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Divide
Score: 69%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Exploding Tuba Studios
Developer: Exploding Tuba Studios
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Adventure/ Shooter

Graphics & Sound:
Divide takes the isometric view to a new level with both detailed and complex areas, while also modifying the classic twin-shooter control mechanic to make a game that promises a lot. Unfortunately, there are a few elements that damage the feel and overall fun of the game.

Divide's levels are the centerpiece to the game. As you work your way through the dark corridors of the Vestige Corporation, you will find halls with many junctures and stairs, each leading to more and more passageways and many filled with one form of patrolling enemy or another. Filling pretty much every nook and cranny of the building are various computers ranging from terminals, vending machines, and news outlets, all of which are at your hacking disposal. Unfortunately, it doesn't take long for those dark interiors to get to feeling repetitive, even though the different parts of the building have vastly different layouts.

Occasionally, you will find yourself outside of the dimly-lit building and face the bright, outside, futuristic world, and those moments balance out the seemingly endless, bleak feeling that is prominent within Vestige Corporation, but those aren't all too frequent and you never spend much time there before heading back inside.

Layered on top of the world is an augmented reality (AR) view that lets you not only note the passageways, but interface with the equipment, display futuristic signage, and attempt to give you an idea of the proper way to go. While this is a nice effect, the fact that you have to hold down one of the Thumbsticks to bring up this display is just part of what is ultimately a clumsy-feeling control scheme that is one of the major pitfalls of Divide.

Divide's sound department is a mixed bag. Where the voice acting is stiff and has a phoned-in feel to it, the background music tends to set the mood really well. Typically, that music consists of low tones with some techno-like sounds that feel appropriate given the empty, futuristic, and lonely feel of the massive station that you are exploring, but there are occasional spikes in the music during key events in the story. While these events do bring a bit of energy to the game, they are few and far between and you will primarily find yourself scouring the tech-riddled halls of Vestige Corporation with the quieter music coming out of your speakers.


Gameplay:
Divide has you play as David, a widower that receives a strange package belonging to his recently-deceased wife. When he opens it, he finds advanced tech that teleports him to a strange location apparently in the future. Since David's daughter was in the room with him when he activated the device, he assumes she is somewhere in the futuristic building as well. So David is off to find his daughter and, along the way, he will start to learn things about his wife, the company she worked for, her former lab partner, as well as the world he has woken up to.

Besides its setup being a trope, Divide's story is one of its better aspects; unfortunately, these tidbits are slowly metered out and only come as the result of lengthy and redundant gameplay while exploring an area to earn enough Hash Points (a currency you gain from hacking equipment) in order to access some big piece of equipment or unlock some section of the building. Early in the game you meet Eris, a hacker who was sent into Vestige Corporation for some goal. At the promise of helping David find his daughter, she guides him through the corridors to help advance her mission. The reason she needs you is because of that fancy tech you received early in the game. Not only did you get teleported to this building, but you also put on a pair of contact lenses that let you see the information-riddled augmented reality that gleams from every wall in Vestige. With those lenses and the hacking ability they grant David, you become Eris' primary means to actually do anything.

Unfortunately, she is really bad at telling you what she wants you to do or how to go about it. Your current mission is often some half-muttered comment about getting through some door or turning on some device, but even if you caught what you were supposed to do, you will find yourself hard pressed to actually find what you are looking for, or if you do have a general idea of where to go, you could easily get yourself turned around and exploring the wrong areas. When you find and unlock a map for the area, you will see a mark on that map of your current mission's location, but it isn't a detailed map by any means and even if you find yourself in the right room, it could take a bit of flipping between the game and the map to determine if you are at the right spot or not.

Which leads me to another issue Divide seems to have. Since the levels are detailed, those details can often lead to navigation issues. Problems like getting stuck on some random box that you can't really see or navigating around oddly-shaped corners while avoiding getting shot happens all the time in this game. Couple that with the frequent number of stairways leading to other levels that are completely hidden by columns or walkways until you stumble upon them, and navigating the world can quickly become a painful process. Seriously, I don't know how many times I explored an area trying to figure out where I needed to go, only to end up on a set of stairs that weren't visible because some part of the level completely obscured my view of it. While the isometric perspective gives the game a certain look and feel, the complexity of the levels that have been designed end up hurting the experience too many times not to bring it up.


Difficulty:
There is nothing about Divide that should be difficult. As you wander around the building, you will slowly upgrade your weapons and gain some better armor, making you more useful in fights, which is good since the more areas you open and the deeper you explore, the more enemies you will have to face. However, your weapon feels very clunky and it takes a long time for it to be of any real use.

When you first start the game, David has a fairly useful weapon at his disposal and this prologue portion of Divide lasts just long enough for you to get used to the awkward control scheme (more on that in the next section). After the prologue though, the story shifts to several hours earlier and David will find himself armed with a much less powerful version of the same gun. It has only two shots and a rather lengthy cool-down time. While you slowly build this back up to the state it was during the prologue, you can't help but feel how ineffective it is in a fight. Personally, I found that most of my shots missed their mark and I had to do some quick dashing around obstacles to keep from getting shot myself. Like I said, eventually you upgrade your equipment to something more reliable, but it is a slow and hard trek.

Where most of the game's difficulty comes in, though, is when you have to deal with its various faults. Between the aimless searching for whatever your goal is, having to navigate around the detailed level that will block your progress, and not being able to find critical junctions because of the level's effectiveness and hiding its view of those paths, many aspects of Divide that shouldn't make the game hard do up the difficulty quite a bit. And then there's the controls...


Game Mechanics:
Divide boasts itself as a twin-stick shooter and, while the core mechanics fit the bill, exactly how this game manages that control scheme along with the various other aspects it wants the player to manage make it a game that often left my fingers fumbling and occasionally feeling cramped after an hour or so of gameplay.

In the standard twin-stick style, one Thumbstick controls your movement while the other dictates where your gun is pointing, but here, you have to hold down the (L2) button in order to actually have your gun at the ready. Without your gun up, you aren't really aiming your weapon, but you are aiming what David is looking at. While glancing around the room, you can interact with nearby objects and use the (R2) button. It's only when you have the (L2) button pressed, that the (R2) button becomes your weapon's trigger. If it sounds confusing, trust me, it is and it takes quite a bit of time to get your fingers used to the unusual setup.

It's also worth noting that most twin-stick shooters use the fact that you are using your aiming-stick to point at something as the key to fire your weapon as well. Since your weapon in Divide isn't exactly the best gun out there and only has a few shots before its lengthy cool-down timer kicks in, the fact that Divide doesn't follow this formula is a blessing, but it feels like the addition of using the (L2) and (R2) buttons to actually fire your weapon makes the game feel more complex than it really should.

While Divide's story has some interesting aspects to it, the hard-to-manage control scheme, coupled with the repetitive gameplay, general aimless feeling when looking for your next goal, and issues that result directly from the isometric view make this a really hard game to recommend to anyone.


-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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