By Chris Commodore |
The bullet points inside the front flap of Instinct's retail box convey notions of game features and such with a particularly heinous level of dishonesty. Therefore, the majority of this review will focus on refuting the fallacious blurbs while explaining why playing this first-person shooter is comparable to yanking back on a hangnail.
"Waking down a hallway, covered in body armor, holding an automatic weapon. Normally you would feel safe."
That's the introductory statement, and already it's wrong. If you were walking anywhere with that kind of gear, how could you possibly feel safe? The only reason you'd put it on in the first place is if there's a reason to, which means if you're so equipped, you're expecting to be attacked.
"An internally-developed, state-of-the-art 3D game engine capable of High Dynamic Range Lighting (HDR) imaging, real-time depth of field, amazingly realistic physics, and dynamic lighting and shadows."
The only thing that amazed us about this game is how much better it would have looked had it been released in 1998, and even then Half-Life would have made it look silly by virtue of its far superior artistic design. The only thing in the game that might catch your eye is the physics when an enemy dies, since you can cause zombies and enemy militia to backflip with a fatal shotgun blast.
Enemy models include zombies in labcoats, paramilitary zombies, generic militia, and zombies in sweatpants. This is one of those games where blasting anyone with a non-fatal pistol or rifle shot causes absolutely no reaction on the recipient's part. We understand they're zombies so maybe they don't wince in pain, but you'd expect them to at least reel backward slightly after getting a shotgun round pumped into their stomach. You know, from the force of the blast; physics, in other words. Such is not the case with Instinct.
Not surprisingly, the quote doesn't address the myriad technical issues we experienced with this game. When entering a new levels or booting up a save file, the game randomly forget to load in environmental textures, and regularly crashed altogether every half-hour to forty-five minutes.
"Witness vivid imagery so intense and realistic that you'll find yourself wrapped up in it - until you're sucked right into the next firefight."
It's tough to tell what this quote really means, but we can assure you there's nothing intense about the game. A few shock scares might cause you to bristle here and there as zombies appear out of nowhere, but this game does nothing interesting or memorable. With the exception of one outdoor sniping level, the majority of combat unfolds inside one of the most drab research facilities you've ever seen. Environmental features include grey hallways, grey rooms, grey medical suites, grey and black elevator shafts, and grey storage rooms replete with wooden boxes and explosive barrels.
And on the subject of explosive barrels - they're absolutely everywhere. If any enemy is set to appear at any point, you can expect a multitude of barrels and gas containers to be flanking their position. Moving through each derivative area requires you to flip switches and access key cards. Sound like 1993 to anyone else?
"Artificial Intelligence that counters your every move; enemy commandoes that will actually flank your position, bombard you with grenades, or pummel your cover until you've flushed them out into the open."
This is just patently false. Zombie AI, which is absolutely idiotic, can be excused. They are dead after all, or in this case afflicted by an experimental zombie virus. The soldiers, on the other hand, hardly demonstrated any technique that made us feel as though they were aware of the situation. They shoot and throw grenades, which establishes they can at least recognize when you've moved within their line of sight. Sometimes they backpedal toward cover. Sometimes they backpedal and take cover amidst depots of explosive barrels. Smart move, tactical-minded commando guy!
Once the soldiers take a cover position, they rarely change their spot, even after they've absorbed close to the inordinate amount of bullets it takes to permanently put them down. The results are firefights that feel as though the designers spilled molasses over the game code, with enemies resembling militant scarecrows than a dynamic opposing force.
Enemies seem to have a lot of trouble shooting you from behind a door frame, mostly because they won't shoot. If you can spot their shoulder or leg before you pass the magical "monster closet" trigger line, they won't react to the bullets pumped into them. Once you do pass the invisible line, expect enemies to spawn all around you, even materializing directly behind you. The fact that little to no attempt was made to mask these spawn-ins makes this game feel even more soulless and dated.
The game's pacing is also severely flawed, as you'll find yourself wandering around the linear stages with nothing to do until you hit the next monster closet tripwire. Whatever the reason for this decision, it fails, as you instead traipse through in stark awareness of the game's absence of personality and a complete lack of place.
"Voices throughout Instinct are in the original Russian in an effort to showcase their culture and to maintain the true feel of the game."
While the voices are indeed in Russian, nobody in this game has anything interesting to say. There's no sense of character, no sense of tension, and no connection between player and protagonist. The narrative starts off as a fractured mess, told through sterile comic-book style cut-scenes and in-game radio messages. Eventually it starts to make more sense, and as it coalesces, you come to realize how disposable it is. It's the classic technique we see in horror movies where plot is concealed behind an impenetrable veil of presentation that when pulled back reveals there was barely anything there to begin with.
The three playable characters only differ in the arm model used to hold the poorly textured guns and the unnecessary profile portrait in the upper left of the screen. This is yet another game that dresses the female heroine, Arrow, in preposterous attire. The two male characters, White and Eighth, are in full body armor. Arrow, likely much to her own dismay, dons a belly shirt, completely exposing her midsection.