Technical problems keep it from being great

User Rating: 7 | Advent Rising XBOX
Advent Rising was announced a few years ago as the first in a trilogy that was epic in scope. It has all the workings of a great project as well. The original story began in the director's mind and he knew it would be such a grand story that he enlisted the help of notable sci-fi scribe Orson Scott Card to help work the script. Card worked on the script, getting the dialogue right and also assisted with the overall story. On top of an excellent author, they employed an orchestra and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to perform. All of these should spell out to be a recipe for sucess. And it does, sort of.

What holds this game back from glory are the myriad of technical issues. To begin with, the game is beautiful. Graphic-wise, it reminds me of Halo 2. Halo 2 had no loading after the initial load and the graphics, while nice, suffered at times from having to be rendered quickly. The same goes for Advent Rising. In fact, while you are watching a cutscene, the game is busy loading the next sequence. What this does is put a tremendous strain on the engine. If the engine is strong, it shouldn't pose much problem. But, unfortunately, this sometimes spells disaster for Advent Rising.

The first 40 minutes of the game did not give me a great first impression. During the training sequences, the game locked up three times. I had to replay the same sequence about 4 times to get through it simply because I did something the game didn't like and it froze. The game auto-saves onces you hit certain check points and if you have to reset the game, you're starting back over from the beginning of the checkpoint. Things became much better as the game progressed and I don't remember the game freezing again.

Added to the lock ups, the game stutters when there's too many things going on at once. I don't mean when little things are happening, I mean when you have a squad of 3-4 people on your team shooting at 4-6 enemies and there's two drop ships coming in and launching missles that explode with huge flames. When that happens, the game's audio begins to "click," the frame rate drops very noticeably and things become a bit annoying. But again, this only really happens when there's a ton going on.

Unfortunately, more technical issues abound. Namely in the sound. With the beautifully orchestrated music pounding, the screams of people fleeing certain destruction, the explosions, the lazers tearing apart buildings, you'd expect to have a lot of sound. Unfortunately, in the cutscenes the sound tends to be muted. To give you an example, on my surround sound receiver (which the game supports by the way), I usually keep the sound at 10-11 for a decent, full sound that doesn't also piss off my neighbors. For this game, generally I have to have the sound on at 16-17 and it's still muted. I know the reason is probably because the game is loading the next scene and the engine is faltering because of it.

A love it or hate it device is used for targeting. Called "flick targeting," you use the right stick to change between your targets, effectively "flicking" it in their general direction to lock onto them. For those who use their right stick to change the camera constantly, like me, this can take some time to get used to. But, if you can train yourself not to change the camera as much will find it works pretty well. Where it can get into a problem is when you are trying to run from the enemy to get to cover. When this happens, and you try to reorient the camera to find some place to run, it can become frustrating to continually lock onto targets. Also, when you receive your power to levitate objects, this becomes even more of a hindrance as you not only lock onto enemies now but also moveable objects. Click the right stick (R3 button) helps with this problem because it releases the camera but it still causes moments of annoyance. Honestly, though, it's a great system to handle more than one enemy at a time.

At the heart of the game, past all of the technical problems and targeting woes is a great story. The beginning of the story with the Seeker's attack of your home world reminded me of what Halo 2 was missing. Here we saw devastation on your homeworld, we fought on the homeworld and it generally stressed the feeling of your world at risk. From there, it's an epic event after epic event as the seekers cause untold problems, a few plot twists occur and a few deaths propel our protagonist toward his goal. It's a great story and the dialogue is terrific, bring to mind movie quality. The voice actors are a charm to listen to, and there are a couple funny moments. Card's influenced can be seen everywhere. In fact, I was waiting for the main characters to break out in a discussion of Varelese and Ramen in terms of aliens (read the Ender's series if you didn't get that).

For all that's good in this game, and there's plenty do not get me wrong, I feel semi-disappointed. This game has been pushed back countless times. Mostly, it's been pushed back to help fix the frame rate issues, and other technical problems I've noted. And so when the game was finally released I was shocked when the very things that made it miss release date upon release date were still causing problems. What is most annoying is that we are this far in the Xbox development cycle and bugs abound. We are currently waiting for Xbox 360 to come out and countless games have been made that are more beautiful and less buggy than this game. It's disappointing to see that even this far into the Xbox life problems are still occuring. Maybe the game was too grand for the Xbox and should have been an Xbox 360 launch title. Whatever the case, this game is really good, regardless of the problems. If you can overlook the technical issues above, you will find not only a good game, but a good game with a heart. And that's hard to find today.