When it comes right down to it, fast action is just plain fun. But does Kill.Switch have enough 'oomph' to come out a winner?
PS2, Xbox (US only)
By Ben S. Dutka
When it comes to strict third-person shooters, it can be difficult to find one that really excels in every category. Freedom Fighters was one game that had a great premise, but didn't entirely follow through on the idea. They are designed for those people who hate all the sneaking around in games like Metal Gear and Splinter Cell, but love it when stuff gets blown up real good.
Enter Kill.Switch, a futuristic action-packed shooter that is, above all else, loud and hectic. The game has its predecessors, and one of them may be Winback. Here was another game that allowed to you duck and cover while engaging in all-out firefights. However, the big difference between the two is that it was simply a feature of Winback; in Kill.Switch, it's the focus.
Graphically speaking, the game starts off looking quite good, even impressive in some areas. You will instantly notice the quality animation right from the get-go, but you will also notice, unfortunately, that you've seen it all after the first ten minutes. The visuals in the game don't have a lot of flash to them, but allowances can be made. After all, the game's environment doesn't exactly represent a leisurely vacation in the Riviera.
The textures aren't as refined as one would like, but the detail is well done throughout most all areas of the game. The somewhat faceless enemies are at least depicted cleanly, and the action is captured well on-screen. In the end, there aren't any graphical flaws to get in a twist over, but there's really nothing to write home about either. The best that can be said for the solid visuals is that they serve their purpose.
The sound, despite a significant lack of balance, is a decidedly critical part of Kill.Switch. It should almost be a requirement to play this game in stereo surround sound, because the sound effects shine with unbridled power and definition. The intensity of the sound effects has the unique capability of drawing the player into the action, but there is one slight problem. The soundtrack, decent but too unassuming for its own good, tends to override the great sound effects at times. The best way to fix this is to simply turn the soundtrack down in the options menu, thus letting the explosions ring loud and true in your ears.
How hard is it to create a third-person shooter that has great camera control and top-notch character maneuverability? Apparently, it's a challenge that many developers are not prepared to meet. Namco's Kill.Switch, like so many other games in the genre, comes very close to achieving fast gameplay nirvana, but falls short due to several minor flaws and inconsistencies. The strange part about this game is that there are no severe problems, but the small ones just keep adding up.
After going through a brief tutorial that will explain the basics of covering up from gunfire and retaliating (basically, the game operates off of the "attack while defending" principle), you will be tossed headfirst into the action. Bullets are whizzing past your head and things are blowing up ten feet from where you stand…time to get moving, bucko.
The first minor problem occurs when shooting. There will be many times when you have the cursor dead on a target, and continually miss with a dozen bullets. Then you duck, come back out, and fire again in the exact spot, finally killing your adversary. It's an annoying little tick that endures throughout the entire game, so be prepared to just accept it and move on.
For the most part, playing the game is extraordinarily easy. The controls only take a few minutes to get used to, and only a few more minutes to really master. Nothing much changes in the way of new challenges as you progress through the game; basically, just more enemies and more dangerous weapon fire from above.
That's right, you're being bombarded from all sides, so don't be surprised to see an attack helicopter swooping down to finish you off. That's when it's time to break out the big guns, of course. Thankfully, Kill.Switch does have a decent array of weapons to choose from, and they include the AKUG Grenade Launcher, the AK-47 and M4 assault rifles, and the MCRT-300 Sniper Rifle. A silenced 9MM submachine gun and a handy-dandy M1 shotgun round out a very effective arsenal.
One of the most interesting aspects of the game is the AI. At first glance, it looks like you're dealing with simple and stupid bots. But after playing for a while, you will realize that your opponents are surprisingly human, and realistic in their decisions. For example, when you are spotted, enemies will of course fire upon your position. They will also direct reinforcements to do the same. However, if you can find a way out of there and sneak around to another cover spot, you can take them from behind.
In this way, Kill.Switch doesn't entirely abandon strategy for the sake of over-the-top gunfights. Unfortunately, they don't build on this nearly as much as they could've, or should've. By the time you get about halfway through the game, you will find that sneaking around too often is a good way to get your head blown off. In general, the game forces you to move quickly and efficiently, and in so doing, represents two things: a slight inconvenience due to the repetitiveness and similarity of each area, and an alluring, stylish sort of gameplay that pulls no punches.
As you may have guessed, there isn't much to Kill.Switch beyond guns and explosions. This is great for a few hours, but can get tiresome after a while. The worst part is that there really is no reason to play it again once you've completed it; there are no special unlockable items or stages to be found. In terms of longevity, it's one of those games that are good for one play-through, but it may start gathering dust on your shelf within the week. A goodly-sized arsenal, distinct weaponry, an appreciated variance in several levels, and surprisingly impressive AI are enough to get this game a respectable score in the depth department.
As far as presentation goes, the movie-like cut-scenes and action sequences add a bit of panache to a game that desperately needs some, but it's all over much too quickly. Your mission is completed after a mere six hours of game time, but this is also a good thing. Due to the in-your-face format of the game, I'm not sure I'd want much more than six hours of it. I only want more than that if there's more depth and diversity to the game, and in the case of Kill.Switch, it's pretty darn straightforward.
Overall, Kill.Switch is great for some quick fun. Simple in its approach, it provides the player with a relatively intense experience for at least several hours, and the mechanics function well enough to keep you playing until the end. There are occasional problems with the camera, especially in cramped spaces, and the aiming control can get a touch out of hand at times, but it can still be considered technically solid. In the end, it's not as good as it could've been, but it's better than you may have expected.