The game that defined an enduring legacy.
As part of a crack team of soldiers sent in to the Valley of Karnak to uncover the source of recent supernatural trouble, your helicopter is shot down leaving you the player to attempt to save Egypt and the world.
OK so the story left a lot to be desired and while never the game's strongest point, it did provide a wonderful setting and the opportunity to be updated by the spirit of King Ramses who guides the player on their journey.
Where the game did excel was in its graphics, gameplay and sound which shall be described below:
The game was the first to utilise the skills of Ezra Dreisbach who created the SlaveDriver graphics engine from the ground-up for the console versions. It was revolutionary at the time for having been fast and fluid in an era dominated by strip levels (as found in Doom and Hexen), because the player could really get to grips with and explore their surroundings instead of being tied to single corridors.
Undoubtedly the most prominent aspect of the Saturn version of Exhumed however was its lighting, which was by far the best of any other version. This was particularly noticeable when Anubis Soldiers cast their blue fireballs down the long corridors, which would light the surrounding area in an ambient light.
While Exhumed was a fully 3D game there were some drawbacks; namely the enemies and other objects (including random drops and weapons) constituted sprites within the 3D world. This however was only an issue if the player was on a high ledge and because this was only an aesthetic issue, this neither detracted from the atmosphere nor the gameplay overall.
Firstly, do not think that Exhumed was a standard FPS game, for it had some of the most innovative features ever found within any game from that time. For instance it was blisteringly fast with a smooth frame rate which, thanks to the Saturn's d-pad, afforded the player total control and which could be further exploited by using the Saturn's Analogue pad.
Secondly, the gameplay was very similar in style to Metroid and to a certain extent Castlevania because many areas after having been made obvious to players, couldn't be accessed until they picked up the relevant artefact. These included items like the Sandals of Ikumptet which granted access to those higher ledges, and a mask that enabled water breathing. This encouraged the player to re-explore previous areas but never once make it seem like too much of a grind or a chore to backtrack through.
Thirdly, the game had so many hidden gems within it you'd be playing for hours on end. Hidden away within the levels were the Lobotomy Team Dolls that had the faces of the 23 Lobotomy team members superimposed onto them. These led to other bonuses, which demonstrated that this game actually DID have a lot replay value.
I should also note that collecting these dolls were some of the most painful and most difficult experiences you will ever encounter in a videogame (from a challenge perspective), but many players stuck with it because not only was it so good but the reward that followed would allow for yet another play-through from a different perspective. If you played the game and collected the dolls a second time round, while some parts were easier to cope with, others (like the infamous laser field) were nigh on impossible, because you had total control over altitude; thereby introducing variations of difficulty.
Lastly Exhumed had a feature that was way ahead of its time – the bomb jump where the player could jump higher by throwing an Amun mine at their feet. Though it acted in a similar way to the rocket jump in Quake released only a few months prior to Exhumed, it was unheard of in a console game at the time and didn't even feature in the Playstation version.
And finally (yes I know the above was supposed to have been the last), there was a little known game by the name of Death Tank. Unfortunately this could not be accessed on the European version, BUT (this justifies its inclusion in the review) if you bought either Quake or Duke Nukem 3D on the Saturn and already had a previous Exhumed save game, the game was yours for free!
Also bear in mind that the game didn't have a multiplayer feature due to the fact that the game was released before the NetLink was available for the Saturn.
The actual sound effects were nothing to write home about, but the soundtrack itself was one of the best I have ever heard, even to this day. The brainchild behind these was a guy named Scott Branston, who he built epic accompaniments that suit the game's setting down to a tee – just listen to the soundtrack that plays at the title screen in its entirety to see what I mean.
In conclusion, the game was criminally under-exposed and under-played for it was actually too far ahead of its time for its own good, and proved that the Saturn was capable of fast-moving 3D graphics when in the right hands. But this was much more than just a technical demo, for there were hours of gameplay hidden away for the player to discover and a difficulty curve that was perfect to keep your interest maintained.