GAME PLAY
GETTING STARTED
GRAPHICS
SOUND CHECK
VALUE

BioForge

By Christopher Lindquist

Summary: One of the best action/adventure games around. Try it; you'll like it.

Origin bills BioForge as an "interactive movie," but don't let that scare you. Instead of grainy video of second-rate Hollywood actors, you get first-class graphics, a compelling story, and a sense of style that will have you begging for more.

Part adventure, part fighting game, BioForge places you in the bizarre role of Experimental Unit AP-127, a man who's had both his mind and body stolen by a fanatical scientist bent on helping humanity "evolve" beyond its current bounds. Through puzzle-solving, exploration, and combat, you must discover the mystery lying deep inside the inhospitable moon that imprisons you, and hopefully discover your identity along the way.

BioForge knows how to grab your attention. From the grisly opening sequence to the explosive conclusion, the game maintains the frenetic pace of a good action movie. Puzzles are surrounded by combat sequences, and the numerous cut scenes blend seamlessly into game play. Oh, there will be slow spots as you beat your head against a seemingly insoluble puzzle, but struggle on--the reward is worth the effort.

The keyboard-based controls are similar to those in the Alone in the Dark series, and fans of those games will feel right at home. But this home is much more richly appointed, with wonderfully texture-mapped characters haunting graphically stunning halls. It's the details that make this game special. Explosions and blaster fire light up your screen and speakers; a sculpted "hand" acts as your mouse pointer to access the various monitors scattered about the game; multiple camera angles give you an ever-changing view; footsteps fade into the distance; and as AP-127 is injured, you become increasingly bloodied and agonized.

And you'll be injured often. Origin has created a combat system that rivals many pure fighting games, with 16 keyboard-controlled offensive and defensive moves for feet, hands--even your head. You don't have to fight everyone you meet--you can avoid some adversaries--but fisticuffs carry the day on more than one occasion. Unfortunately, BioForge slips a bit here. Lining up a punch, kick, or shot can be frustrating. And there's nothing worse than watching your crushing blow or blaster shot go whizzing past your opponent's head--just as he lands one on you.

You don't like fighting? Fine. Origin lets you select the combat difficulty level at the outset. If you'd rather think than fight, set it to "Easy," and your opponents will be pushovers. If bareknuckles brawling is in your blood, choose "Hard" and be prepared to spend a lot of time on your back.

Regardless, you'll spend a lot of time inside your head. BioForge's puzzles range from simple to dismayingly difficult, and most players can expect to be stumped for extended periods on at least a couple of them. The game also requires you to read, but don't worry--it's interesting material. Logbooks, maintenance reports, medical records--even alien temples--all contain critical information.

All of this makes BioForge an incredibly well-rounded game. It will keep both your brain and your fingers in high gear for a couple dozen hours at minimum. Get it, and see for yourself.