Reviewed: December 9, 2002
Released: November 8, 2002
It hard to make a good game from a good movie, but it’s even harder to make a great game from a bad movie. Nonetheless, that is exactly what Crawfish Interactive has managed to do with Ballisitic: Ecks vs. Sever for the GBA. Based on the movie of the same name, Ballistic follows the adventures of ex-FBI agent Ecks and ex-NSA operative Sever. In all fairness, the movie wasn’t horrible; in fact, my only real complaint is that there was so much action that the film resembled a game more than a movie. Who needs a story when you can blow things up?
What doesn’t make for a good movie does lend itself to a challenging game. The GBA version of Ballistic actually has a better story than the film. Our two action-hero super-agents are fighting terrorists with a nuke and only you can save the world.
Ballistic is an FPS game plain and simple. Your goal is to kill pretty much everything that moves, collecting more weapons and ammo along the way to accomplish your objectives and save the world.
The missions try to vary in design and complexity but in the end they cannot conceal the simple FPS design that makes up this title. The missions range from frontal assaults where you kill everything in sight to races against the clock where you can run right past the slower computer enemies. Other missions take place in very dark levels that require the use of night vision goggles and other levels let you snipe your targets from long distance.
Enemy AI ranges from pathetic in the early levels to challenging in the later ones. In the first few levels you could just as easily run past most of the enemies and they won’t have time to react, shoot you, or even show enough interest to give chase.
The control is pretty good considering the limitations of the GBA. You won’t have the precision that PC FPS gamers enjoy but everything functions well enough to play and enjoy the game. The triggers used for sidestepping are a bit too sensitive for my taste and at times it was hard to line-up that perfect shot with the D-pad.
Of course the main feature of Ballistic is the amazing multiplayer component. Hopefully, if you get this game you have friends with GBA’s and a link cable because this could be your new favorite GBA multiplayer game.
As you play the single player missions you will unlock new multiplayer levels that are accessible only through link play. Unfortunately there is no “bot” option to allow link-less or friendless GBA gamers to sample these wonderful new levels and game modes. This is truly one of the best reasons to talk your friends into getting a GBA. You will also need a copy of the game for each player; a lucrative move on BAM!’s part to sell a lot more copies of this game, and deservedly so.
You can challenge two or four players to all sorts of traditional Deathmatch and Assassination modes, but my personal favorite has you scrambling through the levels looking for pieces of a bomb. It’s kind of like CTF but much more challenging.
Aside from playing a friend’s copy of Duke Nukem Advance, this is my first FPS game on my GBA and I am impressed with the visuals that Crawfish managed to get out of my tiny handheld unit. The 3D engine looks something comparable to Wolf3D or Doom on the PC and you can tell the graphics have been optimized to use every trick in the GBA book.
There is a mishmash of varying texture quality with an obvious omission of any textures on the floor or ceiling. Some textures are quite good and others are even animated with their own effects. Shoot a bottle and you will see what I am talking about.
The level architecture is quite complex with multi-tiered levels, ledges, elevators, and stairs. All of this flows by at some impressive frame rates, even in the multiplayer games, although there is a small bit of slowdown in the four-player mode. There is a definite attempt to achieve a photo-realistic look to the game, which is ambitious considering the nature of the platform.
The characters are all generated with sprite animation and this is handled very well with plenty of frames of animation to blend the various key frames together creating smooth transitions between all possible movements and actions. It’s not quite 3D quality but it’s pretty good considering the limitations of sprite technology.
The sound is excellent with digitized sounds for each of the weapons and excellent explosions. Speech is done very well when you hear it, but there is a strange absence of speech during gameplay. No one-liners, no shouts, no cries for help or agonizing screams when you riddle their bodies with bullet holes.
The “atmospheric score” mentioned above is pretty much confined to everywhere except the actual gameplay. This may turn off gamers who require music to get them in the mood for killing, but I found the spatter of gunfire to be more than enough audio feedback for my taste.
As a single player game, you will get about 10-15 hours of FPS gaming goodness from Ballistic. Taking a repeat trip through the 12 missions with the other character is surprisingly different and offers plenty of challenges that the other character didn’t. But if you have friends with GBA’s and can talk them into getting their own copy of this game you will be in for months and months of endless fun and action.
This game is a definite must if you already have a core group of GBA-linkable friends. Even if you are resigned to play this game alone, you won’t be disappointed. There is plenty of action and violence that you expect from you standard FPS game.
Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever ranks right up there with some of the best of the classics like Doom and Wolf3D. It won’t dazzle you like the latest Quake or Unreal Tournament but for a GBA game, it doesn’t get much better than this.