Written by Zvezda_Kuerten on December 04, 2018 @ 7:52 am
Neuro Hunter (2005) by Deep Silver
Well, I had this game installed in my PC for years now, ever since I saw it?s gameplay images somewhere on the web. I had played a couple minutes of the game, but got disappointed with the lack of stealth (which we will address later on the review) and dropped it for playing other games I can?t really remember.
So, last week I had finished playing S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl (which is an awesome game, by the way), and I needed a game to play while I got my hands on the next instalment of the series, Clear Sky, and I saw Neuro Hunter?s shortcut, and it reminded me so much of Deus Ex I had to try it out!
Now, I?m not gonna pretend to be a hardcore fan of the Deus Ex franchise. Crucify me all you want, darlings, but I only ever played the first game, and, even though I have a big desire of playing the other titles, my PC simply won?t run them (no, not even the second one, it seems). ALAS, it wasn?t hard for me to spot a few...key similarities between the titles. Suffice to say, I wasn?t surprised when I read the following in the game?s page in Wikipedia: ?The game was marketed as a mix between?Deus Ex,?System Shock?and?Gothic?series of video games.?
Yeah, I know what you might be thinking, my deary. Something akin to ?System Shock!!? Deus Ex!!? Gothic!!? A Mix!!? This game must be fantastic!!!?. Sorry to disappoint you, though, but it?s not, and I?m gonna tell you exactly why in a single bit. But let?s drown ourselves in this explanation for a bit more before, since I?m in the mood, and you know you like it, so stop pretending you don?t.
In any case, let?s continue by talking about these similarities between the games, shall we?
System Shock 2 is one of my favourite games of the genre - it ranks higher than Deus Ex, for example. And I could spot a few similarities on the form of the UI and even the creatures designs, which was more easily spotted on the humanoid and anthropomorphic ones, but I can?t really say the A.I was close to System Shock (not sure about the first, but I don?t think so - I think the first one had better A.I than Neuro Hunter, but I may be wrong), to Deus Ex and no way we can compare it to Gothic.
I told you I?m not a hardcore fan of the franchise, but I like it, and maybe I?ll be one after I play more titles. Who knows? Anyway, the similarities came also in the UI and some of the plot parts of Neuro Hunter, such as ?corporations who rule the world but are shady and have incredibly petty disputes between each other over money and more power, which result in the suffering and death of countless innocent people?.
Dark, yes, but hardly good explored in Neuro Hunter as in the Deus Ex franchise, since the plot...well, let?s say I have found some adult material with a far better overall plot, which is quite surprising, considering the game had so many chances to prove itself.
Also, you can notice the similarities in the scenarios in Neuro Hunter to the ones you?ll see in Deus Ex 2: Invisible War, for example. I haven?t played the game, but I saw some images from indoors (they say the game is all indoors, is that true? If so, then that?s another similarity) and they are quite similar.
Now here?s an RPG game ?out of my default FOV? that I love. I?ll repeat my statement for Deus Ex and say I?m not a hardcore fan of the franchise (this one I played 2 games of :), by the way), but I love it nonetheless. As of similarities, I can easily point the creature design. Especially the insectoids....and that?s it. At least I can?t really think about something else right now (make sure to tell me if you do, please).
All in all, I think we can call Gothic, Deus Ex and System Shock as merely ?spiritual references? to Neuro Hunter. Sadly though, as I?ve said before, Neuro Hunter isn?t a great game, and many may think it?s not even a good game, even. It?s no wonder you probably never heard of it and it?s so hard to find it anywhere.
Now let me tell you why the game sucks, and why the game doesn?t suck THAT much.
Why the game sucks:
1 - StarForce (don?t give your friend the puddle yet, dude, I?m not talking about the game, I?m talking about the protection system).
I personally never had problems with the system, but I found plenty of bad feedbacks (not to say HORRIBLE feedbacks) about the old version of the system, which was used in Neuro Hunter. Some say the new one isn't as horrible, and that it hasn't caused as many problems throughout it's users, so keep that in mind.
For those who don?t know, StarForce installs it?s drivers on your pc (at least that version did) without asking for permission. They aren?t supposed to harm your system in any way, but we had plenty of people saying it does. The website Boing Boing classified it as a Malware in 2006, even.
