Reviewed: July 5, 2002
I’ll admit I’m a sucker for a good lightgun game. I’m the person who goes to GameWorks or Dave-n-Busters and sticks my game card into Virtua Cop, Time Crisis, Area 51 or any of the other great gun games available and shoots my entire wad, so to speak.
When it comes to lightgun games for home consoles my options have been limited. I tend not to get the games that I have already worn out at the arcade so that has pretty much left me with the two Die Hard Trilogy games for the original PlayStation. Now Empire Interactive brings a new lightgun game to the PS2.
Endgame is my first gun game for my next-gen console, yet I find it hardly a next-gen game. While it borrows heavily from previous gun games; mainly Time Crisis, that style of game is already past its prime, and I was hoping for something a bit more innovative; especially from Cunning Developments, the people who made TimeShock! Pro Pinball, the best PC pinball game of all-time.
Originality aside, Endgame does bring some challenging, albeit frustrating gameplay to the table along with a respectable story; something most gun games leave at the door. But even this moderately intriguing story is quickly lost in some repetitive gameplay and overall poor design.
Endgame offers these features:
Endgame is a multi-node shooting gallery that takes place across five massive levels (or counties). If you have played Time Crisis then you have played this game already. The game is on rails taking you from one vantage point to the next where you have 40-50 seconds to kill a preset number of bad guys. At each point you can duck and reload then pop-up and fire a few round then duck, fire, repeat.
The clock is relentless and I’m proud (and frustrated) to say that after 8 hours of playing this game it is the only thing that has killed me. The faster you shoot each wave of enemies the better, as the time saved is added to the next node. Ultimately you will learn when and where each bad guy will appear and can be ready to shoot them, but this is going to take more repetitive practice than most gamers will have the patience for.
Every few levels a boss character will appear but these are only moderately harder to defeat than regular guys. They all have fire patterns that are easily learned, so it’s just a matter of shooting them when they are NOT shooting at you. Hopefully you can kill them before the counter hits zero.
Frustration is sure to set in when Endgame forces you to replay the entire game regardless of your progress if you ever run out of time or die. Arcade games use the “insert more coins to keep playing” mentality, but when you are playing for “free” I guess the designers have to pro-long the game experience since they already got your money upfront. Even so, I don't mind spending $20-30 in tokens to actually finish an arcade gun game, so why should I be penalized for buying the game outright.
Of course the biggest feature of any lightgun game is the gun. My review copy of Endgame came with the Cybergun Desert Eagle .50AE, which in and of itself is an amazing piece of equipment. It is fully Guncon 1 and 2 compatible and features a blow back feature that can be toggled on or off. It also has buttons all over the place including an A button located on the front of the grip, which is very convenient for this game in particular.
This was the only gun I had to test Endgame with, so I cannot comment on how other guns will work or how accurate they are. I did have some problems getting the gun to work in GunCon 2 mode until I accidentally plugged the USB part of the cable into the secondary slot. The gun also requires the use of an inline video plug, which meant I had to unhook my S-video setup and go find my original cables in the box I hadn’t opened for almost two years. While this was more than mildly annoying, the use of this cable made the Cybergun one of the most accurate lightguns I have ever used on any system.
Once the gun was working I was able to calibrate it using the target practice option. I was also able to select the button used for ducking and determine if I ducked while holding or releasing that button. Overall, this game plays identical to Time Crisis minus the foot pedal.
In addition to the main story-based game there is also a mini-game called Mighty Joe Jupiter based on a game that Jade plays within the game. You can even see her lightgun lying on the floor during the first shootout. Mighty Joe Jupiter is actually a series of mini-games that resembles a comic book version of Area 51.
The entire game plays out like one giant cutscene, so there is very little visual difference between the movies and the gameplay. Despite the use of the Renderware platform I found the graphics rather primitive considering we are on our second generation of PS2 games. While there is considerable environmental detail, the overall style of the game is surprising simplistic.
There are some nice lighting effects and creative uses of motion-blur and particle effects, but the most impressive graphical feature has to be the level of interactivity (or destructibility) of the environments. If you can shoot at it you will either break it or leave a bullet hole.
The animation is top-notch with motion-captured action for our hero and everyone she shoots. You will see realistic hit-sensitive animation as baddies clutch their leg or arm or wherever you happen to shoot them. This leads to one small problem where death animations can prevent or delay you from hitting another target behind the dying individual.
The pre-rendered cutscenes are not all that detailed and the textures are flat and simple. Some of the models are boxy and the characters are rather cartoonish. The entire game looks more suited to the Dreamcast than the PS2.
This unique visual style translates very well in Mighty Joe Jupiter giving these mini-games an almost overall better visual style than the main game. The aliens are creative, fun, and downright humorous in their quirky animations. Gameplay is the same as the main game with you moving from node to node, ducking and firing.
I have no complaints with the sound in this game. The speech, music, and sound effects were all excellent. The gunfire noise was powerful, both my gun and the hundreds being shot at me. The bosses with chainguns and shotguns almost forced me to reach for the volume control.
The speech was all performed very well by both the leads and the supporting cast, but my favorite has to be the hilarious over-the-top narrator for the Mighty Joe Jupiter game. He reminded me of the voice for Powdered Toast Man from the Ren and Stimpy Show.
Even the subtlest details like shattering glass, sparking computers, and beeping grenade timers all sounded crystal clear, even over the thumping musical score. While the game doesn’t support any standard surround conventions, it does make good use of positional audio to let you know the location of approaching enemies. Considering your field of aim is usually restricted to 45 degrees the spatial effects don’t help as much as they would in a 360-degree shooter.
While most lightgun games can be finished in a couple of hours, you are likely to spend days with this one partly because it is so long (about twice the length of any other gun game), and partly because it is so bleeding hard and unforgiving. You might make it to chapter 4 only to run out of time then it’s back to the beginning with you.
The mini-games will provide almost as much gameplay value as the main game, and there is a two-player mode that lets you team up with a friend for some cooperative, yet competitive gameplay.
You can also unlock the individual levels of the main game by completing them in the story mode. You can then pick and play these levels outside of the main story. This is a great way to practice the earlier levels, so you can increase your accuracy and time before trying to finish the story.
There might not be a lot of variation in gameplay, but there are plenty of exciting locations; more than 20 environments, each with dozens of nodes spanning five countries. So even when the game gets repetitive it won’t get boring.
Endgame is one of those games you are either going to love or hate. It offers substantially more gameplay than any other gun game available and the story is moderately intriguing the first time through. My biggest complaint overall is the design that forces you to replay the entire game no matter how far you get. A checkpoint after each level would have been most welcome and probably earned this title higher marks in gameplay.
This is a tough game to recommend unless you already have a lightgun. In that case, Endgame would offer some challenging gameplay, although I would still have to recommend waiting for it to go on sale or hit budget pricing. This would be a great pack-in title for an existing lightgun or at least a cross-promotional product with a rebate or coupon or something. It’s a decent game but not for $50 and especially not if you have to drop another $20-30 for a gun to play it as intended.