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Raze's Hell

Review By:  Siou Choy

Developer:  Artech Studios
Publisher:  Majesco
# of Players:  1-2
Genre:  Shooter
ESRB:  Mature
Online Play:  Yes
Accessories:  Xbox Live (online play), Dolby Digital 5.1, System Link
Date Posted: 

5-28-05

One look at the back of Raze’s Hell’s box and its $20 “bargain” price tag and you know you’ll be in for a real treat with this game.  Mind you, I’m not talking about the sort of treat one actually derives enjoyment from, but rather the “treat” you get from pulling your loud, smelly Uncle Louie‘s finger after a big meal and a few dozen brews on Super Bowl Sunday.

Before we get started, it’s important that the reader understand something about this game.  Whatever anyone may have told you about it, whatever you may have read, whatever the box copy or in-store promotion may lead you to believe, this is the whole story about Raze’s Hell, everything you need to know, summed up in one concise sentence:

“…wants so badly to be Conker’s Bad Fur Day, but fails miserably and utterly in even that admittedly meager goal.” 

The festivities can’t start fast enough.  The introduction already leaves the gamer considering suicide (or systematic homicide directed at the designers, take your pick).  The Kewletts, a country of ostensible “cute and cuddlies”, decide to opt for a Hitlerian policy of lebensraum, invading the outside world to infect it with their supposed beneficence (obvious parallels to current world politics being left unsaid for the nonce).  You are, apparently, the sole opposition.  And here’s where the problems have already started.  The “cute” voices sound akin to Bernadette Peters on helium, i.e. both extremely annoying and decidedly un-cute.  The graphics likewise prove both choppy and ungainly, even in the partial-FMV directed initial sequences.

It isn’t very far into the game before the unwary gamer encounters Cardinal Gaming Sin #1: you have to move the camera manually – it will not track along with your movements.  I don’t care how good your game’s reputation is, how wonderfully developed its storyline, how beautiful its graphics and involving its gameplay – if you have to work the camera by hand, you get an instant “F” (and yeah, that’s graded on a curve, so as not to damage your fragile youthful self esteem) – period, end of story.  Please spread the word among the game developing community, so as to avoid any future infractions of this rule.  I hate having to make examples of individuals.

Ah, you wanted to know about the gameplay.  Well, here it is (such as it is) in a nutshell: you go around sucking up bugs and plants to regurgitate and expel as laser fire against the supposedly “cute” Kewletts (who are about as cute as Ernest Borgnine’s baby pictures), who insult you, rather lamely, as a sort of running commentary throughout.  The (one assumes) intended humor of said insults consist almost entirely of kindergarten-level cracks about how ugly your character is, ad nausaeum.  Unlike the far wittier and more clever Conker's (bet you never thought you’d hear those 3 words in one sentence), the humor (like gameplay and graphics) remains solely at the grade school level, and early grade school at that - I’ve suffered through more entertaining, cutting edge barbs in Disney flicks. 

Enemies die in an absurd splatterfest of gore and dismemberment (solely accounting for this atrocious pseudo-kiddie game’s otherwise unsolicited ‘M’ rating).  In fact, even once the Kewlett forces are dead, you need to spend some quality time butchering the corpses, quite graphically, in order to suck up their body parts (which fly everywhere) in order to renew your health.  Remember: plants/bugs = ammo; decapitated and mutilated flesh = health; an equation sure to get you on the wrong side of the psychiatric couch in no time.  In fact, if you choose to utilize the “B” option (which allows you to roll through their forces Sonic-style), you may very likely wind up with one or more screaming, bleeding corpses splattered across the game “windshield” for half a minute at a time.  If this constitutes your personal idea of amusement, please, don’t bother to introduce yourself.

I found myself fighting off excruciating levels of boredom within the first 10 minutes of gameplay, well before the in-game tutorial had come to a close.  Amazingly enough, Raze’s Hell was apparently developed with online gaming in mind, if you can believe that more than one idiot would find this game amusing and diverting enough to want to turn it into another Everquest or something.

