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Boiling Point: Road to Hell
(hx) 09:51 AM EDT - Jun,26 2005

Developed by Deep Shadows, Boiling Point (previously known as Xenus) is an action role-playing game set in the middle of a politically volatile South American country. In the country where there are many forces that fight for the power. The game plays like a first-person shooter but includes many adventure and role-playing game elements in a huge world that's more than 600 square kilometers in size (25x25km). You'll play as Saul Meyers, a grizzled military veteran whose daughter, an investigative reporter, has been kidnapped by a crime cartel in the fictitious country of Realia. You must rescue your daughter and stay alive. The scenery that looks banal to begin with - increasingly is mixed with and finally becomes semi-mystic.

You'll begin in the fictitious city of Puerto Sombra, where you'll travel the streets on foot from a first-person perspective and meet with representatives from the six primary factions - local mafia, the government, the guerillas, the bandits, the Indians, and the American CIA. The mafia generally uses money to solve their problems, and will call on either the guerrillas or the officials for support - deserting loyalty to the other and creating conflict in the progress. The government - they control the cities and patrol the streets. Therefore, bad relations with the government may not be a good idea as many advantages can be gained. Guerrillas represent the second strongest force after the officials. They consist of both inexperienced but passionate fighters and war veterans, who've carried their cause for many years deep in the Columbian jungle. They control approximately 50% of the territory! Bandits generally reside in towns and other settlements, preferring urban locations to the natural dangers of the jungle. If your relations are bad with these bandits you'd be wise to postpone that refreshing drink you were planning to have after your long day in the jungle - it may be your last! There are many Indian villages to be found in the game and their inhabitants very much live in fear. They are the most unprotected group and frequently taken advantage of. For this reason it is very likely that they will ask you for help in protecting them from the other groups and even from government forces. And finally, there's CIA - a secretive, well-trained organization carrying out their operations, for the most part without the suspicions of the people. The advantages of cooperating with the CIA are that you will receive great financial support, access to new equipment and information. There's also a neutral faction of civilians, who won't give you any missions but may pull out weapons and fight back if you attack them indiscriminately. When you help one of the sides, you inevitably spoil your relations with others - you have to decide for yourself whether you should take somebody's part or you should remain neutral.

In the world of Boiling Point, everything costs money. The main way to earn money is to take and accomplish missions from one of six country counter forces. The tasks will be different for each of them. For instance, if you cooperate with government, you maybe be given a task to kill exactly the man the guerrillas ordered you to protect. Moreover, the range of tasks is different - saving hostages, protecting bases, raids to the enemy's territories with different goals, and many other things. For any of accomplished missions you will receive amount money. If you're not up for paying for something, there's always the option of stealing by beating people to death and taking all their items.

As I mentioned, the entire game takes place at the huge united territory which is 25x25 km. The map will include many different locations - Indian settlements, towns, military bases of two sides, villas and many more, layered by marvelous jungle tracts. Needless to say it would be really difficult to travel by foot with weight on your back. Fortunately, you can control a magnitude of vehicles including cars, buses, jeeps, trucks, humvees, boats and helicopters. It is intuitive and reminds me of the controls in GTA 3, although the way the cars move on the road looks pretty dated. Another difference is that the vehicles can be repaired and require fuel. You can either steal vehicles or purchase them with money you earn from running errands. Of course, it's no good stealing a vehicle only to discover that it doesn't even have enough fuel to leave the road :P You can also take a Taxi. It will cost a few pesos, but they can always be earned back by running a few errands.

What about the RPG elements? There are role-playing game-style stats, which improve through experience. There are about 20 parameters that affect the gameplay - your moving speed (i.e. fatigue, physical strength, alcohol/drug addiction), shooting accuracy, time of weapon reloading will depends from your stats. You can carry several weapons, but in keeping with the game's role-playing elements, your inventory will be limited by your weight capacity. There are also a very large number of items you can pick up and add to your inventory from fruit and vegetables for consumption when hungry to revolvers and sub machine guns for laying enemies to rest. There are various types of weapons to be found in the game (Knife, Shotgun, Uzi, AK-47, AK-74, M-16, Famas, IMBEL, M-60, Frag Grenade, etc) and you can either filch them off dead bodies, or buy them from the various gun shops that litter the game. Also, you'll have the possibility to upgrade your weapons during the game. You can pay to craftsman, or you can develop your ability by yourself.

