The sin of the rushed release
Published by Activision
Posted on 11/14/1998
LADDER: Sin (Heat)
NEWS: Sin Arrives in Stores
NEWS: Sin Goes Gold
NEWS: Activision to Provide Si ...
NEWS: Sin Tops the Charts Firs ...
NEWS: Sin 1.05 Released
NEWS: SiN 1.04 Released
NEWS: SINCTF Beta 3 Released
NEWS: Wage Of SiN Goes Gold
NEWS: Sin Patch 1.03 News
NEWS: Wages of Sin Mission Pac ...
NEWS: Wages of Sin In Stores
NEWS: Sin Version 1.10 Release ...
NEWS: Sin: The Movie Website g ...
NEWS: Sin Version 1.06 Release ...
NEWS: Sin Add-On Announced
NEWS: Sin Demo Date Set
NEWS: First User-made Sin Leve ...
NEWS: Sin demo gets released a ...
NEWS: BSG Announces Competitio ...
NEWS: Playing Devil's Advocate
REVIEW: Wages of Sin
Shot One
Widely anticipated and long-delayed, Ritual Entertainment's Quake II-powered Sin has finally arrived. Proudly bearing a release date of "when it's done," it's been actively promoted both in print and online for more than a year. Now that it's finally done, has it been worth the wait? While it has excellent graphics, superior level design and decent multiplayer, it ultimately falls somewhat flat, plagued by boring weapons and, most importantly, a ton of bugs.

The year is 2035 and you are Col. John Blade, leader of an elite law enforcement group called Hardcorps in the city of Freeport. There are two main news stories in the city: there's a rising problem with a drug called U4, and a biochemical company called SinTek has been all over the news lately with its breakthrough drug Vanity, which seems to stop aging. The game starts with John flying out in a chopper to take care of a bank heist, which isn't quite what it appears to be, and as John follows the criminals he learns that SinTek is involved, and that Elexis Sinclaire, the CEO with a body that would make Lara Croft blush, is up to no good. As you play through the various levels, Blade slowly pieces together exactly what SinTek is up to.

Shot One
Unfortunately, the plot really isn't all that interesting. You're pretty much aware of what's going on after the first handful of levels, and with the exception of one little twist near the end, you're always left feeling that "any level now" things will get more interesting. At least players are rewarded with an ending that is definitely a lot better than the endings on most shooters.

The story's presentation is good, though, with several "cutscene" levels that use the in-game engine and some quality voiceovers. Blade often has a few choice words for his enemies, saying things like "Who's your daddy?" or "Schooled 'ya!" when he blows someone away. These are nice touches that add some personality to the game, but they're not especially funny or original-it was done better in Duke Nukem 3D. Blade is also in constant radio contact with his hacker buddy J.C., a smart-ass kid who gives him technical info. The enemies have a lot to say too, often talking to each other or yelling at Blade.

Shot Three
With all this chatter, you would think that they could have put in a few more grunts and groans when Blade takes damage. It's pretty hard to tell when you're being hurt, a problem compounded by the broken distance cueing of the sound-if an enemy is shooting at you from a long-range, probably won't hear a thing (including yourself getting hurt). As you see some shots hit the walls near you, you'll look around and find the guy with the machine gun and realize that he's taken away a quarter of your health.

Overall, the levels are very well designed, though their load times border on eternal (the game reloads the entire level even when you restore a saved game on that same level). The best levels are absolutely brilliant examples of real-world design. The levels are highly interactive; while somewhat pointless, you can use ATM machines and pay phones, open all the desk drawers and lockers and use many of the objects in the game. Blade often has to use computers to solve puzzles or accomplish objectives in the levels, which is both a fantastic idea and one that is well-implemented.

