No matter what the self-help books on tape and promotional literature say, people always judge things on a first impression and the original assessment always counts.
My first impression of Code of Honor 2
then was this; that it is obviously a low budget game, probably foreign. Its focus on insanely difficult combat would probably combine with a psychopathically high attention to detail when it came to guns, resulting in a cult of following of weird military enthusiasts and pre-teen soldier wannabes – the former scarily grooming the latter.
Mostly, I was right. The game is low-budget, making use of the Jupiter-FX engine used in the now decrepit F.E.A.R
, and was developed in Poland. These aren’t bad things. There are dozens of underground classics that have come from such a humble origin.
My experiments with multiplayer, which I’ll talk about later, also confirmed that I was right about the audience. What I was wrong about though, was the gameplay.
It is easily possible to take an old or simply bad game engine and give it some appeal by layering in pseudo-realism; just look at some of the older Delta Force
games for example. These games gave you huge levels, vulnerability, realistic weapons with little ammo and a whole load of other things that would sound awful to a casual gamer. The games were a hit with fans of tactical FPS games.
Likewise, you can take an out of date engine and make it very accessible and fun by upping player speed and making the action frantic and relentless. Plenty of explosions and the occasional hint of cleavage
doesn’t hurt either.
What you can’t easily do though is combine the two. Putting a bland, brown military themed game on top of simple fire-and-forget mechanics just doesn’t feel right. You end up with a game that has pages of information in the main menu about each of the different weapons in the game and boasts that you can customise your firearms as you play, but in reality it never matters since all the guns have constant pinpoint accuracy anyway and the developers seem never to have heard of locational damage.
And don't get me started on the water-borne sections of the game where you'll be besieged by nigh-invisible snakes swimming in water that doesn't so much ripple as you wade through it as it does have a seizure. I've seen electrified bowls of jelly and ice cream that give a more convincing impression of water than this - and I've only ever seen that once.
The customisable weapons are also a bit of a misnomer. It’s just one weapon that you can modify and the only change you can make to it is a switch between a sniper and assault mode. Plus, once you’ve switched the gun to sniper mode then you won’t need another gun for the rest of the game. The enemy stand so still most of the time that the challenge becomes how many times can you not
get a headshot.
The number of weapons is pitifully low too. There’s a one-shot rocket launcher, a shotgun, two identical SMGs, two rifles and a pistol, knife and fire extinguisher. It’s telling that the most satisfying one to use is the fire extinguisher, which is essential for solving both of the puzzles in the game – though the game hand-holds you through it just in case you get stuck.
The levels also run the usual gamut of randomly strung together levels with apparently no cohesive theme, something which prevents you from ever really connecting with the world around you. There’s the tiny beach, the dingy caves, the destroyed prison and then the high-tech research centre and helipad, each as abyssal and as designed-by-numbers as you could ever imagine.
And it doesn’t help that the graphics are so woefully underpowered either, with the game not even trying to make the most of the ageing Jupiter-EX engine aside from the single obligatory slow-motion sequence that fails to emulate the abilities of the player in F.E.A.R