Review: Restricted Area

Posted by | August 12, 2009

restricted-area Welcome to the post-apocalyptic wasteland of Restricted Area by Whiptail Interactive and Master Creating. The game crawls out of the reduced price game bin having replaced a multitude of its own organs with those grown in vats cloned from Diablo—no, not Diablo II, straight original Diablo. The first thing that we thought when we were thrust into the windblown, sun caked desert outside of the central city is that we may once again be visiting the Valley of the Kings soon.

The first massive caveat against buying this game is that it’s loaded down with Starforce DRM—the fact that it’s loaded down with invasive DRM at all turns us off; but this particular DRM company has seen a very bad run (Reboots your computer without warning? Resorts to unfair political practices?) The ethical issues should turn away most of the activist geeks; but really what should turn everyone away is the general untrustworthiness of these actions perpetrated by a company installing what amounts to a rootkit on our computers to play a game.

The graphics are dated, characters far more pixilated than should be proper, and the backgrounds are repetitive to a fault. In fact, scraping the surface of this these desolate offerings we discover that everyone in the Restricted Area universe uses the same architect when designing factories. The same someone who makes every other abandoned post-industrial warehouse and factory in every other video game replete with claustrophobic corridors, dying light fixtures, metal grating floors, and ubiquitous exploding barrels. They probably save a great deal of money on janitorial services because not a single one is cleaned.

The enemies quickly become extremely repetitive in behavior and form, sporting only a minimum of eight or so different types—crawling, knifing, shooting, angry…

The game play expects an almost wave-of-enemies Gauntlet style of attacks for some rooms, where others offer nothing but the explodable barrels for company. At least one point or two in the game have actual variation—such as a giant version of the otherwise common enemies—but overall it is lackluster in its offering. Really, the only thing keeping this dieseling engine running is purely the cyberpunk dystopian future appeal.

Amid the things that we found amusing about game play happened to be the ability for characters to do their own in-field cyberdoc meatball surgery. Did an enemy drop a new limb that looks promising right now? Well, no problem little miss, just install it right now—ka-chunk!—and you’ll be on your way in a jiffy. In fact, it’s good that you did that because right now a particularly corpulent mutant is here to beat you to death with his beer gut. Don’t forget the cigarettes!

We started the game off by gravitating to one of our favorite character types: the hacker/engineer.

Jessica Parker, name aside, happens to be a hacker who grew up with a silver spoon in her mouth but quickly fell into a life of crime and mayhem that even her own family’s money couldn’t save her from. She starts the game with a hovering drone that looks a lot like a toy flying saucer—we’re told that it’s a prison robot set to guard her when she was put into the state pen; but at the beginning of the game we discover exactly why it was so easy for her to escape. It sucks.

The remote drone certainly becomes a powerhouse of firepower later in the game, but at the beginning it’s not even as good as the pea-shooter that Jessica starts with. Later on it actually becomes something of a force to be reckoned with; but the girl remains as fragile as ever.

Our biggest problem with her play is that of control points. Certainly, she’s capable of settings mines, laying down suppression fire with automated turrets, controlling machine units, and recharging her drone—but she can’t do any of this without first flying off into cyberspace and downloading strange data from the company computers. This mechanic seems extremely contrived and it’s quite annoying because we lose all of our control points upon leaving the wasteland factory only to have to run cyberspace again to get them back.

Cyberspace, by the way, happens to be a weird TRON filter over the normally grim walls of the factory.

When we moved onto Johnson, a gunbunny extraordinaire with a penchant for plasma weapons and flame-throwers, we discovered the error of our previous choice. Jessica, we read, is one of the most difficult characters in the entire game; she has a rating of 4 of 4 difficulty. Fun as she was, we actually made it a lot further with Johnson than we ever did with our favored archetype of the hacker chickadee.

In fact, in Johnson, we discovered that we have a great deal of suppressed rage—and an unsatisfied desire to set people on fire. What the gunbunny character brings to play is nothing less than the awesome firepower of the flame-thrower. (If only we could equip Jessica’s drone with this thing, it would make the game a lot more fun.) Of course, we learned that Johnson’s difficulty scale is 1 of 4, making him the easiest character to play the game with.

The remaining two characters we did not get to: Victoria Williams, a psionic esper with a terrible tortured past filled with government experiments and pariahood at the cost of her mutation, and Kenji Takahasi, a proud, shirtless street samurai who makes a living at the edge of his blade. Together they round out a refreshingly differential set of characters who have commonalities but notably different styles of game play.

Also interesting, depending on who gets chosen, the storyline weaves them in as NPCs who reveal interesting information about their pasts and motivations. Talking to our own character from the previous game made for some worthwhile replay value in this otherwise desolate offering that had been giving us mostly just a lot of elbow grease for our troubles.

If you happen to find this game for $6 like we did and are ready to suffer the Starforce DRM on your computer, you might find a diversion in this game—however, everyone else might as well steer clear for something more modern or at least better paced.


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