STAFF REVIEW of Without Warning (Xbox)

Monday, November 21, 2005.
by Davilis

Without Warning Box art Capcom?s action shooter Without Warning marks the first time the company has ever published a title from a European developer. The UK developer, Circle Studios, is largely made up of former members of Core Design-the team that created Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider franchise. In this offering, you must assume the persona of six different people through the course of terrorist attack on a US chemical plant. The fate of more than thirty hostages within the plant, and the mystery surrounding the reasons for this incursion lay ahead of you.
Fans of the television series 24 with Kiefer Sutherland (Agent Jack Bauer) will be particularly pleased, as the premise behind Without Warning is very similar. On 24, Agent Jack Bauer has literally twenty four hours to stop the terrorists bent on some form of world submission. In this game, the previously mentioned six characters must pit their individual skills and resolve to a similar task, but in half the time! Furthermore, like the television series, the game shifts control amongst the six characters regularly, as the success of each member is required for the advancement of the game, and conclusion of the conflict.
The six characters are:

Cpt. Kyle Rivers-Team Leader
Special Ops Trooper
Uses Automatic Rifle with
burst fire & sniper scope, and
hand-thrown grenades

Sgt. Jack Hooper-Tac Support
Special Ops Trooper
Uses Full Auto Rifle and hand-
thrown grenades

Sgt. Ed Reagan-Bomb Specialist
Special Ops Trooper
Uses combat Shotgun with
mounted Grenade Launcher

Tanya Shaw
Civilian Plant Typist/Secretary
Tanya has personal knowledge
of nearly all the security
codes for doors that are still
online in the plant.

Dave Wilson
Plant Security Guard
Uses a Semi-Automatic Pistol
Dave?s knowledge of the plant
layout will be needed to help
save the hostages!

Ben Harrison
News Cameraman
Dave has little more than his
wits and skill with the camera
to report what he witnesses in
the hunt for the next Pulitzer
Prize winning story.

Without Warning pretty much throws you into the thick of it right away, with droves of terrorists virtually overrunning the plant. There?s even a Canadian connection here, as some bad-ass French Canadien is at the forefront of this terrorist movement, for reasons yet unknown, and the rest of the faction is middle-eastern in origin. After getting a grip on the aiming system, which by default is set to inverse (ie. down is up, and up is down?), I was ready to rock. The game utilizes an auto-aim feature, mercifully, as the action gets too hot and heavy to take the required time to actually pull it off manually; although if one had a Death Wish, they could just NOT use it! By holding the left trigger in, you activate said auto-aim, and can easily enough cycle targets within your proximity. It?s not at all uncommon to be pinned down by as many as five or six enemy shooters with various vantage points, so I am of the opinion that the game would just be too bloody hard without automated assistance. You?ll thank your lucky stars for it when a suicide bomber is running at you top speed for some company to go see Allah!!!
The game?s realism is easily illustrated if you should be too close to a grenade detonation or C-4 going off in your face; as you might expect, with either of those you?re likely getting toe-tagged? The movement controls are also what one would expect from a game of this type; strafing left and right, crouching movement and rolls from the crouching position in pretty much any required direction. Gamers need not worry about bothersome falls off ledges or other precarious positions during the action, and there was no incorporated need to jump anywhere.

Cpt. Rivers sniper mode is particularly cool for those rare opportunities to get the drop on some distant terrorists, caught unawares. Besides the obvious ability to zoom in and out while in this view, the various objects in one?s way while trying to get that ?head shot? (which most certainly DOES turn out the light!) ARE real and can?t be shot through. I don?t recall any instances where I managed to drop anybody on the covered side of a barrel or steel girder, as they should not have been. Circle Studios really deserves kudos in the whole sniper experience as Kyle?s aim appropriately bobs and weaves just perceptibly enough to indicate that he IS in fact human, but doesn?t need to chow down Diazepam to get his shot! lol
The mini-games incorporated into Without Warning are also a welcome diversion from non-stop terrorist elimination. Lock-picking and re-wiring fuse boxes, bomb diffusal and pass codes all require the player to duplicate several button combinations to achieve the desired effect or allow progression to the next character event. Incidentally, time does not stop when one enters into the mini-game mode for, let?s say, diffusing a C-4 pack. If you?re attacked while trying to complete this time-based button sequence, you can only sustain a small amount of damage before your concentration is sufficiently removed from what you are trying to disarm, only to return to the bomb after dispatching whomever was shooting your carcass, and having mere seconds to pick up where you left off (typically 20 seconds to disarm)!
Finally, enemy AI is quite realistic insofar as opponents ducking for cover when it is available, and routinely hiding behind obstacles for cover. No Partridge here boys?lol
For example, if you were ducked behind some crates at a vantage point where the enemy ?shouldn?t? physically be able to see you-then you won?t be seen, unless you jump up and make some sort of commotion. The ability to change your crosshair perspective from a left or right of centre, over-the-shoulder view is also a really handy feature for alleviating bad camera angles when navigating up or down a stairwell or strafing about.

