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Gorky Zero: Beyond Honor

Some games just look and sound dubious. Gorky Zero: Beyond Honor is the stealth game you’ve never heard of and one that has a strong whiff of Splinter Cell to it. Even the front cover shows a soldier clad in black with a glowing eyepiece, almost mimicking Sam Fisher. Read the blurb and we’re told of a game which features “unique stealth action”, “different camera perspectives” (wow!) and “tactical stealth action at its best”. These days gamers can smell bullsh*t from a mile off and it comes as no surprise that Gorky Zero doesn’t live up to its cover’s promises.

The atmosphere is familiar; we’ve been here before. Those pesky Russians are up to no good again; this time it’s a terrorist organisation who have brainwashed its members into zombies who are willing to do anything for their master. NATO aren’t too happy with the situation and it’s up to you – Lieutenant Cole Sullivan – to blow the terrorist’s facility up. The manual hints, “A dangerous but uncomplicated mission. Or maybe there is something more…?” It doesn’t take a genius to guess what happens next.

So we’ve got ourselves a third person action adventure, and a not very original one at that. We’re going to have to do the usual stuff; sneak around a bit, distract guards with gadgets, fire silenced weapons and generally act gruff and serious. We’re the best of the best, the agent that’s so secret even God himself doesn’t know we’re here. Again. I don’t know why the developer didn’t take some sort of original slant on the genre; it could have made it significantly more interesting. Sneaking around Russian terrorists has been done before, but stealth a futuristic setting or even in a cartoon world is yet to be tried. The action/stealth genre doesn’t have the boundaries and rules that the sports genre has to abide by, so it’s a shame to see freedom and potential wasted here.

Enough of the back story; any game can be rescued by well structured, solidly designed gameplay. Sadly, Gorky trips up here as well, struggling to pin down anything that makes the game anything but bad. The core idea behind the gameplay is stealth action, but it does neither very well at all. Let’s start with the enemy A.I. You can shoot an inch to the side of someone’s head and they won’t even notice at all and when you do put a bullet in them, you can run away and they’ll forget all about you. It’s like baiting goldfish, but less fun.

Stealth isn’t integrated as much as it should be considering that it’s one of the key features of the game. You’ll be dodging behind one of the billions of (guess what?!) crates and a guard will be walking around like a headless, retarded, amnesiac chicken in front of you, grasping his gun. Here you’ve got several options; wait until his back is turned and then shoot him in the head or be impatient and shoot him in the face anyway. If anything goes wrong, you’ve always got the option of running away since he’ll forget about the bullet lodged in his artery. I mean, it’s something we could all forget about isn’t it?

Instead of using shadows and so on to sneak around undetected, Gorky simply makes you walk really, really quietly so that no-one notices you. On the radar display you’ll see a blue ripple which indicates how much of a noise youíre making and elsewhere there will be yellow, orange or red blips to mark out your brainless prey. All you have to do is move around very slowly, occasionally smacking someone in the face or cracking open their skull with a well placed bullet.

The missions are all dreary, “Go from A to B” affairs where you’ll find yourself ducking between endless crates in depressing, unoriginal levels. There are just so many clichÈs littered around the place; I mean who would have explosive barrels just lying around outside? Crouch behind a box and wait, stand up and shoot the guy in the face, crouch, move a bit. It’s endless and it’s poorly executed. There’s little tension or consistency in this ludicrously contrived world, where you’ll be forced to crouch for long periods of time because footsteps are picked up by guards, whereas a burst of automatic fire won’t.

The game’s camera hovers above our ‘hero’ and cannot be moved from its elevated position or tilted at all. You can’t see very far ahead, so every few paces you have to switch to another viewpoint to check that you aren’t walking into an army of goldfi… I mean terrorists. The textures are bland, the animations are poor and the collision detection is useless. The music is by far the best aspect of the game, but that’s hardly saying much, is it?

What annoys me most about Gorky Zero is that although it’s crap, it’s not amusingly so. Some games are so dire that you find yourself laughing before you shred their shiny disks, but this is so generic and uninspiring that it’s frustrating. Some could argue that budget games should be treated more leniently because they cost less, but a lower development budget doesn’t meant that you can’t be original, creative and humourous. I want zombie pirates, cyborg ninjas and plenty of monkeys in some wacky world, not a poor version of a game I played last year. It doesn’t cost anything to think up a good idea. Gorky Zero is half the price of the latest Splinter Cell game, but it’s about a tenth of it in terms of enjoyment. It doesn’t add up and that’s the sad case with many budget games. Developers and publishers of budget games should stop being lazy and give us value for money, not ill-contrived tat like this.

2 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is the Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in November 2000. Get in touch on Twitter @PhilipMorton.

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