Monday, September 28, 2009

Policenauts Review - (PSX)

Originally released on the PC-9821 in 1994 in Japan, Policenauts was an epic testimony to the power of storytelling in an interactive videogame environment. It took fifteen years for it to finally see life in an English translation produced by the fan community at and with that release, came an outpouring of rejoice. For those that don’t know, Policenauts was written and directed by Hideo Kojima, creator of such amazing games as the Metal Gear series and Snatcher.

The game is an interactive drama, set in the near future as you play, Jonathan Ingram, one of the original Policenauts, which were a group of astronaut trained police men, set to protect man kinds first space colony called, “Beyond Coast.” An accident left your character stranded in the depths of space, cryogenically frozen within his space suit, only to be recovered and revived 25 years later. Now, as a private investigator on Home/Earth, you are charged by your ex-wife to find out the whereabouts of her missing husband on Beyond, uncovering a dark and disturbing plot of corruption and greed with your ex-partner and old friend Ed Brown.

I cannot even begin to describe the plot farther than that as it is the sheer essence and mystery of the game itself that draws you in. Everything revolves around the intricacies of the world itself, much like how Kojima approached Snatcher. No technology is left unturned without great and meticulous detail. You learn how daily life on Beyond exists to the smallest of nuances even on a psychological level on dealing with living in the depths of space. It truly is inspiring to see the care from classic sci-fi novels show face here in the videogame realm, an art that is mostly forgotten.

The game itself is played out in the first person perspective and resembles a point and click adventure game from the days of old. As Jonathan, you move a cursor around to interact with the environment, being able to look at almost every piece of the world numerous times over, as well as to interview and interrogate the people of interest. What makes this portion of the game stand out is how other people remember the things you have done. For example, on your flight to Beyond, you have the option to take some medicine to help with your Zero G sickness. If you do so, it stands heavily in the mind of one of the passengers you meet and see all throughout the game as they react to you more negatively for being weak. That is just one example of many, as every move your character makes can really breathe some replayability . Mixed into the game are also action sequences, where you are forced to protect yourself by shooting enemies around the screen, once again very similar to how Snatcher played out. Also, there were numerous puzzle sequences, forcing your character to break codes, disarm bombs and other unique scenarios. Although the game on the Playstation does not have light gun support like the Saturn version, it does support the mouse attachment, making for a very tight and responsive control scheme, allowing you to really make the most of the game experience.

Another thing that stands out is the sound. The voice actors are phenomenal in their execution. The dialog is passionate, heated and a continuing sense of urgency as you progress through the storyline. Everything is caught and encapsulated in the nuances of each voice actor, making their performances impeccable to telling the story. Add to this an amazing soundtrack that reeks of Mid-90’s synthesizers and modern rock, which complimented the sci-fi aspect excellently.

This game is a must play for those that want to experience true, cinematic brilliance. Kojima’s ability to tell a story shines brightly in this game, unlike anything else he has created. While there may be minor flaws in the game, like its rushed ending (which I might add is a VERY small gripe), there is no reason why anyone wanting something of true content should pass this up. Now with the translation patch, which comes only with incredibly small bugs and glitches, which only one I experienced during the bomb disarmament scene and I could not recreate, everyone should find a way to get Policenauts and experience the tale that we have waited over a decade for, it is very much worth it.

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