Year of release: 2006
Development House: Ritual Entertainment / Valve
Publisher: Valve/Ritual Entertainment
Cost: $19.99 via Steam (Included is the original SiN and the SiN 1 Multiplayer)
Game score: 98 / 100
Graphics: 5 / 5
Sound: 5 / 5
Gameplay: 5 / 5
Concept: 5 / 5
Execution: 5 / 5
Controls: 5 / 5
Enjoyment: 5 / 5
Replay ability: 4 / 5
Difficulty: 5 / ∞
Learning Curve: 5 / 5
Patch version: N/A
Bugs: 2 / 5
Modability / Community support: 4 / 5
SiN Emergence is the first part of an episodic content release of the SiN series of games. The first episode of the series being "Emergence". The game is built on the foundations of the Source Engine, the very same one responsible for the graphics of Half-Life 2. The game is a continuation of the SiN storyline, although playing the original one is not required, but it would provide relevant backstory material. To quote the SiN site:
The game picks up almost immediately in the thick of it, from one second to next you are bounced from here to there. Without giving away intro spoilers it you may be caught off guard, but it will slow down and allow you to get your bearings. The key thing is that they didn't overwork the plot or make it overly complicated, as the bit-tech review said: "Actually SiN Episodes plays more like the first Half-Life or F.E.A.R. There’s no illusion of grandeur, and it shows. "You are John Blade, commander of HardCorps, an elite security force dedicated to protecting the people of Freeport City. Four years have passed since your first battle with Elexis Sinclaire, a beautiful, brilliant, and ruthless scientist who is out to remake humanity according to her own twisted vision. The law has failed to bring Elexis and her multi-billion dollar empire, SiNTEK, to justice, so Blade is determined to take matters into his own hands. Joining Blade on his mission are JC - a hacker with a secret to keep - and Jessica Cannon, a fiery rookie who can find her way into any secure facility.
Enter the living, breathing world of Freeport City, a futuristic collision of New York, San Francisco and Tokyo. As Freeport continues to suffer from mutant attacks, you must now bring down Sinclaire before she can set her deadly plan in motion and alter the shape of humanity forever.
SiN Episodes™: Emergence launches the new era of episodic gaming. A first person shooter powered by Valve's award-winning Source™ technology, SiN Episodes offers unprecedented interactivity, an engrossing story, and a revolutionary dynamic difficulty system that provides a custom experience based on your skill level and play style.
The gameplay is very well done. Probably the best feature of the game is the Dynamic Difficulty System (DDS) the game offers. When initally creating a game you are posed with the menu option to select the challenge difficulty and the level of computer assistance. What does this mean? It means that depending on what level you seting the challenge at the harder of a time you are going to have when facing enemies, be it alot more of them and/or (probably the and) heavily armed and armored bad guys. The computer assistance option basically determines the amount of help you will get when playing the game, namely if you get stuck (those areas we all do where you saved and are constantly stuck trying to get past a specific point in the game) the game might lower the difficulty of the AI, change the type of badguys at choke points (yes I've seen it happen), etc. The game's difficulty scales very nicely depending on your play style, be it the stealthy sneak around and suprise them with a few shotguns rounds to the face, or the gun-ho run in and try to tank them. It provided one hell of a challenge when I played through it.
The enviromental layout of the levels and the game was done very well. The levels are large, immersive and the misc stuff laying around can help you in tight spots by using it to choke points to hold enemies off while you toss a grenade at them. At certain points where you don't see a clear path to the next room/area, the developers force you to use the enviroment to your advantage for progressing and finding secrets in the game (which they award you for be it with crates of supplies or easter eggs). The fights you will eventually get into force you to use the enviroment as cover as like I said before, you cannot just Rambo your way through the game.
Within the single player, the game will track your overall score and progression through the single player. This includes: the overall accuracy, accuracy with each gun, # kills with what gun, what secrets you found, how many deaths per level, etc. Also included is your overall score for the game, based on the above stats. Also listed is the challenge rating at that particular moment for yourself, and the level of the AI. So its interesting to see it change as you progress through the story.
Another nicely done aspect of the game is the sound and dialouge. You will immediately understand what I mean as soon as you load the game up. The theme song begins playing and I do say it is good. The character dialouge is very well done, with scripts that are not the typical storyline sayings and what have you. Again this will be immediately heard within the first few minutes of gameplay from the heroine Jessica Cannon. The voice actors did a supurb job with the characters.
Now with most FPS shooters, like Half Life, you have a freaking arsenal to choose from, be it a shotgun to a shoulder mounted SAM launcher. This is certainly not the case with SiN Emergence. You have a total of three weapons to play with period (with the exception of melee attacks using the guns). This not only adds a strong realism element into the game, but also a tactical one. With only the pistol, shotgun and assault rifle to use throughout the entire game and the limited ammo that you will have for all 3 (not horribly unlimited, but you can't pull a Gordon Freeman) you have to be careful what weapon you will want to use in the battle situation. The guns also have an alternate fire mode which is very powerfull at taking down enemies quickly. The secondary mode ammo is very limited so use it with caution. The sound effects for the guns are well done, as are the animations and models, they enemies are using the same guns as you so its not a battle of who has the most firepower, but who can use what firepower they have to the best tactical advantage.
The last thing of mention about the game is some of the issues and stuck points in the game. There are only 2 major things I had issues with and that was getting stuck on the breakable or "active" parts of the enviroment, thus preventing me from moving or getting me killed or just being annoying. It wasn't very common in the game, but it did occur. The other thing was when you have Jessica with you, sometimes she can get bugged with her collison box and distance with you when in tight corridor areas. Specifically she follows too close sometimes and when you bump into her, she may back up or get stuck to where she won't follow at the right distance or not at all. Again these aren't major things at all, but merely minor issues I encountered. Only other thing of mention that the game IS short as the way Ritual is doing the SiN story is episodic content release every six months or so, and thus each new chapter will be short and not as long as say the full HL2 story arc. But this is easily remedied by the challege scaling of the single player.
Good stuff: Awesome story, suburb musical score and voice acting. Level design and gameplay is top notch.
Bad stuff: Very minor gameplay issues. Short due to episodic content release.
Reviewer System Specs:
CPU: AMD 64 3500+ 2.2ghz
RAM: 2GB OCZ 2-3-2-5
Video Card: Ati x800XL 256MB (Game Resolution at 1280*1024, All settings to high + 4xAA and 16xAF)
Sound Card and Speakers: Creative Labs Sound Blaster X-Fi & Logitech Z-5500d 5.1 Speakers
Other Relevant Comp Specs: Logitech MX100 Laser Mouse, Logitech G15 Keyboard, Viewsonic A90f+ 19" CRT