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Score: 60%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Namco
Developer: Namco
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action

Graphics & Sound:
Introducing new mechanics to a genre is always a good thing. Building your entire game around it isn't. Sure you want to throw in as much as possible, but at the same time you want to balance it with something else. This is the Achille's Heel of kill.switch -- a good mechanic and nothing else.

kill.switch does a great job of establishing atmosphere. Backgrounds look good and set the tone for the level. This becomes even more impressive when you throw in an excellent lighting system, bullet tracers and map damage. Its neat to see all the different way the developers were able to work lighting effects into the game. As you storm bases you'll see flashing red lights highlighting everything in the area. When outdoors, both sun and lighting during a rain storm show up. Environments deform as the bullets fly, especially the areas you decide to take cover behind. What looks like a solid wall in the beginning of a fire fight isn't likely to look like one in the end. The character models show off some really nice details and animation.

For all the special effects and grandure, kill.switch has some noticeable problems that can't go overlooked. The texture work is subpar at best, even for a PS2 game (since the system is notorious for blurry, bland textures). The game also slows down when areas become too heavily populated. This puts a damper on the game's pacing. The biggest problem is the camera work -- which plays a big part in the game and can become a game killer at times. Depending on where you're taking cover, the camera will settle in on your character. Usually this isn't a problem, but there are times when you'll choose an area and the camera will get caught up on something, screwing up your aim and field of vision.

Sound is one of the more impressive aspects of kill.switch -- espeically if you have the benefit of a sound system hooked up to your PS2. Think about the best sound you've ever heard in a modern war movie, multiply it by ten and you're pretty close to how the game sounds. Hearing bullets wizz all around your head really pushes up the game's intensity level. Voice work is good, consisting mostly of chatter between characters. Much of the dialog is the macho bravado you'd expect to hear in a guy movie. kill.switch's soundtrack enhances the game's andrenaline inducing action. When the action is light (which is rare), a subtle theme plays. When things pick up, so does the soundtrack.

kill.switch is a one trick pony. The game's trademark offensive cover system is what makes up the entire game. The system -- which I'll get to in a minute -- is really, really cool. In a sense, kill.switch is the trigger-happy first cousin of Metal Gear. However, whereas Metal Gear encourages you to avoid combat, kill.switch encourages it. You can start by sniping off a few enemies while you're hidden, but once the bodies begin to pile up (or you're seen), the real game kicks in.

Each level has objects, usually walls or some other form of architecture, that you can hide behind and lean up against. This is the keystone for the entire offensive cover system -- so expect to see much of the game from behind a wall. The variety of cover spots lends a slight puzzle element to the game since the best cover area may not be the best place to attack from. It's up to you to choose which area is a balance of the two. In order to throw a little more pressure on the situation, you're constantly outnumbered and bullets are flying everywhere. Think quick or die. I enjoyed the thinking aspect of the game since it allowed for a little variety in play styles. Gung-ho players will go Rambo in the game and shoot everything without giving thought one to tactics. You can certainly play the game like this, but will usually end up dead. At the same time, stealthy players will try and sneak around and snipe off enemies. This works as well, but the amount of concentration you have to give this style could distract you from an enemy sneaking up on you.

Through the first few levels, this is a funny and inventive aspect. Then you get to the quarter point and realize that's all the game has to offer. Repetition is kill.switch's worst enemy. It's times like these that you have to ask how many times can you do the same thing? Not only does the replay value of the game suffer because of this, but you're likely to get bored with it the first time through.

Navigating through kill.switch is not an easy thing to do. The game is brutal thanks to a very impressive A.I. Enemies feel like thinking entities rather than mindless drones. They can use the same offensive cover system you use (which they manage to use better than you at times). They also aren't restricted to one or two movement patterns. This makes it very hard to find a kill becuase they aren't likely to do the same thing twice in a row. As you change your tactics, so will they. Things become even scarier when you realize that enemy troops are not only reacting to your actions, but that of thier team mates. This means you can't concentrate on just one person becuase there will usually be 2-3 more patiently waiting to take a shot. Enemy troops also have the benefit of gun placements, some of which feature a handy bullet-proof shield. Have fun dealing with that!

Game Mechanics:
What really helps to make the cover system work is the firing system. While hiding, you'll have two choices: you can pop-out and return fire or you can hold out your gun and 'blind fire' your weapon. While popping out from your cover will guarantee a better hit ratio, it's also not always the smartest option since it can also expose you to return fire. When blind firing your weapon, your character will hold out just his weapon and spray gunfire in the general direction of what you're shooting at. Best case scenario -- you'll hit a target, but more than likely it will just make things confusing for your opponent.

The controls system take some gettung used to, but works. The system is a hybrid of Metal Gear and an FPS. You use the analog sticks to control your aim and movement and shoot with R1. When using blindfire, you have little control over your aim, but if there's a large group of enemies, you're sure to hit something. In the area modes where you do get to aim, the controls are spot on and work.

kill.switch is a great concept but is sadly under developed, making it feel more like a prototype than a game. Throughout the game I never really encountered any particular moment that made me go 'Wow!'. It's just good fun for an hour or two at a time and a different take on the shooter genre. If there was a little more variety to the execution (some scripted scenarios, maybe some nightvision stuff or more advanced sniping) I think this game would have been among the top action games this year. A good rental for action/shooter fans.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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