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 Home -> Reviews -> Raven Squad
Raven Squad By: John "Award" Del Percio
September 4, 2009
Developer :Atomic Motion
Publisher :SouthPeak
Release Date :August 2009
Platform : PC, XBox 360
Table of Contents

· Introduction
· Closer Look
· Facts
· Final

Beware Pop Stands and Boomsticks

While there's much to like about Raven Squad, there are some highly obvious flaws with it. The first one will hit you instantly and will never, ever let go of torturing you throughout the game. The voice acting is simply abysmal. Whomever approved the recording should be given a free lifetime supply of hearing aids. Rarely is voice acting quite this bad in a game, and it harshes the mellow of an otherwise gorgeous and well laid out game. I don't cast my blame at developer Atomic Motion, who appears to have spared no expense in their production, but at either SouthPeak or Evolved, the game publishers who arranged for localization. If there is one single investment either of these companies can make to improve the quality of their product, it's acting lessons. Or more accurately, a skilled voice director. The main hero of the game, Paladin has a fine solid voice for acting, but doesn't appear to know how to use it. I'm sure with the proper direction he could have nailed the role...the timbre of his voice fits his character well. But many lines are read as though he was completely bored with the role and was given no direction as to the conditions the character is in. Instead of screaming: "I'M UNDER FIRE, NEED EVAC NOW!!", he sort of reads copy like it's an acceptance speech for a dull trophy no one has heard of. and repeatedly pronounces words with the wrong syllables stressed.

Even worse are the Chinese and Japanese actors that together make up your remote intelligence at the satellite operations controls. While the Japanese "OC" actor is passable, purely on his overzealous enthusiasm, the actor playing Xian for much of the game seems similarly bored with her role, which makes her accent come across as even harder to interpret at times than it otherwise should have been. The irony here is that the two lead roles were quite phoned in with little direction, where many of the other characters in the game, Shadow, Oso, Flash, Zombie, General Sanchez...most of them are actually quite good, and do add to the game. It's puzzling how the supporting roles were well acted, while the lead roles were not, but it does detract from the feeling of quality in the game, which is unfortunate since the game is shockingly well polished in every other aspect.

One of the promo points on the game's website (which is mysteriously missing from the box) is its 80's action movie inspiration, complete with "campy" dialogue. Touting "Now with more campy dialogue" is akin to selling soft drinks with a promo saying: "Now with more garlic flavor!" Mirriam-Webster defines "camp" as: "a) Something so outrageously artificial, affected, inappropriate, or out-of-date as to be considered amusing. b) A style or mode of personal or creative expression that is absurdly exaggerated and often fuses elements of high and popular culture." That classic 80's "camp" was a mix of overacting and pop culture cliches. Given the roles being so dramatically underacted, it's hard to create a campy feel. Nor is there anything truly out-dated, exaggerated, or remotely amusing. A few awkward cliches makes not for humor. "Blow this pop stand" is a phrase that should be lost to time, "bad guys" from the OC controller is lame, "middle-school dropouts with guns" is simply odd, if "Vegas" had been mentioned one more time I was going to throw something, and for all that is right in the world, the word "boomstick" appearing in any new game without the words "Serious Sam" in the title should result in swift death. In a bit of future prediction, if a game comes out fifteen years from now with the words "I can haz" in there, that should also result in a swift death for the game.

There are a few other far more minor issues with the game, though the voice acting and generic writing are certainly the most prominent of issues. A few glitches occur from time to time. At one instance the text tag on the overhead RTS view showed "Assault Squad" for both squads. This occurred only in one level. My XBox 360 froze during the first of two boss battles in the game, however after a reset, it continued fine from the save point. Granted, with an XBox 360, you never know if it's the game or the hardware freezing, but considering I'm running a Jasper model with additional cooling (no, not the power supply draining early-model Intercooler,) and the side panel is never more than barely over room temperature, I strongly doubt the 360 itself froze. Additionally, repeatedly the voice of your satellite controller will tell you "they're retreating" in the middle of a firefight. This usually coincides with killing all members of an enemy squad while several other squads are still shooting at you. I never once saw them retreat except at scripted locales. Some have reported that on the PC version of the game, the control layout screen actually shows the XBox 360 controller instead. I did not test the PC version for this review, so I can't confirm it. These are all minor issues, however, and don't greatly affect the perception of the game.

One final caveat is the cover system. There effectively isn't one. You're expected to duck and hide behind objects, or walls, and you're allowed to crouch. But that's it. You're still a sitting duck without a controlled cover system, and no way to peak around objects. It's kind of old-school, though not game shattering. A side-effect of this is the bounding boxes around objects, including forest terrain. Often what appears to be a clear shot ends up just unloading lots of (thankfully unlimited) ammo. Edging just to the side of the palm tree allows you to shoot the enemy. It's a bit of a rough edge on the game, but nothing too devastating.

Finally, a bit of praise for the XBox 360 version. This is a trend that's been growing for more and more games on the 360, but certainly not enough. Instead of depending on check-point saves it supports real honest to goodness save-anywhere game save states like PC games. This goes a long way to bridging the console void, I'm always glad to see that, and it's become a truly critical feature or me. Frustration knows no end when you meticulously spend 20 minutes doing an area perfectly only to be killed at the exit. Save-anywhere makes defeat palpable, so there's endless praise for any game that allows it even if, at times, the game felt a bit too easy even without it...commentary you'll almost never hear from me.

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