Content of the article: "SiN Gold (1998) – If Duke Nukem meets Goldeneye"
If id was the mother of the first-person shooters and 3D Realm was the father of the genre, there were other studios, now mostly forgotten drunken brother trio that has contributed to the developmental stage of the genre in the 90s. Raven, Monolith, and Ritual. After working on the well-regarded expansion pack for Quake, SiN was Ritual's first venture into making their own IP. Although the final product was completely overshadowed by revolutionary Half-Life, released a mere week before it, I would argue SiN was also the game that has contributed the singleplayer FPS campaigns in a different way.
I am somewhat familiar with this short-lived series. My father used to have a copy of this game and I vividly remember the box art with an overly sexy woman in the cover, but I have not played it and the copy was lost. My actual first experience with the series was SiN Episodes: Emergence, which I might have played before Half-Life 2. I remember the incredible graphics of the Source engine and
However, this is the first time playing the original game on GOG with some patches applied.
Just as Half-Life was a bridge between oldschool and newschool of the genre, SiN was similar in this regard. The best way to describe this game would be Duke Nukem 3D meets Goldeneye. It is Duke Nukem in terms of style. The protagonist, John Blade, is basically a black Duke Nukem with one-liners and a devil may care attitude. A lot of environments are urban city areas full of interactivity that were rare at the time, similar to Duke Nukem 3D. The story is nonsensical, tonally the 8, 90s Hollywood-level violent and sexy. The combat is lightning fast and bombastic. It reminds me of Soldier of Fortune 1, which I feel was heavily inspired by SiN in style and gameplay.
The set-pieces and location variety are great. Underwater levels are really amazing and reminded me of the space levels from NOLF and Contract Jack. There is a moment where the player becomes a mutant and has to break out. And then you investigate a creepy laboratory where the scientists are experimenting with body parts, and the genre changes into pure horror.
I would argue SiN is actually more similar to Deus Ex than Half-Life. The levels are designed to make actual sense and grounded, featuring full of alternative routes. Ammo is not placed nonsensically. Objects and secrets are not placed abstractly unlike Doom and even Duke Nukem 3D. Each area has a point and reason for its existence to make you feel that you are exploring fully realized worlds.
The game is not just a linear run-and-gun shooter, and the impressive opening mission immediately shows this from the beginning. You get the turret section, probably the first FPS to have this type of scripted event. There are primary and secondary objectives the player has to complete, such as rescuing hostages and obtaining essential items. There are even optional set-pieces like helping police officers in fighting the robbers.
Other innovative aspects are really impressive for its time. The location-based damage system is particularly outstanding and crucial to the gunplay since enemies can be bulletsponges. Three different types of body armor with each of them depleting separately depending on where the player gets hit. The drivable vehicles are similar to the tanks from Goldeneye. The dynamic music that changes depending on the situation.
One aspect that is actually more advanced than Goldeneye is the immersive puzzle element that has the player to hack the computer. It is not just flicking on or off the switch, it actually feels like you are hacking the computer. With a workable DOS screen where you have to type and search a password to unlock a vault, and this is 6 years before Doom 3. (Even though the font is almost unreadable) There are genuine thoughts put into the objectives. In one instance, the player has to manipulate the flow of water in the environmental puzzle that forces the player to carefully consider how this massive facility works before controlling the valves and pumps.
This also relates to the branching path-ish structure this game offers. When you destroy some environments in the opening turret set-piece, the destructions do actually reflect in the next level that takes place in the bank as if your prior actions have consequences. The missile silo level has the player to type in the passcode to stop the missile launch, and it requires exploring through the level and obtaining a document. You have to inspect the item you got by bringing the inventory menu (although the game does not tell the player there is an inventory menu in the first place). However, all this is completely optional and the player can allow the missile to launch, which opens up a slight branching path afterward. SiN is not an immersive sim, obviously, and pales in comparison to the likes of Deus Ex, but I have to wonder if Ion Storm developers were inspired by SiN in some capacity when making their masterpiece.
Other games that try to be this ambitious with high concepts generally fail to make a coherent experience because the developers chew more than they can. (coughDaikatanacough) However, SiN has its own defining vision and all the elements work together well overall, to the point where SiN pretty much achieved what No One Lives Forever did two years prior. The problem is how much the game feels unpolished as if Ritual was rushing this game in order to beat Half-Life to the market.
