by Trevor Covert
January 29, 2001
Demo (75.5 MB)
Pros: unprecedented combination of hand-to-hand combat and
gunplay, good story line and characters, fantastic level design and architecture.
Cons: no multiplayer, can't skip video sequences
If you've never unloaded 15 rounds of machine gun fire into nearby enemies, holstered your gun and finished off the rest with a drop kick to the head and a sweep kick to the feet, then you've never played Oni.
Oni is the latest third-person 3D action game to arrive on the Mac, PC and Playstation 2. Developed by long-time Mac-devoted game developer Bungie Studios (now a subsidiary of Microsoft), the game mixes hand-to-hand combat and combo moves reminiscent of Street Fighter with the gunplay found in 3D shooters. The result is an engaging storyline, fantastic, varied gameplay, and very few flaws to complain about.
Brace for impact
To understand and appreciate Oni you have to first accept the fact that the game is solely single-player. Apart from being engaging and addictive, Oni is more unique than any other recent game first- or third-person shooter due to its combination of hand-to-hand combat and gunplay. This is not your typical Quake or Tomb Raider clone.
The keyboard is used to move directionally while the mouse is used to look around, punch, kick, throw, and fire your weapon. While alternative action controls are available on the keyboard for gamers who only use a one-button mouse, controlling the action this way is far more awkward than with a multibutton input device.
In keeping with the game's overall realism, only a single weapon can be carried at a time, and ammo is not exactly plentiful; these two facts alone mean that you'll be laying out the smack with punches, kicks and throws more than bullets and rockets. Weapons and ammunition are also seldomly found just laying aroundyou'll have to take weapons from opponents and solicit innocent bystanders for ammunition. Of course, the same works in reverse; if you're dropped, expect the enemy to grab your weapon off the ground and turn it on you.
Level design is amazing, with architecturally realistic renderings of impressively large buildings. At time's you'll simply wonder how Oni is able to be rendering the scene in real-time. Each level also has its own unique look and feel in regards to both design and gameplay.
Level progression follows the general pattern of finding consoles to unlock doors while staying alive. A compass keeps you pointed in the right direction and allows the levels to progress at an enjoyably brisk pace. Advice from your teammates back at base in the early stages of the game further help you along, while passerbys in the later levels will also reveal tips and contributes to the story line, which is as captivating as one could ask for without return to the book-like story of Marathon.
To keep things interesting, you'll learn new melee moves and be able to use new weapons as the game progresses. To keep the game's replay value after you've completed it, you can play it again as any one of the game's enemies, bosses, or allies.
Oni's soundtrack compliments the game well with a masterpiece performance, mixing techno and dozens of different themes into a compilation that fits perfectly with the game's imagery, plot and characters.
Oni performed respectably on our G4 test machine, even with Rage 128 graphics (Voodoo 4/5 and Radeon performance was obviously even better), although there was some noticeable performance loss, even with the higher-end Voodoo 4/5 and Radeon cards, in some of the game's wide open areas. If you're concerned with how the game will perform on your machine, grab the demo and give it a spin.
The final word
Oni delivers an addictive and enjoyable gameplay experience that you won't find anywhere else, continuing Bungie's knack for making ground-breaking games.
For more detailed information on Oni's gameplay, weapons, items, and more, read our In-depth Oni Preview.