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ECHO

Score: 90%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Ultra Ultra
Developer: Ultra Ultra
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Stealth/ Third Person Shooter

Graphics & Sound:

ECHO is an interesting concept for a game that turns out to be a winner. The graphics in this game developed by Ultra Ultra are well done in their own respect, but they arenít necessarily AAA quality. The player models are all the same (of course, that is because of the gameplay concept), and the model is decent, but lacks emotion. The environments are pretty limited in scope as well, with a lot of reused geometry. That said, they do help drive the mood of the game through their pristine look in the palace and broken-down look outside.

Where ECHO excels is in both the audio and lighting. The gameís background music track is quite repeatable, but its slow pace really works well for this sci-fi title. The other sound effects also sound great and really help add mood for the situation you are currently in. The lighting is also a work of wonder. Between shaders and actual lights in the scene, the transitions from light to dark and back again really give the feeling of a rebooting system as described below.


Gameplay:

Developer Ultra Ultra reinvigorates gameplay in a time when so many hit games are basically clones of each other and not all that inventive. The only clones here are those that are exact copies of you, as you control the main character, En, through a planet-wide palace that has been awaiting humankind for a very long time. After landing on this planet and making her way into the palace, En is accompanied only by the computer navigation and information system she brought with her.

The first moments of ECHO are more of a storyline setup than actual action. We get to know a little bit of backstory and soon, the attention gets shifted to this mysterious palace that is in pristine condition and seemingly goes on forever. After all of the setup, En begins to encounter beings. At first, these being are simply crawling around, but it doesnít take that long until they are standing and in pursuit of our heroine.

While navigating the palace corridors, eventually there are weird digital copies of En made whenever she interacts with the environment. Strangely, the lights go out every once in a while in the palace as well. After some careful thought, En theorizes that the palace is rebooting itself during these blackouts. Soon enough, she has a realization that the copies of her interactions are actually driving the artificial intelligence of the beings walking the halls to protect the palace. Those beings, called Echoes, are actually clones of En herself and they learn from your actions, which makes the gameplay of ECHO very interesting.

While navigating toward your destination waypoints, the Echoes actually reboot with the palace system and the copies of your interactions from the previous session are uploaded to the Echoes. Basically, everything you do between blackouts is remembered and used against you. For example, if you decide to sprint, the Echoes get faster. If you use a lot of stealth, they get more deceptive. If you pull out your gun to take them down, the bullets will fly in your direction after the next blackout.

This gameplay almost seems gimmicky on the surface and you may very well be thinking that as you read this. But rest assured, aside from some of the more humdrum moments in the beginning, this mechanic is developed with an outstanding outlook for how you will play the game, and balances things very well. I found myself extremely frustrated at times with the game, but that frustration acted as fuel for my passion to get past the section, regardless of how long I felt stuck. ECHO set out to create a learning A.I. system and it succeeded.


Difficulty:

The beginning of the game actually was a bit on the boring side, if I am to be brutally honest. However, pushing through and eventually getting into what amounts to be the core gameplay mechanic, the difficulty did a complete 180 and this game ended up being fairly difficult. Thatís not to say every part of the game is difficultÖ just that there are moments that are sporadically hard to get past.

These moments of higher difficulty tend to happen in areas where there are a lot of Echoes hanging around, waiting to ambush you using your own skills against you. It really makes you have to think about what you are doing at all moments of the game. Sometimes you may feel that running and gunning may be the best way to get through a section, only to learn that after the blackout, you have another section to get through and that you basically just signed your death warrant.

Generally speaking, ECHO is more of a stealth game at its core, but because of the A.I. learning system, the Echoes will also start to crouch and work through their rounds a bit more sneaky than they used to. It can then be more difficult to see them. The real key to the game is to use the brief moments handed out during the blackouts to interact as you wish, while the palace canít make copies of you.


Game Mechanics:

ECHO controls really well, and is basic enough at its core that it is not difficult to learn how to play in a short period of time. The in-game tutorials and hints help out as well, explaining in-game objects and other systems (like saving). I do highly recommend using a game controller for this 3rd person stealth/action game, as it felt more natural to play and control the camera.

I first heard of ECHO by word of mouth and it sounds like an interesting concept, where the A.I. learns from your actions and uses them against you. After my initial moments of playing, I was admittedly disappointed as I felt like the game could be more. However, continuing into the game further, and having the game explain what was actually happening with the Echoes learning from your action, ECHO quickly became a very fun game. There are plenty of frustrating opportunities in the game where you may have to use a bit of trial and error, but it was a welcome frustration that only drives oneís will to succeed even more.


-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows 7/8/10 (64-bit OS required); Intel Core i3-4340 3.6 GHz / AMD FX-8350 4.0 Ghz or Equivalent; 4GB RAM; NVIDIA GeForce GTX 570 Ė 1.28GB / AMD Radeon HD 7870 2 GB or Equivalent; DirectX 11; 10GB Hard Drive Space
 

Test System:



Windows 10 Pro 64-bit; Intel Core i7-5930K CPU @ 3.50GHz; 32GB RAM; nVidia GeForce GTX 980, Xbox One Controller

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Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated