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     " Trick your friends into coming over so you won’t get completely stone-frickin’-cold-dead bored playing [this] worthless, lame ass game by yourself. "

      Title: Oni by Rockstar

      Format: PS2 Fighting Adventure Game

      Reviewing Monkey: Dungapult

      The Hype: For almost two years Rockstar (and the developer Bungie) have been touting this as the next generation of action and adventure games. Designed to be equally an armed and unarmed fighting affair, Oni is supposed to break new ground as to what a total gaming experience can be. Does it do it? Well, I’ll give you a sneak preview of the review and simply say "No." But read on to get the full story. Trust me, it’s worth it.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Graphics: Oni for the PS2 is a straight port, or directly translated program, from the PC version. As a result it takes advantage of absolutely none of what the Playstation 2 has to offer. The models are blocky, dull, rigid, and untextured. They move with all the fluidity and object interaction of a Lego man- with feet, hands, and bodies that behave completely unaware of their environments. The backgrounds are pathetically unresponsive, non-interactive, senselessly designed, two-dimensional pastels that would take even the PS1 back a few steps. And, as if all that wasn’t enough, the clipping gets down right extreme. In almost no way do the graphics look and act like what we should expect on a "next generation" system. The only shining point is the special lighting effects (lasers and explosions) but they hardly save this otherwise piss poor showing. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- game makers need to stop shoving ports down our throats. Just because it’s passable on one system doesn’t mean we have to like it on all the others. Hell, this reminds me just how much I’m looking forward to Microsoft’s "No Ports Allowed" philosophy on the X-box. It’ll keep crap like this off my TV. 2 out of 5

      Sound: Cornelius and I actually had a bit of an argument about the quality of the sound. He propounded, quite accurately, that the actual action effects are pretty snazzy. Guns sound like guns should, kicks connect with a solid "whump," and some of the peripheral sounds could actually be described as pretty sweet. Unfortunately, I had to respond by pointing out the absolute suckiness of all the ambient and tactical sounds the game offers. Footsteps, in one of the lamest strokes in video game history, sound identical regardless of who makes them or where they come from. There is no directional awareness to noises even if you pump it through a kick ass high-end stereo like I do. Gunshots portray no distance. And, worst of all, the sound layering is horrible so if multiple sounds are occurring at once there is no way in hell you will successfully make out what’s going on. The result? Absolute and complete carnage. People sneak up on you and you think it’s your own walking. Shots ring out and you spin in place like a frickin’ dradle desperately trying to see where they come from, etceteras, etceteras, etceteras. So, when you put all that into a game that ends up requiring "stealth and awareness play" you get screwed six ways to Sunday. All the other ambient sounds and music fall into that decidedly mediocre area- causing neither happiness nor anger. The only other negative is the voice acting, which reminds me of watching bad 70’s anime porn. 3 out of 5

