Reviewed: March 25, 2003
Released: April 1, 2003
Just when you thought that every possible game concept had been explored along comes Freeform Interactive to combine two of our favorite genres into a game that is destined to pave the way for more hybrid titles in the upcoming months and years.
Purge is the latest brainchild to come from the save developer that brought us the FvF (Future vs. Fantasy) Quake mod back in the late 90ís. For those of you that donít remember or werenít playing FPS games back then, FvF was one of the first team-based Quake mods that featured character classes and was probably the inspiration for the Team Fortress spin-off that quickly overshadowed the FvF mod, thanks to the success and name recognition of Valve.
Freeform is back at it again and this time they are using the original LithTech engine to build on their original mod and release a standalone title that will certainly pique the curiosity of online gamers everywhere. Combining a traditional FPS atmosphere with non-traditional FPS gameplay laced with RPG elements, Purge is unique if nothing else.
Purge arrives with 32 boilerplate subclasses with the option for gamers to create their own classes and customizable characters by mixing and matching from 8 classes, 24 skills, and 32 diverse weapons. Once you enter the world of Purge you can take part in massive multiplayer battles with up to 64 players at a time. Complete objectives and kill your opponents to earn experience and improve your characters.
Purge is an online only game, so those who shy away from competing over the net can stop reading now and resume your game of solitaire already in progress. The team-based nature Purge revolves around defending your base while attempting to destroy your enemiesí. You can play as either a member of the Order (a technology based class) or as the Chosen (a race of mages and warrior). Those of you who have played the FvF mod will instantly see the similarities.
Purge immediately branches from normal FPS gameplay with the inclusion of a stats system and experience points that are awarded not only for player-kills but for contributing to the overall welfare of the team by healing your comrades or using any of your custom skills and abilities. Use your experience to boost stats like strength, dexterity, intelligence, etc. then further develop you character by exploring the subclasses and their unique skills.
The RPG aspects of Purge work very well almost to the point of overshadowing the FPG component. You will find yourself getting quite involved with your character as you start tweaking his or her stats and developing their special abilities. With so many character possibilities you will need to carefully analyze the abilities of everyone on your team and cooperate as a group to achieve success. Some characters are more suited to frontline battles while others need to hang back and defend the base. You may want to designate a character to the position of sniper or another as a dedicated medic who runs around healing everyone. The possibilities are truly endless.
Purge comes with a good selection of creative indoor and outdoor maps that are quite massive Ė they have to be to support 64 players and not turn the game into a frag-fest. Unlike many MOOFPS games, the levels arenít always symmetrical in design and they feature unique designs with giant trees or fossils, or futuristic indoor environments. There are a few areas on many of the levels that can be exploited by creative gamers, but these wonít remain a secret for long and once everyone knows about them they lose their value.
Of course the big question with Purge or any other online game is balance and there are a few issues with characters and teams that can quickly rise through the ranks and overpower their competitors. While the Chosen and the Order each have their preferred levels in which they excel I was impressed that with 32 weapons, none of them seemed to overpower the rest. In fact, for every weapon that one team has, there is an equally powerful weapon for the other that cancels it out.
Unfortunately the original LithTech engine was extinct a long time ago and trying to build a game on it today is either a foolhardy or bold move. Iím guess the former as Purge simply doesnít look that great when you compare it to the rest of the FPS competition coming out these days. Theyíve managed to stick in some nice lighting and special effects but in the end I kept having flashbacks to playing Blood and Blood II.
Considering the scale of the levels and the fact that the game has to run reliably online with various connection speeds I can see the need to keep things simple, but the unsophisticated architecture and repetitive textures (VERY repetitive textures) often become a distraction to the gameplay.
I was surprised that Freeform could get some of the lighting and special effects that they did stuck into the aging LithTech engine. Some of the colors and special effects are excellent and the character textures are slightly better than those found in the environments. The actual character models and even the weapons arenít very sophisticated and leave much to be desired Ė again, probably due to online gaming issues. Purge is an average visual experience at best and one that certainly looks better in the still screenshots than in motion.
I was extremely unimpressed by the sound in Purge. The digitized voices are sampled at such a low quality it sounds like they were recorded using a CB radio or walkie-talkie. The music and sound effects are extremely simple and low budget. I was hoping for something at least half as creative as the graphics.
Purge is one of those games you are either going to love or hate and you can easily find out by downloading and playing the demo before you invest your $30. If you find you enjoy the game then Purge will offer you endless hours of online enjoyment. If you prefer your FPS or RPG games to have a plot and a linear campaign or mission structure then move alongÖnothing to see here.
Itís taken me several years to warm-up to the idea of online gaming and while I donít mind going online for the occasional game of Quake 3, Unreal Tournament, or Tribes 2, I also enjoy playing those games just as much by myself. Purge offers no offline modes, practice, or AI bots. You create your character and are thrust into a world of technology and fantasy that you explore with every other newbie who just joined the fight.
Purge definitely gets some brownie points for trying something new, even if they are using technology that is nearly extinct Ė at least it has very low system stats so just about anyone with a computer capable of running Windows and accessing the Internet can play this game. Since the concept is so new I highly recommend you try the demo before laying out your cash. Purge might not be the best online game on the shelf but it is certainly a good indicator of where online gaming may be headed and definitely worth al look.