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Dark Angel
PS2 Staff Review by Mike Weatherup

What ever happened to James Cameron? After stressing himself to the point of anxiety in making The Titanic back in 1996, he has virtually disappeared. One of his first projects since the mammoth blockbuster was to take a shot at producing a television show based on a genetically engineered super-soldier (and super-hot!) on the run from her corporate overlords. Jessica Alba played this kicking-ass soldier known as Max. I will have to admit, I was drawn in to watch a few episodes mainly because of Alba but the storyline and overall structure of the show did not have lasting power. It would have made one hell of a movie if Cameron and company had gone with it in that direction. Instead, each week it was the same thing repeatedly, running away and kicking ass. This lead to its cancellation. Unfortunately, Sierra and Fox Interactive had already bought into publishing a game developed by Radical Entertainment when the show was at its peak. The final product is disappointing because it extracts the few cool aspects of the show and repeats them to the point of complete boredom. Therefore, within thirty minutes of playing, you will have seen everything and that is not much.

The visual package feels very rushed. The character models are inconsistent with their real-life counterparts. When you do representations of living people, you must strive to get every detail in right down to a single freckle. Max, Jessica Albas character barely resembles her. The game model makes her look very pale and the facial animation is angularly incorrect. Michael Weatherlys character Logan Cale on the other hand looks great. Perhaps the artists working on Cale should have spent more time with the main attraction Max. The level design and execution is also quite weak. Those who have never been to Seattle, where the game takes place, would think that the city is made up of narrow streets with no open spaces. Each level is too claustrophobic for my liking and this results in the repetition, as everything looks virtually the same. The graphics are not any better than they have to be to get the basic point across. The aural experience is a bit of a mixed bag. The developers were able to have Jessica Alba and Michael Weatherly provide the voice work. However, Jessica does nothing more than provide generic sassy lines while Michael tries to sound moody and ends up being a total annoyance. The soundtrack pieces and accompanying sound effects are standard for the genre.

The immersion of the game is where things get ugly. The game play essentially consists of the tried-and-tested run around beating up people. Which is not to say it that such formulas will not work, but if you are going to use it, you had better vary the pace and attempt to introduce something different as the game progresses. Dark Angel uses the formula at its most basic form, which made me feel like I was playing a beat-em up from years ago. While the controls are responsive, they never unleash anything exciting than the usual punches and kicks, plus a few hyperactive combos that fail to impress. There are a handful of levels where stealth is encouraged by the A.I. is so asinine that all you need to do is crouch anywhere to avoid detection. After two or three levels, it is plain to see how boring this can become. As if this was not bad enough, the developers decided to throw in some Matrix inspired slow motion for a couple of moves, which was cool the first time and annoying the rest. It is only a cosmetic addition and does not affect game play decisions like Max Payne. The Matrix bullet-time has been overused and abused in videogames, yet not one game has been able to utilize it properly.

There is not much in the extras department except for some bonus material that features a Jessica Alba photo gallery and some cast interviews. The interviews are interesting but a tad on the short side. As for the photo gallery, who wouldnt want to look at pictures of Jessica Alba? The problem is why would I spend a day trying to unlock them in the game, when I could head to the Net and have thousands of poses within seconds.

If you are on the market for a good beat-em-up game, look elsewhere. Those who are still curious and want to play as Alba then a rental will suffice. Dark Angel is yet another could have been title. There were a number of interesting ideas here that were blown in the execution. Then again, the show itself did not offer a lot of meat to lend itself to a videogame.

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