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Monday, October 22, 2012

Review: Ravaged (PC)

From  Kickstarter to kick your...
On April 28th of 2009, Kickstarter (www.kickstarter.com) launched. It's a website where users can support projects by donating their money to the project creators and where developers can try to get their own projects funded.

On February 8th of this year (2012), Double Fine Productions launched a Kickstarter campaign to get enough funding to create a new adventure game, with the project title simply being Double Fine Adventure. After eight hours of the project being launched, the funding goal of $900,000 USD was met and throughout the several weeks thereafter, the project garnered a total of over 3.3 million U.S. dollars - setting a new Kickstarter record for the most funded project since its 2009 launch. Following this record-breaking project, Kickstarter and video games have become synonymous with each other  and this belief has been further impounded by other highly successful projects like Wasteland 2, OUYA, and Project Eternity.

Hidden among the Kickstarter masses was the subject of today's discussion, Ravaged. Launched on April 6th, its Kickstarter campaign was admittedly quite small. The money that would be pledged to the project would first go towards marketing and publishing, while the base game itself remained in a near-complete state. However, due to its special situation, Ravaged is among the first of the Kickstarter games to be released and available for purchase. While seeming to be nothing special at first glance, this is one of the first times we get to see whether Kickstarter contributors have wisely donated their money to a product. But, does Ravage deserve to be on store's shelves? 

Indeed it does. Ravaged does justice to all of its contributors, but in a different way than many of them might expect.

Liberty has fallen
Ravaged is a team-based, multiplayer-only shooter set in the apocalypse. Not the zombie apocalypse or the nuclear apocalypse, but the sand-and-sun type of apocalypse that wouldn't be out of place in Mad Max. As with most all team-based multiplayer games, the story sets a never-ending conflict between two rival factions. The two appropriately chosen factions for the setting are the resistance and the scavengers, with the former wanting to rebuild society and with the later wanting to enjoy its ashes. As is with most cases for multiplayer-only shooters, the story could be replaced with a struggle for the last remaining chips on earth and nothing would be changed. However, the setting is used to the game's advantage rather well compared to its story.

While the game does feature the somewhat overused setting of the apocalypse, Ravaged actually uses it accordingly, compared to most other games of its type. Each map has its own structure and theme, adding great variety to the small selection of only eight. What compliments this variation is the high graphics settings, which displays these maps brilliantly, if you have the horsepower to achieve it. (I tested the game with a Radeon HD 5770 graphics card, with 4 GB of RAM and unfortunately, I could only produce a smooth frame rate on the lowest settings, so you're going to need a decent amount of horsepower to get the full experience that Ravaged has to offer.) The maps are fairly large, which can occasionally be frustrating as lowly-populated servers often times yield mouse-chases to see if the other players on the scoreboard aren't just figments of your imagination. However, the map sizes are large enough to accommodate the various vehicles which Ravaged has on offer.

The vehicles of Ravaged are certainly the highlight of the game. While the tin may say that Ravaged is a team-based multiplayer shooter and that description is true, Ravaged works best as a vehicular combat game. Other than being player-killing machines, all of the vehicles have a balanced weight and speed to them. This balance not only makes driving the vehicles a great amount of fun, but they become even more pleasing when jumping off of a ramp in such a way as to get maximum hang-time, or accurately smashing into another player to stop them dead in their tracks. This balance also makes the car chases between players absolutely thrilling sequences, the likes of which few games have managed to accomplish in recent memory.

Fly like a wasp, sting like a bee
However, the vehicles do have a few minor issues that need mentioning. There really aren't any unique vehicles to speak of. The roster consists of motorbikes, dune buggies, armoured cars and a helicopter. While there is a tank hidden on some maps, there really isn't any dramatically different machines to pilot here, aside from the standard fare we've seen over and again. Vehicles also take a while to respawn, leaving some players left to trek the massive arenas by foot until they stumble upon one unused. They also control a bit unnaturally, but that's more of a fault from playing the game with a keyboard than anything directly related to the game itself.

The first-person shooter elements of Ravaged fair a bit worse than the great vehicles. To put it bluntly, there's nothing special about the shooting mechanics here. The classes fill their respective roles and the only one that I found enormously fun playing as was the Demolitionist, but that's mostly because their explosives can severely damage vehicle-riding players and their modes of transportation. The guns' kickback for each class feels very soft, with the gun that exemplifies this the most being the sniper rifle, which has no kickback at all - only moving the gun's aim by a few centimetres with each shot fired. The class customization and selection menus are counter intuitive and off-putting, as changes happen instantaneously. The little bits of class customization that's featured here is bare-bones too, which is sadly, yet again another missed opportunity here.

However, the shooting mechanics do compliment the vehicles' mechanics in some much appreciated ways. The slow player movements really emphasize the speed of the vehicles along with the weight those vehicles carry. Skilled shooters can kill players while they reside in their vehicle's driver seats, leading to several moments of bizarre terror as the rest of the vehicle-hitching players realize that their driver has just been shot dead.

The game modes here are unfortunately few and unoriginal. Besides the standard Team Deathmatch, the only other game modes are Resource Control and Thrust, which are just renamed Capture-The-Flag and Control Point modes respectively. It is a shame too, as the modes don't emphasize the vehicles or make players exploit them to their maximum potential.

On the audio front, it does the job of being 'audible' quite well. Gunshots and explosions can be heard clearly, as well as the sounds of motors and helicopter blades. Besides those sounds and an average narrator who wants to out "counter-strike" Counter-Strike's narrator (but has too much soul to do so), there's nothing else to discuss here. The sound is there and it exists.

Or does the wasp get stung? 
Before I wrap-up this review, I should point out the technical conditions which this game was tested on. My computer gaming rig is a 1GB Radeon HD 5770, 4GBs of RAM, 2.9 GHz hexacore processor computer and yet Ravaged acted as if I had parts that were from around five years ago. The game crashed because it ran out of memory and it continued to occasionally crash when a map was loaded...even if the map in question was the same map that I had been playing on five minutes prior. Of course, I have only decided to factor these problems into my final score in a minor way, as there could be an enormous amount of reasons as to why my specific computer couldn't run Ravaged adequately compared to other computers. Also, my computers parts are getting to be old in the rapidly changing world of gaming PCs.

Overall, Ravaged has delivered on the donations of its contributors as a Kickstarter project and has turned out to be a somewhat flawed, but still an adequately fun game at the same time. We can only hope that unreleased, Kickstarter funded games can live up to standard which Ravaged has set for them.

Review: Ravaged (PC)
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