PC CD (2)
October 28, 2003 (US) / September 2003 (UK)
M for Mature
Publisher: Take Two Interactive
Little known Polish studio Techland came up with this fun first-person shooter
. It borrows implants
limitations from Deus Ex
, vehicles and situation-specific weaponry
, and terrain
romping from Soldier of Fortune
and ends up being quite engaging, if a little rough around various edges.
You play the embarrassingly named and quite square-jawed
Bolt Logan, a mercenary framed
for nothing particularly interesting. In order to figure out why you were framed and what to do about it, you arbitrarily hook up with the shapely Carrie, a fellow mercenary. Her strong points are strategy and planning, while you're the brute force
sort of guy. This works out great, as you get to do all the fun stuff and she preps the area for you from above (usually in orbit), warning you of changing objectives or updating you on enemy forces (rather like Unreal II
). From here the plot picks up a bit as you flit from planet to planet, hunting down bad guys, earning cash and generally making a nuisance of yourself to anyone in your way. In the end you'll find out a bit about chrome itself (the resource that drives the galaxy), your former employers and the frame-up, and you'll get to make a choice about your future.
Chrome can be easily separated into two modes of play: the outdoors and the indoors. After you've optimized your loadout (Bolt can carry a fairly reasonable amount: a rifle
, few mag
s and grenade
s, a pistol and a few healthpak
s - sufficient without being ridiculous) you are dropped off on the planet's surface and informed of mission
details. Wait for your implants to inform you of any change in assimilation
status (the longer you play, the more efficient their function - a thinly disguised balancing method), check out the map (you can set waypoint
s if you wish) and listen to the latest briefing
update over your comm. Chances are you have to traipse
about a bit as you make your way to the objective
This is the outdoors
part; you will be dropped off fairly far (ostensibly to avoid detection) and have to make your way past sniper
towers, roving guards, maybe even a guard
post, landing pad
, or receiving dock - all fairly reasonable installations a prestigious military/scientific base
would have in a Future World™. Stealth
is necessary, as the patrolling guards will run towards you madly if you fire, or if their friends fire - the game's Normal difficulty setting is fairly punishing, so stay out of line of sight
. This is where Chrome shines (no pun intended, honestly) - the outdoors areas are fantastic and enormous. It is possibly the only FPS to date with thick forests
, dense undergrowth, rolling hills
, and thoroughly believable areas, as far as size and openness are concerned - you can go anywhere on the map. You can duck from tree to tree and remain concealed, getting close enough to get the drop on your enemy with your suppressed pistol
. The AI will not know where you are if you manage to stay silent and even manages to pull off confusion well - guards too far away to know what is wrong will not run towards you immediately, but instead alter their patrol routes
and increase their speed. Good stuff!
It's not perfect of course; if there is a contingent of soldiers to be released later (by a script) you could fire off even a nuclear warhead
and they will not run out from their bunker
(where you can see them standing around with your handy dandy motion detector, a la Aliens
); other times, AI will see you through walls - again, you can see them milling about on the other side of the wall, following you about. Secondly, the AI
seems not to suffer from recoil
, whereas yours is indicated by the expanding crosshairs
(the longer you fire, the worse it gets) and is quite ferocious. The submachine gunners are particularly deadly, as they rarely miss - contrariwise, when you try the submachine gun you will rarely hit anything at all (admittedly, the accuracy is probably fairly realistic; SMG
's are far more accurate than most games or movies portray). Other times, AI will simply lose momentum if their search routine times out before they can find you - then they will simply stand in place and not move (great for dropping a grenade
into their midst, not so great for immersion). Finally, once the AI sees you, you will remain seen - although the thick brush might prevent you from responding in kind. It's a little inconsistent, but the overall atmosphere is that of stalking the enemy
and having to remain undetected at all costs, so let's call that a qualified success
on Techland's part.
Then there's the indoors
part. While there are a few clever tricks as Chrome's bad guys will throw grenades (often at themselves), or frequently stay behind cover and take potshots at you (instead of running into the kill-zone
like most FPSs), for the most part the indoors portions play like an obstacle course
. Most of the bad guys are simply planted in certain places and cannot do anything intelligent like patrol
, look for you or use tactical maneuvers
. It's about as much fun as fighting turrets
- peek out, throw a grenade or snap off a headshot
, duck back, heal if hit, repeat. To add insult to this injury, the interiors are very uninspired, repetitive, plain and overall dark - not a happy thought as the enemies all blend into the background. I hardly ever crank my gamma
in games, but I had to do it here just to be able to distinguish the humans from the background.
, the outdoors are all about stalking, recon and careful threat elimination. The indoors are all about shoot, duck, heal, repeat.
It's hard not to wonder whether Techland knew about the weakness of their indoors - most of the action takes place outside. There's another reason for this of course - it is outside that most of Chrome's fun equipment comes into play.