So, this game has stealth sections and the stealth in this game is… atrocious. I never expected the stealth gameplay in this game to be deep as Thief, but what kills the stealth in this game is how no AI is programmed to complement the player sneaking. First, unlike Thief and Metal Gear Solid, there is no suspicion mode, and combined with their finicky line of sight, it is unplayable. At times, they can see the player miles away. Sometimes, they cannot see the player right next to them. Also, there is zero detection delay in the enemy AI. When they find a player, they immediately run toward the alarm with no moment of delay. It is so bad.
The particularly annoying part is with the level "Unnatural Disaster" (level 7, the second part of the Sintek chemical plant). Here, you have the secondary objective to keep alarm from being raised. This is impossible after you get to the point where you see a scientist in which JC informs you have a security card you need to get. The scientist in question runs away and raises the alarm almost as soon as the player sees him, and is on the other side of unbreakable glass. It is literally impossible to avoid the scientist and apparently, this is a glitch related to the problem with the level design. So the player has to continually fight the respawning enemies that chase the player throughout the level. Speaking of respawns, enemies just fucking respawn randomly in certain levels regardless of alarm. The game at times spawns enemies right behind the player, making it impossible to avoid hits.
Like Daikatana, I have no idea why the doors in Quake 2 engine games are the worst doors in the video game history. Thankfully, they rarely kill the player, but the player often gets stuck, and combined with the horrible clipping problem in this game (the player gets stuck at slopes so many times), it makes taking things from shelves torture.
The levels can get dark. Pitch dark with zero light source for no reason, so it does not matter if the player cranks up the in-game and monitor brightness. There are only a few light items in this game to make traversal easier. It does not help that enemy snipers are placed in complete shadow, which is literally not possible for the player to detect before them attacking the player. Two or three shots and you are gone. I have no idea why this type of long-range hitscan enemies is in this game when the combat revolves around high-octane close-up gunplay up to this point. The last few levels are the worst offenders with little to no health items, so the player has to resort to savescumming. It bogs down what should have been exciting levels into a slog.
The game puts a heavy emphasis on the story. Lengthy real-time cutscenes and worldbuilding. JC is a radio sidekick similar to Cortana, reacting to what you do throughout the game. However, it is pulpy cyberpunk nonsense. Alexis Sinclair is basically a Bond villain from goofier Bond films like Moonraker and Die Another Day written by a horny 12 years old. It is like every single line from her mouth is some form of sexual innuendo.
SiN feels like what Duke Nukem Forever promised in E3 2001. A genuine evolution from interactivity and immersion of Duke Nukem 3D while retaining the bombastic first-person combat and B-movie coolness. It is almost a classic if the latter half of the game was not such a mess. Thankfully, the expansion pack, Wages of Sin, fixes most of the problems in the original game.
Wages of Sin is developed by 2015, who later made Medal of Honor: Allied Assault and became Infinity Ward. Despite the mere expansion pack is their debut, their cinematic ambitions already show in the very first introduction cutscene. The cutscene is shockingly amazing and miles better than the original has given. The writing is funnier, the characters are better defined. Cool camera angles, editing, action. It is not Metal Gear Solid, but they got pretty close with Quake 2 engine.
The expansion pack is far better paced than the original. Unlike the original that started with a bang and ended with a whimper, the expansion pack is far gradual in approach. It starts with a slower but effective horror level. The game gives the player a flashlight, and THANK YOU. Considering how dark the levels in the original campaign were, this is a godsend. The game allows the player to grab two pistols at once, and this becomes one of the best weapons in the entire campaign.
The level design saw the biggest improvement. Primary objectives continue throughout levels rather than primary objectives only for one level. It feels like Quake 2 where hubs were split into multiple areas.
The shipyard level genuinely feels like a level straight out of Deus Ex. It is large, nonlinear, full of alternative paths, multiple complex objectives. The player has to memorize the names of employees and use them in figuring out passcodes, and this feels more immersive than anything in the original campaign. Optionally, the player can hack and manipulate the computer and this somehow affects the next mission, and this is just so cool. The player plays the stealth level afterward, and it is slightly less frustrating than the original due to the large level design and freedom as to how to approach. It is fine.
Later on, the campaign becomes more action-packed. The museum level is the highlight of the game, constantly throwing unrelenting enemies at the player in every corner. The game ends with great set-pieces and challenging boss fights that are far better than the original.
Wages of Sin reaches the height the original failed to reach and is one of the greatest FPS expansion packs alongside Opposing Force and Extraction Point. It is short, brief, but well-paced.
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