reviews\ Mar 22, 2005 at 7:00 pm

Payback - GBA - Review

The first thing I thought of when I first started playing this game was the movie "Snatch", a quirky English gangster flick that came from out of nowhere in 2000. Why would a GBA game remind me of an obscure sleeper of a movie? Good question. Well first, the game has the same sort of busted keyboard font that spills out information on the bottom of the screen that the movie had. Second, this is a sort of Grand Theft Auto/Getaway game but firmly rooted in the English crime scene, like the movie, and third, like Brad Pitt's character, I just didn't understand what the devil was going on at first.


Payback is a throwback to those Grand Theft Auto games (like one and two) where the view is solely, top down. As a wannabe hood, you roam one of the games three massive cities, answering the phones that ring and completing tasks that involve causing all sorts of mayhem. OK, not a real stretch so far, but the only way to advance is to accumulate a set total of money.You make money by completing said tasks. If you complete tasks then you get a bonus multiplier on your money, the more tasks you complete without dying the multiplier continues racking up until you are at four times bonus.  If all of this sounds familiar, let me go on. Not only do you complete crimes for cash, but there is no set order in which to do so. Given the size of the cities and the vast amount of ringing telephones, you could conceivably play the game several different ways and still not see everything there is to offer. Again, this sounds very familiar. Did I mention that you can find and collect AND use lots and lots of weapons on the poor citizens who were unfortunate enough to get out of bed this morning.

With all this open-ended gameplay and the scope of the game, one would think they have hit the jackpot. Well, not quite. The game has some notable deficiencies. The first very noticeable one is the low polygon count of your character. At first glance I thought I was playing the Atari classic Venture with it's one square bit character. Payback's antihero is little more then the one. Next, the game seems to lack the correct depth in it's location graphics. More then once (while I was driving a vehicle) I found myself stuck on what appeared to be nothing, but then realizing I was on a sidewalk had to back up and drive around. The developers didn't do a good enough job of differentiating colors between objects on different levels. And, it appeared they over did it when designing bridges, they appeared way too steep and at least to me, I initially thought they were draw bridges in the "up" position.

At least the game featured a decent soundtrack. I enjoyed the thumping beats and subtle nuances that the developers took that flowed with the games inaction and action. I also enjoyed the surprises that the game does throw at you as you adventure through the cities. Challenges will eventually have you driving a tank through the city ramming cop cars and committing vehicular homicide. The cops will also become sensitive to your distaste for all that is good and decent in the world, and try to kill you.

The controls were a little sloppy for my taste, instead of using a regular d-pad style control, two of the actual buttons represent walking forward and walking backward while the d-pad just steers you. Carjacking is as simple as pressing the left trigger button. It seemed to me that the controls should have been a bit better defined and the action a little less automatic. When you do happen to pull that left trigger button, your character automatically goes after the nearest vehicle, even if it is driving, and since you basically run at the same speed the cars do, it can be almost humorous.


Review Scoring Details for Payback

Gameplay: 6.1
I wasn't too impressed with the controls; the game's pacing and controls are a bit too sloppy and the developers choice of button configuration left me scratching my head. But, you do get to drive a bevy of vehicles and that does provide a certain level of fun.  The game does offer a rampage mode that switches the gameplay up a bit where you must complete a certain score rather then run around in a rabid rage. 

Graphics: 7.0
The low polygon count of your character was disappointing, and some of the different textures got me caught up on the game's scenery, but the frame rate kicked in nicely when it needed to and the explosions were somewhat surprising looking. So while the first coat of paint was a little sloppy, the more you peeled away, the prettier things got.

Sound: 6.7
Again, the English styled up-tempo music was done nicely and even came out of my DSs (I'm playing all my GBA games on the DS now) dual speakers with some decent bravado. No sign of voicework to be found here but some of the crashes and explosions were nice to hear.

Difficulty: Medium
Even if you can't complete a task, just simply find another, sure the cash payoff may not be as high, but the game's difficulty is directly tied into what you feel like doing.

Concept: 5.5
Been there, done that. Sorry but the game isn't introducing anything new or genre defining. 

Multiplayer: 5.1
Uh, nope, not as much fun playing multiplayer (had to use my GBA for this part) as the single game. It revolves around seeing who can blast through the cities, being the first to score a predetermined number of kills. And avoid ticking off your friends who you are currently whupping up on. 

Overall: 6.4
Uhhhhh, it's a game that the box says "12 and up", I wouldn't let my kid play this until 16 at least. The wanton violence, the messy deaths, it has a level of fun for those mature enough to handle it, but the staying power of this title just isn't here. There's a couple of hours of play in there, but not much more.

Above Average

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