Shot Four
One critical feature of any 3D shooter is its weapon selection, but the ones in Sin are pretty lame. You have your standard pistol, shotgun, machine gun (they call it an assault rifle, but that's an insult to assault rifles) and a chaingun (they call it a machine gun) which doubles as a grenade launcher. You also have the shooter staple, the rocket launcher (can we make a first-person shooter without one?), plus a sniper rifle, which is quickly becoming a standard. The only really new weapons are spider mines which walk toward your enemy until you detonate them, an energy weapon which you find pieces for over the course of several levels, and a big bad disintegrator gun.

The fact that the weapons are mostly standard-fare for the majority of the game isn't the problem-the problem is that they're anemic. The assault rifle uses the same ammo as the pistol and fires in a perfectly straight and accurate path with no bullet spread whatsoever. The machine gun uses different ammo and does have some spread, but it's so minor it can be effectively used long range anyway. Basically, what you're left with is a pistol, a pistol that shoots faster and a pistol that shoots even faster and uses different ammo. Yawn. The rockets fly so slowly that players can dodge them with ease at all but the closest range. The sniper rifle takes way too long to equip as it plays a very long animation of the scope coming out of the case, making it likely that you'll die in a large multiplayer game before getting off that first shot. Even the good old shotgun doesn't seem to put the "boom" in boomstick.

Shot Five
To make matters worse, they just don't do enough damage. Sin has great location-based damage, which makes head-shots extremely effective, but the weapons do far too little if you hit someone somewhere else. Rather than getting the occasional lucky head-shot one-hit kill, you find yourself always aiming at the head, which quickly gets tedious and boring.

With the exception of some weapon sounds that need more "punch," there are plenty of audio treats, with different footstep sounds for different materials and a great use of ambient sounds. Unfortunately, much of the great sound can't really be enjoyed, because it's one of the buggiest areas in this very buggy game. The sound often breaks and stutters with lots of hard drive access, as if getting overflow errors. If you have a Sound Blaster PCI card that supports EAX, you have to turn 3D sound off, both on the card and in the game, or it won't work.

Shot Six
A few tricky, non-critical compatibility issues are excusable in any technologically advanced game. With the complexity of games constantly increasing, there's just too much variety in hardware and software out there to test every possible hardware configuration. But if a company is going to stick with a "when it's done" release date, it had better be done. The incredibly obvious bugs in Sin make you wonder if Activision and Ritual have any quality control at all. If you bought Sin when it hit the shelves, you basically paid to be a beta tester. The list of serious, and not-so-serious, bugs is incredible. Running the game from the Autorun menu that pops up when you insert the disc will attempt to run the entire game from the CD, making the previously eternal load times fatal. You also can't save or load games, as the game is trying to write them to the CD. Some of the levels will often misreport primary objectives as being accomplished when they're not, or vice versa. Some of the scripts that control level activity and enemy AI break down at times, causing all sorts of problems. The game consistently crashes at a pivotal moment in one of the missions, forcing a cheat to continue.

As one would expect of a game built from the technology from Quake II, multiplayer is fast and smooth on the Internet. Sin offers up some seriously good deathmatch maps, and doesn't take the cheap way out by making them all subsets of single-player maps. It's pretty fun to play a "Team Game by Model," which pits the Blades vs. the Elexises vs. the J.C.s. It's unfortunate that the weapons are boring and underpowered, or multiplayer play could be a real blast-once the novelty of new levels has worn thin, you get tired of aiming at everyone's head all the time because body shots don't do enough damage.

Shot Seven
While not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination, Sin offers little that is new and is plagued with problems and bugs. Had Ritual indeed delivered the game "when it was done," Sin could have been a keeper. Instead, it suffers the same fate as Unreal, becoming one of those all-to-common "just wait until it gets patched" games. We're waiting….

by Jason Cross

  • Windows 95, 98
  • 166MHz Pentium or higher
  • 32MB of RAM
  • 4X CD-ROM
Multiplayer: 2-32 players, Internet, LAN
©1998 Strategy Plus, Inc.

Sin W95 IBM CD ROM 11/98 $12.95
Sin Mission Pack 1: Wages of Sin IBM CD ROM 02/99 $14.95