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The Experiment (experience 112) Demo Review

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Last night, I was browsing around online, I think it was Amazon.com, and I came across a video trailer for a game called "The Experiment" published by Dreamcatcher Interactive. Since I knew them to publish the non-mainstream titles, I figured the game was probably either low budget or foreign-produced. I was right on the second count, but that's besides the point. The European name for the game is "Experience 122," and I'm truly hoping that it wasn't altered in any way like a lot of other games made outside the US such as The Witcher, whose gameplay content was cut dramatically to pass as M instead of AO rating... Stupid stuff really, but that's besides the point.


The thing that got me so interested in the game was that rather than playing the adventure game first person, you actually took control of a massive security system aboard a ship, and guided a female character around to do the work for you... Think of it like FarCry or Red Faction where instead of receiving orders and getting shot at, you are giving the orders and have to keep the girl alive. I do a pretty damn good job as commander in Battlefield 2, so I thought, "Sounds pretty cool."


I had heard of another game doing this before that was reviewed on TechTV, but from what i can remember, that was a console game that used a Microphone and voice recognition, and got horrible reviews. This seems to be brand new this month of February.


Anyway there was virtually no publicity done for this game and no reviews on Amazon.com, so I had to search around on GameFaq's forums and other sites and overall everyone had very positive reviews about the game. I found some videos and screenshots and wasn't crazy about the graphics, since they do look slightly dated and lower budget than something like Crysis (the first thing I noticed were the fact that her feet were modelled box-like such as in the first Hitman game circa 2001).


Posted Image


So overall, the graphics look like something out around 2003, but the shadows and environments make up for the fact. Shadow effects are well done, though there are sometimes graphical glitches, but nothing game-breaking.


I downloaded the demo from the official site:


http://www.experience112.com/ with good download speeds, it only took me about 20 minutes for a ~650meg file.


Installed the demo with no problems, and ran it.


The main menu is a little weird. Getting stuff configured took some doing, and you have to restart the game to change the resolution. You can customize menu colors with different templates, and you can customize the background wallpaper.

Overall the system reminds me of the game UPLINK, which I also highly recommend if you are interested in this sort of "adventure" where you play the game on your computer simulating another computer system.


Getting started with a new game, we get a cool, but rather too long cutscene of the camera flying around a cliffside at an ocean, and eventually flying around a derelict ship run aground on the beach with foliage covering it. The game then kicks on to the GUI, with 1 window open over the sleeping woman, who just happens to wake up at that moment. She pulls an IV out of her arm, and proceeds to have some inner dialog, spoken out loud, of course, so you know what she's thinking... I figure there's no way around it for game makers to do something like that, but what are ya gonna do? She complains of a headache, and finally notices that the camera is on, so she begins talking to the camera hoping I'm a good guy (as opposed to thinking I took her prisoner like any other movie that parallels this opening scenario like SAW or whatnot ;) )


She helps me get the system online so I have more control... This is what sort of bugged me about the demo (which is in fact the first level of the game)... she talks to me as though she is a standard tutorial, rather than more realistically... I don't know how else to explain it. The whole experience seemed more like I was getting a tutorial than sitting at a computer trying to help a woman who had no idea what was going on. Once again, there's not much the game devs could do anything about it, because I did need her advice to kickstart the game, but I'm guessing things get better once I get stuff done.


Onto the gameplay review and whatnot:


Gameplay reminds me of Uplink, as in you are running a simulated computer system with a map, and various features on a left sidebar you can open... The problem is that it is not organized in the fact that windows tend to overlap each other especially if you are trying to do too many things at once. There are probably options to fix this, but I haven't tried anything yet but the default settings. You make the main character move by turning on lights remotely using the map interface, and you can select cameras by clicking on them. As the game progresses, she unlocks more "abilities" your cameras can do, such as rotating, zooming, and night vision, etc... Overall not too hard, but it can be overwhelming since there are tons of cameras and interactive icons to use that you need her to interact with.


