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Action Man, the worlds most popular toy doll, is about to step up into the video game limelight. Let's see how tough this little guy really is.
Operation Xtreme is a little bit of a concoction. Take the driving element of Grand theft Auto and combine it with the handling of Speedster. Mix in a little Syphon Filter's action and a touch of Metal Gear Solids stealth. Stir thoroughly. Add ice, and pour into a Die Hard Trilogy tumbler. Sound tasty?
Perhaps a little too potent as some ingredients don't necessarily mix with others. The developers of Action Man have obviously been taking a good look around at the opposition. Maybe they couldn't make up their mind as to which specific action genre to go for and therefore took a little piece of each. The problem this creates is immediately noticeable.
On entering the option screen you immediately think... Driver! A small room has been set up as an office with each piece of equipment used as a sub-menu. Click on the TV and view the collection of cut-scenes. Open the wardrobe and change Action Man's combat gear. The bookcase swings around to reveal an armory. The hi-fi adjusts the sounds, the computer hold gathered data and a small storage chest somehow garages all of the Action motor vehicles. It works... but it's been done before.
If this feeling of deja-vu had simply been confined to the main menu I probably wouldn't have mentioned it, but it doesn't, it continues right throughout the game. No sooner has the first mission been issued than you think... Grand Theft Auto! The city streets are viewed from a top-down perspective as first a Silver Speedster car, and then the Super Bike, are mounted and used to chase the villains.
Graphically the polygon set doesn't look too bad. You'll find parks, warehouses and docks offering short-cuts, while the mechanical road passing over the swing bridge actually works (there are no ships passing under... it just seems to go up and down occasionally). As the villain's car is approached it begins flashing wildly indicating that you have found the target. Now it's time to blow it up. This would be great if only the AI was half decent. Most the crooks I caught up with were going round and round, as if too preoccupied in making crop circles to worry about the imminent arrival of Action Man.
After a solitary driving mission Action Man parks up his toy motor and whips out his weapon. Suddenly he is thrust into the third person perspective... similar to Syphon Filter. It's nice to finally cast eyes over a moving, walking, talking incarnation of the hero from my youth... but then... perhaps not. Maybe it would have been preferable had I stuck with my fond memories of this giant flexible war machine who could do anything, be anything and even shag Barbie if he wanted to. Instead you get this weedy lone soldier that moves as if he has a broom shank stuck up his arse. He stands statuesque, immaculately groomed and obviously punctual because he keeps checking his wristwatch every few seconds (must be one of those Action Man Indestructible Underwater Compass gadgets... I used to keep looking at mine all of the time). Move him in any given direction and... Woa...! He's off out of the stalls like a horse on heat. Trotting around as if he was on dressage duty. Five years ago this may have been impressive... but... not now. Maybe they motion-captured the doll instead of a human!
The camera angles capture the impressive polygon scenery splendidly. Unfortunately it should be concentrating on the perilous dangers that lie ahead of Action Man, not the barren landscape where he has just been. To counteract this problem there is a button on the joypad that will switch to a first person perspective. Unfortunately Action Man cannot move an inch while in this mode... just like a doll! So it's back to wandering straight into an enemy and then quickly scrambling to arm the correct weapon.
There seems plenty to do once the game gets underway and the action is certainly fast and furious. If only it was as much fun to play. Racing around the streets in the first mission feels nothing like driving a high powered vehicle... more like steering an ice cube around a wet table. Very slack handling. By the time that some sort of control has been achieved it's 'Mission Over' and onto the next part of the game.
After a brief instruction that you must unveil the entrance to Professor. Gangrene's laboratory Action Man sets off on foot. It is explained that by using his metal detector a 'hidden' code will appear. "Goodie!" I thought. "A puzzle involving scanning the desert terrain with one of those bleeping gadgets for buried clues." No such luck! By accessing his inventory and activating the correct device the entire screen turns green and the six code fragments are clearly visible lying out in the open. Nor exactly very well hidden!
This introduces us to the 'puzzle element' of the game. You see it offers a slight twist to the normal... it's a puzzle the you don't need to think about. Even if you are completely blind, and are incapable of following a precise description of what you must do in order to proceed, simply press the select button for a full map of the area. Here you will see a flashing beacon pointing out the exact location of the next task. What it does is actually ruin any chance of you having to think during the game.
The action is hardly enthralling, therefore a little strategy wouldn't have done any harm. Instead you are ushered through the game as quickly as possible. For example, Action Man is in the basement and needs to reach a higher level. The player isn't even allowed the time to look around for clues on how to get out of this predicament. Instead the game stops and a voice mentions that a moving hook is the only way out. Even if you ignore this information the game stops again and suggests that you try jumping onto the hook. React too slowly and the spoiler is back checking that you know which button is used to jump. "Use the circle! Use the circle!"; There's even a cut-scene showing the damn thing moving back and forth. Do these people not realize they are ruining the gameplay?
For a moment I believed that Action Man Operation Xtreme could possibly appeal to the over 7 year old's. What a fool! By switching to sniper mode a crossbow can zoom in onto specific targets. Using this was quite good fun until the few arrows I had been given ran out . I then had to press a button to remove this particular weapon. Press another to enter the inventory. Press the direction button across, then up and down to choose a new weapon. Press another button to select, and another to arm, and another to fire... I think the war was over by the time I had finally re-armed.
Look! If you know of a young child that is being gradually weaned onto the Syphon Filter's, Metal Gear Solid's and Tomb Raider's of this world, then maybe Action Man would be an easy baptism. The rest of us best stick with the original merchandise.
* Lots of gadgets
* Drive cars
* Snipe Enemies
* Solve Puzzles
* Fight Bosses
* It's Action Man
Number of Disks: 1
Number of blocks used on Memory card per save: 1
Maximum number of Players (without a multi-tap): 1
Multi-tap compatible (max players): No
Link-cable compatible (max players): No
Split screen multi-player option (max players): No
Other accessories: None
Dual Shock Pad Digital Button compatible: Yes
Dual Shock Pad Analog Stick compatible: Yes
Dual Shock Pad Vibration compatible: Yes