Recently, Konami quietly released Apocalyptica, a third-person-perspective action game for the PC. The game was originally slated to ship for both the Xbox and the PC, but it doesn't take much time with the PC version to understand why the console version was scrapped. Apocalyptica is terrible from top to bottom, suffering from bland, derivative gameplay, simplistic level design, brain-dead AI, and a buggy graphics engine that chugs even at low resolution.
The game's problems start right at the beginning, with the plot. Apocalyptica is set in the future, a time of space travel and planetary colonization. Yet for some reason, your weapons consist of swords and spells, much like in a fantasy-themed game, as well as a handful of firearms. And you're not fighting against high-tech aliens as you might expect from a futuristic game--the enemy is the devil, or Neo-Satan, to be exact. He's unleashed his legion of demons and cyborg evildoers upon the universe, conquering it planet by planet, and it's up to you and a small band of virtuous do-gooders to stop him and send him back to hell. You'll take the role of a genetically reanimated saint or martyr and team up with a few other holy warriors in a series of missions aimed at thwarting Neo-Satan's dastardly plan for universal domination. Really. We can't make this stuff up.
Before the campaign starts, you'll choose from a menu of 16 different holy warriors, each with different ratings in agility, melee attack, ranged attack, and spell proficiency. Ultimately, there isn't a whole lot of difference between most of the characters. Those with high agility move faster, while those with melee get a stronger sword to fight with. The ranged-attack specialists often have an array of different guns at their disposal, but they must worry about finding more ammo for their weapons. In practice, these stats don't mean a whole lot, because combat in the game just devolves into a lot of button mashing. The exception lies with the few warriors who can cast spells; they have the distinct advantage of being able to heal themselves as well as their teammates, which can make the campaign much, much easier.
Apocalyptica's 18 missions are spread out over five different settings ranging from planet surfaces to starships to hell itself. The mission types hearken back to Unreal Tournament's assault mode--in most cases, you and a small band of computer-controlled teammates must run a gauntlet of different objective points, capturing each as you go along. Sometimes the game will mix it up by adding in a timer, having you rescue prisoners or escort scientists, or including some other challenge. There's even a boss enemy at the end of some levels that's only slightly tougher than regular foes. But in general, it's just you and a few of your reanimanted martyr buddies against legions of hellspawn.
The game's AI, both for friend and foe, is highly unsophisticated. Your sidekicks and enemies alike will often get themselves stuck on level geometry, and enemies never exhibit any behavior more complex than running straight at you and attacking. You have the ability to issue simple commands to teammates, either as a group or singly. These commands include "follow me" or "guard this area." Unfortunately, these team commands are ineffectual, so your teammates will often ignore them to go off on their own. In missions where you must capture and hold several points, you'll curse your sidekicks' inability to follow orders as the mission degenerates into a game of musical chairs where you can only hope to prevail by dumb luck.
Unfortunately Apocalyptica's presentation is no savior; it's just as bad as the gameplay. The game's graphics engine looks primitive, with clunky character models, stilted animations, and dated-looking spell effects. Compounding these problems is the fact that the engine is extremely slow. Even if you're playing at low resolution, frame rates appear to dip into the teens when large melees break out, which can make precise aiming just about impossible. We were also unable to play the game at any resolution other than 800x600--any attempts to change the resolution resulted in graphical glitches, namely a flickering image and ugly white lines drawn horizontally across the screen. Sound effects and music were similarly buggy; both would simply cut out on occasion. When the sound did work, it wasn't particularly noteworthy anyway.
The game does include 10 multiplayer maps for deathmatch and capture the flag. There are no active servers to play online, however, and our few attempts to play over a LAN were thwarted by system lockups or the inability to make a connection.
A visit to the game's official Web site to look for a possible patch took us to a blank site occupied by a domain-name squatter. All indications are that Konami cares very little about Apocalyptica. You shouldn't either.