Chrome Review
Chrome is the latest FPS gunning for the plaudits before Half-Life 2 finally appears. Can it tide those in waiting over until December?
Read on!Alan Paterson (Paterson)
Wednesday, November 12th, 2003

Chrome, developed by Polish team Techland, has been extensively previewed here at Boomtown and we've even done an interview with one of the developers. Now that the final release is here, we can find out if what promised to be an excellent game has turned out to be just that.

You are Logan, mercenary extraordinaire. Military action in the Expedition Corps and then the Special Forces have honed your skills, now you ply your trade, finding bad guys, eliminating threats, some unsavoury, some not so bad, but all for money. Now you and your colleague, a shady guy by the name of Ron "Pointer" Harper have accepted a mission to retrieve some stolen material. This should be a "piece of cake" says he. Nothing is ever that simple, as you'll find out. We have the technology

The game comes on two CDs and although installation takes a while, it's easy and simple, just a CD swap halfway through and one CD required to play the game. After it has greedily taken 1.7Gb (!) of my ever-diminishing free space it's off to the tutorial mission with Ron, to retrieve the stolen material. This is where the sheer beauty of the game really impressed me. There's no fogging at all and the landscapes appear to go on forever. Even the grass and branches sway in the breeze, but the frame rate still remains high and smooth. It's mightily impressive, and a sign of things to come.

One interesting aspect about the game is the ability to augment many of your abilities with bio-cybernetic implants. These can improve various skills, from an adrenaline booster that allows faster running, to eye implants to improve your shooting and aiming. Reflex boosters, infra-red vision and muscle improvers to reduce recoil are also available, but using them comes at a price. While they will improve your abilities, their overuse will have a detrimental effect on your nervous system and therefore your health - forcing you to keep a beady watch on the implant meter on your HUD, which shows the load on your body that each implant is causing. Should this meter ever reach full, it can incapacitate you for a few seconds while your nervous system recovers and the implant switches off, so it's essential to watch this carefully, especially in multiplayer where a few seconds of inactivity leaves you wide open for a beheading by .50 calibre rifle.

The controls are the usual for just about any FPS out there (if it ain't broke....) so first you have to open your cargo container to retrieve your weapons. Standard fit is an assault rifle, some grenades, healtex (medipacks), some grenades and a pistol - so everything seems to be as normal there. As you move through the forest and the trees, you must keep an eye on your motion tracker as it shows all movement within an area of about fifteen metres. Pop two bad guys and then it's down to the bridge where three more await. You think they don't really stand a chance, but the enemy has some quite good AI and they duck and seek cover and kneel to get a steady shot at you. But, as usual, they die by your (or Ron's) trigger finger. One nice thing you can do is search the corpse of anyone you shoot. A handy place to find more healtex and ammo as you can run out very quickly.

The most basic transportation in the game. Unfortunately you can't drive and shoot. Looks cool though! Vehicles are available to commandeer, but most of them are really only for two or more people. The most basic vehicle, a 4x4 futuristic jeep has a mini-gun on top, but you can't drive and shoot at the same time. For the first few missions they're more of a threat to yourself than a tool with which to complete the mission. Other vehicles are available and these include small walker type vehicles (Think AT-ST in Return of the Jedi) and speeders, (á la Return of the Jedi again.). These vehicles only really come into serious use in later levels and in some of the multiplayer maps, but are very dangerous to yourself.

Moving on in the game there is a little surprise in the form of a sniper standing atop a very tall tower, who starts taking shots at you and Ron. He's the wimp of your group and hides while you have to go and take him down, dodging from cover to cover to get close enough that your assault rifle can stand a chance against his high powered rifle. Once he's been offed then you are asked to take the rifle and sit atop the tower and shoot the bad guys while Ron affects an entrance into the compound. The satisfaction of getting a head shot from 500 yards away is immense, but the other soldiers don't seem to be worried at all that one of their friends has just lost his head and just stand and wait to be shot at. Sometimes they do try to take cover, but not always. I won't reveal the rest of this mission, but I will say there's a slight twist that makes way for the rest of the game.

Your multiplayer team are all configurable for colour and battlesuit type. I've already mentioned the multiplayer mode briefly and it's this that is my favourite part of the game. All the weapons are available at the beginning and all of the implants can be used (again, subject to the meter on the HUD) so it becomes a game of tactics on some maps, especially in Capture the Flag and Assault. It's very easy to kit yourself out with the .50 calibre sniper rifle and pick the bad guys off from 800 yards (Watching them die with no idea who shot them or from where is tremendous fun) but this won't complete the mission. This is where the different vehicles come in handy though. All of the usual types of game are in there with several maps and an editor to create your own levels - so expect a steady flow of new maps as the pick up of the game increases.

The minigun is a bit like a food processor - instant pieces of whatever you want. The other levels are just as impressive as the first with vast open ground to look across with no visible loss of detail, even when looking through a sniper scope or your binoculars. It's all very spectacular as there are buildings and trees and hills so it's very richly detail and not at all sparse. The motion tracker only displays what it sees in '2D' so while there might be 4 or maybe even more dots on the tracker, they could be above you or below, making opening that door very tense and sometimes full of dread, often to find there's no one waiting! The graphical niceties continue inside with computer screens and furniture all around the buildings. Any windows you come across can usually be broken and gives some nice reflections and effects if your graphics card can handle it. The sound is also equally impressive with meaty explosions (if you have a subwoofer, then they sound really good) and excellent sounding weapons and good speech. The game plays extremely well with a well judged difficulty on the medium setting if you're a seasoned FPS player, but this moves onto the verge of almost impossibility on the very hard levels (two hits and your dead!) but it's nicely weighted with small, but noticeable increases in difficulty for each level. The only faults I can think of are that the vehicles are of limited use in the first few missions, but they're easily controlled so it's not hard to get the hang of them, and there aren't that many servers currently available - but that'll change fairly quickly I'm sure. A few more maps and more players will also be forthcoming I'm sure, as playing 2v2 on assault can be rather boring if the map is a big one. All in all, a really great effort by Techland and one that should, if there's any justice, be able to withstand the effects of Counter-Strike: Condition Zero and Half-Life 2.

CHROME on Take-Two Interactive website

CHROME on website

Chrome Newsletter

Chrome Postcards