Cyberia is an innovative first-person "rail" shooter that was lambasted roundly by critics when it was first released for its unforgiving difficulty and drag-the-player-by-the-nose gameplay. I feel that the criticisms, while accurate, undermine the game's originality: it was the first action game to offer both first-person shooting sequences and third-person adventure-game-style exploration puzzle solving. Although the result is by no means a true classic, Cyberia deserves recognition as an unpolished gem, and one of the boldest design decisions ever made in the action genre. |
The game's premise is a nice, if predictable, tale of espionage in a cyberpunk future. It is the year 2027, and the world is controlled by two rival super-powers: the Free World Alliance (FWA) and the Cartel. You are Zak, a cyber-hacker who has just been freed from prison by Devlin, a FWA leader. Your freedom, naturally, comes at a price, though: you must infiltrate the "Cyberia Complex", a secret lab deep within Siberia where a mysterious weapon is being developed. Your mission is to discover what the secret is, and get out alive. Unfortunately, the Cartel is also interested in the weapon and will stop at nothing to get it. With a combination of brute force, agility, and street smarts, you must overcome the Cartel agents who have already seized control of the complex. To make matters worse, the Cyberian scientists' genetically engineered creations are loose, and Devlin also has some tricks up his sleeve he is not telling you about.
Gameplay in Cyberia will be familiar to anyone who has played 'rail shooters' in arcades. Basically, you rely on auto-pilots in action sequences, similar to LucasArts' Rebel Assault. The computer does the navigation for you, and you just move the targeting cursor around and blast whatever you think you should. These sequences are extremely difficult: even if all you need to do is move the mouse and click on targets, there are usually so many enemy ships/creatures on the screen that you can't afford to miss more than a few shots. Worse, Cyberia is similar to most rail shooters in that you cannot save anytime you want, but only at "save points" which are triggered throughout the level. This means that you will probably have to play each sequence numerous times to get it right.
If you have enough patience to slog through these shooting parts, though, you will be well rewarded with one of Cyberia most fun and original features: the adventure interludes. In these sequences, you control Zak himself from a third-person perspective. During these sequences, you will walk around the complex, shooting soldiers that appear along the way, and solving puzzles. Puzzles are typically straightforward Myst-style logic puzzles, but quite a few are interesting physical puzzles that require a combination of reflexes, observation, and good timing to solve. Cutscenes between levels are quite well done, although the voice acting is abysmal. The plot develops quite nicely, and the ending leaves a nice what-will-happen-next cliffhanger that sets the stage for Cyberia 2.
Overall, I found Cyberia to be a fun and refreshing action/adventure once I managed to digest the high difficulty level of the action sequences. Perhaps due to my general bias for cyberpunk games in general, the interesting plot and slick graphics managed to hold my interest to the very end. Anyone who hates action games should definitely steer clear of this underdog, but action veterans and patient adventurers will have a lot to like in Cyberia. Just be prepared to invest a lot of time and patience in this one.Thumbs up!
Reviewed by: Underdogs