STAFF REVIEW of Kill Switch (Xbox)

Sunday, January 25, 2004.
by Tony Ingrassia

Kill Switch Box art When you think all avenues are exhausted in a military based game someone comes up with a new wrinkle. The someone in this case is Namco and Renderwares Kill Switch, and the new wrinkle is Cover Tactics. Loaded with weaponry and some other little surprises Kill Switch may just be a game you may want to take a gander at.

The story here isnt anything new and groundbreaking, your usual Seek and Destroy objectives, but the way the missions are laid out is challenging and interesting. You begin with a tutorial that runs you through not only how to use your weapons but also goes over Cover Tactics. What are cover tactics you ask, plain and simple you need to master hiding and shooting from and around walls, barriers, and other objects you will come across as you run through your missions.

The developers did a great job with the control system, especially on the cover tactic maneuvers. As you approach a corner you simply face the wall and squeeze the Left trigger and your character, Bishop, will hug the wall with his back. Once in this position you can use the Left analog stick to peek out around the corner to aim and shoot. The same tactics apply to crouching behind barricades and abandoned vehicles, Left trigger will crouch you behind the object and the Left stick will bring you up to shoot. Now the developers added another method of attack called Blind Fire. Blind Fire is achieved by NOT using the Left stick to peek out, just use the Right trigger to fire and you will only peek out your weapon around corners or over barricades and fire in the general direction of your aim. Blind Fire is obviously not as effective as popping up and seeing where youre shooting, but very effective at forcing your enemies to cover while you make your move to the next cover point. Using other parts of your arsenal such grenades, can be tossed from your cover position forcing your enemies to scatter giving you the opportunity to Clear the Field, you can through them varied distances by changing how long you apply pressure on the button. One of the challenges in Kill Switch is that your enemies utilize the same cover tactics and blind fire that you do, and I have to admit the AI in this game is above average, enemies dont seem to make the same paths as they did before, and they will wait for you to poke your head out to fire so its imperative you check out all your options as you work your way through a mission.

The goodies in Kill Switch are diverse and effective. Your basic weapon is a M4 Assault Rifle that can be upgraded with a grenade launcher; you will also come across AK 47s and AKUs. You also have 4 types of grenades at your disposal, the basic grenade, mini grenades, sticky grenades, and flash grenades. All the weapons if used at the right time and place are very well suited to the game and the missions. Your weapon selection is extended by the ability to use enemy turrets and other weaponry as found. You can also pick up health packs and ammo as you clear areas and pick up enemy artillery.

The Kill Switch maps are laid out in a Gauntlet type manner. Your missions are set in diverse places and scattered with spots to hide behind and attack from, and even a few hidden spots with extra goodies. Moving from place to place you can go at it in a stealth manner or you are able to just press the A button and dive behind objects. Enemies are scattered behind objects, on roof tops, and in windows, making it important to realize were fire is coming from and how many are coming your way. There is some thought involved in getting through each level of this game without getting drawn into a crossfire or pinned down in a corner. When I first started playing Kill Switch I didnt really think the game was going to be all that great, and while Im not ready to crown it as the end all be all of covert ops games, the developers did bring some originality and some intense challenges to a genre that can easily become stale and repetitive.

Graphically Kill Switch is slightly above average. The main character seems to move a little funny but does respond well as being maneuvered around. The surrounding areas and random objects are well detailed and sharp, broken bottles, random tables and chairs, etcall lend to the mood of each level. The levels are nicely designed and varied in size and local, all rendered wonderfully. Ambient effects are also well represented like environmental effects such as rain, and even the slight puff of dust from you running on the dry dessert sand. Explosions, ricocheted bullets and even the enemy the physics of the enemies when Neutralized is super, you even get that little extra Twitch as they go down. The main character does seem a little clunky in his motions but not enough to mess with the experience, the camera does have its limitations in tight spots as you try and rotate your point of view, this seems to be a common problem on a lot of games so I have a hard time bashing this one for it. All in all a solid job creating the mood of the game without selling it short.

In the audio department Kill Switch delivers exactly what it needs, nothing more nothing less. The voice acting is actually pretty good and the distant sound of enemies calling out instructions and warning others of your position is nicely done. If you go stealth in Kill Switch you can listen for the enemy positions very easily and the positions are very accurate. Ambient effects are present and accurate, gun fire and explosions are intense and diverse, so when you use a grenade as opposed to a flash grenade they sound different, the same goes for your other weapons which is a nice touch. There is a nice little background soundtrack that you dont notice much but does help set the mood in intense situation.

Kill Switch is a nice little game with some well deserved kudos for the whole Cover Tactics mode. I would think it could use a graphical upgrade and a tweak in the camera department, but again a very solid release from Renderware and Namco.

Overall: 7.4 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 7.4 / 10


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