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Turning Point: Fall of Liberty

In a perfect world, war wouldn’t exist. Conflict would be a concept created in perverted horror stories and nightmarish visions dreamt up by the most sadistic of minds. Unfortunately, this world is far from perfect, and these twisted visions are way too real, both now and in the not so distant past. Over the last century, mankind has faced total destruction through the spine-tingling force of merciless individuals such as Adolf Hitler. Although the odds of failure are huge, it seems that when a global emergency arises there is always a hero ready to fight these tyrants, and to end the atrocities that pushes our race to the brink of inhumanity. In Turning Point: Fall of Liberty you are the hero, and you’d better be ready to take on the Third Reich in a hellish alternative view of World War Two.

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For an original FPS to succeed nowadays, there must be something special on offer. The Xbox 360 has been home to many of the finest shooters ever seen, including sales juggernauts such as Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Bioshock. These titles offered redefined gameplay, stunning graphics and in Bioshock‘s case, an original narrative. In Turning Point: Fall of Liberty, developers Spark Unlimited have produced a fascinating idea of what might have happened if Hitler and the Nazi Regime had won World War Two. Beginning with the death of Winston Churchill before he came into office, this title winks in the face of controversy with a smooth coolness.

The opening level of this game certainly is thrilling. You play Dan Carson, a construction worker making his money on the scaffolding of a New York skyscraper. Instantly, the city is under attack, as the Europe-conquering Nazis begin their siege with a relentless barrage of attacks. Trying to push itself away from the generic FPS, Turning Point casts you as a resistance fighter struggling to reach salvation, rather than the unstoppable one-man army. This is originally hinted at as you make your way down the skyscraper in a tutorial based manner that makes you seem like everybody else- the average Joe if you will. You play a part in the chaos, and you react just like your peers as you begin the fight for your life. As you descend however, you will witness the death of most of your co-workers, as they inevitably slip off the building and into the concrete abyss below, or get gunned down through the onslaught. The speed in which the Nazis take over the city is frightening; something that is sure to be at the centre of many debates when playing.

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Unfortunately, after the initial attack is over, Turning Point quickly shows itself to be a below par FPS. Immediately, it is easy to recognise that the gameplay is a complete mess of unresponsive controls and hugely unfair fire fights. It won’t be long before you have yourself a weapon and are tackling the hordes of Nazis in a title that oozes frustration from every seeping orifice. Expect to unload an entire clip into many of the enemies, as they do not die after many shots to the head and chest. On hard mode in particular, you better be ready for a tough battle for the games entirety, as it gets tougher as you progress. At times, the odds of you winning a skirmish seem impossible as you don’t prevail after using large amounts of ammo, and the Nazis throw one grenade relatively near you to end their problem. Maybe this is in keeping with the hard-luck and against the odds tone the game is trying to adopt? If so, it is a major flaw in design, as many players will hastily turn somewhere else due to the unjust game mechanics. Also, if you consider that you only have three main levels to play through (with a maximum of three short parts each), there is little on the surface that is going to whet the appetite of a gamer who has spent the last few months playing through the technical brilliance of war rival Call of Duty 4:Modern Warfare. Expect to see the final credits in no longer than five hours on the hardest difficulties, if you decide the battle is worth fighting.

“Unfortunately, after the initial attack is over, Turning Point quickly shows itself to be a below par FPS.”Even with all the power the Xbox 360 can muster, there certainly is a lack of graphical brilliance in this title, as it looks more like a late arriving PlayStation 2 game rather than a next-gen product. Colours are immensely bland and do not provide the player with any vibrancy that offers a breath of fresh air in many games. As most of the campaign takes part at night, Spark Unlimited have gone overboard with the amount of depressing shades of brown and grey they utilise. If you can get over this, the frame-rate will be the knockout blow. Turning Point includes one of the worst experiences on the 360 when it comes to slow down and frame issues. When any more than three enemies are on screen at once, it may be best not to throw that grenade between them, as disarray will fill the screen and cause a large serving of confusion due to the major slowdown of the explosion. This is unacceptable, as the game instantly feels half-finished and in need of an increased development time to iron out these sloppy issues into something that can be described as playable.