I've heard stories from people that played the real game saying that the game keeps track of your computer clock, so that if you log off of the game, and don't play the game for awhile (half day or a day or more) the main character actually comments when you next play "Hey! I've been waiting here for (length of time such as half a day,etc) for you?! Where have you been!?"


Cool concept if it works. :P


The sound... The intro "music" was awesome. I start up the game and I hear soothing tones, and a soothing female voice talking as though she was directing me in a guided meditation... Something totally new and unique, I thought. The music is rather generic... Just background ambient music, and there wasn't a whole lot of variation in the demo. Sounds themselves were ok. Not much to hear when you're in a 30+ year old ship. Voice acting wasn't.... bad. I mean I can sort of tell they had to translate this from Dutch or whatever the native language it was in... the sound is clear, but it's just not as good as, say, Half Life 2. Still good, but not great. As I said before, the main character talks out loud more than a real life person would do in such a situation, but like I said, there's no real way around this.


Graphics, not bad, but slightly dated. They have cool and unique effects with the video cameras, including poor video feed and when she shakes the camera, there is distortion as though the cable was loose. Some video feeds are unable to focus, and keep blurring trying to autofocus.


At random intervals at points in the game, the screen will white out after she collapses, and you'll go into a flashback detailing some of what's going on, and the relationships between people.


About the story... Once you gain access to other user accounts, you will be able to read more files into what the whole project involved was about. Apparently, this research group found some sort of sea creature that extracts a chemical that reverses the aging process and heals diseases, but is also toxic, which sort of flubs up any commercial use for it. You get more of the story by unlocking more accounts and reading emails, and memos (sort of like System Shock). A cool but not new way of giving out story plot.


I got through the demo in about an hour or so... Trying to get everything and explore... It takes some getting used to figuring out the camera system, and whatnot, but so far I like the game. I already bought it on Amazon, and it should be in on Friday, whereby I'll give a fuller review whether or not it's worth a purchase.


In the mean time, do check out the website and demo. It's definitely under-marketing, which sucks because these big companies who can afford $$$ for marketing turn out the same old bullsh&t with better graphics, while small companies come out with truly innovative games and are forced to fail due to not having good exposure to the masses.

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Just found some gameplay footage of the demo level on youtube for anyone looking to see how the first level goes. The guy is playing the original Dutch game, but he interprets parts of it. The demo you can download uses English voiceovers so no worries about actually playing it.



The game does not take that long to load... He attributes it to recording at the same time. But I'm running a Intel Core 2 Duo (3ghz)
with 2 gigs of ram, and a Geforce 8800 GTS graphics card, and it takes probably 5-15 seconds to load the level.

The game should arrive in the mail by Friday, I'll post more after I playthrough a bit. I've been reading nothing but good things about it, and I'm excited ;)

