We can't really be sure about what sorts of experiments Romanian developer Fun Labs was conducting, but its newest shooter, Revolution, is clearly an experiment in fun gone monstrously wrong. It's hard to imagine that anyone would deliberately release the game as it is--in fact, it's easier to imagine that the game somehow escaped from Fun Labs on its own and clawed its way onto store shelves.
For instance, one level about five missions into the game requires you to do...something. Many of the mission goals aren't clear, either because they're incomplete, presented in broken English, or just totally missing. We wandered around the empty level trying to locate the secret door or switch that would somehow trigger the next mission. After a couple of hours, we gave up and checked the official Activision Value Web site for any advice it might have. Evidently, this level is unbeatable without a patch. Unfortunately, prepatch saved games aren't compatible with the postpatch game, so we had to restart from scratch. Even more unfortunately, the level still appeared to be unbeatable. We ended up resorting to a cheat code to finish it. Is the level still broken? Who knows? There isn't a big Revolution community to discuss the issue with. Let's just say that, like many of Revolution's missions, this one is so tedious and aggravating that it's broken on general principle.
During the first third of the game, you play as a janitor employed by a futuristic megacorporation. If nothing else, this setup might have provided an opportunity for some humor. Instead, it's an opportunity for you to spend four or five hours in what amounts to a miserably accurate simulation of actually having a boring job. Every mission during this section is an often poorly described maintenance task. In one level, you have to exterminate the vermin that infest a maze of corridors. Like all the enemies in the janitor part of the game, they're no match for your weapons, which means that you won't find much in the way of challenge in this section. A notable feature of this mission complicates matters, though not in an interesting or enjoyable way: These little rat creatures are invisible. You're equipped with a PDA that flashes an alert on your HUD whenever it receives a new message, usually either giving you mission instructions or telling you that you've completed a given task. For some reason, nobody thought it would be worth bothering you with the message that you've cleared the labyrinth of rats, so you'll be left to wander aimlessly, looking for more of your already exterminated invisible foes.
This may or may not be a major plot spoiler, but your megacorporation employer is actually up to no good. In fact, you'll know it long before your character does. One clue is that the corporation's logo appears to be a big, evil-looking winged skull. The covertly sinister corporation has also plastered the entire city with totalitarian propaganda, such as threatening billboards that simply read, "Power and Control." In keeping with the game's theme of not making much sense, the corporation has also stamped lots of things with the nonsensical slogan, "We Are the Sun of Your New Life." It's only vaguely threatening, but it is printed in a scary authoritarian font. And in a shocking turn of events, the corporation is called "The Corporation," and it's being opposed by a resistance movement that calls itself, of all things, "the resistance."
You eventually join the resistance, at which point the levels become populated with tougher opponents. However, Revolution's control is so twitchy that combat is as much of a chore as your maintenance tasks. Instead of any interesting intelligence, enemies display an ability to strafe from side to side at an inhumanly fast speed. Your own movement isn't any more realistic--you glide across every surface as if it were covered in oil. This is particularly frustrating since Revolution is filled with first-person jumping puzzles. Every aspect of the gameplay feels sloppy and imprecise.
Revolution's graphics are technically decent during its occasional exterior scenes, which are all set in a replica of the Blade Runner city that game developers love so much. But most of it is set in bland and geometrically simple indoor environments adorned with not much other than rusty pipes and a few of those vats of bubbling green goo that are a cornerstone of science in the future. In contrast, Revolution's voice acting is a total mystery. The people doing the talking are obviously native speakers of English, yet they apparently read the broken English lines they were given without attempting to fix them. Could it be that the voice-acting industry is so draconian that you immediately get fired if you make any suggestions about your lines? That might be a good setting for the sequel to Revolution.
We won't spoil Revolution's ending for you. Not because we wouldn't like to, but because after playing the final level three times, we're still not clear on what happened. Revolution's story problems, generic visuals, and tedious single-player game may not matter, though, because you can play deathmatch, team deathmatch, or capture the flag over the Internet--at least theoretically. A few weeks after its release, there isn't even one server running Revolution.