/THE DA VINCI CODE

03/06/2006

 

.HYPED

I haven’t quite finished the book yet, and I haven’t seen the film either.  However, an old flame of mine loves the whole Illuminati, secret society business and desperately wanted me to play this game! 

 

To be honest with you, the book has left a rather bitter taste in my mouth, I read Angels and Demons first and felt it had a lot more going for it as far as film adaptations and even games are considered in my opinion. 

 

But, I digress, how is The DaVinci Code, the game…? Well, read on.

 

.CUTSCENE-TASTIC

The first hour of this game is quite possibly the most boring of any game I have ever played.  I wasn't given the opportunity to do anything apart from use on of the the weakest “examine” features I’ve also ever seen and watch roughly 45 minutes of cutscenes.

 

You can skip these cutscenes (which, by the way, also feature some great examples of how not to do animation), which is a slight saving grace, but… isn’t this supposed to be, at least in part, a narrative led adventure game?  Should I want to skip them?

 

The “examine” feature has clearly been designed for people who don’t actually want to look for anything and would rather be given the clues in a box surrounded by flashing lights.  When you have an area you can examine, you zoom into the area with a special view and can pan around until objects that can be used or looked at are given a great big yellow glow.  You will now be treated to another “cutscene” and some dull voice-over about the item or issue you select.  FUN!

 

They clearly didn’t know how to introduce the initial story from the book with any form of gameplay and decided instead to allow you to move from one horrible cutscene to the next.  Eek.

 

.I KNOW KUNG-FU

What the hell were they thinking?  Seriously.  Instead of spending time coming up with slightly more interesting puzzles and ways to navigate the environment and uncover clues and such, and ideally, not be involved in another 10 minute cutscene, they decided instead to make Robert Langdon (the books hero, in case you are not aware) a mean, lean, fighting machine!  Oh, but wait… how often, in the book, does he actually get involved in some kind of fisticuffs action? Hmmm, a few at most, and he rarely does very well!

 

Robert Landon is an aging teacher, not a brute, and he doesn’t use force to work his way out of trouble.  He instead relies on the use of his lateral thinking and logic to get out of almost every confrontational situation.  It is not only laughable that he is always getting into punch-ups with guards and thugs, but so is the fighting system they chose to employ (if you can even call it a fighting system).

 

You can do one of two things: if you haven’t been seen, you can sneak up behind the enemy and mash a button to try and do a stealth knock-out or, if you are seen, you can press that same button to enter into “combat”.  This entails being shown, wait for it, a cutscene of Robert beating someone up while you press buttons displayed to you at the bottom of the screen.  If you mess up the sequence the bad guy comes out on top.  If you don’t, you give him a good kicking.  You can also use similar systems to throw and push (aren’t these essentially the same thing?) your opponent away.  It’s tedious and long winded and by the halfway point in the game you are doing everything in your power to knock-out your would-be assailants with the stealth attack.

 

I especially liked that Robert was essentially a cold blooded killer.  In one section he actually gets to electrocute someone to what is obviously an untimely death.  Almost more amusing are the things he says to the people he has taken down that quite frankly, would never leave this characters lips.

 

.PUZZLED

Do I have a good point you might well ask?  Well, yes, sort of.

 

Some of the puzzles that aren’t stolen almost directly from the book are pretty interesting.  Although this is understandable, it’s pretty lame for anyone who’s actually read the book, and stupidly hard for anyone that hasn’t.  Apart from the fighting that goes on in-between getting from A to B, these puzzles can, for the most part, be pretty engaging.  Unfortunately the feeling is marred by the fact the game too often assumes the player has already been somewhere, heard something or has something in his inventory.

 

It will often ask the player to retrieve a specific item or object that could so clearly be found elsewhere in the environment but is not an interactive element.  There are also situations where the player must find an object to do something when a similar object in your inventory or an item nearby could clearly be used to do the same task.  Little annoyances like this really take you out of the experience and, certainly for me, acted as a reminder that I was playing a sub-par videogame.

 

.Adventure?

The actual story is linear, as you might imagine, being based on a book.  There are a few detours along the way not found in the book to lengthen the show a little, however, some are so totally out-there in comparison to the book that, again, you are taken out of the experience.

 

The book easily has enough content and adventuring to have still offered an 8-10 hour game experience, if they had decided to make you actually search and solve things yourself and had you traversing the environments more and exploring instead of fighting.  If the situations where the player was confronted with an obstacle or enemy had the player using careful planning and stealth to overcome them, then the game would have felt more like the book and added just as much longevity, if not more.  Instead, they decided to fill it with dull combat and cutscenes that lead you by the nose.

 

I really believe this would have been a better experience as a Myst style game.  It would have been a more engaging and thoughtful game and would have certainly been an interesting departure from every other film license game out there that, as far as I can tell, is somehow trivialised into a mass-market action / fighting / driving hybrid.  It saddens me when games can offer so much more.

 

.A Sound Thrashing

The voice-overs are poorly delivered and the writing for them simplistic.  I especially love the British thugs; you simply have to hear them to understand quite how bad they truly are!  Teabing, the British knowledge-base of all things Knights Templar and Holy Grail was not so bad, and I wasn’t as offended while he was talking.  Some of the music is atmospheric and blends well with the scene and/or action, as were some of the ambient effects. 

 

I think when all is said and done the sound is probably the most cohesive part of the whole production.

 

.ON The Whole

The game, in general, was a veritable buffet of disappointments.  I longed for the game to end! 

 

The only sections I actually enjoyed were at the Saint-Sulpice and Westminster Abbey.  Why? Because I actually got to wander around those environments and solve almost interesting puzzles without being bothered by enemies.  They were the only times that I spent actually thinking and not being wholly frustrated. 

 

The only good animation I noticed was when you ran past the pigeons and they flew away.

 

The production values felt low, the visuals; nothing special, creative direction; directionless and the overall concept and design left me feeling sad, cold and alone.

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