      Game Play: Put on your hard hat, kiddies…’Cause here’s where the shit falls like acid rain. The game play, in a word, is- detestable. Pathetic. Aggravating. Infuriating. Awful. Crappy. Maddening. Galling. Like having a rectal exam administered by a blind sumo with cold hands and a nervous twitch. Like a date telling you they’ve had more fun with comatose, deformed circus midgets covered in 3rd degree burns. Like sitting through a four-hour marathon of the Dr. Laura show while rats relieve themselves on your outstretched tongue. You get me? It’s bad! I was forced to play this game and at no point did I have fun. Prior to writing this review, we sat down and brainstormed on any potentially good points…Desperate to salvage a single Claudia Shifford from a sea of Rosie O’Donnels…. But it was to no avail. There wasn’t a redeeming factor we could conjure. And, as if that in and of itself wasn’t bad enough, it’s made worse by the fact that this could have been a phenomenal game. It had all the right ideas, but none of the execution. However, before I go any further, I should probably give you a bit of background on what it is and what it promised to be.
     I first saw Oni two years ago at E3. Back then it was, in essence, a 3D fighter with weapons thrown in for a twist. Think something like Streets of Rage with guns. You ran around, you battled it out- picking up weapons where they could be knocked from bad guys hands or found. Combat was simple and exciting…Kick, punch, crouch, and jump all combining to make simple but entertaining combos and action being fast and furious. Then, last year, I saw Oni again at E3. It actually appeared to have changed little from the previous year. The most notable difference being that, this time, we could multiplayer. Keen. It shocked me how long it was taking to develop but I attributed it to them really doing a bang up job. Gods how wrong I was.
     When Oni finally came, it still appeared to be the same fighter/shooter it was before. Now, however, they were also pushing a stealth and strategy angle. Don’t just run around and gun, they told us, now sneaking can be just as, or even more, effective for accomplishing your goals. "Neato!" I thought, "Streets of Rage meets Tomb Raider meets Metal Gear Solid." I, to say the least, was excited.
     But that excitement quickly dissipated. What Oni is, in reality, is little more than a half-assed hybrid. It’s not a fighter, it’s not a shooter, it’s not a strategy sneaker, and it’s a weak combination of all the worst elements from the three.
     Though they say that stealth is key, you will quickly realize just how pointless sneaking around is. With the ranges you engage from, to try and get close are improbable at best and impossible at worst. The attacks available to you, though advertised as being cool and devastating are frustratingly useless and difficult to execute. And, most importantly, the AI isn’t smart enough to be "fooled" so half the time you’re sneaking the computer acts like you’re sitting in a frickin’ spotlight.
     "But that’s okay," you say, "Because it’s really a fighting game, right?" Wrong. It tries to be a fighting game, it tries really hard. In fact, it tries too damned hard. It opens up a vast quantity of unlockable combos and techniques. It creates an elaborate system where all attacks and blocks have to be executed with precision and strategy. And then it throws all those fine ideals into a crappy 3rd person run-around that has you almost constantly out numbered and out muscled. The techniques that you have to work so hard to "earn" the computer starts off with right away, so get ready to take unblockable hit after amazing combo over and over again before you get anywhere. The strategy you learn to implement is often worthless because you’re being attacked literally from all sides and often without any prior notice (refer back to the sound issue of people sneaking up on you). The combat system is so "precise" (you can only engage directly to a single side, usually the front) that it’s almost impossible for a human to be truly proficient at it- requiring you to be accurate to with a few degrees with your blocks and hits (half the time you will be damned sure you are directly facing your opponent to block but will be off by literally a fraction of an inch and so they will pummel you). And, most importantly, the vast majority of the time the enemy players are armed and just shoot you from a distance anyway so melee combat is often pointless.
     "But it’s a shooter, too!" you say in desperation, "You can still have fun that way." Or so you’d think. So you’d wish. But, alas, that too might be a redeeming factor and so this game says "Nay!" The gun fighting aspect, while neat in concept, falls victim to two major issues. The first is the controller accuracy vs. the computer’s accuracy. Rather than doing the sensible thing and including some kind of auto-aim or target lock Oni uses a completely manual aiming system…a guaranteed suck point in any third person game. Add to that the obvious difficulty of not only having to use a stupid little analog thumb stick to do the aiming with but to also be trying to do it while jumping around dodging, etc., makes ballistic combat pretty much an impossibility. If you want to shoot with any level of effectiveness you have to just stand there like an idiot, out of cover, taking it in the face like you were french kissing a porcupine. And though I actually normally like having to take some time and aim (it’s the real life shooter in me) it doesn’t work too well when the computer isn’t struggling with the same inherent controller difficulties. Which, actually leads me to the second major problem with ranged combat in Oni- the computer never misses. Never. Nadda. You can dodge, if you’re really aware and more than a bit lucky, but if you are doing anything else you have no chance of not taking the hit. Want to get in a firefight? Forget it. Any amount of time you take to aim gives the computer 3 to 5 free hits. Any time you take trying to vie for better position means taking another 2 or 3. And heaven help you if you want to try charging to engage in melee…you’ll lose half your health before you even get there. And, since you can’t sneak up on anyone, those are you’re only choices…So decide which way you want to take it…Because you’ll be taking it all night.
     Beyond those main issues are a plethora of minor ones from the difficulty of using the uncustomizable controls to the lack of sufficient weapons, ammo, power ups, and health. From the ridiculous mission prepping to the silliness of their objectives, from the piss poor behavior of your team mate’s AI to the tedium of identical and repetitious nature of play. From the fact that you don’t get nearly enough loot from the guys you kill to the fact that loot left behind disappears (like we’re stuck back in the old 8 bit Nintendo days). It’s like I said…all bad. I have rarely felt as frustrated and disappointed as I did playing this game. I’m so happy I don’t have to play it any more. ½ out of 5

