Inspirational game of Natural Disasters and Survival

User Rating: 8.5 | SOS: The Final Escape PS2
From the developers of the R-type series, Irem creates a wonderful world filled with towering sky scrapers and natural disasters. Melding elements of survival-horror and action adventure, Disaster Report steers clear of the usual third-person shooter paradigm that is often associated with Survival. Whether you're the trigger happy gamer, or one who likes to push crates into mysterious symbols, Disaster Report will be one of the most inspirational and entertaining game you'll ever play.

You play as Keith Helms, an editor of the Town Crier newspaper on his first day to work (rookie heroes are overly abundant in survival-horror..). Arriving to Stiver Island, a major earthquake erupts tearing the man-made island apart and leaving Keith unconscious. Once he regains consciousness, you'll notice a girl hanging on to a wrecked train tipping 400 feet above the ocean.

This is one of many "life or death" situations you'll come across in the game. You'll eventually gain the help of the girl and the two of you will solve puzzles together. Make no mistake, this isn't a Resident evil or Silent Hill type puzzle. The situation generally requires you to look for an escape route as the building crumbles apart. It's relatively simple at first and gets complex as you advance through the game. Say for example, you see a large truck on fire that's blocking your path. Examining the truck, you notice the engine is still running. Great!, so all you got to do is move the car a bit right? Looking around, you notice a long durable power line above the burning truck. Will a rope do? No it won't work. Sure, after a few minutes of exploration, you crawl inside a store and find a few hangers and a new backpack that increases your storage capacity, great! Back at the truck, you make your way to the top of a broken sign and use the hanger and….Voila! Your inside the burning truck. You start the engine, the wrecked truck moves slightly forward, now your partner can get through. Now wasn't that interesting?

As simple as it sounds, each puzzle is carried out so well that you really can't get lost. There are no blood test kits sitting inside a dog kennel, or shotgun shells stockpiled on top of a roof (reference to The Thing). Items are placed at the most logical locations, and its only a matter of time till players notice the required piece to the puzzle and seek them out. Much like the way Resident Evil give their items a "sparkle" to stand out in their pre-rendered backgrounds, Disaster Report takes the same route and places a green arrow above the item (it lends itself well to reduce the amount of backtracking you have to do).

On the topic of items, you'll be stocking all your items and accessories inside a backpack. As you proceed through the game, a larger bag will be available that lets you increase your storage capacity. Items that will generally be in your bags are Juice and med-kits (they restore your health), water bottles (restores stamina to allow physical movement), a radio, and a map. You'll come across other neat things that your character can equip, like a cowboy hat, a hard-helmet, sunglasses, compass, etc.

Outside the adventure, lies the survival-horror game play. As you make your way through the city, you'll encounter rescue missions that requires you running from all sorts of crumbling structures, utilizing stealth inside a shopping mall, dodging snipers across falling skyscrapers, running from a 200-feet tsunami. Although your character has a large health meter, you will die in one blow from a natural disaster.

As you make your way through the game, you'll encounter drinkable water faucets that act as a checkpoint. You can also store water inside your bottle and save your game. During your progression in game, you'll encounter new npc's who will offer you options in which your decision will ultimately effect the ending. Say for example, you hit a checkpoint and you can either take Karen or Kelly to the evacuation point. Depending on your decision, you'll receive 1 of 4 different endings. If your really experimental, you can get some really funny responses.

Graphically, the world looks large and impressive. Considering how massive the cities are and how much movement is going on all at once, the inconsistency can be forgiven. Like Shadow of the Colossus, the environments look a tad blurry. It doesn't look disgusting by any means, more power would definitely helped. There are frequent slowdowns and some instances where your character will tumble and half his torso would magically go through walls and grounds. These moments constantly reminds you that your playing a video game, albeit a really good one.

The sound is very effective. With music being nonexistent till an urgent event takes places ,it will crank up to an effective heart pumping music. For the most part though, you'll only hear your footsteps. The sound of pouring rain, the crumbling buildings, the splashing ocean, it accompanies the subtle sound really well, and demands attention whenever a natural disaster erupts. Voice acting is also done well, though nothing really stands out.

Disaster Report takes 8 hours to complete, with multiple endings that don't necessarily warrant a replay value. The game does have problems running smoothly on the ps2, but it's a small price to pay for all the fun you'll have. Fans of survival-horror should not hesitate to pick this up. Give this game a chance, and experience the horror of mother-nature.