People have reported that StarForce had compromised their other drivers, devices and even the life of their computer components, claiming it's drivers had somehow "infected them", or "short-circuited" with them, not to point other allegations, too.
StarForce's owners say that it's all a lie and that their drivers could never harm the systems, claiming that such "fallacies" were promoted by those who dwindle in piracy, as a way to keep their copy protection system out of their way. They went as far as challenging users to spot such problems and trace them back to their system, but they only did that after launching a new version of the software, which doesn't install it's drivers into the user's PC.
Regardless of what truth is the truth, this information should be kept in mind when thinking about purchasing Neuro Hunter and any other game under StarForce's protection. It is better to be safe than sorry, after all.
2 - The Plot
If you sit on your chair and look back at old games such as Final Fantasy 5 for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) - one of my favourite games of the franchise, by the way - you?ll notice that the plots weren?t really that great. Some of them were epic and intriguing, but the plot wasn?t really that worked on, for whatever reason.
If you go even further back than that, you'll notice there was simply no plot whatsoever. This didn't mean the games sucked big time, or anything like that, really, but it's undeniable that they all lacked depth. But, then again, I don't believe people saw games as deep back in the time, anyway, and only wanted to shoot something, or stab someone, or throw a ball across the screen, rather than to throw themselves head on the game's universe, and actually feel the meaning behind the images on their screen (when there were images to begin with).
But Neuro Hunter does rookie mistakes in the plot that a writer should never allow himself or herself or whoeverself to do. Many of its elements are opaque and not interlaced as they should (relax, I?ll explain) and others start working well, but then they get screwed by a third party element, for instance.
If you want my innermost opinion about the game's plot, then I'll sadly tell you that it lacks what every plot need to survive - it lacks Life. No, not the number of people in it or anything like that, but Plot Life, as I call it. I won't give an in-deep explanation of everything about its thesis, but it's quite simple to summarize, really: If you think about the Plot as an ecosystem, then the Plot Life is it's complete and functional form; a mix up of elements that fit each other so well they form something beautiful, something fantastic - the Plot Life. The fact every single one of those elements needs to be consistent goes without saying.
Now, the main character is a hacker of sorts. He has a phone(?) device which he uses to hack terminals and systems, and also to steal data from ?unsuspecting? victims, such as crafting recipes and passwords to unique systems you cannot hack.
?But Zvezda, what does it means?? This means the character, Hunter, can?t be a fool. He needs to be intelligent enough to know how to hack, when to hack, and to understand all the possible outcomes of it. He also needs to be well-minded enough to understand what he is doing is essentially immoral and a crime.
Problem is: that?s not who he is at all. Hunter is naive, easily manipulable, stubborn, greedy, and, for a lack of a better word, a complete idiot. Not to mention balder than Thanos.
[Spoilers Below: Proceed With Caution]
The plot starts with Hunter accepting a job for The Corporation based on the money, disregarding all it?s shady looking and everything else we are bald ourselves to know. It consisted in hacking a system of a ?deserted complex of colonies?, or a ?deserted mine? if you want. He fails to complete the job in the time limit and a bomb explodes, trapping him in the mines.
Hunter is saved ?by a miracle? and finds out the complex/mine is NOT deserted. There are countless persons living there, and some nasty mutant creatures, too. He learns that Hacker, the main antagonist, has taken control of the facilities and is the new ruler, and that there is NO WAY OUT.
The first thing he tries to do is to fix his Comset (his ?phone?) to contact the Corporation in order to get extracted from the mines, and that?s justifiable. He manages it, but gets screwed up over and over by the Corporation, and still refuses to accept that they are only using him and not on his side, while such a thing is easily understood by the player from the first communications and interactions between Hunter and the Corporation and Hunter and the people living in the colonies.
They (the people) keep telling stories of how the Corporation is hated down there, how they were deceived by the Corporation, how they were once brilliant people but were sent to the Prison Colony with no explanation after denouncing shading schemes from the Corporation to it?s head, and so forth....and all that in the first interactions you have with people. Actually, in the very first one you get information of the sort.
Yet the supposedly intelligent hunter fails to notice it, and only ?comes down from his high? when the corporation tells him to shut down the main generator so they can get rid of Hacker?s control of the complex.