A few of these are ripped from Deus Ex, and a few are original - there is the ballistics
protection, the adrenaline
boost (faster running), the aim improvement (tighter crosshairs), scope
enhancement (allows zoom with any weapon) and of course infravision
. In an interesting twist you do not have to recharge any bio-energy; instead, the implants build-up a charge in your system which must be dissipated - if it reaches maximum, you take a bit of damage and your active implants shut down. Only time is needed to use them again. Sadly, the charge builds up extremely fast so for the most part the implants are like a faulty crutch, likely to break if you lean on it too hard. Still, the ballistics protection is useful if you remember to keep toggling it on and off to conserve charge.
Weaponry and Equipment
I've mentioned situation-specific weaponry earlier; like Halo, all guns have a specific use. The suppressed
pistol is excellent for stalking outside; the CAFS assault rifle
(blatantly ripped off from Halo) is a great backup weapon for outside, and a decent choice for inside, having a large magazine and good range; the shotgun
is a good room-clearer. It's also nice that you're aware of the shortcomings of your weaponry, so when you finally get some upgraded ordinance
it's like Christmas all over again - I'll let you discover those for yourself (hint: tasty). The rocket launcher
and sniper rifle
are self-explanatory, and I have not found a use for the submachine gun
- the rapidly expanding crosshairs (for you, not the bad guys, of course) make it fairly useless. A nice touch is that you cannot carry too much in the way of sniper ammo (12 rounds in a mag), and there isn't much of it to be found in most missions (although there is some
) - you will seriously have to make the best of it while you have it. Likewise, rocket launchers won't just be laying around so again - make the best of it. In fact, all weapons will mainly be scavenged from corpses; seems that guards in Chrome actually lock up their explosives. Finally, there is simply no way to carry more than one rifle weapon, which I find quite immersion
All weapons have a secondary "aim
" mode which drops you to walking speed and tightens the crosshairs. You can also crouch
or lay prone
to further increase your accuracy
. Each lower position makes you quieter and slower, of course.
As for equipment, there isn't much. Concussion grenade
s are a must and are quite useful both indoors and out - you can use an over- or under-hand toss for distance or control. The interesting twist with medpaks
is that they're quite strong - but take time to heal you. You can use one to be nearly completely healed, but it will take about a minute to do so - no shooting 'n gulping medkits here. The bioenergy dampener acts instantly however. Finally, your trusty binoculars
have a motion/heat detector built-in, and can spot bad guys even in thick brush - very useful.
It seems that all games that have vehicles in them tend to underutilize them - so it is with Chrome as well. You have your standard assault buggy
, a hover-speeder
, and a couple of mech
s - admittedly only the first two could be honestly used as either of the mechs would be too powerful to use for too long.
Vehicles are mainly used for getaways (going in without clearing the area first by stealth would be suicide), and serve that
part well; however, they lack the flair that Halo's warthog
or Battlefield 1942
's Jeeps have. The buggies tend to stick to the ground a bit much, and do not have much inertia at all - a sliding behavior corrects this by kicking in when you make a sharp turn, but it doesn't feel quite right - it goes on for too long. The speeders are rather twitchy (well, that could be per spec though - see Endor
) and driving the mechs is like slowly gliding 20 feet in the air - they just don't feel massive. It's hard to be objective about this however, since it's all about the "feel" of it - for comparison, I'll reiterate that I consider BF 1942's vehicles quite well done, and Halo's a close contender (if it wasn't so overly squirly on the dirt). Chrome's aren't even close.
I've already mentioned the gloriousness of the outdoors and the comparative drabness of the indoors - let me reiterate. Chrome has the best looking terrain currently out
- as long as you stay outside. The water effects
, the astonishing proliferation of swaying trees, the dense underbrush, even the sky texture - everything is rendered like a dream. However, move inside and it's blah city - bases feel truly manufactured (not like real places at all), uninteresting, crate
-full and are definitely top contenders for the room -> hallway -> room design award. Finally, organics are about average - not particularly good, but not horrible either.
Audio is mixed; on one hand you have quite satisfying sniper rifle and suppressed pistol effects, wind and water; on the other hand you have perhaps two AI bark
s (GRENADE!) total, lousy voice acting
overall (I've heard worse, but only twice), and unpleasant submachine and assault rifle FX. I'm not sure what happened there. Overall, the audio is only passable.
Opinion / Conclusion
After the streamlined
experience of Deus Ex: Invisible War
, I was ready for something a little more hardcore
, something that didn't mind slapping me around a bit during play. Restrictions on loadout, tough and even slightly cheating AI and the huge, open world (you are given a huge island/mountaintop/forest and an objective - what you do from there is completely up to you) was exactly what I was looking for. The addition of a few decently scripted encounters only spices up the fun.
Chrome is far from perfect though. The inconsistent
and indoor-stationary AI, the complete dependence on scripted events
jarring your gameworld flow, the weak implant system, lack of attention to vehicles, and thoroughly linear character development are plenty of faults to address in the next iteration (probably too much for a patch) - but if you like a challenging shooter with some neat twists and unpretentious and definitely un-streamlined gameplay, Chrome just may be what you want.