I picked this game up for $15, so I didn't know what to expect because there wasn't a big fuss when it came out.
A group of anti-capitalists turned terrorists take over a chemical plant and threaten to blow it up. If they succeed, millions die. A team of Special Ops soldiers are sent in to “defuse” the problem. All except three men die. Their mission is to stop the terrorists regardless of losses to their team. Core mission objects DO NOT change, no matter the circumstances. They are: Capt. Kyle Rivers, veteran, leader of the team and an accurate and deadly sniper. Jack Hooper, the rookie, on assault. This is his first taste of action. Also, Ed Reagan, bomb disposal and explosives expert.
Secretary, Tanya Shaw, and an ex-cop turned security guard, after being wounded in the line of duty, Dave Wilson, also survive and avoid capture from the terrorists while their peers and co-workers are held hostage. Tanya just wants to avoid the terrorists and get to safety, while Dave, wants to take back his plant and find his friend who has been taken hostage by the terrorists. Local USABC news cameraman, Ben Harrison, is also on site. He was originally there to cover the fallout from a chemical spill at the plant that happened two weeks prior. Unfortunately, he got caught in the middle of a terrorist attack.
I know it seems a bit cliche and we've probably seen something similar before, but it does a good job of giving the each of the six characters you play as a reason for being there.
I'll clear this up now. This is not Final Fantasy X, God of War or Prince of Persia 3: The Two Thrones, by any means. I'd rank the game's graphics a bit behind Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. They get the job done and add atmosphere. Dead bodies litter rooms as you explore them, the blood of your enemies, and at times if you‘re not so lucky, your blood, splatters against nearby walls and your cover when you get hit, bullets actually fly frantically from your gun as the mechanism kicks back, bullet holes pierce the walls and your cover in an intense firefight and explosions are animated beautifully. On the down side, the enemy and hostage designs lack any real variety and are usually clones of each other. Which is fine when only two of them attack you but when an army of ten come at you and they all look and sound the same, you quickly remember you're playing a video game. I guess this can be a bit overlooked though as you hopefully won't keep the enemies alive too long to notice, and it has been an issue of many of the best action games. It simply shows the limitations of the aging PS2.
The sound isn't absolutely horrendous as some would say. The voice-acting is adequate and does a great job moving the story along. The main characters do a good job of portraying their characters really well. Even the terrorist leader does a great job; actually the best of the entire cast in my honest opinion. He sounds exactly the way any stereotypical middle-eastern terrorist would be portrayed in a big budget action film. Great job. The music, while some may say its non-existent, is in my opinion, never overbearing. The action precedes the music instead of the other way around. It slips quietly into the background of the action and lends to the atmosphere when needed. The stylish action-paced spy-thriller tunes and soft but empowering light orchestral-electronica mix, coupled with an intense firefight makes you really feel like you're in a big budget action movie.
As with any third-person shooter, Without Warning gives players exactly they'd expect from the genre. The most obvious being tight controls that are easy to learn, simple, and yet still very effective. The first thing I'd like to applaud is the amount of control over the camera you have without sacrificing any major gameplay elements. As you would expect, the left analog stick controls your characters movement. Pressing in the left analog's knob like a button (L3), allows you to realign you weapon's crosshairs. The right analog stick when not used with the fire mode button (R1), gives you full 360-degree control of the camera. The L2 button does a quick 180-degree rotation of the camera. This is great for getting the upper hand on enemies trying to sneak up behind you. In addition to all of that you also have the option of changing which shoulder you aim from by pressing left or right on the directional pad respectively. Using Kyle Rivers, pressing up or down on the directional pad allows you to enter sniper view. Pressing up (forward) or down (backward) will zoom in and out respect. You also have a map function, accessed with the select button, that gives you a full overhead map. The map indicates mission objectives, items and locations of interest, and your current position. This all done really well and is illustrated to the player using familiar icons that are very effective.
The R1 button, when held lightly, raises your weapon into a ready stance. You then simply press it to fire. You can fire in bursts by pressing it as you need or you can fire continuously by holding the button down. The R2 button throws your grenades, of which can be adjusted with the right analog stick. The higher the position of targeting icon, higher and farther the grenade will be thrown. Although it must be said that only the three Special Ops soldiers have this function. The L1 button is your lock-on aiming system. Holding the L1 button locks the targeting icon onto any nearby enemies. You can also switch between targets by pressing left or right on the left analog stick, in the respective direction of the target being switched to. When the intended target is in acceptable range of being hit, the targeting icon turns red. When the target is not in range, the icon will turn grey but continue to follow the target until they return to acceptable range, at which point it turns red again.
