Written March 2009 for http://www.xboxgamezone.co.uk
Worst game I have played yet, I hope I don’t come across worse anytime soon!
Every once in a while, it feels like a game comes along to test my patience, to test my stubbornness, hell even to test my blood pressure, it’s there just to push me that little bit too far just to see if I can suffer its entirety in the name of my career.
Sure, sometimes a game will be boring enough to make me want to switch it off and go play something decent, but I resist for the sake of integrity. However, I will admit it now. I failed with Shellshock 2. I hated it with every iota of my body, to the point that I’m afraid I couldn’t face completing it. I got three quarters of the way through and was seriously considering giving up gaming, it was so bad. I know I should bow my head in shame but seriously, if you had played this game (and I hope for your sake you never have to suffer this travesty) you would understand entirely.
There are many games that although not overly good, they still have a certain something about them that means someone likes them, but this? Surely not, I would dearly love to meet someone that enjoyed Shellshock 2, and possibly get a psychoanalyst to determine if they are sane or not. So I have probably intrigued you so much that you are desperate to know what’s wrong with Shellshock 2. A better question would be what’s right with it. Of course if I answered solely what’s right with it, this review would only be one word long: nothing. I suppose from a very optimistic viewpoint, it does two things right. It’s not very long; one playthrough would only take 4-6 hours by my reckoning of 20 minutes per level. The problem is it is so god forsakenly awful that it will feel like an eternity and that’s why you won’t complete it. The other good thing is it has very simple to gain achievement points if you are that way inclined, but you would have to be mad to achieve all 1000 of those points (especially as one achievement requires you to complete the game twice!). So now that we’ve got the good parts of the game out of the way, onto the tirade of things wrong with it!
The story, for once, is set during the Vietnam War, rather than the usual Second World War, which ordinarily would look like quite a positive step in terms of originality. The problem is, after about five minutes, you don’t really care as the focus is hardly on the story at all. You play Nate, a soldier whose brother Cal has managed to get caught up in a virus testing program called Whiteknight. This has caused an outbreak of zombie style soldiers all out to eat you, essentially. Typical zombie game type stuff really. As well as the zombies (technically they’re infected, it seems zombies are out, infected are in this season), there is also the small issue of the Vietnam War so there’s plenty of Vietcong to shoot as well.
After the initial storyline explanation, it all gets positively silly and ultimately you won’t care much. Still, a story isn’t always crucial for a good game is it; maybe the gameplay will make up for it? Excuse me while I try to stop laughing! I really can’t think of a redeeming feature in terms of controls or general game mechanics. Very early on, you will be baffled by why exactly Rebellion, the developers, decided to map the A button to the torch. Why use one of the main face buttons for this sort of purpose? Who knows, but still that’s not a game destroying feature, just a slight irritant. However, everything to do with aiming, perhaps the most crucial thing you need to be able to do in a FPS, is certainly game destroying. First of all, aiming just feels wrong, subjective I know but it feels awkward and inaccurate, and that’s because after a while you realise it is inaccurate! As you would expect in a FPS there is an iron sight on screen to help you aim. I say help in the loosest sense as in Shellshock 2; it just seems to obscure your view even further. It is so large and imposing that you can’t really see what you are aiming at. In the end I found it easier and more accurate to just move the iron sight around and press fire whenever it turned red to indicate an enemy was there. Due to the absolutely atrocious graphics, I’m talking Xbox 1 quality, it really wasn’t worth trying to spot the enemy, and it was easier to just wait for the iron sight to turn red. Excluding headshots, it didn’t seem to matter where you shot as it would always take at least 4-5 hits to kill the enemy regardless of the weapon, level of difficulty setting. I say this; I actually found that melee attacks and using the pistol was more effective than a rifle, AK-47 or even a shotgun. Even my brief time with a rocket launcher was useless, I was better off resorting to the ‘Wait till the iron sight goes red’ trick rather than actually aiming and trying to be skilful. This is in the case of killing Vietcong, but it is a similar tale with the Infected as I found a rifle butt to the body worked more effectively than a point blank range shotgun blast, 2 rifle butts or 3-4 shotgun blasts at close range, the logic? Who knows! Most weapons even required manual reloading which is frankly ridiculous! The enemies themselves are far from bright, they will, for the most part, just stand in front of you firing at you, waiting to die.
However there are still some irritating quirks that I really don’t fully understand. Such as enemies appearing from behind you despite there being absolutely nowhere that they could have come from because of a dead end. If this is how the Vietnam War really was, then no wonder it was such a difficult War! With no cover system and an inability to hit the ground and crawl, it can get frustrating when caught up in the crossfire, as dealing with enemies that you can hardly see and can hardly hit because of an appalling hit box system is really not my idea of fun. Oh and did I mention the appalling way of telling where you are being hit from? White flashes show from the four sides of the screen to show where the bullets are coming from, the problem is it still didn’t really help in distinguishing exactly where the enemy was. With no radar system available (even the first Call of Duty managed to have this!) and the awful graphics combined, it really is awkward to see exactly what’s going on and to be able to make an informed decision as to where to aim. As well as this, it felt difficult to determine exactly how much damage I had taken during a firefight. From what I could determine, a red haze goes around the screen to indicate damage; the problem is the white flashes of being shot obscures the red meaning it is quite difficult to tell what’s going on. This invariably means you die at times which feel unfair, simply because you couldn’t accurately guess how close to death you were. Probably by now, you’re sick of these unfair deaths, so you go to change difficulty for the next level. Oh no you don’t! Despite furious looks, I couldn’t find anywhere in the options that would allow me to change difficulty mid campaign, much like the Call of Duty series and various other games offer. Instead you have to restart the entire game at that difficulty and never change it. This seems incredibly short sighted to me and I really don’t understand why it’s the case.
Besides these logistical nightmares, the game is just so predictable in terms of layout. I don’t mind linear games if they push you along in a manner that disguises it well, such as the Call of Duty series for example, but this just feels so forced. Essentially you start a level, you run a little way, and you stop and shoot at a load of oncoming enemies, then once that’s cleared you move on a bit further ad infinitum. Occasionally there will be booby traps which provoke a Quick Time Event, these are simplistic to the extreme and really don’t add anything to the game. As well as this, occasionally an enemy will jump out at you (or the game will get confused and suddenly warp you to them) and you will have a slightly longer Quick Time Event to survive, on Easy it is a matter of 4 button presses, but on Medium and Hard there are 9 buttons to press, yes 9, that is a bit excessive really.
So, just to recap: the controls are awful, the graphics are terrible, the loading times are slow, the gameplay is atrocious, there is no multiplayer and the story is mediocre at best. Should you buy this? Not in a million years! Seriously, don’t even spend £10 on this awful, awful game. It really isn’t worth it. If you want a War FPS, go play the Call of Duty series, even if you have completed them all, replay them! If you want an atmospheric horror game, play F.E.A.R 1 or 2, play Bioshock, Resident Evil 5. You might as well go buy a copy of The Darkness, it’s cheap but cheerful! Just, please don’t play this. I implore you. If people keep buying this type of unspeakable awfulness, Rebellion might think they are doing something right and make more of this nonsense. Just say no.