FADE TO BLACK / Electronic Arts / Playstation

Give Fade To Black some credit for doing a fusion of Tomb Raider and Resident Evil a full year before either of them hit market. That's only a technical credit, however, fitting for a game that should probably have just stayed a tech demo. Fade To Black is just too far ahead of its time, trying to do things with limited programming expertise and technology that just weren't possible yet, and the result is a clunky mess that is nothing but a headache to play.

The game is even more disappointing in that it's the direct sequel to Flashback, one of the best 2D action games on the Genesis (and which had slightly inferior ports on the PC and SNES.) Main character Conrad, he of the generic brown leather jacket, jeans and laser pistol, returns in this one. Apparently he went into cryogenic sleep at the end of the first game and jettisoned himself into space Roger Wilco style. 50 years later ... he's picked up by the same morphing lizard-aliens that he thought he put an end to in the previous game. D'oh. Well, they leave him in a cell on their star cruiser to rot, but the assistance of another human being held on board allows Conrad to bust up out of his cell, which is where the adventure begins.

The perspective of Tomb Raider is basically fused with the "tank controls" of Alone In The Dark/Resident Evil for something significantly worse than both. Conrad seems to have a slight lag in responding to your commands, so it's more like you're swinging the camera around wildly and loosely, and then he just kind of follows along for the ride at his leisure. You've got most of the suite of moves from Flashback - jumping, ducking, rolling, etc. - but they've all been janked up in translation to this very primitive 3D engine. There's no real "aiming" of the gun per se - you point in the general direction of what you want to shoot and hope that you're lined up with it, with only the occasional burst of energy from a wall or something to line up your shots. If you're out of position even by a little bit you have to physically move in tank style to another position and try again. As you can imagine this is fantastic in pitched gun battles with the nearly always armed enemies (the first enemy has a laser gun and the second has a frickin' rocket launcher.)

Unfortunately the game's structure is based all around the sorts of instant-death traps and precision movements that Flashback was. The style does not merge well into this clumsy new engine, to put it mildly. The game got shockingly high reviews at the time that it came out and the only reason I can think of is simply technological "wow" factor. Now that that's long gone, there's nothing left here but a string of frustrating challenges made worse by awful camera and control, and severely ugly and dated graphics.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video