Review of City Crisis
City Crisis is a rather unique game from the company that published Smugglers Run and Midnight Club (different developer though). Gamers get to pilot an assortment of helicopters on various missions that can consist of rescuing people, putting out fires or chasing down criminals. All of this takes place in huge city environment that appears to stretch out for miles. What I immediately realized is that this game is very much like the ancient but wonderful title called Choplifter that I used to play on my old Atari system…only now instead of a primitive sprite-based side-scroller, everything is in glorious 3D.
The game offers up two main mission modes: Rescue and Chase. Additionally there is a Time Attack mode that has gamers piloting their helicopter through as many rings in as little amount of time as possible. In the Rescue mode players are faced with the task of rescuing men, women and their pets (poor Fido) from all sorts of disasters or accidents. People will be stuck on the tops of burning buildings, crippled up on city streets, getting mugged in back alleys and an assortment of other mishaps. In addition to rescuing people and pets it is also your job to put out fires that have broken out all over the city. A typical rescue mission starts out by notifying players that an accident has occurred in a certain location in the city. By following a little arrow on the radar screen, you pilot your chopper to the accident site, which is usually a building on fire. People that were fortunate enough to escape the blaze will be on the rooftop screaming for help. Players have a limited amount of time to rescue the people (if you take too long, they will die) and put out the fire. Once completed, another accident normally occurs and you are off once again.
To assist with the rescue task, players will have a choice of three copters…each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Some helicopters are fast and maneuverable but can only hold a small number of people while another is rather large, slow and relatively hard to control but can hold a cargo full of survivors. Two other choppers can be unlocked during gameplay…both are awesome compared to the three you start with.
Once you arrive at the scene of the accident the helicopter must be situated over the people needing rescue. Pressing the O button will send down a harnessed rescue jumper who will grab the person and then instruct you to press the button again to pull them up. People needing help will be identified by a colored icon flashing above their bodies; green for someone in good health, yellow for someone that is fading fast and red…meaning get your ass in there fast or they are a goner. During multiple rescues, this lends a nice strategic element to the gameplay. Who do you rescue first…the poor little puppy dog that is flashing red or the man that is yellow? To add to the chaos fires must also be extinguished. If you take too long trying to pick up the people instead of focusing on the blaze, explosions or updrafts occur and then all you will see are little skull and cross bone icons littered about…representing the people that got blown up.
To help in extinguishing the fires, helicopters come equipped with a water cannon that has restricted capacity and a limited amount of water missiles that can be fired directly into the flames. In order for the cannon to be effective you have to fly up pretty close to the flames. Using it in some of the scenarios is a risky endeavor because the blades usually end up whacking into the building or some other nearby structure. Also, if the building explodes while you are trying to put out the flames the chopper could end up a casualty. Add to this the fact that once the water tank is drained you have to wait for it to refill, situations can get tense rather quickly. Using missiles is much more effective but unfortunately they run out pretty quickly. The best way to get more missile stock is to rescue people that need help while on your way to the main accident. This is actually a great idea by the developers to throw in these little side missions because these people are hard to find, as they dont appear on the radar. Trying to locate them also uses up the precious time that you are allocated to complete the main mission objective. I have found though that it is almost essential, especially later in the game, to complete these side rescues in order to get a high score since the scoring system at the end of each round takes into account the number of people of that have been saved.
In the Chase mode players are tasked with assisting ground police in apprehending criminals. Your piloting skills are really tested in this mode as the chopper needs to be maneuvered in between buildings and kept pretty low in order to track the vehicles. In fact, the lower and closer you are to the perp the more points you score. More times than not I found myself taking extensive damage to the blades from constantly cracking into buildings. Once the helicopter takes enough damage, it explodes into a fiery ball of flames, littering the ground with debris. I thought it was pretty cool to watch the little police cars below me catch on fire from my mishap.
Piloting the copters is pretty easy. The controls are extremely intuitive…the thumb sticks are used to navigate, the L2 button gives a momentary speed burst, R1 fires missiles, R2 is for the water cannon and the O button is for picking people up. Thats it…very simple. While each helicopter handles quite different depending on its attributes, the controls are very responsive and solid regardless of which one is selected. Flying in the game is actually a lot of fun and it enables players to focus on the mission at hand instead of trying to fumble around with a slew of controls and a quirky copter.
A few things could have been done though to make the game even more enjoyable. First, there is the camera. For the most part it is perfect, tracking your helicopter from a chase view but occasionally when rescuing people a building will obscure your vision forcing you to move the copter around. The little extra time it takes to complete this maneuver can often end up with a person dying. Also, there should be an on screen proximity detector indicating how close you are to a building and how high or low the copter is.
Graphically, City Crisis is overall above average. On the down side the game has a ton of shimmering and would have benefited greatly from the use of mip-mapping. While it doesnt detract from the gameplay, it would have looked absolutely gorgeous without the flickering. Also besides the helicopters, texturing is almost non-existent. Instead the developers chose to throw millions of low-textured polygons at the screen. While this looks most impressive traveling over the city, it lacks realism when flying up close to buildings and such. Everything is incredibly crisp and sharp without the smoothing that textures would provide. There is also some minor draw-in of buildings in the distance…again, very minor.
On the upside, the fact that an incredibly dense and fully animated metropolis is being rendered in real time is an amazing site to see. As the helicopter buzzes about we are treated to fully realized amusement parks complete with rides chugging away like Ferris wheels, roller coasters, etc. There are elevated train tracks, moving trains, cars, and people scurrying about…virtually a whole city very much alive and active.
The particle effects used in the game for smoke, fires, explosions, etc. are certainly impressive. When the helicopter explodes for instance, little chunks of burning metal descend upon the city streets below, often catching police cars on fire. Lighting effects also play a large part in the game. During night missions, the city is virtually sparkling from the building and streetlights. No doubt, the game looks sweet.
Sound wise things are pretty average. The helicopter effects are very realistic with the flip, flip, flip of the whirring blades. Building explosions are rightly thunderous and the pathetic cries of help from the people hit the mark. The metallic clinking of the copter blades against a building also sounds nice. Otherwise though, everything else is pretty standard and much of what you would expect. Musically, the tracks are appropriate for the action on hand. Everything is fully orchestrated with no vocals and plays on in the background not really adding or detracting from the gameplay.
OUR PLEDGE: We promise that we have fully played 'City Crisis' before writing this review. The scores given above are our honest opinion and were not influenced in any way by the manufacturer or distributor of the game.
This review was written by Tom Rooney © Absolute PlayStation
Click here to view our 9 City Crisis in-game screenshot slideshow
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