It started off as just another tourist diving trip for diving instructor / treasure hunter Jack Hard, until he gets caught up in a global conspiracy. The infamous terrorist organisation United Arms has discovered a new source of energy on the ocean floor and they’re planning to use it in the construction of a weapon of mass destruction! This is all very important but I can’t believe the main character is named Jack Hard.
After the protagonist stumbles upon a research station in the ocean all hell breaks loose, as it often does in these kinds of games. The game promises breathtaking fire fights, claustrophobic hallways, gigantic train depots and secret laboratories. But what sets Red Ocean apart is that action takes places above and below the waterline.
The FPS genre is overflowing with derivative clones of action films with wafer thin stories, does Red Ocean stand out in a vast crowd? Initial impressions are that this is a solid FPS game. Damage is fairly realistic in that you can’t stand out in the open for too long and an enemy can be dispatched with a carefully aimed shot. There’s a variety of weaponry on offer, starting off with a selection of machine guns, pistols and a knife, all of which are rendered accurately enough. Zooming is done by the right mouse button and some weapons have a greater range and kick than others so you have to think about which is best for the situation at hand. As you progress through the game more futuristic weaponry is on offer, which will have to wait until the full review.
Once fighting is underway, Red Ocean plays at a fast pace and you need to take cover in order to coordinate your attack. Headshots work well at taking out enemies quickly, which is important as – somewhat realistically – there’s not many health packs lying around. It resembled a real gunfight better than many FPS games where you walk into a room and point and shoot without regard for your location. Enemies come thick and fast and use flash bangs and grenades against you. Explosions and fire from the larger weaponry inflicts real damage on the walls and the atmosphere is enhanced by the effective music from Dynamedion and conjures up the kind of deep sea scenario found in the Bond films.
Visually the game is fairly nice to look at but it doesn’t set any new ground. Blood splatters your screen when under fire and the screen goes red when you’re dead. Textures are average for 2007 but the water effects are – as one would expect – given more attention, yet don’t look too over the top. The best effects I observed were when using the plasma gun, which opened up a new realm of physical interaction. Chairs and tables would fly over as the energy flew through the air and upon hitting the bad guys, hurled them backwards. My main criticism in this department was that I couldn’t select the widescreen resolution 1440×900 and I hope this is fixed in the final release. Despite this the integrated physics system was largely impressive and resulted in some entertaining moments such as people getting shot and falling off walkways.
As with most modern games you can save at any time you like, and just in case you forget there is an auto save option. Red Ocean has that Half-Life feel about it, crates included. Although it clearly sticks closer to what has gone before rather than innovate, it could be worth a look for FPS gamers who want a single player campaign to fight their way through. Stay tuned for our full review in the coming weeks when we’ll have a much deeper look at the game and focus on the diving aspect.