Funcom's third-person action game No Escape is a bloodless entry in the arena deathmatch subgenre of shooters. It's ostensibly aimed at kids, but since the action is all about gun battles, it actually appears to be pitched at a specific niche of pacifists who hate the sight of blood but still enjoy shooting people. If you fall into that group, and if you're not a stickler for interesting gameplay, then you might like No Escape. Everyone else should probably avoid it.
The first thing you'll notice about No Escape is its unusual graphics. The combat takes place on the surface of a series of small, spherical arenas. Consequently, the entire world and everything in it is sharply curved, so the horizon drops off a short distance in front of you. The effect is both unique and striking, but unfortunately it's the game's only notable feature.
As in id Software's popular Quake III: Arena, the single-player game in No Escape is a simple series of ladder matches against computer-controlled enemy bots. You pick one of eight cartoonlike characters and control him or her from a third-person perspective through 18 levels. The rules are a variant of the typical shooter's deathmatch mode. The winner is the contestant with the most money after a certain period of time. Packets of cash are strewn throughout the arena. They can be picked up by running over them, while taking damage causes characters to drop some of the cash they're holding. Killing someone ("knocking them out" in the semantically nonviolent world of No Escape) makes him or her drop a large wad of loot before respawning. Of further note, players who might have been frustrated with the limited save system in shooters such as Aliens vs. Predator will be shocked to learn that there's absolutely no saving permitted in No Escape's single-player game. You start with five lives. You lose one every time you're "knocked out" or fail to place first on a level, and you gain a life for every half a million dollars you grab. When you run out of lives, the game ends.
The arsenal in No Escape is a relatively unimaginative mix of conventional shooter weapons. There's the default pea-shooting zapper, a plasma cannon, a rocket launcher, a bazooka, a beam gun, and a couple of types of grenades. These vary in power, but they all share a similar lack of precision. The game provides a targeting reticle, but its movement is sluggish and inaccurate, even after tweaking the mouse sensitivity. The inexact aiming system, combined with the restricted view distance that's a consequence of the closeness of the horizon line, results in a combat system based seemingly more on luck than skill.
The levels are all laid out as a series of open areas connected by mazelike trenches. Most of them have only two elevations: ground level and the tops of the trench walls. Although 18 arenas are included, the only major differences between them are the textures applied to the walls, sky, and floors. Virtually every level plays exactly the same.
The sheer simplicity of the single-player experience suggests that No Escape was meant to be primarily a multiplayer game. To that end, it appears relatively complete. There are seven game modes, including no escape (the money-collecting deathmatch variant from the single-player mode), team no escape, knockout match (deathmatch), team knockout match, tag, capture the flag, and countdown. Countdown is an interesting twist on deathmatch in which a time bomb is strapped to the back of each player. When the bomb's timer reaches zero, it explodes, but you can add time to the counter by shooting other players. A built-in game finder is included with No Escape, but unfortunately, after repeated searches, we found no online servers up and running. On the other hand, the utter absence of other players should make it much easier to rocket your way to number one in the worldwide ranking service Funcom packaged with the game. There's an option to play against bots, but even at the hardest skill level, they tend to be very easy to beat, and they can often be found ignoring important power-ups or simply standing around while you shoot them.
There really isn't much reason to recommend No Escape. It simply seems like a cool visual effect in search of a game. Even so, if you could find someone to play it with, the multiplayer mode - and countdown in particular - could offer a few mindless thrills.