Gagne|
Is there one game has all the graphics, challenge, and gameplay necessary to make it a hit? Could be, and maybe that one game is One, from ASC Games for the Sony PlayStation.
One takes place in the dark future of the year 2036. It is the story of John Cain, a soldier who finds himself not only suffering from amnesia, but also with a strange metal weapon where his left arm once was, and pursued by militant forces for unknown reasons.
Beyond confusion, Cain knows only rage, which he employs in an Incredible Hulk-like fashion throughout the game. The rage meter performs opposite as it might in other games: the more hits he takes, the lower it becomes, doubling as a health meter. As Cain raises heck, shooting down enemy soldiers and buildings alike, his rage meter rises, allowing him to take more hits and perform even more punishing attacks.
The playing field rotates in 360 degrees, as dictated by a camera which follows an automated path. The stages themselves railroad the player from start to finish, allowing for little exploration.
The controls are plentiful, but not always useful. There is a button to zoom the camera in and out, and another for Cain to perform movie-like dives and rolls. Although these functions may look neat, they serve little purpose. The main buttons are jump and shoot, while another button allows Cain to shoot in any direction while remaining in a fixed position. Finally, a physical attack button clears out enemies in hand-to-hand combat, and also fires a devastating smart bomb when the rage meter is high. One benefits from the precision shooting offered by Sony's analog controller.
The graphics are smooth, dark, and detailed. Be it an escape from a fiery factory or a stroll across a slick skyscraper, Cain's world is one to be feared. The helicopters look like they were lifted directly from a Terminator movie.
One sounds great, thanks to constant communications between enemy forces. Realistic police reports, be they commanding or fearful of Cain's might, allow players to hear the foe's thoughts and give them a second to react accordingly. The music creates a proper atmosphere for the super soldier's exploits.
The one greatest flaw to One's gameplay is the challenge, which is remarkably high. Many stages are extremely jump-intensive: the first level is no more than a sprint-and-jump track to memorize, and the second is full of precarious perches in the city skyline. One wrong step or miscalculated depth, and Cain plummets to his death. Various checkpoints provide opportunities to continue, but once all the player's lives are spent, it's back to the beginning of some very long stages. Players will soon empathize with the Cain's anger and frustration. Some seemingly dead-end areas also leave question about what is necessary to do next. The enemies themselves, however, rarely present significant firepower to defeat Cain. The rage meter means gunning down one troop makes beating the next obstacle even easier.
ASC Games made an attempt to blow the Contra series out of the water, but One is different enough to make such a comparison foolish. The difficulty and tiresome stage layouts succeed in defeating other high-quality aspects of this title. But, One is worth at least one look, as it is a fairly good game.
Hint: Use password HEVYFEET for a stage select, and MAXPOWER for all weapons.
This article is copyright (c) 1997, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.
Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 29-Dec-97