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Scrapland PC CD-ROM

Published by Deep Silver
Developed by Mercury Steam
Release Date: 25th February 2005
Price: £29.99

As gaming has become more mainstream it's becoming more difficult to find games that feel original. Of course you don't expect games to be completely different from anything you've experienced before as this would be a very big risk on the developers part but you do expect games that show some imagination and don't make you feel like you've played it all before. Scrapland is one of those games. Whilst certain elements of the game have been done before it still manages to feel fresh and you don't ever get a case of déjà vu like you do with so many games out there.

The brains behind Scrapland is American McGee. McGee has a reputation for creating games (such as the underrated Alice) that feel unlike any others you've ever played and Scrapland is certainly a game in this vein. Scrapland is kind of like a droid flavoured Grand Theft Auto in some respects, with a hint of Messiah thrown in too. You'll get to build your own gun ship (a type of armoured space hovercraft), transform into 15 different characters and complete a staggering 140 missions. Even when you're through with the rather lengthy single-player game there are multiplayer options for you to explore. The multiplayer mode offers LAN and Internet play where single and team variations of Deathmatch, Flag Hunt and One Flag games are on offer (using customisable gun ships). It's the single-player game that most are going to be interested in though.

You'll play as D-Tritus, a droid who has been made from junk, and the game begins with you arriving in Chimera looking for work. D-Tritus is out of luck though because he has no references or qualifications and the only job that is open to him is that of a reporter which is seen as the lowest vocation that there is. It should be a job that is mundane and unsatisfying but it doesn't turn out that way at all. One of D-Tritus' first tasks is to interview the Archbishop of Chimera. The interview turns out to be a waste of time as the arrogant bishop simply refuses to give an interview. Shortly after leaving the bishop though, he's murdered and your task turns into a murder investigation.

As the game is a world full of droids in a completely fictional setting the developers have been able to include some rather interesting concepts such as the Great Database. The Great Database allows droids to make a copy of themselves. If ever they are destroyed then a copy of them can be retrieved from the Great Database. In effect this allows them to be immortal. The murder of the Archbishop that we've just mentioned was of special note because the murderers not only destroyed him but also destroyed his backup copy on the Great Database (which also happens to several key characters throughout the game). D-Tritus soon learns that the Great Database can be manipulated for his own purpose. Early in the game he's shown how to hack the Great Database and how to assume the identity of a total of 15 characters. This ability is of great importance because it allows D-Tritus to go places he isn't authorised to do so. He can investigate crime scenes for example by transforming into a police officer, which is rather useful. Each of the droids you can impersonate also has a special ability which again makes being able to assume their form even more desirable. This isn't without risk mind you and if D-Tritus is caught impersonating someone else he'll find himself in hot water.

There are a fair amount of spacecraft battles and races in Scrapland. On the whole they aren't too bad at all and the keyboard and mouse control scheme works well. You'll also get to build your own spacecraft and customise them to suit your needs which is a nice touch. Flying around Chimera is only one method of traveling around and D-Tritus can also use the Tubular Transport system to quickly move from place to place which instantly takes you to another location. The various missions you'll have to perform are either on foot or whilst you're in your gun ship. Whilst a lot about Scrapland is enjoyable the missions lack variety and quality. All too often the missions are just very slight variations of ones you've just completed and this helps the game to feel a lot more repetitive than it should. This is a shame because at times it feels like it could be a great third person action adventure. It's enjoyable when you hit a thread of the games story and for a moment or two it plays out like a solid adventure game and is enjoyable particularly as the various characters you'll encounter actually have personality and the dialogue is interesting.

It's all too common for games that appear on both consoles and PC to look poor on the PC. This is usually because the developers take short cuts and do not optimise the game to take full advantage of the PC hardware that's available. Thankfully though Mercury Steam haven't taken this short cut approach and have made Scrapland look very nice indeed on the PC. Being a TFT user I was very pleased to see the game support the 1280x1024 resolution and at this resolution it certainly looks excellent. What I really like about the game is how it comes across as futuristic in so many ways. Little touches like the stairs appearing before your very eyes, as if they've just been magically generated, are what makes the game look so futuristic. There's a nice range of effects here for those of you with high-end graphics cards such as bloom, motion blur and anisotropic filtering as well as pixel shaders that give the games textures that extra bit of class.

Scrapland can be considered fairly deaf gamer friendly but there are some omissions that prevent deaf gamers from being able to follow all the action. All conversations are shown in text. The text for the most part is placed in a box and is light blue in colour to make it easy to see and regardless of the colour of the background it's always easy to read. An icon appears on screen when you've just been given a mission and pressing F1 will recall the objectives at any time which is useful. All tutorial messages in the game are shown it text too which again is great to see. However some conversations that occur in the background and don't relate to D-Tritus are not shown in text (although this doesn't cause any problems). Sometimes when you're being pursued your pursuers will shout at you (or even call out when they can no longer see you and that they've given up pursuing) and none of this is subtitled. Some important cutscenes are not subtitled either such as the murder of the Archbishop and this is rather more serious as you'll miss out on some of the story. Overall though Scrapland is certainly OK for deaf gamers and it's a shame that only a few parts of the game are not subtitled.

Scrapland manages to be enjoyable and entertaining without ever becoming something memorable. The real let down in Scrapland is that the missions lack variety and all too often it feels like you're going from one similar mission to the next. Some missions can be tedious too which doesn't help matters. That said though the quality of the games characters, the story (for the most part) and the originality of the game certainly makes it an interesting game that manages to keep you ploughing through the missions. Had the quality and variation of the missions been greater though it could have certainly been a memorable experience rather than the simply good one that it is.

Overall Game Rating: 7.5/10

Scrapland is a unique and enjoyable experience that is ultimately let down by repetitive missions. There needs to be much more mission variation and the quality of the missions could have been better and less frustrating in parts. Despite this though Scrapland is certainly an action adventure game that's well worth giving a go.

Deaf Gamers Classification:

(Click the letter or here for details)

Scrapland does a good job, for the most part, of being deaf gamer friendly. There are no captions though and some elements are not subtitled but you will be able to enjoy the game despite the few omissions.