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SiN was an unfortunate game. Released late in 1997, SiN was a very good FPS with good gameplay and some excellent innovative features. Sadly though, it was released around the same time as a little game called Half-Life and so didn't get the sales or following that it deserved. Following on from the events of SiN, Emergence appears to take place at least a few years down the line.
John Blade awakens to find two people standing over him. One is a large chested lady called Elixis Sinclaire while the other is an Eastern European gentleman by the name of Viktor Radek. Elixis mentions something about a procedure but before anyone can start or explain anything there are sounds of a gunfight and your partner, Jessica Cannon, frees you.
Leading you out of the laboratory, Jessica is concerned about your health and it appears that you've been injected with something that's a little stronger than a tetanus booster. It's up to you, with Jessica's help, to trace Radek and get the antidote to whatever you're carrying and hopefully figure out what Elixis and SinTEK (her company) are up to
One aspect that was immediately disappointing, as Episodes is supposedly a sequel to SiN, I was surprised by how little of the original story was told to new audiences. It does take a while to catch up and even though I had played SiN quite a few years ago, I've forgotten a lot of the story and was fairly clueless as to what had happened. This might not be a big thing for older people to the franchise, but for those who'd never played SiN before, the lack of back-story might leave some people cold.
Built around the Half-Life 2 "Source" engine, technically Emergence is good overall. Graphically, the game looks good. The character models are detailed and well animated. More importantly, there is a good variation in scenery throughout the game from a docks setting through an underground base of operations to the inside and exterior of a skyscraper. It's my opinion that a variety of environments is always a huge positive aspect in games like this and the level designers have done a good job of creating places that are fun to explore and can offer challenges when trying to combat the SinTek soldiers.
The sound is a bit hit-and-miss, though. The voice acting is good for the main characters, though the minor characters (i.e. the cannon fodder) have limited lines that are repeated far too often for my liking and sometimes have a tendency to sound echo-ey or muffled when they shouldn't. The other sound effects and the like are done well - the noise of the wind as you climb around the outside of a skyscraper is very effective, for example.
You only get three main weapons (plus secondary firing modes) and an incendiary grenade in Emergence, so there's little variety in weaponry. I was surprised that I didn't find this to be a big negative point. Any games in the past have made a big deal about the range of weaponry available in these kinds of games, but having only three did not have an adverse effect on the gameplay.
One good feature of the game is the difficulty level. Emergence has a challenge slider that lets you pick the amount of challenge you want from the game, and the game should adjust automatically. This means that, if you select that you want a more difficult challenge, you'll find yourself facing more bad guys and if you're good or perhaps finding the game too easy then the game will throw more challenges at you, such as more really hard bad guys, the chain gunners. Coupled with the challenge slider is the "give assistance" slider which you can use to tell the game how quickly you want it to adapt if it detects that you find the game too easy or too difficult.
I thought that this feature worked very well as the game did adapt to my skill level. When I was finding things slightly too easy, the game adapted and made things difficult for me then, when I was finding things a little tough, the game eased up a little while still providing a good challenge and all-in-all, the game took around eight hours to complete.
SiN Episodes: Emergence is the first chapter in a new breed of episodic gaming, and this is something I think could easily take off as developers realise the potential. I'm not sure that I like this method of delivering games, purely for one main reason. At their very core, I believe that FPS games are a means of telling a story. If a game is going to be rolled out over a period of time (and in this instance, I'm led to believe that Sin Episodes is a nine-part story which will be delivered over four years), then I really doubt that I'll invest that much time and loyalty to the brand to hang around. This might be simply because it's a computer game - I'm more than happy to watch multiple series of Lost or Prison Break which hare bound to run that long.
The plus side of it is that the developers can learn from users and include ideas, fixes etc. in the next release, if there's time for implementation and for those that do get involved in the story then you're theoretically waiting maybe 'only' six months for the next instalment rather than a few years if a sequel is forthcoming. It also means that the developers can add features after a section of the game has been released. For example, Emergence was released without any multi-player, but this will be created and released to owners of Emergence before too long.
I'm in two minds whether or not I'd recommend Sin Episodes: Emergence to anyone interested in the genre. On the plus side, it's a solid shooter albeit not particularly innovative that provides good value for money while on the negative side, you don't get the whole story and it could potentially span another four years before resolution which I find frustrating.
While SiN Episodes: Emergence is available in the shops (RRP £19.99, I believe), it can also be obtained off Valve's delivery system, Steam, for $14.99 plus tax which works out at a grand total of about £9.50 in "real" money, so it's not that much of an outlay (and you can burn it onto CD as a backup, too).
Ritual's Preferred System Configuration:
2.4 GHz Processor
DirectX 9 capable graphics card
AMD Athlon 2500+ processor
1GB System RAM
ATI Radeon Atlantis 9600 256MB graphics card
Soundblaster 7.1 soundcard
Windows XP with SP2
Mouse and Keyboard
Direct X 9.0c
SiN Episode 1: Emergence, available for the PC, will offer explosive first person shooter experiences that reintroduce and re-imagine the world of SiN for the new millennium. Emergence, the first in this series of episodic adventures, expands on the role of Colonel John R. Blade and features never before seen weapons, characters, and environments.