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25 To Life
Score: 45%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: Ritual Entertainment
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 (1 - 16 LAN / Online)
Genre: Third Person Shooter/ Online/ Shooter

Graphics & Sound:
In what could quite possibly be the most anti-dramatic start to a game (via cut scene) that I have ever played, the graphics of Eidosí PS2 game, 25 To Life, reminded me A LOT of Tomb Raider when it first came out. And while Lara Croft was a digital hottie at the time, seeing the same visual quality on PS2 as we did back on the original PlayStation just doesnít impress me in any way at all. Not only were the characters very low poly, they had stray vertices that didnít move when they talked (sticking out near their mouths), and the texture quality was very reminiscent of the early days of 3D games.

As far as the audio goes, the digital acting should have had a re-take. Cut scenes just donít draw me in the way some other titles do, and that takes you out of the game (which, in the case of 25 To Life, may not be an entirely bad thing). The actual gunfire and other sound effects are the only thing that really keep you in the game, in fact. But while the cut scenes are bad, the voice-overs that are in-game are even worse. The contrived use of the F-Bomb and other curses got old very, very fast.

The premise of 25 To Life had me intrigued. In fact, I was excited after reading the box and parts of the instruction manual. The fact is that youíll take on the role of three characters. The first is a gang member who no longer wants in on the action. As you try to get out of the gang, youíll encounter cops and gang members alike, just waiting to off you. The second is that of a police officer, trying to uphold the law. And the third is a gang leader, and the firstís best friend.

But as soon as the first bad cut scene was displayed on my PSOne ... errrr ... PS2, I realized that I was in for some disappointment. "Okay," I thought. "Just because a cut scene isnít the best in the world, the gameplay could still make this game worth recommending." Well, unlike many politicians out there, I am here to admit when Iím wrong. But, while I never side with the political types who are anti-video games, I have to say that I wish they had stopped this horrible game from hitting the streets, and inevitably, consumersí hands. It is nothing but a force-fed portion of bad language (including the VERY Mature-rated soundtrack) and cop-killing, with no real substantial gameplay support.

So, once the gameplay starts, youíll see first-hand how bad this game can be. First and foremost, any game developer who doesnít realize that a bullet to the head will kill all but about 0.001% of men needs to get a reality check. Okay, so even if it takes two shots, simply because your aim maybe wasnít the greatest... I could accept that once in a while. But when you cannot dispatch an enemy EVER with a single shot to the head, itís time to tweak the collision detection or the statistical information in the game engine. This is arguably the most frustrating aspect of the game, because even at point blank range from behind, you cannot kill people realistically in what is supposed to be a semi-realistic simulation of the street life of gang-bangers. (NOTE: I once counted six shots to what appeared to be the head of a stationary cop.) Oh, did I mention that the enemy A.I. has just the opposite ability? Thatís right, while youíre popping cap after cap into their bionic bodies, theyíll be returning fire with pinpoint accuracy, all without a flinch.

Hostage, what? While youíre playing the side of the gang members, you can actually sneak up behind civilians and hold them hostage. But just because that would give you a fighting chance in the real world to escape a situation, in 25 To Life, even the police show no mercy. They will typically hold their fire for a while, and then apparently decide that innocent human life is meaningless, as they drop lead into you, killing your hostage too. Americaís finest, my ass.

The basic point is that the gameplay of 25 To Life just doesnít do it for me. Thank goodness you can create a gang online (or play over a LAN)... up to 16 players... or so the manual says. In my attempts to shoot it out online, my experience was a bust. It took many attempts and a lot of patience to finally be able to fire my first virtual bullet via the Internet because the Quick Match feature really didnít work, or there werenít enough people online. You need to sit and wait for a host of players, and that can just take a very long time in general. Once online, the level layout was basic at best. Regardless, it was a disappointing experience all around.

As mentioned earlier, the A.I. is what makes 25 To Life difficult. Itís not that the A.I. is programmed to make the gameplay difficult, by any means. Itís just that the A.I. is programmed to be "cheap" during combat situations. Things like extremely accurate shots, even when you are fully behind objects and the enemy is around the corner or the enemy knowing where you are, even before you get there, make this a difficult thing to truly rate. The good news is that you, too, have radar. So on one hand youíre being cheated on, and at the same time you can use the radar to basically see around corners or through walls.

Game Mechanics:
Mechanically, I have mixed feelings about the controller layout. It actually is set up pretty well, yet for some reason it took me a while to get used to switching weapons, due to the fact that you use two different buttons for the different types of guns. Once over that hump, it wasnít bad at all. Aiming also proved to be a bit difficult, but there is also a sensitivity slider to adjust how fast you look around.

25 To Life seems to be the clichť game that hinges on getting people to spend money on it simply because of the "raw" content it contains. The gameplay just wasnít put together well, and the entire game suffers because of it. The most frustrating thing about 25 To Life is absolutely and without a doubt the multiple rounds to the head that it takes to kill people off, even at point blank range. Had this been fixed, along with an improvement in the graphics, 25 To Life would have been much more bearable. As is, rent if you must, but I suggest you get away from gang-bangers and see the wholesome side of life by taking your mom to the movies with the money you just saved.

-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

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