In fact, that seems to be the only option for those desirous of something more than a solo experience in gaming hell: despite any claims at being “multiplayer”, there are no actual options for in-person 2nd or 3rd player gameplay – any references thereto involve online or “system link” considerations.  All things considered, this was probably a wise choice on the part of the development team – you probably wouldn’t want your buddies whipping a $30 Xbox controller at your head (or $10,000 high definition television screen) in disgust.

Amusingly enough, someone over there at Artech saw fit to throw in a few FOX-ish spins on reality in the little newscasts covering the Kewlett’s war of aggressive expansionism, urging at one point that the viewing audience “remember, we’re bringing them freedom” – a rare moment of insightfulness that displays a modicum of intelligence on the part of the development team, sadly evinced nowhere otherwise in the course of gameplay.

What even the densest of gamers should take away from the Raze’s Hell experience (and it is indeed, as advertised, a hellish one) is that somebody is damn pissed about growing up in the 80’s (which was admittedly one doozy of a lame decade, particularly in regards to Saturday morning entertainment).  Unfortunately, copyright restrictions and an utter lack of imagination keep the Kewletts from resembling in any way the Care Bears / Snorks / Monchichis / et al one assumes they were intended to stand in for. 

The general impression one gets is that the developer grew up as the only guy in a family full of sisters, and now feels it necessary to prove his masculinity by inflicting this masterpiece on the gaming community at large (thereby settling, once and for all, that he really hates all the cute stuff he was forced to grow up around).  Morbid curiosity led to further investigation and a trek into the modern wasteland that is the credits section of the game manual.  As it turns out, there were 3 individuals responsible for the game concept – odd that there wasn’t a single girl involved therein.  Perhaps she might have informed them that, wholly apart from the general stupidity of the concept, the Kewletts in no way approximate anyone’s generic conception of “cute”.  Certainly someone should have advised them as to what may, in any broad sense, constitute actual humor (which, even in minor doses, may have made the mind-numbingly simplistic and repetitive gameplay somewhat more bearable).  Sadly, such was not to be.

The bottom line is, some moron at Artech Studios was sitting around with his buddies talking about how great it would be to do another Conker's, but without the sex, alcohol, adult humor, etc. (already an idiotic idea, but hey).   However, as Raze’s Hell was developed, not with a more (however low-class) sophisticated British sense of humor, but rather a C minus-on-a-grade modern American intellect at the helm, the results turn out quite as expected.  For any American Idol-following, FOX news-trusting hip-hoppers out there, the previous sentence should approximately translate to “a-duhhh”.

It is a sad thing indeed when someone produces a body of work, in whatever medium, that is intended to elicit laughs, yet leaves its audience utterly stone-faced, even baffled as to the guilty party’s intent.  Raze’s Hell is one of those unfortunate productions: unfunny, far from diverting, and wholly unamusing.

I leave you with an offhand comment a friend made, on the night I tested out this masterpiece of intellectual stimulation, graphical beauty and gaming mastery.  To wit:

“Whoever came up with this idea has got some serious problems.”

Highs:

  • Online (“Xbox Live”) enabled, if you care.

  • Well, it’s a “bargain game” (retails for $20), though torture like this is really no bargain, at any price.

  • Essentially, Raze’s Hell is an N64 game that came out 4 or 5 years too late, necessitating a port, however inappropriately, to the pinnacle of current gaming consoles.  Maybe it’d pass as a PS2 game, I dunno.  But to bring a piece of crap like this to bear against the graphical capabilities of the Xbox?  Please…

Lows:

  • Too numerous, not to mention tedious, to recount.  Take a couple of minutes and read the review, ya lazy bum!

Final Verdict: 

Doubtless some bonehead still traumatized by long-faded kiddie “cute” fads such as Barney, Pokemon and 80’s Saturday morning cartoon fare will find a masterpiece in this disastrous, ultimately boring attempt at a humorous “adult” game.  Those possessing more rational sensibilities are advised to use caution in the use of this product prior to the operation of a motor vehicle or the use of heavy machinery.

Overall Score: 4.0

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