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Chrome PC CD-ROM

Published by Gathering
Developed by Techland
Released: Out Now
Price: £29.99

Earlier this year it looked like it was going to be a splendid Christmas for FPS fans. However with so many titles that have now been postponed until at least spring next year, suddenly there isn't so much to choose from. One of the first FPS games to arrive for the run in to Christmas is Chrome. In fact it's rather nice to see a FPS that hasn't been hyped to the hilt over the last 6 months and I'm sure Chrome has taken a lot of gamers by surprise by it's no fuss appearance.

Chrome is set in the 22nd century and casts you in the role of Logan, a mercenary who has just spent four years in the Expedition Corps and four years in the elite Special Forces, so it's fair to say that you're pretty skilled at armed combat. Since leaving the Special Forces you've been taking on various missions and all have been a complete success. However after the catastrophe on Helios you want to begin again and that's when you take up with Carrie, also a mercenary and are bound for Valkyria, a planetary system in chaos and ideally suited to the life of a mercenary.

Chrome touts itself as a tactical shooter but in many ways this isn't the case (although you have to make important choices about what weapons to carry as you have limited inventory space and it's only possible to carry a few weapons at a time), at least it's not in the Rainbow Six mould which is what I think of when the phrase tactical shooter is mentioned. The games main story is made up of 14 missions but as it is all tightly scripted there isn't much replay value in it once you've played it through. Still it's nice to have a FPS where you can just get on with the action and I'm not one for complaining about linear gameplay as long as it's up to scratch. The game's plot is OK and it begins with one hell of twist as you are betrayed and left right in a mess.

Most FPS games get criticised for their artificial intelligence. Chrome though has to be applauded for its AI. Enemies where possible will take cover and do their best to avoid taking hits. In fact when it comes to accuracy your opponents are simply too accurate. Very early on in the game you are faced with a sniper who is simply out of sight he's that far off and yet every shot hits you. Forget circle strafing or serpentine like movements in no time at all you'll have more holes in you than ½lb of Gorgonzola. Close range enemies aren't so frustrating because you have a decent chance of taking them down first but the enemies who don't miss from miles away can make things just a little bit frustrating. To add insult to injury there is no indication as to the direction of the shots which means you're a sitting duck. Thankfully you can save anywhere you like so the frustration is not as bad as it might be.

It's clear that Techland have been influenced by some of the classic titles out there as there are several drivable vehicles (Halo influenced?), although you don't get to do too much with them in the single player game you do get to use them in the multiplayer games which is great. We see a Deus Ex influence here too as Logan is able to use a variety of bio-cybernetic implants. In fairness to Techland though the implant system is rather more complicated in Chrome than it was in Deus Ex. There are 7 implants on offer and they include the Eye Scope, which enables an optical zoom when using a light weapon; a Muscle Improver which helps to reduce recoil when firing weapons and a Reflex Booster which of course improves reflexes and reactions. These implants have to be used sparingly though as you don't have unlimited use with them. The implants are harmful to your body if they are used too much so a circuit breaker has been included to switch them off before they become hazardous. After a while though you'll be safe to reuse them. Because their use is limited you'll have to use them wisely, which adds some welcome depth to the game.

Techland have also taken care of those that like to take their games online. Not only have they included an editor for you to design your own levels but they have also provided some rather good online modes. After creating a profile for yourself, in which you pick a character model and customize the look of him, you have a choice of playing over a LAN or the Internet. Games include the classic Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag as well as Team Domination (where your team receives points for capturing specific bases on the map), Total Team Domination (similar to Team Domination only you have to capture all bases to receive points) and Assault (where one team has to destroy a target and the other team has to defend the target).

What no one can deny with Chrome is that it looks fantastic. The game engine used here is superb and not only does everything look very impressive but it also manages to keep a nice framerate too. The detail in the game, particularly in the outdoor areas is top notch and easily rivals any game engine out there at the moment. The grass sways in the breeze and you can see the sunlight stream through the trees. The textures also look superb. I couldn't believe that my aging Geforce 4 Ti4200 was actually performing so well with all the detail that was on display. The only real disappointment, graphically speaking has to be the faces of the characters which really don't look that good. It's not a complaint by any means but it really stands out when surrounded by the graphical excellence that Chrome has.

Chrome also has to be one of the most deaf gamer friendly FPS games I've played to date. The cutscenes are all subtitled and the conversations are all shown in text via the communicator windows (dialogue box). You can recall any of the conversations at any time by pressing the 'L' key to open the data log. Mission objectives can be recalled by pressing the 'M' key which also shows you the map too. You are given text alerts when your mission objectives have changed, which is very nice to see. In fact Techland have really done a good job in making Chrome as deaf gamer friendly as possible, which is brilliant.

Generally speaking I've enjoyed playing Chrome. The major sticking point with the game has to be the unbelievable accuracy of your opponents. The AI at times is simply too fierce and far too accurate. However being positive this does encourage you to save often and brush up on your own aiming. This isn't a FPS where you can waste ammunition and let the bullets fly. It's extremely challenging, even on the easier of the five difficulty settings but persevere with it and you will be rewarded. Looking on the bright side you might still be enjoying Chrome when Christmas has come and gone.

Overall Game Rating: 8.0/10
Graphically beautiful and immensely challenging Chrome isn't a FPS that you'll play through in a weekend but it is one that will test your FPS skills right to the full.

Deaf Gamers comment:
An excellent effort from Techland has been made to make sure that deaf gamers can enjoy Chrome.