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I've been playing the game for about 6 or so hours now, off and on. Right after the demo level, in the actual game, was sort of hard as hell. They had a bunch of little objects semi-hidden in safes and on the floor I had to find, which is no fun. But after that things got a little easier. Here's my impressions thus far:Things move very slowly. The plot plays out like System Shock, by reading emails and personal logs of dead "crewmembers." The problem with the way The Experiment does it versus System Shock is that by reading emails, you stumble across other people's passwords and logins... Then you log into their emails and then you find more codes... And so on!I found one code, and literally sat there reading through his and others emails for at least a half hour and unlocked half the personnel files, while the poor girl had to stand there in her bare feet alone in that place.The game is really detailed in that you need to read everything, because most of everything available for you to read has relevance or importance you'll need at some point. For example, there was some brief talk of a traitor between two of the higher-up military ranks... You have to search the level for clues and eventually figure out that one of the crewmembers isn't trustworthy... So you eventually unlock his documents, and find that he was in fact the one who screwed everyone over on board... Then later you have to tell someone who the traitor is... I don't know the consequences of telling that person the right traitor name or not... It might warrant a replay through if it changes anything by telling him another name...Make sure you have a pencil and paper handy for writing down codes from reading... There is so much to read, I'm afraid I'd never find certain codes again. I've filled up about one and a half pages on legal tablet full of access codes and door codes, etc. I've found while just reading emails and stuff I've found within the first 3 levels...The game makes you think. They have two cyphers you need to figure out how to decode, and can be rather time consuming if you're trying to figure it out.It's also easy to get overwhelmed. The game, after the demo, is more open-ended, and is easy to stray from what your main objectives are. You try going somewhere and she refuses because you still haven't completed an objective, so there are limits, but the game really opens up after you get out of the demo level.One cool thing, as you play, you unlock bonus content (which is nicer than having to beat "achievements" to unlock stuff.) You get concept art, which is pretty cool, 2 sound clips per 'chapter' (which aren't really chapters, but rather the duration between cutscenes), and 2 music files from music that played during the levels. You can also click the cutscene name those files are under, and watch the cutscene over again, which is nice. The cutscenes are done rather well.Try not to read any info about the plot, because it's easy to see spoilers. Overall a good game so far. The game lags somewhat with 3 windows open so I try limiting the number of active cameras to 1 or 2 max. I never really need 3 anyway. I'll post more once I finish the game, to give you a thumbs up or thumbs down on whether or not the story is worth playing the game for... because really other than the novelty of using cameras, that's all this game really has going for it at this point.The reading and her slow pace sort of make this kind of game boring unless you're into adventure games.

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Well, this game is now officially collecting dust on my shelf. I don't know if it was the slow pacing, or the puzzles, or even a lack of motivation to finish the story, but I ended up installing Deus Ex 2 instead of finishing this game.It's not a bad game, really... The main problem I have is the lack of compassion I really have for any of the characters like I would in a game like Half Life 2 or something. I mean in System Shock 2, you listen to audio logs of passengers, and you build a sort of connection. Especially if you find an audio log next to their dead bodies, and when you listen to it, you hear how they died.... Spooky. But here, there are just a bunch of corpses and no real explanation as to why they are there in the positions they are other than to solve more puzzles. I mean, there are no signs of even a struggle. Everyone is just laying around dead as though someone let off a carbon monoxide bomb and nobody noticed.There is wayy to much reading involved to be interesting. I feel bad because they obviously put a lot of effort into the background of the story, but they need to keep it concise. One thing they could have done was give her some AI, rather than have her stand around and do nothing unless you flip a light switch. There are times she will do stuff on her own, but it's not nearly enough. I wouldn't want her running around free, but there has to be some sort of freedom on her part, I would assume.Adventuregamers.com has an article up that mentions the trust system I was expecting:"As if these tasks weren't difficult enough, adding yet another layer of challenge to the game is Lea's independence. Although reliant on you to guide her, she does not know who you are, and since she has her own notions, attitudes, and fears, she will not blindly follow your lead. So you'll need to note her reactions, anticipate her decisions, and most importantly, earn and maintain her trust. Without that trust, she will be more reluctant to take your directions or provide information you need, and may even decide to act on her own accord. Obviously placing her in dangerous situations will be one way to jeopardize that trust, but according to Kemal, there will also be other ways. In one case, Lea will ask for privacy to change her clothes. Honour her request and she'll further believe in your integrity; get caught trying to sneak a peek and her faith in you will drop accordingly."As far as I can tell, there's no way to even have the option to peek at her while she's changing. I got to that point and she covered up with some boards and said "I don't know you well enough to change in front of you" and never even gave me the option to be "polite" and shut off the camera.Oh well, I'm sure I'll get back to it eventually. There are just too many other games more exciting than this, even though I'm usually into adventure games. A good game with some twists, for anyone looking for a good adventure game, would be "Shadow of Destiny" which also goes by its European title "Shadow of Memories." It's a really cool time travel adventure game. I'd recommend that.

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