Crash! Bang! Wallop!
Onto gameplay then which should, in theory, be the strong point of the series. The game is a basic enough first-person shooter although the controls did take me a little while to get used to. I’d have thought B would be the logical choice for Reload, but Activision seems to think that X is a better choice.
But, hey, what do I know? I’d prefer the chance to cycle my weapons both ways, but instead it seems that I can only go Primary-Secondary-Sidearm in that one direction.
As you can probably guess from what I just said, players can only carry three weapons at once. Primary and secondary weapons can be pretty much whatever you want them to be and players have to choose a loadout at the start of each mission. Shotguns, rifles, SMGs, assault rifles and explosive weapons are all available, with each section expanding to include different weapons as you progress through the game.
One of the good things about the game is that the weapons can then be upgraded and customised over time, with different amounts of addons available for each weapon. The upgrades are mostly pretty generic—different types of scopes, then a silencer—but they are pretty good fun to fiddle with.
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Most weapons can have more than one mode of fire too, and you can use the D-Pad to select to either fire in bursts, automatic or semi-automatic modes. It’s an incredibly satisfying feeling when you finally find the right gun and attachments for your playing style. For me, that’s epitomised in semi-automatic rifles like the CAR-12, which I use with an electronic scope and a silencer to create a weapon that feels really cool to use.
The game is incredibly simple to play and, as long as you’ve played an FPS game before, no matter how derivative or awful, then you’ll do fine understanding the mechanics of Payback
. The game is entirely linear and the levels are never really that hard to get lost in, so you’ll spend most of the time running down corridors and all the usual nonsense.
The levels range between being fairly realistic and fairly fun, never reaching an extreme in either direction. Some levels involve pulling yourself through rice paddies and getting stuck in bamboo scaffolding over and over again, while others are mildly good-looking descents of cliffs on rickety wooden platforms and rope bridges.
The latter is especially fun and good for sniping on, until you realise that the levels are horribly untouchable and even the most ancient of rope bridges can’t be collapsed.
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The gore that works itself into the game in omnipresent too – a high calibre round in a thigh or arm will sever the limb at the joint, sending blood gushing out in torrents. At times it can look fantastic, but at others it looks downright awful and the scripted animations can quickly become tired. That said, there is something strangely satisfying about getting a grenade behind a group of enemies, then watching their various pieces being separated and lifted on the explosion.
The reactions of enemies too can range fantastically. There were a few times when I had enemies running past or around me and was able to take their legs off, sending them collapsing into walls quite spectacularly.
Another time I was able to drop off of a ladder into an unsuspecting group and put bullets in the throat of every man in the room. They then all clutched, writhed with and fell to the floor holding their necks. It would have been great had they not all done it in exactly the same manner.
I did slowly get the feeling that the game was at least verging on being slightly offensive too. It wasn’t something I could put my finger on or properly explain, but after killing hundreds of masked terrorists and crawling through rice paddies to free Chinese slaves who spoke only the most stereotypically broken English, I did start expecting my character to yell that he was about to ‘scrag some towelheads’ or something equally taboo. It never happened, but parts of the game were made slightly uncomfortable because of it.