reviews\ Dec 7, 2002 at 7:00 pm

James Cameron's Dark Angel - XB - Review

What if you found out that you were genetically engineered in some secret militant/corporate installation with the splicing of human and feline DNA thrown into your genetic makeup?  Then, to make things worse, you are brought up--with several others of your kind--to become some kind of super soldier endowed with incredible strength and cat-like swiftness.  And after having escaped this place along with your brothers and sisters, you try to unlock the mystery of your birth as well as find others like you that bear the mark of the barcode.  Such is the plight of Max; the feisty female hero of James Cameron’s now cancelled television show Dark Angel that starred Jessica Alba and now an Xbox action game.


Max lives in a bleak futuristic version of Seattle.  After terrorists hit the United States with an electromagnetic shockwave bomb known as the Pulse, the good old US has become a third world country run by the military and giant corporation.  This corporation sees Max as an asset and sends word that they want her captured alive, what they weren’t counting on was Max’s extraordinary ability to kick some tail - and, aided by a cyber-journalist--who acts as the eyes and ears for Max--named Logan.


Seen in a third-person perspective, Max has the ability to move stealthily (much like Solid Snake does in Metal Gear Solid 2) or us a speed burst to rush right past unsuspecting guards that are scattered throughout the game.  Since she’s also a highly trained fighter, she has number of really cool moves--many of them that have her pulling off amazing Matrix-styled highflying moves.  You can back flip behind an opponent offer a combo of kicks or punches.  She can perform a wall kick attack that has her practically running up against a wall to send a swift kick to the face or knock out multiple enemies by performing an aerial side roll.  Thanks to her enhanced strength, she can even toss enemies across the streets.  She can also activate a Rage Mode once the Rage Meter is filled to unleash powerful attacks.


While not big on weapons, Max does pick up a few like the tonfas (that break pretty easy, unfortunately) or the X5 Stealth Gun that fires a non-lethal electrical charge for when you really need to move silently. There is a first-person view mode that even helps her aim the weapon or simply to peek in front of you since the camera does a bad job of showing you what’s a few feet away from you.


The missions and their objectives, though, are where the game really falls apart.  The game begins with a promising set of objectives and fights but sadly enough there is not innovation shown for the rest of the levels.  In fact, the game is simply get to Point B from Point A and beat anyone up that happens to get in the way of that.  There are boss fights thrown into the game but they are not enough to keep the game fresh or very original.  There are few unintelligent puzzles thrown into the mix but most of the game is about collecting key cards and following Logan’s constant “Eye’s Only” messages.  It’s disappointing how very little the action changes throughout the entire game.


Not the most visually stunning game on the Xbox, Dark Angel’s graphics are actually quite decent.  The characters, for example, do look something like the characters from the show.  Max does slightly resemble that actress that portrays her and does capture some of her alluring exotic beauty during cut scenes.  The grittiness of the streets of post-Pulse Seattle also looks dark and filthy and matches the locations seen on the show.  The fights in this game would have been something else to see if it wasn’t for the camera that is too far apart from the action itself.


The sound is also decent enough with the voices of Max and Logan provided by actors Jessica Alba and Michael Weatherly and their performances are actually pretty good.  Just like in the television program, Max comes off as a tough girl with a sarcastic yet flirty tone to her voice when it comes to dealing with her mostly-male opponents.  The bad part about this is that many of her comments during fights can be way too repetitive to the point of annoyance.  The music is done, right, though and building up in just the right moments.


Dark Angel captures all the right essentials from the show, but doesn’t manage to hook gamers in with its monotonous action sequences and glaring flaws.  Starting strong and loosing its charm quite too quickly, this a game action fans will quickly abandon midway through.  If you’re looking for a game with great fights and stealth, I suggest looking elsewhere. 


#Reviewer's Scoring Details


Gameplay: 4.9
With fighting mechanics are similar to those seen in the recent Spider-Man: The Movie game, Max can unleash some really cool and interesting moves (such as the series of flying kicks or the way she uses walls to her advantage).  With so many combos and moves you would hardly think you could get bored of the fights, but trust me, by the second level all the fight just start feeling the same.


The mission objectives are the same way, unfortunately.  Several missions will have you attempting to sneak in or out of areas undetected so you will find yourself pressed against the wall for quick peeks while others have you taking on scores of enemies in order to obtain that much needed key card--and that’s about it.


Graphics: 5.7
Unfortunately this game doesn’t take advantage of all the things the Xbox has to offer graphically but it is still a decent looking game nonetheless.  Many of the characters do resemble their real-life counterparts a bit during cut scenes and it is a pity that the action is seen from a pretty far off distance since the slow motion effects when Max performs her high-flying moves look pretty good.


The environments can be a bit stale, though, but it still true to the show’s backdrops.  Post-Pulse Seattle is littered with the husks of a rusted automobiles and walls spray painted with graffiti.  The slum-like environments can also be interacted with.  You can toss a thug straight into a garbage bin and watch the lid slam down shut or send a guy slamming against breakable cardboard boxes.


Sound: 4.8
Jessica Alba and Michael Weatherly bring their characters to life rather well and, if you have seen an episode of the show, they do a great job of getting into character.  Max still enjoys to toy with her male opponents, offering quips like “If you wanted to impress me you should have brought flowers.”  The problem is that these lines are repeated over and over and it quickly gets old fast.


The game’s score is similar to the show and is actually pretty good since it picks up in just the right moments during the action.  This is so much better than the stale sound effects of fists slamming into faces or kicks being delivered to a guard’s chest.


Difficulty: Medium
Your biggest enemy, no doubt about it, will most definitely be the camera that hardly gives you a good peek at what is just a few feet away from you.  This is especially irksome when you’re trying to make your way past a series of guards without being seen.  The enemies themselves can put up something of a fight since they are good at ganging up on Max . . . some of them even have the unfair advantage of being armed with guns.  There are even big brutish thugs that can toss Max around, but this is nothing compared to the genetically altered bosses that can provide an even more challenging fight.


Concept: 5.0
With an interesting premise and great characters, the Dark Angel television show has all the right elements to make a really great game out of it.  Unfortunately this is not the case since very little thought was put into keeping the game fresh from level to level.


Overall: 5.0
Plenty of cool fighting moves isn’t enough to save Dark Angel from its repetitious and boring cycle of fights and unoriginal design.  Action fans take not--this game just doesn’t offer anything close to the excitement of the television show.  You might just want to skip this one altogether.


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