Now, let?s imagine you?re inside an underground complex. What would happen if some idiot were to shut down the main generator? Exactly! Everyone would die asphyxiated! But once more Hunter fails to notice it.
And these are all Hunter?s personal flaws, really, which can go on for more pages, but let?s move on, shall we?
Another big problem with the plot is that the writer clearly didn?t know how to create suspense. There is an incredible overall idea, which could have been so, so much more, but was poorly written and thus it?s not hard for the player to know what?s gonna happen next. The suspense simply doesn?t work. At all. You know what will happen from the beginning, you know who people truly are from the beginning and so on.
No, they don?t tell you so. But the techniques the writer used to develop the story were poorly done, and thus they don?t need to tell you so for you to understand. In other words, it?s a really shallow plot.
Take Kathryn, for example. She is the real antagonist, and you only learn that in the final cutscene of the game, when you see who she truly is (a maniac even worse than Hacker, in his own words). That would?ve been incredible, really, if only not every single character in the game warned you against her, mistrusted her, and told you she worked with Hacker. So, you might not know she was worse than him from the beginning, but it was not a shock when you get her ?goodbye note? explaining who she truly is and what she truly desires, nor when you see her ?evil? smile on the final cutscene.
[The spoilers have ended, yey!!!!]
As a final mention regarding the Plot, let's talk about the Plot Thrill, aka "The Want To Continue Through The Plot". It sucks. Big time. But hey, at least it exists! You'll find many games (even awesome ones Such as Fallout 3) who don't really give you any sort of Plot Thrill at all! There is no urgency to complete your quests, or to know what happens next!
Neuro Hunter does give you the thrill, albeit a really tiny and screwed up one, but it's fitting for the game, anyway (take that as you will) and that's what truly matters, isn't it?
PS: Also do notice that there are no children in the game, nor are there any sort of romantic relationships or anything like that at all. I might have let something like this pass me by, but I don't think so. This could have a lot of meaning in the plot, but, considering how shallow it trully is, I don't believe any of them are accurate or truthful to the developer's (or at least to the writer's) product/concept of what the plot should be.
3 - The Scenario and The Engine
If you read the previous topic, you know that Hunter, the player, is trapped inside an underground complex. Well, you never get to leave it during the whole game, thus it?s entirety is played underground, aka, Indoors. That wasn?t a problem for Half-Life 1, Arx Fatalys and some CRPG. But it?s a problem for Neuro Hunter purely for it?s engine.
Imagine a dark, shady underground facility filled with mutants, disgusting persons and cut-throats. All you have to defend yourself is your brain and a quite useless knife. So what do you do?
STEALTH! You hide in the shadows. You avoid confrontations. You plan ahead. You use the scenario to your favour. Because, let?s face it, you?re dead as dead can be if a mutant sees you wearing rags and armed with a pocket knife, when it can vomit corrosive acid and poisonous toxins at long distances!
Yet the game engine tells you ?no?. And the game engine rules, so you?ll have to go around and hit solid carapaces with your knife until you find something a little more decent, which is still not good enough anyway - it never is.
4 - Bugs and Glitches:
This game has CTDS (Crashes To Desktop).
Now, that might have happened to me because I was playing with an Intel GMA 3100 GPU, so I?m not really sure, but there were 2 areas in the game I couldn?t enter or the game would crash. One in the War Laboratories and another in Hacker?s Facilities. Thankfully both were avoidable and the game could be completed without major issues. Sadly, though, I saw people commenting about the second problem.
In plenty of the game scenarios you?ll end up ?falling out of border? due to errors in the graphical design of the levels. This is a common and easily fixed problem, which they didn?t fix...for some reason. This happens with some games I love, too, such as S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl, for instance. The difference here, though, is that the bugs in Neuro Hunter are not bugs were you?re trying to jump through crates you were not supposed to, but actually bugs were you?re just walking on a corridor and suddenly you?re singing ?Hello my baby, hello my honey" in outter space.
5 - It probably would have a sequel, but it sucked so much it won?t.
I don?t really need to tell you there is a cliffhanger of sorts in the ending nor that the ending itself is an open one. There is no sequel, though, so that?s the verdict, and it?s not pleasant, considering how many plot mistakes you?ll gonna have to put through just to get there.
