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RE[18]: Game Reviews

Kroc

:: Chasm: The Rift

* FPS - PC (1997)

Wolfenstein 3D begot Wolf3D-clones. Doom begot Doom-clones. Quake begot... the FPS genre as we know it, in its entirety. Somewhere in the middle was Chasm: The Rift -- an FPS from an alternative time-line where Wolf3D was taken as far as it could with the greatly improving technology through the '90s. Like Quake had a child with Wolf3D, Chasm: The Rift is a gritty, dark, atmospheric FPS with very good art, sound, excellent 3D models with an advanced [for the time] dismemberment system, all strapped to a 2.5D engine that lacks Room-Over-Room and limits levels to mostly a series of corridors. For this reason it ran on very modest hardware in 1997, and was also almost entirely overlooked and forgotten.

Since it is no longer the '90s (and there is no more time for Klax) we should look at Chasm: The Rift not from a 'latest-and-greatest' perspective but purely based on its own merits. In that respect, it's an above-average FPS that doesn't rise as high as Quake but is enjoyable in its own right, certainly worthwhile from an aesthetic angle and an enjoyable romp for anybody who likes '90s FPSes above the modern stuff.

The game is divided across a set of different time-periods and places lending a good variety of locations and the opportunity to express everything it has to give with its outstanding texture work. You begin in the 'present' with some average military bases, but then head to ancient Egypt, Medieval [assumedly] England, and then somewhere in some alien future. It's all very pretty realised with each place having its own set of enemy types. The whole thing is only let down by engine limitations forcing everything into narrow corridors and tiny rooms which can get confusing and dull after a while. There's unique attempts at minimising this between worlds, but during the levels within a world it can be repetitive.

The weapons don't quite reach the perfect balance as Doom and you'll rely on your shotgun for a vast majority of enemies. There's a laser-crossbow which is accurate but it just doesn't do nearly enough damage based on the limited amount of ammo you get for it. There's some flying discs which can be fired extremely rapidly but ammo for that is scant at best. There's a fairly generic rocket/grenade launcher, some utterly pointless mines, and to round it off a BFG-like grenade-launcher which can obliterate anything too close to the blast-radius. A huge improvement to the game would have been to have some unique weapons in each world to suit the themes.

There's a large roster of enemies and they change with each world so they never over-stay their welcome. They all have a variety of attack methods, but with the weapon set being a little too weak and unspecialised in the high-end, the game never reaches the highs of Doom's monster-set that has you immediately analysing and prioritising the crowd and selecting which weapons are needed for each.

:: Highlights

* Outstanding texture work that looks pure class in chunky unfiltered pixels
* High-quality 3D models and animations for its time with an innovative dismemberment system allowing you to disarm (literally) enemies
* Dark and spooky ambient sound track

:: Areas of Improvement

* Cramped and often windy, confusing level layouts caused by the engine limitations
* Pretty bad voice acting / writing in the bare handful of inter-world cutscenes to go along with the paper-thin plot
* Weapons are just not balanced right with the high-end weapons not being powerful / specialised enough

Your friendly neighbourhood moderators: Kroc, Impressed, Martijn