You can also visit a bar, have a drink and get completely smashed. The result of this is both the inability to walk in a straight line and the appearance of a multicolor effect onscreen. Get drunk too much, and you become an alcoholic, but this "feature" doesn't really add anything to the experience :) You can buy medicine or adrenaline drugs to heal yourself if you get injured. Similarly, you can become addicted to combat drugs or medical syringes.

In terms of combat, the game plays out like a standard first-person shooter, although the action isn't much polished/fast-paced. When you die, you wake up in a hospital and you have to pay to be healed. If you have not enough money, the doctors will take things in your inventory. And if you have nothing, they don't heal you at all! Fortunately, you can always load/save game anytime.

It's pretty clear that there are undoubtedly a lot of things you can do in the game. Unfortunately, the sheer number of bugs in the game is quite frankly uncountable. I'm quite sure that the game was nowhere near finished at the time of its commercial release. The game is poorly optimized to such a degree that the two necessary requirements for stutter-free gameplay seem to be a top-of-the-line PC and a decent amount of luck If you are used playing latest tittles in highest details (my rig : AMD64 3500 1GB dual DDR400, GF6800GT, Audigy2), well, this game will make your system run like an old PC :) Yeah, this game is a absolute resource hog! I've heard the game runs smoothly with 2GB RAM, but I don't plan to buy more RAM right now!! Besides there's no escaping the fact that the majority of gamers will have specs closer to my system or slower, and the poor performance has been reflected on the overall score.

Despite all the criticisms, Boiling Point is hard to put down. It's a great game, but it needs some serious patching before a lot of people will consider parting with their money. If this game was released on a console in this state, it wouldn't be tolerated. If you're considering this title do yourself a favor and wait until it hits the bargain bin.

related links: US patch v1.1, EU patch v1.1, trainer +8, (fansite)

System requirements: Pentium 4 2 GHz or AMD Athlon 2 GHz (Pentium 4 3 GHz or AMD Athlon XP 3000+ or higher recommended), 512 MB RAM (1 GB recommended), 128 MB Hardware T&L-compatible video card (256 MB recommended), DirectX version 9.0c-compatible sound card, 6x DVD-ROM, 4GB free HDD space.

snd: 3/5 - mediocre, NPC's don't voice their lines, many various bugs
gfx: 3/5 - mediocre, huge map (25-by-25 kilometers), beautiful terrain (with all details turned high), clipping issues, many various bugs
playability: 4/5 - FPS/RPG hybrid, great atmosphere, very easy to get into, great replayability, absolute resource hog (1GB RAM is minimum), no multiplayer, zillion of bugs!!!
genre: action / role-playing
platform: PC-DVD
release: May 2005
developer: Deep Shadows
publisher: Atari
Overall: 70%

last 10 comments:

v1m(01:32 AM EDT - Jun,27 2005 )
Nice review, hx. How disappointing that such an innovative game was released in this sorry condition. Best thing gamers (and reviewers) can do is punish publishers who rush out unfinished games. Let them fix it first--and then buy it in the bargain bin.

uk_john2005(12:14 PM EDT - Aug,29 2005 )
With the 2.0 patch applied this game is a totally different beast! I have played it for around 15 hours with the patch and am running it fine on my 2ghz 512mb fx5200 system at 1024x768 32bit.

There are so few freeform games that are not fantasy/d&d (the last being Deus Ex, 4+ years ago?) that to dismiss it with "buy it in the bargain bin - serves them right!" is a bit flippant. To say that about a typical corridor FPS or so called 3D RTS is one thing. 20 of those games are released every month it seems.

These freeform games are very difficult to design. Morrowind had 5 years and still needed lots of patches after release (and if you include the "mod fixes", well...)

If you dismiss freeform rpg games like this, that are released once every couple years, if your lucky, you are playing a very dangerous game! (no pun intended). It wouldn't take much for games like this to never be released!

With the 2.0 patch this is a 90% game, in my opinion. Go look at the reviews and think "what if those negatives have gone?", now realise that's what Boiling Point is with the 2.0 patch installed.

I have no connection with Atari or Deep Shadows. I just like these type of games. I realise they will not be released very often, and think this game has been hard done by. Give it a chance. I am glad I did.

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