6 - And finally: The Gameplay:
The gameplay in itself is almost like Deus Ex 1...only not that good. You move around the same, you pick things up the same way and all that stuff...yet your combats are rather dull, boring, repetitive and sometimes frustrating, even.
I found a tactic I named ?MOAS?, or ?Mother of All Strategies? that will make you kill an enemy in melee (with the exception of enemies that can only be killed with plasma guns, of course): Just keep making a circle around your enemy while you bash it with a knife or a bat! It won?t be able to hit you at all, and you?ll kill it ASAP, even on the harder settings!
Please note that MOAS is not idiot proof, and if you can?t detect enemy attack patterns you?ll be split in half. Thank you very much.
The running speed is rather slow, but The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind had an even slower one. Problem with Neuro Hunter is that the quests keep telling you to go back and forth through biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiig areas, and that is really time-consuming. I beat the game in 16 hours, almost 17. Now, if we consider that the program I was using to measure it didn't consider the time I spent playing but the time the game window was opened, we can put that to 13-14 hours, I believe. And I?m sure at least 8 of them were spent walking around from place A to place B.
Don't get me wrong, though. It's not a problem to have the player walk around the place. Any and all RPG games end up doing it at least once, anyway. But there are usually things for you to do in the way - sights to see, enemies to kill, things to plunder and/or explore, and so on. Neuro hunter has nothing of the sort.
The game has some sort of ?skill system?, but it?s poorly done and there are skills, such as stealing and intuition, that are useless, and some others that get obsolete after some levels for a vast majority of the game, such as Weapons.
Why it doesn?t suck THAT much:
1 - Crafting System:
Neuro Hunter has it?s own Crafting System, where you need to find recipes in terminals or steal them from NPC?s with your ?hacker phone?. Later you find components and you?ll be able to craft them. It?s really primitive, but it?s a cool thing.
2 - Damaging Armor:
Your armour gets damaged and will be destroyed if not repaired. This isn?t really a great thing, I agree, but it helps to put some depth to the already flawed plot. To ?set an atmosphere as not to break immersion? or something like that.
3 - Cool Hacking Games:
You?ll have to face mini-games of ?reverse Tower Defence? and ?Minefield? to hack some systems.....it?s cool after a while, if you?re into strategy and really bored with the plot/current part of the gameplay, which I believe you'll be.
4 - Big Ass Battles:
I?m not a fan of Big Ass Battles, but there?s a big satisfaction in the genocide of an entire colony of mutants who tried to kill you, done by strength of your wooden bat.
5 - Plasma (cofflasercoff) Guns:
There are some cool guns (2) that shoot plasma, and make sounds quite alike to the ones from Star Wars, and they are even red as well!
6 - You actually want to know how it ends, even if the plot sucks.
You want some explanations and to know what the fuck is going on or where the fuck you gotta go. That?s a plus for me, at least. Sadly it gets hard to be excited for the game when you keep serving as an errand boy from the North Pole to South Pole twenty-two times in a row.
7 - You can tell your friends you beat a game not many people had.
The fact they don?t really know the game in the first place is just something you don?t need to mention, is it?
8 - And finally: There are a lot of items to pick up/steal for our inner kleptomaniac!
You can?t carry all of them, though, but you can craft cool shit, or weird shit, or disgusting shit (such as edible maggots) from them. It?s a good way to pass the time while you keep travelling between the Poles.
Please note that this is not a Stealth game, so stealing items is boring, collecting them is boring, using them is boring and etcetera.
* * *
Well, Neuro Hunter is a mundane game, with mundane stuff, and isn?t really great if you expect something as good as Deus Ex, System Shock or Gothic, nor if you expect a blend of them.
But it?s still a game I don?t regret playing. It has it?s charm, such as it?s CGI (even though the lips aren?t really synchronized that greatly) and the designs of levels and creatures. Also the voice acting (at least the English one, since I didn?t play with the original one) is good to listen to at times.
All in all, Neuro Hunter gets a 4/10 from my own personal rating. It could?ve been a 5 if it had a stealth system, a 6 if it had better combat mechanics and a 7 if it had a better-written plot.
In other words: ?It could?ve been better, but it could?ve been worse. Think about it.?
Story Rating: 2
Graphics & Visuals Rating: 6
Sound Rating: 6
Overall Rating: 3
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