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  Navigation: Home » PC » Review » Neocron  

Release Date:
Out Now


Reakktor Media

Role Playing Game


8.0 out of 10

Average Reader Score:
7.6 out of 10 (24 ratings)
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Skies of Arcadia

Neocron was launched a couple of weeks ago, with very little fanfare, especially for a major online-RPG release. It is presented as a sort of fusion between Half-Life and Everquest, with a battle system of a first person shooter, but the workings and depth of an online RPG. Having only played the old style Ultima Online before, I was interested to see what Neocron had to offer.

The back story of the game is presented in the manual is a very convincing and well written timeline. It's not very often when you can say that you enjoyed reading the manual, but it really whets your appetite for the game. The game is set in a post-apocalytic 27th century, where after a nuclear holocaust there are only a few cities, all huge sprawling metropolises, shielded from the radiation. One of these cities is Neocron, where you will spend all of your time in and around.

So once you've installed the game (a massive 1.5 gigabytes for the full install), you go to run it. However, it's not to be as now it's patch time. Roughly 24 megabytes of patches later (1 hour 45 mins on 56k) you are ready to play. The game also provides an offline tutorial mode, which is well worth playing. Although the game pupports to be as easy to play as a first person shooter, it certainly isn't. However, after a day or so of play, and once you've used the tutorial and read the manual fully, you will be pretty much at ease.

The first part of starting a new game is to make an account. You get a 6 week free trial of play, and then following that Neocron costs €9.95 a month, a pretty standard fee for an online RPG. So credit/debit cards at the ready, people (although you can pay via bank transfer, Western Union etc. on request). However, you can keep the cost down further by subscribing quarterly (at €24.95 a quarter) or $44.95 for half a year's subscription. Once you have your account it's a case of choosing your server and making a character. At the time of playing, there were about 2000 people online, spread roughly evenly over 5 servers. You have to be careful which server you choose, as each of your characters that you create can only be played on the server you chose for them. So if you are playing with friends, make sure you pick the same server for your characters that you want to meet up with. However, you can make multiple different characters on each server, to let you have an expert at everything.

Once you've got your server, you must name your character and choose a sex and one of 4 classes:
Private Eye - Your normal Joe-Average character.
Spy - More agile and smart, adept at hacking, but physically weak.
GenTank - A genetic tank. Basically a thick, brawny killing machine.
PSI Monk - A psychic magic expert. Physically weak, but when you can chuck fireballs at people, does it matter?

Then you assign point to various skills. There are a set amount of points, and lots of catagories. Howeever, if you don't like this rather dated system, you can choose from loads of 'preset' schemes such as fighter, runner, scout, medic, hacker etc. This makes it easy for those who don't want to customize their characters, and just want to play.

Next you chose your faction, this is the company/group that you will work for in the game. There are many choices, and they affect relations between you and other players, as well as the location and accommodation in which you start, from the swanky apartments in the posh Via Rosso, to a shed on the barren outskirts of Neocron.

Once you've done this, it's on into the game.

The game is based entirely in the post-apocalyptic metropolis of Neocron, which is split up into a number of districts. There is the posh Via Rosso and Plaza, the seedy red-light district of Pepper Park, out into the Industrial and Outzones, and the radioactively scarred Wastelands. The game engine is in first person 3D, and the graphics and layout of these areas are impressive, albeit often labyrynthine. The world is a joy to navigate in a Half-Life style first person view, and fantastically there is very little lag, even on a 56k. This is one game where broadband helps, but is certainly not necessary like many others of its ilk. As the game area is vast, there is a network of teleporter systems available (for a charge of in-game cash), and even rental shops for vehicles, for those of you who like to cruise in the comfort of a tank. My only complaint would be that in the outer areas stretching towards the Wastelands, there is very little detail. This contrasts greatly with the highly detailed neon metropolis of the inner city.

So now we get to the important part of the game, the gameplay. This has to be good if a Online RPG is going to keep a dedicated following, and thankfully this is where Neocron shines. There is awesome scope, and you can really do whatever you want to do in the game. Want to make a living selling items? Fine. Want to be an evil murderer, killing for cash? You go do that, but look out for the ingame Police, who will be more than willing to execute you on the spot. Want to trade shares from the comfort of your own apartment, and become a millionaire on the stock market? That's great too. However, you could also be a member of a dissident group bringing down companies, and thus crashing their stocks. The actions of each and every player are linked to the world as a whole closely, and you can have a great amount of influence on it. You could just be a standard white collar worker for the company that you chose, earning enough cash to maybe buy a new appartment, or some goods from a shop. However, you never know when your company might call you up for a mission that is a little out of the ordinary, and you will be swept away in the underground political activity that keeps Neocron running. It is truly a world in which you can immerse yourself.

A problem in the game is the fact that in order to chat to other people, you have to switch from movement mode to inventory mode by pressing TAB. This means that you cannot talk and walk, and removes a lot of fluidity from the game. Hopefully this will be addressed in a future update.

The combat system is an integral part of any Online RPG, and Neocron's is highly innovative. It is controlled almost identically to a Quake-style game, but is not as fluid, but rather more governed by RPG style statistics. Therefore it is not as fluid as a normal FPS, but certainly more exciting than the Ultima Online school of "click it to kill it". You can duck behind crates and pillars to avoid attacks. The weapons systems is a joy, with about 30 different weapons (imagine a weapon and it's probably there), each of which can be loaded with special ammo, either bought or manufactured yourself. You can also attatch items like sniper scopes or laser sights to your weapons as you see fit, making them truly customizable. Laser-Sighted Flamethrower anyone? There are also psychic skills (or magic by any other name), and these are the mainstay of the PSI monk class.

You get cash for killing the beasties in the city sewers, and this is in fact a slight downfall of the game. Whatever path you choose in the game, you will almost certainly spend the first few hours of play killing spiders with a knife, just to get enough cash to get kitted out. However, once you get past this first stumbling block, the world is your oyster.

So to sum up, Neocron is a very competent Online RPG, set in an inspired world. It is not without it's problems, for example its chat system, the shoddy launcher program, intermittent crashes and a steep learning curve. However, if you have the patience and desire (and cash) to perservere with Neocron, you will find it a rewarding game experience.

Tom Parry-Jones - (20 Dec 2002)
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