It’s been about a year since we last laid our hands on Origin’s wonderfully explosive shoot-’em-up Crusader: No Remorse, but in that time we’ve seen the action arena explode with such first-person heavyweights as Duke Nukem 3D and Quake leveling their sights on your gaming dollar. Yet, even though the competition is getting bigger and badder, Origin’s follow-up to No Remorse -- Crusader: No Regret -- gives new meaning to the old adage "a moving target is hard one to hit", by completely sidestepping the first-person barrage with its isometric perspective and story-driven violence.
Set in a near future where an evil economic consortium controls the lives and day-to-day activities of the world’s population, No Regret is the story of a lone, unnamed silencer -- a defector from a select group of the consortium’s elite, highly trained killers -- as he tries to put an end to the stranglehold on the populace and escape to freedom. No Regret’s story picks up shortly after the apparent victory of the first game, with the silencer found adrift and unconscious in a lifepod just hours after destroying the consortium’s Vigilance platform; he is reeled in by a passing ship. As luck would have it, that passing ship is a consortium cruiser filled with angry guards just waiting to dish out a little payback. Without the help of the anti-consortium resistance (in the beginning at least), the armor-clad silencer is on his own in No Regret, blasting through wave after wave of consortium lackeys, in an attempt to gain his freedom once and for all.
From the explosive opening animation to the first level of gameplay, it’s easy to see that the high-energy action of No Remorse has been sharpened to a razor’s edge in No Regret where you’re treated to level after level of tense action, with nary a break in the bloodshed to let you catch your breath. After blasting your way off of the cruiser and down to a consortium mining colony, you’ll be convinced there are more deviously hidden traps, smarter and more plentiful guards, and countless new ways to die in just the first few levels than there were in all of Remorse. If you managed to blow through No Remorse without breaking a sweat, you’ll begin to feel the heat of No Regret right from the start.
As in the first game, when you move from level to level you’ll get regular (and sometimes annoying) updates from helpful foes of the consortium. These come in the form of full-motion video sequences that are often poorly acted and/or poorly timed, but they do their job keeping you up to date on where you are within the plot. As a bonus, these regular updates also figure in prominently as clues -- as you get deeper into the consortium’s lair, you’ll face tough new enemies, and your buddies in the resistance will give you the locations for some powerful weapons to deal with them (see sidebar).
Fortunately, getting hip deep in bad-guy goo won’t be as hard to do this time around because No Regret remedies No Remorse’s lack of gamepad or joystick support by putting the silencer under the control of these popular peripherals. Now you can finally free yourself of remembering the laundry list of keyboard keys and experience the game the way it was meant to be played. The native gamepad support (the preferred controller) makes a world of difference, allowing you to execute rollouts, pick up weapons and powerups, and activate platforms or switches with ease.
As far as disappointments go, there aren’t many. But there are a few things about No Regret that may have many gamers feeling like they’ve been here, and done that all before. The view is still the same isometric perspective with no noticeable differences in how it tracks the character and no zoom or panning options. And aside from a
few new textures in key locations and few new enemies to round out the levels, the bulk of No Regret’s levels feel like they could’ve been pulled straight from No Remorse with just a few nips and tucks to differentiate them.
While the gameplay doesn’t suffer from any of these complaints, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few things that Origin could’ve dealt with during the downtime. The sometimes twitchy character controls that occur when you’re moving around objects or walls (described by many gamers as a "jump"), or the sluggish response during heavy firefights (even when you set the blast limit option in the setup) still detract from the otherwise flaw-less gameplay.
But these little problems weren’t enough to keep me from diving in and chewing up the scenery with an assortment of grenade launchers and shotguns. For those of you who are afraid that Origin may have skimped on the actual gameplay by making a few small levels unrealistically difficult, here’s a handy tape-measure. Having played through to the conclusion No Remorse in under a week, after the same amount of time I was still wading through consortium goons at the halfway point in No Regret on the easiest difficulty setting. It was tougher, yes, but a much larger game as well.
So if you couldn’t get enough of Crusader: No Remorse or shied away because it didn’t have gamepad support, now is your chance to sample some of the most brutal and addictive gameplay around. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
-- Todd Vaughn