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As there are only three levels available to play (New York, Washington DC and London), it would be fair to presume they are beautifully crafted, non-linear experiences that are truly memorable. As with most of the game, this presumption is totally incorrect, as the latter levels become scenarios that amount to huge disappointment. The New York stages work well, and set the scene for an escape perfectly. In fact, the terror shown has many underlying messages that are sure to hit deeper with many gamers, as there is a staggering amount of intelligent imagery that will entail further thoughts hidden throughout. Regrettably, as soon as you are out of the Big Apple the lack of creative drive behind the title becomes all too apparent. Where the New York sections create a decent atmosphere of terror (through the use of Nazi propaganda in the streets and the overwatch of brutal Zeppelins), the next two levels aren’t equipped with such direction. Actually, the two latter stages amount to some of the worst level designs I have witnessed in quite some time. It seems the developers are content with using a well-known landmark (such as the White House and Tower Bridge) as the centre point of each section. This would work well if there was more variation, as you blatantly head towards that landmark, fight to get into it, and then complete a main objective when inside. If you were to consider each level as a pyramid, this will enable you to see how they work. You start at the bottom, and there is only one-way to get to the top, a formula that flaunts the inevitably of such a restricted battleground far too often. It’s refreshing to see these locations used however, and it is a shame that Spark didn’t manage to create something that entices the gamer into playing on, rather than repelling them with a total lack of innovation.

The main aspect of this game that created hype before the release was the potentially controversial storyline that it holds. Of course, showing the Nazis as the victors of World War Two is menacing in itself, but the really interesting points lay within the actual game. After the escape from New York, you will witness the overrunning of the White House (a building that looks totally terrifying when draped in swastikas). Unfortunately, this sight is the beginning of a completely ridiculous storyline that quickly develops from an interesting alternative view of history into a ludicrously over the top Hollywood style movie. As you play an untrained, inexperienced worker, the amount of pressure the army put on you in the game is completely unrealistic. Would they send you – by yourself – to disarm a number of globe threatening atomic bombs? Of course they wouldn’t. It’s this deficiency of reality that destroys any potential this story once held, backed up by an ending that is less inspired than Hitler’s iconic hairstyle.

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To further make the story seem unworkable, there is an awfully designed set of enemies to tackle throughout. It’s not that they look bad; they follow the uniforms and apparel of the time entirely. The problem is that they move as instinctively as a giraffe on acid, and don’t even seem to be able to turn a full 360 degrees without looking oddly out of place. If you initiate in a number of the humorous environmental kills on offer (such as drowning an enemy in a toilet), you will notice that they manage to fall through walls and get stuck on a number of objects that litter each room, meaning that the illusion of war is battered once more due to poor gameplay mechanics. To totally sink the boat, it won’t come as a surprise that at many times in the game I could stand face to face with an enemy for over a minute, point my gun at him, reload, and they still didn’t shoot. Topped off by the fact that the player sometimes gets jammed in the “Iron sight” viewpoint, this game begins to cross the towering barrier that makes something unplayable.

“To further make the story seem unworkable, there is an awfully designed set of enemies to tackle throughout.”Running alongside the less than satisfactory campaign mode is the chance to take the battle online with up to eight players over Xbox Live. It’s fair to say that games like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare pack the punch of a tank-busting bazooka in the multiplayer department, whereas this title exerts the force of a misused pistol. With only two game modes on offer (deathmatch and team deathmatch), and a total of four generic maps, there is an obvious lack of experience shown here by the development team. Maps are cramped, and there is little more to the combat than gung-ho tactics resulting in a battle that lacks any real depth. Of course, this is if you manage to connect to a game, as more often than not the servers were not available or were totally infertile to any life.

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With all its negativity, Spark Unlimited must be commended for the authentic audio soundtrack they have fashioned here. Produced by renowned composer Michael Giacchino, the feeling of the ‘40s is replicated with a true sense of style, as it adds to the dramatic feeling of a powerful country being swamped by a new power. It fits the vision of the game extremely well, and is proof that, although a poor experience in many dimensions, Turning Point has been crafted with the most optimistic of intentions.

“Spark Unlimited must be commended for the authentic audio soundtrack “It is with this optimism that Turning Point: Fall of Liberty ultimately falters. Although there are a lot of decent ideas here, the way in which it has been executed only matches the stature of titles from the last-generation. More time could, and most probably should have been taken in order to re-define the World War Two genre in a new and exciting way. A lack of direction within the gameplay and narrative ensures that this is one gamers will overlook like so many before. It’s a cold world out there, and not wearing that coat of polish is a formula for an inconceivably poor title that is easy to pass by without a second thought.

4 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in September 2007.

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