If anyone missed my interview with Michael Fahrny, Producer on Killspace Entertainment’s refreshing take on Atari’s Yar’s Revenge, you can read it here but to summarize it for you, Yar’s Revenge looked set to breathe new life into the original Atari classic by delivering a total re-imagining heavily inspired japanese anime. Sporting beautifully stylized cut scenes and graphics, Yar’s Revenge had the potential to become one of the sleeper hits of the year, and this potential really excited me.
But now that the game is out, the dust as settled and I’ve had a chance to sit down and spend some quality time with Yar, I’m left feeling a little bemused by the overall impression the game has given me.
It’s hard to fault the creative vision and flair that has gone into recreating Yar’s Revenge; the original game had no real story, dialogue, characters or well… anything really, so the new team didn’t have much to work with. The way in which Killspace have put their own anime-inspired, almost cyberpunk, twist on proceedings is perhaps the game’s biggest achievement. The in game cell shaded visuals are stunningly rendered with vivid colours, creating perhaps one of the most unique looking games on the Xbox Live Marketplace (soon to be released on PSN and P.C too!).
Nothing encapsulates this more than the game’s STUNNING cut scenes, which have been injected with more than a little bit of anime influence. It may portray me as someone who is a bit narrow minded, but the sight of actual anime in a game is something of a refreshing change - after all you rarely see it in games based on anime series themselves, let alone one that isn’t. The cut scenes are atmospheric, breathtaking and really reinforce the incredible work that has gone in to making the visual look of the game unique, truly bringing to life the game’s overall concept.
For me, the game suffers from one problem: there’s just not enough.
Whether it’s to do with budget restrictions, or deadlines (who knows?), the overall concept of this brand new re-imagining feels too big for the game Killspace Entertainment has actually produced. There is a tremendous amount of scope and potential there, but unfortunately it’s never really realised.
A lot of the blame falls firmly at the feet of the game’s overall story. The tale of Yar’s Revenge is simple, yet allows for some interesting developments, however it is never given the time nor the full support from other aspects and features from the game, to actual deliver a story that engages you in some way. The problem is that whilst the game’s cutscenes provide a great platform in order to tell a story, there’s just not enough of them.
Instead the game chooses a more in-game approach to its storytelling which just doesn’t quite work. The absence of voice acting is key, and the only blemish in terms of the game’s sound, which is a shame as the overall soundtrack is atmospheric and techno infused: the perfect accompaniment to a futuristic, rail shooter.
Rather than have you listen to the dialogue play out in front of you as you’re dodging, shooting and weaving around the screen, the game requires you to read the dialogue instead, which is hidden away in the corner of the screen. The whole thing doesn’t seem to work as you often spend your time concentrating on staying alive, completely missing the game’s dialogue and plot points. This is a fundamental problem that hinders the overall experience, and is not the most engaging way to tell a story. Perhaps the inclusion of voice acting would’ve helped highlight the terrible dialogue that also goes some way to hamper the game’s story. Entirely written in the 3rd person, it adds confusion to a story you don’t have much interest in to start with.
For all it’s faults, Yar’s Revenge is actually a fairly competent rail shooter, nothing ground breaking, yet nothing game breaking either. It’s campaign is short (6 stages long), but there are boss fights a plenty, a variety of challenge modes (which is not entirely dissimilar to games like Geometry Wars, except minus leaderboard support, a big thumbs down), and a co-op mode which quite frankly baffles me due to the fact that it actually makes the game harder. Although actually, calling it a co-op “mode” is a bit of a stretch, it’s essentially just the singleplayer campaign with the ability for your co-op partner to drop in at the start of every mission.
In co-op the screen simply turns into a mess of colour with two Yar’s flying about on screen, which is incredibly confusing as they both look very alike. Other issues include the fact that it is very hard to see what you are doing when there are reticles flying everywhere, enemies popping up all over the place, and gunfire is blasting off everywhere. It may sound exciting, but for a rail shooter it’s an absolute nightmare. There’s far too much going on the screen all at the same time meaning that you often lose track of your Yar and start taking “cheap” damage, or you lose your reticle resulting in you missing enemies, lowering your score multiplier and again, taking “cheap” damage. There just seems to be no benefit to actually playing co-op, there’s no difference between it and singleplayer, besides the additional player, and therefore it really doesn’t add much to the mix.
It’s a real shame because the ideas and the concept are there and it shows real potential. Had this perhaps had a bit more time, money, and polish injected into it, something special could’ve been produced, but unfortunately all that’s there is a fairly mindless, yet competent rail shooter that has a beautiful graphical style. The game’s overall concept feels bigger than what has been produced.
Graphics 4/5 – Not as graphically impressive as a AAA title, but still boasts some beautiful stylized graphics and some stunning cutscenes. Overall the graphics are the game’s biggest strength.
Sound 3/5 – The game’s soundtrack techno inspired feel compliments the look and the feel of the game, but the lack of voice acting is a huge blow.
Gameplay 3/5 – Yar’s Revenge plays like your standard rail shooter. It doesn’t sport any new innovations but isn’t a bad game either.
Longevity 2/5 – The game’s campaign is fairly short and it’s other modes won’t keep you hooked, needless to say you won’t be coming back time and time again.
Overall: 3 Zorlon Cannon shots out of 5
It’s concept and scope has an incredible amount of potential, but it has not really come to fruition. Visually Yar’s Revenge is unique, and it plays like your average rail shooter, but its failings in terms of storytelling are really its biggest downfall.