Aurora Watching PC CD-ROM
Published by Enlight Entertainment Software
Developed by Metropolis Software
Release Date: Out Now
Aurora Watching, an introduction.
Despite stealth action games being very popular, there aren't too many of them about. The titles that spring to mind are Metal Gear Solid and its sequels, the Splinter Cell series and the Thief series. All of these are great games and have mass appeal. Part of the reason for their appeal is the strength of the main character's personality. There was quite a backlash when in Metal Gear Solid 2 gamers had to control the rather weak Raiden instead of the much more interesting Snake. We reviewed Stolen a while back and that game really suffered from having uninteresting characters and likewise, it's something Aurora Watching is guilty of too.
What's the game about?
The game comes across as a Metal Gear Solid/Splinter Cell mix which in theory should be appealing. You'll play as Special Forces Agent White Fox who in recent times has hit the booze rather hard and now has to pull himself together. The Russian Atomic Submarine Komsomoletz III has been sunk in the Arctic Ocean. The exact area in which the sub has been sunk is believed, by the NATO secret service, to contain a previously unknown and suspicious military complex. White Fox has been called out of his drunken stupor to infiltrate this military complex and find out exactly what is going on. Fox has a variety of environments to explore and is equipped with a wealth of advanced gadgets to help him in his quest.
What's good about the game?
You could point to the low price tag of Aurora Watching and claim that as a bonus but there are better games at half the price so that's not really valid. If you're looking for a derivative and unpolished stealth game you might find parts of Aurora Watching are passable but at no point is it ever in danger of becoming enjoyable.
What's not so good about the game?
A game that so blatantly tries to mimic both the Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell games had the potential to be really good. Unfortunately though, there are many areas of the game that are just plain sloppy and ruin the whole stealth element. You'll begin by playing the tutorial which naturally introduces you to the controls and actions that Fox can perform. The tutorial itself is very uninspiring and really feels like a chore but at least it's quite brief. Once onto the main game, you'll find the story is about as uninteresting as can be. Any illusion you have about the game being a good stealth game will be shattered almost immediately.
Trying to get inside the military base, I was disappointed to fire off a shot which no one took any notice of and when I entered a room where a guard was using a computer, he even turned round to see that I was behind him (this was walking not sneaking by the way). Hacking computers and other such actions feel so uninvolved. To hack a computer you simply right click on and select 'crack' before just sitting there while the action is performed. None of the interactivity that Splinter Cell has is here and makes the whole thing feel so uninteresting. It's also rather aggravating how enemies can be shot several times whilst one of theirs will instantly take you out. It's also worth pointing out that enemies have the sight of an eagle as mere pistols can take you out from seemingly a mile away. The game lacks options, such as being able to stealthily open a door which means you can sneak right up to them and have to put up with flinging them open, which seems crazy. There are times when being stealthy isn't necessary such as when you're riding a skidoo. By the way controlling the skidoo is a nightmare. The list of complaints could go on but I think it's fair to say that what we've mentioned already has highlighted some major problems the game has in claiming to be a stealth action game.
How does it look?
The game has a bland, faded kind of look about it which is really down to the poor textures more than anything else. The environments you'll be sneaking around in are largely uninteresting but aren't especially bad in any way. The character models are in fact quite good. The same can't be said for some of the animations though which are probably on a par with those in the original Metal Gear Solid on the PSone. The game is played from a third person perspective, although if you press the space bar you'll have a camera angle that is exactly the same as the one in Metal Gear Solid. When you drag a dead enemy around, the camera will also change to this elevated MGS style camera angle too. It's the little details that haven't been included that make the game look rushed such as when Fox is walking around in the snow and he doesn't leave any footprints. The game could definitely do with a vsync option though as playing the game on anything representing a modern graphics card will result in the graphics tearing (even if you enable vsync in your graphics driver control panel).
How deaf gamer friendly is the game?
Aurora Watching, like most stealth based games, is at best a mixed bag for deaf gamers. Subtitles can be enabled so that you can follow what's going on in the cutscenes. The tutorial is fully subtitled too. Comments that Fox makes while moving around and comments made by your enemies are not shown in text. A mini-map/radar shows the location of nearby enemies (enemies not shown on this mini-map can still fire at you though). There are no captions for ambient noises and there isn't a gauge to show you how visible you are or how much noise you're making which is very disappointing.
Most people tend to think it's a bad idea when games blatantly take features from other games and use them in their own game. Personally I'm not that fussed but what I do think is that if you're going to imitate games such as Splinter Cell and Metal Gear Solid you have to do it in a way that really works. Whilst Aurora Watching is clearly a game influenced by other titles (Metal Gear Solid in particular), it's been put together in such a haphazard way that the whole thing doesn't have half the appeal it should have. The game's not a complete disaster but it's very crude and has so many rough edges that it will turn off most gamers. If only the stealth elements worked properly, if only the level design was half decent, if only actions (such as cracking the computer systems) were challenging and if only the story had been worthwhile we might have had a game that would have been worth nearly £20 but as it stands, it's difficult to justify a purchase.
Overall Game Rating: 4.0/10
Deaf Gamers Classification:
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Aurora Watching is essentially a disappointment. With so many elements taken from other games (MGS in particular) you would have thought it should have been an enjoyable game but sadly it doesn't turn out that way.