Fade to Black
Trouble is staring Conrad B Hart right in the eyes. The year is 2190 and he’s been captured by an evil race of aliens known as Morphs. Against all directives of the Geneva Convention, Conrad’s been woken up from hypersleep and flung into prison. Thankfully, he’s not alone. A rebel faction known as the Mandragore free Conrad from the clutches of the aliens and enlist his help to thwart their plans to colonise the Earth. These aliens, able to change shape at will, aren’t always what they seem. Are you up to the challenge?
With a classic B-Movie storyline, Fade to Black is perhaps one of the few PlayStation games that has a ‘real’ plot. Plots are usually supplementary to many games, but with F2B, the story adds to the drama of the whole thing. And drama this game certainly has, in spades! It’ll have you sheepishly creeping around corners, engaging in fire, solving puzzles, working out who you friends or foes are, and even falling in love… perhaps.
The Adventure Game
Fade to Black’s story has been very cleverly engineered to allow you as much freedom as you’d like in your actions. There are of course objectives to accomplish on your missions to help the resistance, but how you achieve them is up to you. And as you’d like to expect, there are different endings depending on what decisions you make throughout the game. This is good.
Another very positive aspect about this game is the intelligent manner in which the puzzles have been constructed. Some are straightforward, such as standing on pressure on pads to disable force fields, and some are hard, requiring objects or a chain of events to occur beforehand to succeed. Often there are many ways of achieving the same goal, all with varying degrees of success, but importantly, they are logical, and it is rewarding to find that your actions have the desired effects. This depth of gameplay is pleasingly high.
With any adventure game like this, saving your position is important to be able to progress steadily. Thankfully, that clever Delphine lot have devised a way to save to four ‘virtual’ slots as you go along. Because of this, it’s a lot easier to get through a level to a vital password stage. Those with memory cards can of course save games as normal too, but his feature shows what kind of thought has gone into making sure that all players get the maximum enjoyment from the game. Nice one Delphine.
One for the camera
One of the most striking things about this game is the graphics. When F2B first came out on the PC, many raved on about the smart virtual camera’ viewing system that the game employed. Thankfully, the conversion onto the PlayStation is similarly innovative, if not better, with a higher level of detail, texture-mapping and above all, speed of motion. Perhaps the most striking aspect of this is the amount of data being thrown around, especially when you consider how big the levels are and that each loads into the 2Mb of RAM in one go, rather than in segments a la Resident Evil.
The only glitches you see are the strange perspective effects when you’re close to objects, due to large textures on structures with relatively low polygon counts.
Despite this anomaly, all the graphics are nevertheless superb, and are stylised to perfection, with a whole range of different environments as you progress through the game. Conrad, like all the other characters, aliens and objects in the game is composed of smartly texture-mapped 3-D objects, rather than just rotating 2-D objects, and the added advantage of the characters being motion- captured certainly adds to the realism.
Generally, the game’s sounds are above average but nothing special, however the natural tension is complemented superbly by smart B-Movie-esque ‘danger music’ that rears up whenever Conrad gets himself into sticky situations.
These fight sequences are also supplanted by a radar-like target sight that pops up in the centre of the screen to indicate where any assailants are attacking from. As soon as the orchestra flares up you know you’ve a shoot-out on your hands. The only criticism of the game whilst in this shoot-out mode is Conrad’s sluggish movement. This is actually the way the game has been designed – Conrad stands akimbo with his gun out and cannot shift with any great speed when aiming in first person mode – you have put away your gun to run.
Apart from this annoying feature, there is very little to fault F2B for playability. With three difficulty levels, and set over 13 massive levels with bonus rooms, the game will certainly take a while to complete. However, despite the excellent storyline and taut drama, Resident Evil just pips it at the post for blood-curdling tension. Nevertheless F2B is a very innovative and superbly implemented game, and if you like the idea of a properly animated 3-D romp, as opposed to the static backdrops of Resident Evil, then Fade to Black is the perfect alternative.