The X button is your action button. This allows your character to interact with objects such as keypads, medical stations, locks, bombs, etc. When used with the L1 button, it allows you to roll into any direction as an evasive action. The square button allows toggling between crouching and standing. Crouching by certain objects such as boxes, barrels, walls and corners allows you to use them as cover. The triangle button reloads your weapon and the circle button is a melee attack in which you use the end of your weapon and attack the enemy.
All of this works smoothly together and the shooting action sequences are top notch. My only complaint, especially on Dave's levels, was the lack of ability to use the weapons dropped by fallen enemies was a bit annoying. Although it does seem that there's always an ample amount of ammunition lying around, matching a standard 9mm pistol against five or six guys with AK47s is bit unnerving. Also, it would've been nice to have different grenades to choose from. I couldn't tell you how many times they'd be holding hostages in a 6 ft. by 6 ft. room with the only means of entry besides the front door behind a window. Some concussion, flash or smoke grenades would've been nice. To break up the action you also get a few mini-games. There is a lock-picking mini-game where you have to line up a set of tumblers in the lock so that they drop and line up from smallest to largest. Lining up a larger tumbler first locks it in place thus not allowing you to open the lock and having to start over. There's also a memory-based game for fuse boxes where you must remember the patterns of button sequences and enter them afterward. If you get the pattern wrong, you get shocked and take damage. Get it right and it may activate a switch or open a previously inaccessible door. Bomb defusing has two different mini-games. One is for wired bombs and other is for sequenced bombs.
To defuse a wired bomb, you have a volt meter (left analog stick) and a pair of wire cutters (right analog stick). The object of defusing a wired bomb is to start cutting the wire with highest charge first and so on. You can check the charge value of the wires by placing the volt meter over the desired wire. Once you find the highest charge, you can move the wire cutters over the desired wire and cut it using the X button. After the first cut is made the countdown starts. Cut a wire out of sequence and time speeds up. The bomb explodes if the countdown reaches zero.
For sequenced bombs it plays much like Parappa the Rappa or DDR, in rhythmic pace game. You press the corresponding button as it passes through the bar. Every time you get one right, it decreases the charge on the bomb. Get one wrong, and it increases the charge on the bomb.
The cool thing about the bombs is that it's possible for a bomb to part of a group. A group will have its own override countdown. This will continue to decrease until all bombs in the group are diffused, and should it reach zero, will it detonate any bombs not defused in the group. These sections of the game can become extremely tense and exciting depending on your skill.
Tanya's levels are more about stealth as she's simply trying to escape with her life. Her mechanics, although they work the same as other characters are accurately limited. She can make use of pepper spray and a fire extinguisher, which also allows her to put out fires giving her access to certain areas. This works really well because her character should play that way. The problem is, at times when stealth will do no good; this is when her flaws are jarring. As I mentioned with Dave's levels, the ability to arm yourself with weapons from your fallen enemies would be really nice here as pepper spray and fire extinguishers just don't add up to AK47s and shotguns
Ben's levels are sort of more reconnaissance than gunfights. It feels very much like Dave's levels but, you also have objectives of key items and areas to shoot with your camera. The camera works just like Kyle's sniper scope. You simply aim what you want to shot. When the object is the middle of the camera's sights and zoomed in enough a videotape icon appears. When the icon fills to green, the footage is finished being recorded. Should the camera lose focus of the object or zoom too far away, the icon returns it white until the image shot again.
The levels in the game are kept short and sweet so that you get a slightly different experience with each character. Although the three soldiers, Dave and Ben all control roughly the same, it's the lack of options given to the latter two that make the differences in gameplay between them. I understand the developers may have limited the three civilian characters to distinguish a difference but it makes you feel helpless at times. I'd say next time allow the civilian characters a chance to certain themselves with other weapons and simply have them be less accurate with them. At least they'd even out a bit more, even if they aren‘t expertly trained in those weapons. The after-level report card and statistics screens are great too.
The reason however, that I can still give the gameplay a 9/10 is because despite what would've been nice to have, there's always an ample amount of ammunition around for the weapons you do have.