Within minutes of loading up the first mission in Origin’s new action-adventure shoot-’em-up Crusader: No Remorse, I was so consumed by the sheer fun, gleeful carnage, and challenge this game provides, that games I’ve been waiting months to play -- Command & Conquer, Hexxen and FIFA Soccer ‘96 -- were left sitting on my computer shelf collecting dust until I reached Crusader’s tense climax.
This is, without a doubt, one of the best action-adventure titles of the year, and -- are you ready for this? It looks absolutely nothing like Doom.
With Crusader, Origin chose to buck the trend for first-person perspective action games, opting for a three-quarter top-down view similar to those in Syndicate or X-COM to display the on-screen action.
This provides a unique perspective for Crusader’s brand of murderous mayhem, with crisp, SVGA graphics used to render the people, objects and buildings, all in exacting detail. Add to all this a strong sci-fi story line, a wealth of character control options and more Hollywood blockbuster-style explosions than you can shake a stick at, and you’ve got an action game that’s just as conducive to mindless bloodletting as any Doom-clone.
You play the game as a Silencer, one of the elite, armor-clad shock troops in the service of the WEC -- the World Economic Consortium. The WEC is an oppressive governing body run by shadowy figures that ruthlessly decide the fate of the world and treat average citizens as nothing more than mindless drones.
During a routine "suppression" mission for the WEC, something goes horribly wrong, and instead of finding a band of free-thinking rebels intent on destroying the consortium’s hold on the world, you find only peace-loving civilians at the site. You disobey orders to kill the civilians, and the WEC turns its guns on you, leaving you with only one option: join the rebellion and put an end to the tyranny of the WEC.
You begin exacting your revenge on the WEC in 15 missions that serve the rebellion -- destroy a power generator, rescue prisoners, capture scientists, etc. -- as you guide your character through one enormous level after another. There are some adventure game trappings in your dealings with both the rebels and WEC, with full-motion video clips depicting mission briefings and brief character interactions, but at its core Crusader is a high-energy action game with a bit of platform-puzzler thrown in.
In Crusader, you basically shoot anything that gets in your way and try not to get killed, solving minor puzzles along the way. You find keys to open doors, figure out how to turn force fields on or off, etc. But it’s Crusader’s wide variety of control options that make the action you’ll find here so different from what you’ve seen before. You can run, duck, roll left or right, jump, and of course, strafe as you tackle wave after wave of bad guys. It’s all controlled with either the keyboard or a keyboard/mouse combination (Origin didn’t include joystick support, so you may want to check into a programmable joystick or gamepad). If you’re willing to spend just a few moments getting the basics down, you’ll appreciate the amazing amount of control at your disposal.
And don’t think you won’t need it. The multi-level consortium bases are packed with an assortment of bad guys, security systems, and radioactive hazards; you’ll need all kinds of fancy moves to complete your missions.
Not only will you battle it out with consortium goons, you have the choice of murdering civilians and workers or laying waste to consortium property with an assortment of high-tech weapons. And because your entire environment has been designed so every shot you fire does something, the results are always explosive. Launch a few grenades into a crowd of workers or guards, and they’ll run around on fire; shoot a barrel filled with radioactive material, and you’ll be rewarded with a massive fireball that engulfs three quarters of the screen.
The violence depicted in the game is as shocking as it sounds; people burst into flames, screaming their lungs out, and workers beg for their lives with cries of "Please, don’t shoot!" Some parental discretion is definitely in order (Origin felt so strongly about it, they voluntarily increased the "Teen" rating they got from the RSAC to a "Mature" rating). And there aren’t any options to tone down the violence as in Rise of the Triad or Witchaven.
But given the mainly mature audience for this type of game, Crusader is right on the mark. It has plenty of fast-paced action, some minor puzzling, and enough gameplay to last more than the average weekend.