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Boiling Point: Road to Hell Review
Post by trog @ 11:17am 14/07/05 | Comments
Want more Deus Ex gameplay in a realistic setting? Pack your jungle kit - Boiling Point could be the game for you.

Want more Deus Ex gameplay in a realistic setting? Pack your jungle kit - Boiling Point could be the game for you.

Okay, what have we got here? Massive game world with no loading times and no locked out areas? Check. Dozens of weapons to upgrade and abilities to learn? Check. A selection of vehicles to use? Check. Heaps of NPCs and side quests? Check. Compelling and rich concept unlike anything you've seen before?

Boiling Point is a bold attempt to create "more" than an average shooter. The concept: an ex-military strongman must investigate his daughter's disappearance, deep in the jungles of fictitious South American banana republic Realia. A typical developer would have thrashed together twenty or so linear levels, given the player a bunch of guns, and let them get on with it. Not so Deep Shadows. Boiling Point is an open-ended freeform 3D RPG similar to Deus Ex, but with even more freedom of movement.

/Boiling Point /Boiling Point

There are no levels in Boiling Point. You arrive in the country and then it's up to you to seek out NPCs who can provide information about your missing daughter. Most of this information costs money, so you'll need to do odd jobs for the game's various factions to make ready cash. Watch out though: helping the mafia will piss off the local militia, and vice versa. Boiling Point is a game of juggling loyalties, dodging bullets, and driving through the jungle from encampment to encampment looking for work.

The complexity doesn't stop with the open-ended story structure. Boiling Point is in many ways an RPG, with a complex arrangements of stats and abilities for the player to learn and upgrade. There's the usual set of physical attributes, as well as learning the ability to handle and upgrade certain weapons and operate certain vehicles. Sadly, Deep Shadows has gone for the "restrict the player" model rather than opening up new abilities as the game progresses: you can see pretty much everything you WANT to do right away, but won't be able to do it until you learn the ability.

A prime example of this is weapon upgrades. You can buy upgrades from the outset, but if you attempt to upgrade a weapon at the beginning of the game, your lack of skill will "ruin the upgrade" and lose a 250 peso purchase. It's a shame that game doesn't give you more warning about this kind of thing.

Similarly, in the first city you'll stumble across a motorboat parked on the river. If you try to jump in, the game informs you that you need to learn how to handle motorboats first. You need to buy a book and study up, then go out into the jungle to Angelo's encampment, where he'll teach you the finer points. But when you return to town to steal the motorboat, you'll just get a "no go, gringo!" message because the boat belongs to someone else.

That's right: unlike GTA (which Boiling Point superficially resembles) you can't steal cars from the side of the road, carjack anyone or indeed approach objectives from any direction but the most obvious - guns blazing. This can be frustrating, since the world seems to offer you the ultimate in freeform gaming but then gets all coy when it comes to indulging your kleptomania.

Also, as mentioned, there's something about the drab green jungles and very slightly racist depiction of generic South Americans that fails to grab. Other games have compelling game worlds that allow you to forgive some of the wackier design decisions, but in Boiling Point the reverse is more or less true.

/Boiling Point /Boiling Point

Boiling Point: Road to Hell is a title where you'll have to put some hard yards in at the beginning to be able to get seriously into the game and unlock some of the more interesting plot points. It's an awesome achievement in design, but the execution is somewhat less impressive.

A final note: the original US release of the game is very buggy. Two patches have since been released that solve most of the major problems (characters standing inside toilets, for instance), so make sure you get an Australian version and check for further patches on the Boiling Point website.

Anthony Fordham

Publisher: Atari
URL: http://www.deep-shadows.com/en/xenus_overview.html
RRP: $89.95
Game Trailer: Download

Final Score: 7 / 10