BIOFORGE / Origin / PC

You want a piece of me, medical robot? Let's dance!

In the early-to-mid 1990s, Origin was known for two things on the PC gaming scene - boundary-pushing, horsepower-demanding, cutting-edge graphics, and games that had overly elaborate control schemes that required you to memorize a shit ton of keyboard keys. Bioforge continues in both of these proud traditions.

Though it doesn't seem to be widely remembered anymore, Bioforge was a pioneer in motion-captured 3D models. Released in 1995, the characters here do look leagues better than anything comparable of the time. Developer Ken Demerest claims that Bioforge "had the first single-skin, fully texture mapped, skeleton-based characters ever seen in a computer game", and I can't think of any other examples offhand that would disprove that.

Unfortunately, there are two major problems with games that make pushing 3D technological graphical boundaries their main focus. The first is that, while they may look very relatively impressive at the time they are released, they don't always age well. Unlike a 2D game with beautiful sprite work, which is timelessly appreciable, what's impressive as compared to the jaggy filled polygons of Alone In The Dark doesn't look all that great fifteen years later set up against the likes of Gears Of War.

The other problem is that 3D tech-heavy games are usually devoting so much of the processor resources to the graphics, they don't have room for much else. Such is the case with Bioforge, where you pretty much encounter only one character at a time per screen, and the whole of the game world is not all that expansive.

Now, I don't mean to say it's a bad game. It reminds me of the better of the Resident Evil knockoffs of the late 90s/early 2000s, which is of course weird because the game came out before the first Resident Evil. It's basically 3D characters on 2D backgrounds in an action/adventure/survival horror setting, with Alone In The Dark being the clear inspiration and model for it. The player wakes up in a holding cell basically looking like Robocop and with zero memory of how that happened. After battling your way out of that situation, you find yourself in a small jail with other similar bio-freaks. From there you'll explore a mostly abandoned mining operation trying to figure out exactly what the hell happened and how to hitch a ride off of this crazy rock.

Given that AITD is the model, it's strongly more like survival horror than anything else. There's a heavy dose of combat, with puzzles being fairly simplistic and straightforward. It unfortunately also shares the weaknesses of AITD - clumsy combat with slow responses to button presses, "tank controls", and a constant shift in camera angles that often puts you at a low-visibility angle on the action.

On the plus side, the game environment is fairly detailed (aside from the general lack of life) and the atmosphere is legitimately a bit creepy. Sound and music are both quite decent. Uncovering the mystery of what is going on is also interesting at first, though this interest does fade as the game goes on. And it's unintentionally pretty funny at times - seeing Robocop in a kickboxing match with a techno-raptor, or repeatedly slapping a mutant in the face with his own severed arm while yelling "WE SHOULD BE WORKING TOGETHER!", is just the kind of comedy you can't create intentionally.

Still, I think the audience for this one is going to be pretty clearly divided - if you like Resident Evil-type games it'll be up your alley, if not, you'll likely not get too far in it before becoming fed up with the control and camera issues. 

Links :

* Bioforge Quick Reference Card

Videos :

* Gameplay Video