Reviewed: May 21, 2001
Released: November 27, 2000
Just when you thought you had seen every type of shooter possible along comes Funcom with a new twist. No Escape is one of the few "shooters" that has managed to get a Teen rating by the ESRB and that teen market is exactly the primary target audience for this title. Sure, there are lots of weapons and violent content, but it is all presented in such a comical and surreal way that it would be hard for any parent to deny their child the simple pleasure of playing this game.
No Escape is presented as a futuristic TV show, watched by billions of people much like the premise we've seen in countless other games like The Devil Inside, Megarace, and even Unreal Tournament. The game attempts to capture the essence of 'survival TV', but takes the concept to a whole new level by introducing big guns and even bigger explosions. The players battle each other on artificial planets suspended inside a gigantic studio orbiting the Earth, where a live audience cheers them on until one winner is left standing.
Much like Quake and Unreal Tournament, No Escape is designed primarily as a multiplayer online game. You do have the option to play offline in a solo-tour through the 18 levels. You will battle a variety of bots that increase in number and difficulty as you progress through the stages.
The game is very arcade-like. You actually start out with credits (no quarters required) and you must use these to restart each time you die making it quite challenging to get through all 18 levels without a lot of practice.
Unlike its mature-rated cousins, No Escape doesn't count frags or kills. In fact, there is no killing going on in this game. Even though you are using bazookas, mines, machine guns, and other types of deadly weapons you can only knock your opponents out and take their money. Actually, money is all that does matter in No Escape and collecting the most is how you win. While there are wads of cash scattered about the levels as pick-ups, you get even more money by shooting at the other players and quickly collecting the coins that bounce off them.
There are eight characters to choose from and each has an incredible back-story and movie. The movies are so clever and well animated that I was surprised they were all available immediately. They would have been better used as rewards for winning as a certain character. As it stands, there is nothing hidden or available to be unlocked, but this doesn't detract from the overall gameplay.
There are several multiplayer game modes in addition to the solo ladder including:
TEAM NO ESCAPE - Collect as much money as possible on your team, by picking it up in the level or shooting people on the opposite team.
KNOCKOUT - This is a teen-friendly term for Deathmatch. The objective for each player is to shoot and knock out other players as many times as possible. The player with most kills (knockouts) will be in 1st place and win.
TEAM KNOCKOUT - Same as Knockout mode but is now team based. The team with most knockouts will be in 1st place and win.
COUNTDOWN - All characters get a backpack with a timer on it, which is in fact a time-set bomb. The timer counts down from 30 seconds, and when it reaches zero the character gets knocked out. The player can gain time by shooting the other players. (They also lose time by being shot).
TEAM CAPTURE THE FLAG - Find the other players' flag, and return it to your base while guarding your flag against the other team. If a player gets knocked out while carrying a flag, the flag is automatically returned to the base.
There are many weapons to choose from and each has a unique targeting crosshair and firing style. Picking the right weapons at the right time can make the difference between collecting a few coins or big wads of cash.
The opening movie is only a hint of things to come as you watch the white stretch hover-limo leave the city and fly up to the orbiting space station, which is home to the arenas you will be fighting in. Even during the menu screens there is a constant moving camera that pans around the arena showing the cheering crowds.
The graphical feel of this entire game is quite unique and actually very cool. The characters are simply charming and range from the Bond-like secret agent, to the ninja aerobics instructor, to the busty ass-kicking lady cop with a ponytail who bears a striking resemblance to Lara Croft. The movies that accompany each character are some of the highest quality I have ever seen and almost seem out of place in a comical title such as this.
The levels are cleverly designed and feature tons of colors and themes based on the various characters' lifestyles. The characters are pretty small but well animated, and the various weapons and pick-ups all have a distinct visual flair that makes it easy to know what you are picking up.
There are plenty of spectacular special effects and other visual treats like explosions, smoke, rocket trails, etc. that all add to the experience. Everything has a very colorful and comic book-feel to it making this one shooter the entire family can enjoy.
There isn't a lot of music or speech during the game but the soundtrack to each of the character movies and the opening movie is exceptionally well done. The in-game sound effects are cute and keep in theme with the comical nature of the visuals and the game play.
No Escape is a rather short game if you approach it as a linear experience. There are 18 levels and each one is played on a timer that you can set, but the fun of this game is going back and replaying these levels over and over trying to accumulate the most cash, getting high scores, and becoming competitive online.
It's no big secret that No Escape is a multiplayer game and targeted to the younger crowd. The game is incredibly short if you don't plan on playing online and there is no real reason to replay as the other characters as they have no unique abilities or special movies to unlock. It should also be noted that this game requires 1gb of your hard drive, which is not only alarming even in this day of the standard 30gb hard drive, but also rather surprising considering the lack of substance this game offers.
Playing No Escape online is what this game is all about. The unique and varied styles of game options give you plenty of variety when hosting or joining an Internet session.
Funcom has made hosting and joining games very easy. Players can register on their site and then they are ranked as they participate in online sessions. Their server will also store your nickname used for online chatting. If you are hosting a session of No Escape your IP address will be registered on the Funcom matchmaking server for the next one hour so other gamers can easily locate and join your game.
Apparently there were some initial problems with the multiplayer component of this title when it released late last year, but I had no problems whatsoever, so I can only assume these have all been fixed. I did notice a lack of available players when seeking out online competition. I had to try on three different nights before I ever found a game to join and when I tried hosting my own game on two different occasions no one ever joined in.
There are plenty of preset messages for individuals and teams and you can also customize these selections and assign them to the various function keys. No one I played with online had a Microsoft GameVoice, so I was unable to play test the game with voice chat.
Only a few games of this type ever achieve the following of Quake and Unreal Tournament, so I can only assume this game has peaked somewhere in the past six months and is now slowing down. This isn't to say it's not fun or a bad game. I found it very entertaining, both solo and online and it's a great arcade diversion when you have a few spare minutes. Just be warned that No Escape isn't for everybody and will have a very limited appeal.
No Escape features some great visuals and interesting multiplayer concepts, but there simply isn't enough substance to make this anything more than a budget title. Considering the recent release of Serious Sam, which had much more content and gameplay value for only $19, paying more for less just isn't a good idea. The game retails for $29 but you should be able to find it in bargain bins for about $19 by now. Even so, you may want to pass on this title unless you are specifically in the under-17 crowd this game is targeted at or simply want a mindless diversion.
If you are a veteran of Quake or any of the other more mature shooters then this game will be way too tame for you. If you are a parent who wants a harmless game for your teenager then this is a great game that will start to get their reflexes in shape for when they are old enough to play with the big boys and girls.