George Stobbart first graced our screens in 1995 in Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templar. Three long awaited sequels later and we get Broken Sword 4: Angel of Death, exclusively to the PC.
Originally set for a trilogy, Broken Sword 4 broke the mould by extending the series due to fan requests and being released for PC only. Obviously this was met with a lot of mixed controversy from PC and Playstation users. Personally I was a PSX user now converting the PC to play one of, if not, my favourite gaming series ever to grace the gaming world.
Series creator Charles Cecil quotes of memorable games having in depth and enticing storylines. Arguably the Broken Sword series has captivated gamers around the world with its mystifying storylines and use of many differing combinations of humour, wit and emotion to carry it message to the world. Seemingly at first, Broken Sword 4 captures this as the beautiful Anna Maria walks into George Stobbart's work and offers him the chance to earn big bucks and help decode an ancient manuscript. Upon doing this they have to outrun and outwit the mafia in the search that spreads out across the world to bring back the lost treasure.
The story itself tries to bring back old information about the Templar from the first game that many fans will instantly recognise. However the story soon complicates itself and brings in Christian Religion and Moses. Using the power of the staff Moses was able to create plagues and death in the name of God to release the Jews from Egypt's power. However you can't help thinking that here the writers fail to capture your imagination by originality due to the constant mention of religious sects that has popped up sporadically in the last two years thanks to Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. Constant reminders that The Templar was part of a group of people protecting a huge secret that could disrupt the power of the Christian church becomes tiresome. For instance Dan Brown's novel worked by the power of surprise. Because of the novel, the film and countless number of novels that have followed means Broken Sword 4 looses this power of surprise because everybody knows what references are.
To my own surprise, the story itself seems incoherent at times and ultimately becomes a mess of characters becoming intertwined for no apparent reason. For instance every Broken Sword fan knows Nico, George Stobbart's journalist girlfriend from the previous instalments. In Angel of Death she appears almost randomly and you can't help wondering why she appears in the first place. It's almost as of the writers though hmmmm we need to include Nico in here somewhere .. This seems like a good place to 'fit' her in. Mix this with lots of monotonous stereotypes and you get the story for Broken Sword 4: Angel of Death.
Character development is somewhat looked over for the many well known characters, which inevitably leaves new players feeling lost to references from the previous games. The main protagonist is American George Stobbart. An unlikely adventurer being drawn into conspiracies and ancient cover-ups, he uses his humour and witty comments to interrogate characters and use his 'pockets' to store hundreds of items that probably wouldn't be used until much later in the game. His appearance has somewhat changed over the years and here his outwards exterior has aged expectedly. Realism shines off his face with aged eyes and wrinkles, but his hair has been modelled with a little difference. Voiced by Rolf Saxon, George Stobbart has always been an excellent character and Rolf does an effortless job at providing a countless number of witty puns and sarcastic replies. It's always a laugh to be in the middle of a boring conversation and unknowingly George brightens things up with his use of humour.
Voiced by Regina Regan, Anna Maria's character looks the part. A busty blonde who doesn't know much who accidentally gets her hands on an ancient manuscript. It's all very formulaic, she sounds dumb, most of the time she acts dumb and her replies are a little off the mark. But as for her appearance, Revolution has done well in creating her. Graphically stunning, her face is soft and elegant and her attire is as to be expected from a rich young women. I can't help thinking of Jennifer Coolidge though when she speaks. Her voice doesn't seem to fit well in the game and often leaves you feeling irritated.
As to be expected Nico has her fourth different voice and this time played by Katherine Pageon. Again like Anna Maria, Nico's voice just doesn't add up. It sounds like a posh British accent being forced to speak with a French tinge and it's more comical than anything else. I was somewhat let down by her appearance as well. She looks unrealistic compared to the other characters, her hair at times looking blocky and reminding you of those tiny little Lego people with Attachable square hair.
To a more positive note, Broken Sword 4 graphically is spectacular. Obviously improving from their game engine from the third game, lighting effects has been closely detailed, with light rays beaming through windows casting genuine shadows of all shapes and sizes. Room interior is packed full with exquisite detail, wooden desks have ingrains and carpets have fully elaborated designs. Broken Sword 4 truly delivers as a graphical adventure in the sense that it is that good. Use of colour has been used perfectly to add different shades of furniture and walls and in rooms with no lighting, dark patches creep everywhere.
As for animation, most things run smoothly, but on the odd occasion objects appear and disappear randomly as you walk, making things extremely glitchy. I suppose this all depends of the spec of your PC. Facial Animation is funny, with reactions clearly visible with comical one liners. I have to mention though that there are occasions where the game lets itself down graphically. For instance on a building everything's is perfectly designed but when you look over the edge say, there in nothing but a load of colour, reminding you of those really early game that couldn't quite make everything perfect.
Other non playable characters are detailed well and acted reasonably ok, but some are so silly it just isn't funny. You can tell that the makers rely of classical stereotypes, with a mobster bad guy and his dumb goons. Also irritable drunks and heavy smokers. They try too much to make things funny but it results in the whole experience being over the top.
As many people know, Broken Sword takes the Tomb Raider experience by puzzles rather than Action. And Broken Sword 4 is no exception. Puzzles are everywhere but you'll find that most of them consist of finding the right item to progress, which all becomes quite linear and a little boring. Things are spiced up though with mental teasers forcing you to crack codes which makes the game extremely enjoyable. There's nothing more satisfying than completing a section of the game you were bamboozled at for days.
The game itself has returned to a mix of Point 'n click and keyboard movements. This at times is extremely frustrating and annoying. This is mainly due to the faulty camera that moves around like a tornado in parts and it lets the game down. You would have expected fixed points, but the developers have tried to do something too complicated as results in a mess. It really annoying because you end up clicking on bits you didn't mean to and sometimes you have to wait for the camera to catch up with you.
A new feature to the game is the hacking section, where George can use his PDA to hack into internet lines. This has been designed very cleverly indeed. By placing and rotating the lines on the PDA you access yourself a route into someone else's computer and it gets much harder as the game progresses.
Back to a bad point though is that I have never seen a more 'bugged' game in my life. I recommend that you download the patches before you even play it for the first time. Speech wonders off and leaves you with just moving mouths. The game ends from time to time. Even the menu pops up when it feels fit and it really does ruin the gaming experience.
I have been extremely negative on the game, but it can be enjoyable for a fan but I wouldn't recommend it to a new player to the series. Some lines are funny others silly and some moments will leave you annoyed and heading for a cheat website to find the answer because you have tried every single item in your inventory and nothing seems to work. But on the whole a pretty average performance for a highly acclaimed series. For me a let down due to the bugs whilst playing and the annoyance of certain characters, but the story is somewhat interesting even if you have heard it all before. If you can't stand another reference to the Holy Grail and other Religious movements stay clear.
OP System: Windows XP
Processor: Pentium 4 1.4 GHz or Better
Memory: 256 MB RAM (512 recommended)
Hard Drive Space: 2.6 GB Free
DVD - Rom Drive - 2X speed or faster
Video Card: Nvidia GeForce 6200 or 128 MB Shader Model 1.1 compatible video card
Sound Card: Windows compatible Sound card
DirectX Version: 9.0c