In my humble opinion, Circle Studios got the graphic feel of the game just right. The level of detail for an action/shooter doesn?t really need to take your breath away, like an epic RPG might? Enemies, buildings, explosions and automatic gunfire-either up close and personal, or from a distance, did not seem overtly rastery or pixilated. In short, the graphic presentation is solid here. To put a finer point on that, you?re fighting terrorists in a chemical factory? Exactly how impressive do you expect a factory to look? During my gameplay I can?t specifically recall any significant graphic glitches whatsoever. If a terrorist came through a door, for instance, they wouldn?t just spawn out of nowhere? The door would open, one or more insurgents would come out, and the door would close before anybody just de-materialized through it. It?s rather a given that with such classic titles as the Resident Evil franchise in their past, Capcom knows a thing or two about what gamers will and won?t accept vis a vie console graphics. Circle Studios delivered a solid project here, and I trust that Capcom wouldn?t have published the game if it looked like cannon fodder, right?
Without Warning is a good bet for both seasoned FPS/action fans and relative newbies, like myself, to the genre. The game offers plenty of challenge to encourage re-play, while being just tough enough that you?ll not likely throw up your hands in frustration?well?not for several hours at a time, anyway.

The music in game options, menus and configuration screens feels like a military-ish ditty, with suspenseful crescendos to accentuate the dire nature of your mission. In-game music doesn?t exist-but probably shouldn?t?right? The resounding finality of a suicide bomber?s ?package? going off in the middle of a group of his peers, after you?ve shot his ass, is the only musical accompaniment I need!
The game?s sound effects are right on the money; gunfire, reloads, explosions and the like all sound like the real deal. The terrorists frequently use a loudspeaker system in the plant to announce their awareness of the American breach of several areas of the plant, and really helps to underscore the concept of the game-specifically, how the actions of each individual is intertwined with the events to come, or passed by another character. As an example, the loudspeaker drones ?The Americans have breached the warehouse doors-kill them immediately?; and the mission prior to whatever you might be working on now, was exactly the breach of which they speak? The events are really happening simultaneously, but you have the benefit of hearing them from a different timeline perspective! Without Warning?s use of audible communication between Special Ops HQ and the field operatives BESIDES the on-screen captions is also really a good idea. I say this only because, due to the required linearity of the game, certain actions seem to coincide with one of the previously mentioned loudspeaker announcements. If the announcement should be broadcasting at the same time you start an action that elicits HQ directives, everybody ends up talking over one another? The on-screen captions can therefore prove handy to determine what the hell HQ just said?

Alright?before I begin griping about a few pet peeves, let me state that I really enjoyed Capcom?s Without Warning immensely. Flattery aside, there are a few points that I thought could bare mentioning. First, I found it rather irritating that from a crouched position, advancing as slowly as one possibly could, the character?s footfalls are still just as loud as when they are rushing full out to openly engage the enemy? What the Hell? At least half the playable characters are highly trained in covert operations, and I sincerely doubt that everybody is wearing friggin? tap shoes!
Secondly, also with an eye to the covert, it would have been a cool addition for some, if not all, of the characters to either have, or be able to acquire a weapon with a silencer. What might you think if your commanding officer briefed you on a terrorist controlled hostage situation, requiring precision, stealth and the loudest firearms at your disposal!!!
Finally, my last point is still on the ?covert bandwagon?. The ability to sneak up and perhaps break a terrorist?s neck or silently knife them would have saved me some significant grief in highly guarded areas of the game. In all fairness, only our Special Ops dudes would have had the required knowledge (and stomach) to take out an enemy with such extreme prejudice, but it?s just a thought? Those few points having been said, I wish to restate that Without Warning is a very worthwhile title, and I believe it will appeal to a broad range of gamers. Tag ?em and bag ?em troops!

Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 8.6 / 10


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