The Fifth Element
To the stomp and shriek of the Diva Dance from the original soundtrack (you remember, from the part of the film with the blue rubber opera singer?) The Fifth Element opens with great promise. As the music builds, nice arty scenes from the movie play in spacesaving- but-quite-cinematic widescreen (Milla Jovovich making her slow-motion leap into the hover traffic from a New York skyscraper, the world-saving moment when all five elements are united, that sort of thing) setting you up for a high-drama foray into Luc Besson’s richly detailed world of the future. To say that this promise isn’t exactly met would be a drastic understatement.
You play as either a chunky Korben Dallas or scandalously dressed Leeloo, and in order to complete a given level you are given a simple task. After that it’s really a case of getting to the all important switch, room or door alive, but two things stand in your way: enemies and an awful game engine. Viewed in the third person perspective, you can only see about 25 feet in front of your character before everything dissolves into dense fog. The wandering enemy guards obviously don’t suffer from the same chronic short-sightedness though, as they have a habit of spraying you with perfectly-aimed automatic fire before they show up as even the faintest outline on screen. And after the first bullet hits, the other shots in that burst of fire will hit you, too – no matter how much you leap from side to side or run around in frustration.
Distorting scenery and detestable controls add to the impression that the game could quite conceivably be made from the bits that were thrown away during the making of Fade To Black some time ago. It doesn’t make too much difference whether you’re using Korben or Leeloo, control is The Fifth Element’s biggest detracting feature. Each motion takes so long to be animated that the game can’t keep up with your reactions, leaving you in a battle against the control system while also trying to do the heroic thing in the game. The time it takes to stagger back then face in the right direction following a thump from enemies such as droids and NYPD cops is often as long as it takes for said enemy to cycle through their animation and – oh great – whack you again. Also, try crawling along the ground (essential to pass beneath security laser beams undetected, among other things) and you’ll see how the character just won’t listen to the “get up” command from the joypad. You have to crawl, calmly stop moving, click the stand button and then begin defending yourself.
With the “Walk” and “Action” commands assigned to the same button too, you can enjoy repeatedly throwing a switch on a computer when you’re really trying to side-step to the next switch. In this respect, The Fifth Element is terribly constructed. Gameplay can’t exactly flow with such an awkward set-up.
The most enjoyable parts of the game are the additional movie scenes that you see before each level. They have been oddly re-edited in places, but there’s a good couple of minutes’ worth of footage at every break. However, it doesn’t make so much sense as the game’s story line follows a very different path to the film’s, and of course you could buy the entire movie to watch uninterrupted on DVD or VHS for much less than this crummy bit of software will cost you.
Having to fight with an unmanageable control system is just not fun, and it’s not like there’s any big pay-off for persevering. You’ll usually find yourself at another of the game’s countless dead ends, wondering why you’re wasting your time. In every respect, The Fifth Element is just another bad movie licence – play it at your peril!