This is a game I never get tired of reminding people about.
Released way back in the ancient times of 2003, built using a then-already-outdated version of the RenderWare Engine, featuring a so-so plot and standard shooter fare soundtrack (techno beat, orchestral stingers, rhythm guitars and random techno riffs taken from sampler CDs), kill.switch was pretty much a standard shovelware TPS about a typical modern-warfare-rattatta story. With one (1) redeeming factor.
You see, Nick Bishop - that's the name of the guy you're playing as - can roll, dodge, stick to cover, shoot from cover and shoot from cover without popping OUT of cover, just by sticking his arm with the gun in it out of cover.
Whaddaya mean "so can most modern-day TPS heroes"? Right, but nine years ago? Nine years ago he wasn't just "one of a few". He was the FIRST EVER.
Sure, blindfire and cover-based shootery are standard TPS fare NOW. They weren't back in the day. Modern gamers usually assume all of that came from Gears of War - but the creators of GoW openly admitted they were inspired by kill.switch. That's how a shovelware game changed a genre.
Oh, there IS a plot, don't worry. While you see Bishop stand all brick-faced at some random Middle-Eastern hot spot, you hear two unidentified male voices discussing his fate - his and the program that created him. You might not initially focus on that as you run around in the sand (and later, during a thunderstorm on an oil rig - it's a popular thing, thunderstorms on oil rigs), but Bishop has no say in what it is he's doing not because this is a cheap-ass shooter, but... Well, you see, Nick had a wife. And she invented this cyber-augmentation system to increase soldier battlefield efficiency. Someone decided that it'd be a good idea if he was the test subject. The program was a success, but some very nice people decided that they could make some very nice money off it -- so she is now dead and Nick is not in control of his body, just a tool for these tools as they do nefarious deeds with his hands - and yours.
But as he fights the conditioning off, remembers his wife and teams up with a friendly-aligned hacker type, he will awake from his stupor, and he WILL have his revenge. And what a tasty revenge that will be!
The gameplay is rather simple - this being a cheap 2003 shooter after all - but blindfire is fun and efficient, and the combat is absurdly frantic, so most of the time, you won't be doing the "pop out of cover, aim, headshot, headshot" thing, but rather, "holy frak, I hope they won't tear my arm off with all this hail of gunfire while I frantically blindfire at them to force them to take cover so's I could vault over these two chest-high walls and get close enough to grenade those motherfathers!". And that's where it wins you over. Most modern-warfare shooters are either of the crawly kind - Rainbow Six didn't have much in the way of heated shootouts until it became too arcadey with Lockdown - or the cinematic kind, such as Call of Dooty and its ilk. Kill.switch is gritty in the fact that it doesn't let you focus on how badly animated this random mook's death is, because seventeen of his drinking buddies are surrounding you, flanking, taking cover, and using blindfire as well. Have fun dying. It's pretty much the Robotron of modern-warfare shooters, the Doom to Call of Duty's Quake, if you prefer.
It's interesting how the game that essentially created the modern cover-based shooter genre is also in it's rarer non-sluggish-combat subsection. Let's be honest - the combat in Gears of War is SLOW. It is also slow in many games inspired by it - Mass Effect included. Off the top of my head I can name only two other games that follow kill.switch's doctrine of swift violent deaths - and those are Fire For Effect (which doesn't even COUNT as it was made by the same developer as a semi-sequel) and Binary Domain. And Binary Domain only came out THIS YEAR.
Your arsenal is standard modern-warfare fare - M-16 and its variations, AK and its variations, H&K's various toys and-- and that's about it, actually. They're treated in gameplay as the classic warrior-mage-thief trifecta - the HKs have a higher rate of fire, the AKs have better damage and the Ms have better accuracy - but most of the time you probably will be too busy surviving to pay attention. At least I was. The big twist here is that as a proto-cover-based-shooter, it lacks the mechanism common to most of them. NO REGENERATION. You wanna live? Go find some medkits. It makes the gameplay a lot more different from all those other cover-based shooters in the simple fact that you cannot outlast your enemies - you make one mistake too many while defending your foxhole, you bleed out. Move, circle, flank - and you will be victorious.
The bottom line is simple: it's dirt cheap, it's absurdly fun and it's one of a select few. The plot is actually a proto-version of the "Would You Kindly" approach that pokes fun at the senselessness of modern shooter plot progression that sometimes feels like you are switched off at the end of the level, packed into a crate, ferried halfway across the world and unpacked there. Call of Duty certainly fell victim to that. Well, in this game? IT'S LITERAL. THEY DO SWITCH YOU OFF BETWEEN LEVELS. Hence "kill.switch" - they have an off switch for your brain!
At the end of the day, it's like your favourite 1980s B-movie action film. Senseless violence, an unexpectedly decent philosophical plot and senseless violence. Also vengeance. And violence. And FUN.
"Do You Remember That One?" - kill.switch - "He has a nuke. And I helped steal it."
Blog entry posted by Noelemahc, Jun 28, 2012.
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About the Author
A Russian Econ major with a minor in graphomania. Used to write for a Russian gaming magazine a while back, apparently wasn't very good or they wouldn't've cancelled his column to replace it with one devoted to listing erotic fanservice moments in videogames and anime series. Has a penchant for long-winded distracted rants and a bizarre affection for very old videogames.