Half-Life didn't usher in a new era so much as it showed us a glimpse of what the future holds for 3D shooters. While it would be unfair to ask that every game be as good as Valve's shooter, it wouldn't be unfair to expect all shooters hence to have better stories and better design. Cyclone Studios' Requiem: Avenging Angel isn't as compelling or universally appealing as Half-Life, but it is a pretty good shooter otherwise. Its pacing, level design, and graphics ensure that it's a typical 3D shooter, but the presence of some highly amusing angelic powers and the unique premise take it near the top of the current crop of action games.
In Requiem, you play Malachi, an angel sent by God to stop the machinations of the Fallen, angels who went against God's word and were cast out from Heaven eons ago. The evil outcast Lilith leads them and has decided to snuff out all human life. She has sent her agents to Earth, who are possessing Earth's leaders, rounding up the innocent, and using them to power a massive spaceship called Leviathan. The plot won't win a Pulitzer prize, but it does set up the action uniquely. All you have to know is that you are God's vengeance given form, and you must stop the Earthbound Fallen, while also occasionally doing battle with a few boss Fallen in the realm of Chaos, the limbo that exists between Heaven and Hell.
The game opens in Chaos, with you needing to find your way to the portal that leads to Earth. While Chaos is supposed to house the many lost souls, it is amazingly empty. This problem persists throughout the game. Certain levels are meant to be populated towns but are really just ghost towns with one or two NPCs. The pacing of this game is fairly slow in the beginning but does ramp up to some very intense action. Oftentimes, you'll find yourself getting ambushed from behind by half a dozen soldiers. These enemies tend to appear out of thin air, but at least they keep the action flowing.
In many ways, Requiem is your average shooter. Its level design is straightforward, with few surprises or branches. Some levels bog down due to an unintuitive puzzle or the need to fetch a key. If you failed to pass by the crucial clue or pick up the vital keycard, you could be wandering around in circles for a while. The plot, while unique in premise, doesn't really pick up until later in the game. It isn't compelling from the start; you meet one NPC who tells you to complete a task, and then you meet another who sets you up with a new mission. At this point, the gameplay is just wandering around killing things for the sake of it, rather than toward a greater goal. However, the story does become more prominent later and is helped along by an occasional cutscene.
What Requiem deserves praise for are Malachi's angelic powers. His normal weapons in the game are unoriginal - the obligatory shotgun, machine gun, rocket launcher, sniper rifle, etc. - but the angelic powers are something else entirely. The closest thing to them would be the Force powers in Jedi Knight, but the powers in Requiem are more interesting and better implemented. They are divided into different categories: offensive, defensive, maneuver, and interactive powers. Offensive and defensive powers are very straightforward, as are the maneuver powers, but the interactive powers include those that can be used to manipulate enemies in more exotic ways. You can possess an enemy and move through him with the possession power or compel an enemy to fight for you with insist.
The effects for most of these powers are quite spectacular. Enemies targeted by To Salt turn into solid white salt statues and stand frozen for a fraction of a second before disintegrating into fine white powder. Casting Time Warp conjures up images of the slow-motion action scenes in John Woo movies or The Matrix. Time Warp slows time down all around you. Enemies not only move and fire at half speed, but they also die in slow motion. In real time, a dead soldier would simply reel backward and fall spinning to the floor. But with Time Warp, you'll see frame-by-frame animation; he'll appear to float in the air, spinning around in slow motion, as the shells from your gun fall to the ground like feathers.
You gain angelic powers at different, preset points in the game, although the acquisition is pretty anticlimactic. You get a simple text message that says a new power is made available to you. Still, the powers themselves are impressive, with plenty of great eye candy to go along with their in-game effects.
The enemies and monsters consist of the typical human soldiers, a smattering of mechs, and a few Fallen beasts for variety. The first Chaos level introduces you to a few Fallen creatures, but then the next several areas are full of variously armored soldiers. They are well animated, especially when they die, although the boxes and goodies flying out of their heads upon death can only be described as silly. Even so, the enemies are among the better looking of the genre, being a step up from the more boxy and unimaginative enemies of games like Sin and Redline.
Although the special effects and death animations are pretty good, the look of the game is pretty bland. Even the otherworldly levels aren't too impressive. It's not so much that the Chaos levels look bad, but they could have looked much better. The other levels are straightforward in appearance and design. The levels that should be densely populated by neutral characters (like Chaos and the town hub level) are strikingly empty. There is also a lack of interactivity in the levels throughout the game, with hardly anything to blow up or manipulate.
The sound, unlike the graphics, has little to recommend itself. The voice acting for all the characters is incredibly poor, and aside from the tinkling of bullets bouncing off the armor of heavy soldiers, the rest of the audio is forgettable.
Overall, this game is a fine shooter. Its supposedly gripping plot is merely adequate. The game is pretty linear, but then most shooters are. The pacing and story aren't as good as Half-Life's, but the character interaction and angelic powers elevate the game beyond many other shooters. Then again, Requiem also could have benefited from an integrated search for open Internet multiplayer games in progress. It's a feature that shooters typically haven't had, but Half-Life, which raised the bar in so many ways, had it. Requiem isn't a game that will duplicate Half-Life's critical success and compel all forms of gamers to play it, but for shooter fans, Cyclone's game of fallen angels is fairly well-crafted, albeit typical.