PS2 Review: Kill.Switch

While it probably would have worked as a straight action game, Kill.Switch is a unique title in that everything is based around taking cover. It grows old after a while, and years of run and gun video game conditioning can make it tempting, but it's handled intuitively. There's also an interesting backstory that unfolds that makes each stage worth playing through.

It doesn't take long for the game to make sure you understand its ideas. Step blindly into one area and you're dead. The game's hero cannot sustain heavy fire for more than a few seconds. Taking one or two bullets isn't a problem. This is how it makes sure you adhere to the rules. You'll need to stay down through a control scheme that uses the shoulder buttons almost exclusively.

This sounds like a set up that could only lead to clunky and frustrating situations. It does, especially as the game moves on and everything is tossed at the player. Each level will take around 20 minutes, and it doesn't matter where you meet an early fate. It's always back to the beginning of the level.

Again, this all emphasizes the need to duck and stay put. There are numerous options once behind satisfactory cover, from firing blind to crouching and letting an entire ammo clip go, hoping for the best. There are some fantastic moments of tension, like when an enemy has grabbed a spot on the opposite side of the box you're using as cover. Making a move is dangerous, and for the few seconds before the situation resolves itself, it's a classic video game moment.

Stages are designed to be as linear as possible. It becomes one of those games where each time you play, the farther you'll get. Enemy AI is fairly standard in this way, and you can continually reuse the same tactics to gain an advantage in the outnumbered gunfights. The level design helps this too. With a little experience, it's not hard to figure where the stage design wants you to be. Boxes, walls, and pillars are positioned conveniently. The muddy graphics are the only thing preventing you from seeing an easy solution.

More interesting is the story. The lead character's memory has been wiped, and after each stage, the same flashback plays, but each time, it plays a little longer. As it evolves, it continues to become involving with numerous unanswered questions.

As around six hours, Kill.Switch isn't short; it's a little long. The action relies entirely on a single gimmick if hiding, and while it's fresh early, any longer would push the repetitiveness levels far too high. There's just not enough variety to convince the player that they haven't seen it all by level two. Even the weapons share the same feel between them. If the strong, sparse story doesn't grab you, this is a game you can consider completed in a few levels (and you wouldn't have to deal with the few overly difficult spots either).

What Kill.Switch does though, it does right. It is a basic concept. However, it is one intense enough to create a decent gameplay experience around it. Action fans will need an adjustment period before they're convinced. After that, they'll stay awhile for superbly designed set pieces.

(*** out of *****)

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