      Level and Environment Designs: As I said in the graphics section, visually, the levels leave a lot to be desired. They could have been so much better and just completely wussed out. They’re big, which is nice, but really that’s all they have going for them. They’re completely linear, they’re non-interactive (there’s nothing to do but run through them…Nothing to destroy, nothing to investigate), and they add nothing to the gaming experience. The final nail in the coffin, however, is the fact that they are all designed exactly the same- run until you find a locked door. Backtrack, or run on, or run a different direction until you find a lock for that door placed in a completely illogical place. Unlock the door and run back. Now find the next locked door, and so on. 95% of your playtime will be spent in this worthless pursuit and, frankly, I expect more. That is a cheap bastard’s way of lengthening play time and I can’t stand it. 1 out of 5

      Multiplayer: When we played this at E3, multiplayer was abound. You could death match, duel, etc., to your hearts content. It was fun back then and even with all the inherent flaws in this game it still should have been included…It may have added some actual value to this waste of silicone. They included none of it. And, as if that wasn’t enough, they had to go ahead and insult your intelligence. The instructions say, and I swear to god I’m quoting, "Oni is a one-player game. It’s just you, on your own, matching wits and blows with the Syndicate. If you like, you can recruit a friend to be your own real-life [HQ intelligence operator] – hang out, watch you play, offer advice, maybe even bring you cookies, and other foodstuffs of dubious nutritional value." What?!?! Did they really frickin’ say that? "We were too lazy to include multiplayer so you should try and trick your friends into coming over so you won’t get completely stone-frickin’-cold-dead bored playing our worthless, lame ass game by yourself." It’s insulting, it’s revolting, it means they KNEW they should have included multiplayer but were too lazy to do it. It’s unconscionable. And it rates, for the first time in my reviewing history, a negative score. -2 out of 5

      Replayability: I’ll keep this short, because this review is already too long. There is none. None at all, it is a single player only game, in a single campaign, with no variable plot lines, no hidden games (hell, for that matter, no hidden anything) and you’ll feel you’ve already wasted your time if you even try and play it the once. 0 out of 5

      Story/Dramatics: There is a story to Oni. Actually, there is a very interesting, anime technology story laced into the game. Unfortunately, the only time you get even a glimpse of it is by walking up to various terminals in the game where you get to read it in wonderful monochromatic glory. There are no story telling cut scenes (the only cut scenes are in-game scenes that just give you brief glimpses into what’s going on), there are no dramatic plot twists and turns, there are no FMV treats (well, I suppose there’s one at the end but it’s so short hit hardly counts). So, if you like reading sci-fi, you’ll enjoy the story it offers. But then, if you liked reading sci-fi you’d pick up some Heinlein instead. 3 out of 5

      Instructions and Learning Curve: The instructions are bland and brief, but pretty well laid out. The learning curve on the other hand is atrocious. Not to figure out what the buttons do or remember where they are but to actually gain any level of competency on this horrific combat interface. 2 out of 5

      Installation and Real System Requirements: Gee…Could it be…another bad point in this review? Heck, why break a trend. The final down fall of this atrocity in blue and black comes with its load times. They are, without a doubt, ridiculous. The pre-mission loads (which, of course, treat you to little more than one of 5 still animations) are huge and laborious. But, that’s almost understandable…since the levels are big and there are no in game loads. The part that will infuriate you is the restart loads. You’re going through a level and you die. Logic dictates that it should reload quickly since the info was right there in the RAM, right? Wrong. Somehow, through evil black magic one must assume, they managed to make the level restarts SLOWER LOADING than the level starts. Explain that to me, please! It’s like they’re punishing you for dying all over again. "Not only are we gonna warp your ass back to the beginning but we’re going to make you wait four hours to get there." It’s insane, and it’s another reason to never pick this game up. 1 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       I hate stomping on games that go out on a limb. I especially hate stomping on games that I really wanted to like. Oni, however, is just too much of a bad thing. All the good intentions in the world don’t make up for a game that just has almost no redeemable qualities. Makes me wonder if anyone at Rockstar or Bungie actually played it before they bothered to shovel it into stores.

      The Good: Big levels, pretty flashes, and a story that is interesting if a bore to read.

      The Bad: Game play, graphics, level design, system draw, and just about anything else that should make a game playable.

      The Overall Ugly: Dear lord no. Hide the children; Ma…This one’ll give ‘em nightmares.

      What it's Worth: Not even rental. Stay away, my Monkeys, stay away.

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