|Memo to game publishers: Donít reference one of the best games of all time on the box cover of a game that probably wonít make it to that hallowed status. Case in point, the box for Abomination has a quote from Voodoo Magazine touting it as "X-COM meets Day of the Dead in real-time." |
Also, try not to release said game with said box cover the same time a bundled three-game X-COM package hits stores.
Anyway, to Abomination. Yes, itís very like X-COM, in that the player controls a paramilitary group fighting against unknown assailants while managing resources. Heck, it makes for a great storyline: A strange virus starts in New York City and sweeps across the country. Most of the population dies, leaving some confused survivors, a strange cult called The Faithful and a special military corps named Project Nemesis.
Nemesis consists of eight genetically altered soldiers, plus reinforcements recruited from the survivors. The Nemesis group has locations around the lazily named The City, and launches missions from there with objectives from defusing virus bombs to wiping out Faithful safehouses. Meanwhile, researchers are discovering an insidious plot involving very Lovecraftian extra-dimensional entities.
Sounds great, doesnít it? Yep. Itís an excellent idea for plot, even if much of it (even the Lovecraftian angle) was taken from the X-COM trilogy.
Sadly, the game itself isnít as compelling. The strategic game is played from a red-tinted command screen with an overhead view of the city thatís surprisingly blocky and primitive, from graphics standards. Missions appear as blinking circles on the map; itís up to the player to decide whether to send a quartet of soldiers to the danger zone. Yes, a quartet. More on that in a bit.
Accepting a mission brings up the tactical screen (and yes, the graphics here are far better). This is the real-time strategy portion of the game, with the player guiding the soldiers around a small chunk of city to carry out whatever mission has been assigned. Searchable hotspots can provide weapons and other items.
With so few resources, strategy pretty much goes out the window, leaving the player to simply blast away at enemies without using flanking maneuvers or anything else of the sort. That gets to be a problem when the enemies get progressively harder; though the playerís research teams eventually come up with bigger and better weapons and armor, itís very slow.
Combat gets hectic in real-time, though press the space bar pauses the action. Add to the confusion the fact that soldiers often ignore orders and rush into battle, sometimes even dashing straight into friendly fire. Also, most of the early levels rely on specimens captured via stun grenade. Fine and good for the shambling baddies, but too many more are too quick (and stun grenades are very limited in number), so the player often has to replay the mission again and again to get that lob just right.
Itís really a powerful testimonial for turn-based games. Yes, real-time is more believable when it comes to combat, but come on: Weíre talking hordes of alien and undead enemies here. "Believable" is not exactly what Abomination should be going for.
Bottom line, this game came very, very close to being very good. Instead, gameplay is so frustrating and so inferior to other products out there that it just doesnít compare to the games it draws inspiration from.