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Restricted Area

Score: 77%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Whiptail Interactive
Developer: Master Creating
Media: CD/3
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: RPG/ Action/ Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

When I first saw pictures of Restricted Area, I immediately flashed back to my days of ShadowRun. Now before you start thinking I was some hardcore, role-playing pen/paper dude, I’m talking the diamond in the rough game for Genesis (also made for SNES). This sucker combined cyber punks with magic, in a run-down, gritty world. RA also reminds me greatly of another classic title, Fallout, the latter playing more like the title under review than anything I can think of. Relative newcomers Whiptail and Master Creating bring us a snappy new title, combined with a tried and true formula.

Of course, the visual homage is just one aspect that nails the post-apocalyptic world to a T. Everything is bleak, run-down, as if it hasn’t been used in centuries. The worlds are large and nasty, but also have graces of subtle beauty hidden beneath the mangy exterior, such as…well actually its all pretty bleak. Attention to detail is key here, from rusting cars to abandoned buildings, the self-proclaimed “most powerful isometric engine ever used” is working overtime to bring a visual feast to your eyes. Dubbed IRIS, it does have some pretty nifty effects for an “old school” 2D game, such as dynamic lighting, rain, fog, smoke, and a host of impressive explosive effects. I almost prefer this look to the flashier, yet not as intricate polygon-based designs. Sprites for the win people! At times it can bog down when the action heats up, but it should still run smooth on most rigs out there. The loading times are a pain too, but just think of this as a time to ponder your next move in this decrepit land.

Character designs are also pretty interesting, if a bit repetitive. The 4 main characters all have enough life put into them to make the grade, but the enemies seem to be clones (hey it’s 2083 - they just might be clones). Basically, the visuals are a mix of Diablo 2 and Fallout, with some recent graphical advancements thrown in.

The sounds help to match the futuristic ambiance as well. It’s a solid techno beat and should keep you grooving right along as you go about your nefarious errands. The voices leave a lot to be desired however, some very wacky and out of place dialogue here. This may be due to the fact it was German translated into English, or so I am told (Master Creating is based in Germany).


Gameplay:

Basically, the world is hurting. BAD. After years of pollution and war, Earth is hanging by a thread, as is humanity itself. In the year 2083, times are still tough but society has stabilized somewhat. There is a single, unified world government. But behind this, lurking in the shadows, are the “real” rulers- 7 mega-corporations that specialize in controlling the vast wastelands. You are thrown into the mix as one of 4 deadly mercenaries employed by these corrupt institutions - Kenji Takashi, a close-combat specialist trained in the ancient martial arts, namely sword-fighting. He lives in hiding from the Yakuza (Japanese mafia) after supposedly killing his own father. He is the only character that can fight close in. Johnson is a weapons' specialist from the defunct World Defense Guard. He has an extensive arsenal at his disposal, including some lethal plasma cannons. Victoria Williams is a powerful psychic force, who escaped from the testing labs of a corporation, intent on revenge. Lastly, we have Jessica Parker, an affluent child who turned to cyber crime and uses a drone for physical combat.

Each character may sound vastly different on paper, but in truth, they play very similar to each other. As you progress though, the characters begin to branch out into unique powers and abilities via a special 15-part skill tree. Players will be tasked with several types of missions offered by shady contacts scattered about, much like ShadowRun. Some include assassination, retrieval or general “cleansing”, whereby you take out lots of mutants. To help advance your character’s story, several plot-heavy missions exist as well, so it’s not all just random. After completing missions, your reputation increases, opening up tougher missions as you go and so forth. Don’t fret, there are plenty of weapons and items vendors through the lands ready to equip you to the teeth…for a price. The implants are pretty intriguing. Tired of that leg? Well hell, replace it with a new, shiny cybernetically enhanced one that boosts your speed, agility and strength. Oddly enough, you can switch these implants around on the fly…”Wait up one sec, lemme grab my other leg *snap, click - Ok let's do this!! LEEEROY BROOOWN!!!!” It’s rough out in the wastelands, so it doesn’t hurt to have an extra helping hand…hehe.

The combat in Restricted Area is pretty solid, thankfully. A clean interface with full re-mapping functions allows for seamless action. Navigation is simple point and click with left mouse button to move, right click to attack, much like Diablo. A handy mini-map keeps you on track, letting you know where you have been, and what your current objective is.

Co-Op play is also included, though you can’t just plow through the same single player missions. A big hindrance is the inability to easily set up online games, you need to know some people through other means, to get their IPs for direct connections, or LAN.

Overall, the gameplay is pretty action-packed and offers enough variety to keep your interest for a while. I would have liked a little more variation in the landscapes (did I mention the word “bleak”?) and also the enemies get dull sooner than later.


Difficulty:

Between the hordes of mutants rushing you constantly and the differing play styles, this title should take time to master. Coupled with the fact you can unlock a hardcore mode where it WIPES your character data if you die, this game ranges from medium difficulty to insane (the latter mode). I don’t get the draw for the single death=perma-wipe. That just seems like a waste of time, especially when you may slip on the controls or equip the wrong item. BAM- good bye 20+ hours of gameplay.

Game Mechanics:

As I mentioned before, it’s a simple interface using the mouse 99% of the time. You can even use your center wheel to assign special abilities and whatnot, besides the 2 standard mouse buttons for attack/movement. The camera position is perfect for this type of game too, and it never becomes a hindrance.

Restricted Area employs a successful design used in mega sellers like the Diablo and Fallout series. But even with those excellent mentors, this pupil falls short in a few areas, such as in regurgitated gameplay and weak sound. Still, fans of cyber-punk, post-apocalyptic themes should really enjoy this title, and it’s a decent isometric action/RPG hybrid in it’s own right to boot.


-Tybo, GameVortex Communications
AKA Tyler Whitney

Minimum System Requirements:



System: P3 800 MHz or equivalent, RAM: 256 MB RAM, Video Memory: 32 MB VRAM, Hard Drive Space: 2150 MB
 

Test System:



Windows XP, 1.83 ghzAMD 2500+ 512 MB of RAM, ATI Radeon 9800 Pro 128MB

Windows Supreme Ruler: 2010 Windows GTA: San Andreas

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated