Right off the bat, I'd have to say that Dale was rather harsh on Maken X. Many of the problems that he mentioned were not without merit, but at the same time, they didn't bother me to the same degree. The one thing we will agree upon is the voice acting. It's so bad that you'll want to give an Oscar to Mark Hamill in comparison to some of his work in other gaming projects. As for the outlandish costumes and character designs, Dale is partially right again, but let me get back to this topic later.

What I really disagree with Dale about is in the gameplay. I have incredible soft spot for games that take preexisting genres and really put their own spin on it. This was truly the case with Maken X. While it uses the first-person view to full effect; it plays nothing like the usual Quake-engine based shooter. Instead, Maken X fuse styles of gameplay (hand-to-hand combat, lock-on feature, charged attacks, blocks, computer AI patterns) more commonly found in console games with the first-person view. Where Maken X really shines as well is when it incorporates a few new elements rarely seen in any game. The branching storyline (which Dale already mentioned as a positive) is good for obvious variety, but what I really liked was how it was incorporated with the other innovative feature, brain-jacking. Not only did each newly brain-jacked character have a unique set of attacks which kept things fresh, but some characters are endowed with special abilities and attributes that allow them to access other areas or open up other branching paths. I found trying to discover and play through each story arc with a variety of different characters to be a fairly addictive experience. So the final results, while not entirely convincing (yes, the screen does feel a little cramped and the fast-paced motion does take some getting use to), is still very different, and I found it interesting to play.

What ultimately brings down my rating a huge chuck doesn't have to do with the gameplay, but has more to do with the overall production values. Maken X, despite bringing some really exciting ideas to the table, looks and feels like the developers ran out of money halfway through the production of the game. While some cut-scenes are handled in real-time 3-D sequences, others are strangely done in static, black and white photo montages. Enemy movements and animations often look limited, stilted and repetitive—to the point where groups of attackers often move in a ridiculous unison. What really drives the final nail in the coffin is unintentional B-movie tone the game takes. The wildly imaginative character designs and storyline could have worked if they weren't marred by chintzy production values and the campy voice acting. Maken X aspires to be a ultra-hip, sci-fi anime like Ghost In The Shell, but ends up more like something you'd see on Mystery Science Theater. That's really too bad because I liked what Maken X was trying to do. It just failed to follow through on its own premise and ends up being an underachiever. Rating: 6 out of 10

Chi Kong Lui
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