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     " Remember the days when Microsoft promised us 'No direct porting! Every game must have new content on Xbox!' Well, they're long since dead and buried- since now we're getting not only direct ports but also inferior direct ports. "

      Title: Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance by Vivendi Universal

      Format: Xbox RPG

      Reviewing Monkey: Dungapult

      The Hype: Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance for the PS2 was the first video game to incorporate the new 3rd edition D&D; D20 tabletop rules- and did so to massive critical acclaim. Now, almost a year later, the same great title comes to the Xbox.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Graphics: It's nice to finally see RPGs that are including good in game graphics- not just pretty cut scenes. Vibrant colors, detailed modeling, and some pretty spectacular effects all roll in to make Baldur's Gate a whole lot of eye candy. And while I usually don't go this specific in a review, this game might well be worth renting just to see the water effect. No small amount of times people were called from other rooms of the office to come check out the physics engine and gorgeous patterning associated with it. So that's the good news. The bad news is that, when compared side by side, the graphics are actually worse than the PS2 version. Now, I know we're not usually supposed to compare ports in these reviews but when you realize that the Xbox's graphics capabilities are at least half again superior to the PS2s and that this came out a year later that just boggles the mind. The character movements and animations aren't as smooth, the clipping and smoothing isn't as crisp, and the model interactions aren't nearly as precise. What the hell?!? 4 out of 5

      Playability: Let me give you a hint right now about the rest of this review: we've already summed up what is going to be said in the graphics section. The whole game, top to bottom, is a direct port of the older PS2 version but with a few bugs here and there. This is probably evidenced no better than in the gameplay of Dark Alliance-, which is good but kept from being great by glitches and bumps. Essentially configured like a standard crawling hack and slash, Baldur's Gate uses analog movement to run your character around dungeons and caves and allows you to use an assortment of D&D spells and magic items to help destroy things in the most glorious and efficient manners possible. Which is all fine and good. The bummer though, especially when again compared to its year old predecessor, is the clunkiness of the controls themselves. In a game that should thrive on analog content- and which tries to, the functionality of the controls is highly suspect. As a simple example is aiming ranged weapons- which is done by slight depression of a button…but after 4 different people trying it with 3 different controllers was simply ruled "worthless" and, thus, effectively removes a major aspect of the game. Added to that is the occasional "lag" we experienced when hitting buttons and some sticking of our movements. These types of problems are common and, though the game is still definitely playable, certainly adds more frustration and irritation than it should. 3.5 out of 5

      Multiplayer and Replayability: The good is that the multiplayer kicks ass! Not only is it coop through the story (which I, personally, love) but also other players can jump in and out at any time. Better yet there's an import feature so buddies can bring characters they've made at their place to yours. Keen. The bad news is that there is only 1 campaign, with no real side quests, so once you've beaten it you probably won't find a lot of cause to go back. 4 out of 5

      Story/Dramatics: All in all, the story for Baldur's Gate is pretty darned solid. Mugged and stranded at the launch of the game, you're thrust into a world of intrigue and evil as you take on the role of accidental protector of the people of Baldur's Gate. With good voice acting and some entertaining encounters this is one story you're unlikely to skip. Again, as with the over all replayability, my only gripe is that the story is totally linear and leaves no room for independent action. 4 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       All in all, Baldur's Gate is a good role-playing game that is, unfortunately, marred by glitches and bugs. While definitely playable, and enjoyable, it completely pales in comparison to its earlier PS2 version (which totally shocks me). Good for people who can't get their hands on a Playstation.

      The Good: Great translation of D&D to a console.

      The Bad: They did it better a year ago.

      The Overall Ugly: Remember the days when Microsoft promised us "No direct porting! Every game must have new content on Xbox!" Well, they're long since dead and buried- since now we're getting not only direct ports but also inferior direct ports.

      What it's Worth: A good weekend rental.

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