Thursday, 20 August 2009

Starsky & Hutch - PC

Remember way back when I notified you all of the 16 new, cheap games I bought all at once because they were so cheap? I mentioned that one of them was the PC game called Starsky & Hutch, a game based on one of my favourite old tv series. I bought it, not only because it was so affordable, but because the videos and images I checked online promised something fun.
And here I am now, after such a long time of waiting I've managed to clear my schedule and actually install and PLAY this game I was so excited about and can share my opinions of it with you people. Well, you one person out ther-- Oh, you left... Shucks.

When you think about games based on movies, they usually suck. All gamers who share their thoughts online at least mention that little detail everytime they're talking about a movie game, and although it might get tiring and we all know there are several examples of GOOD movie games, the majority of them still suck ass and we just can't deny that. Video games based on tv series, however, often suck even more ass, especially if the series aired a few decades ago and kids these days hardly know them unless there's been some weak movie based on the series made in the recent years.
But Starsky & Hutch for the PC (and some other platforms I don't care to look up and specify here since I have the game for PC and I think it's best played on PC even though I'm a console gamer) is here to prove that you can create a very entertaining piece out of some simple gameplay mechanics and a license. They didn't try to reach God here or even go for a quick buck, they settled for a good game.

Of course, the game was released at least 6 years ago and I have no idea how great people thought it was back then. Could've even been a game of the year in those ancient times of man, or maybe all games from the early doublezeroies are just awesome, I don't know, but I do know I've enjoyed playing this particular game and that it has fared the test of time well.

The game is pure driving action and shooting. You know that Vin Diesel driving game? Yeah, well that sucked, but S&H is in the same vein as the gameplay is entirely action-driving. Not race driving, but driving after bad guys and shooting at them while occasionally doing neat stunts to please the viewers. One notable difference between that Vin Diesel game and Starsky & Hutch (apart from one being pile of poo and the other an awesome game) is that in Starsky & Hutch there's no padding with "shoot-outs on-foot".
Game developers often think that you can make a good but short game better by adding a lot of pointless crap to make the game seem longer, but that just pisses us off when it takes dull moments before we get to the few good parts. Starsky & Hutch, at least so far, seems to be rather short, but it's entirely what I wanted, nothing else. Simple but fun driving with simple but engaging action and simple but entertaining stunts. Sure it could be longer, but you can say the same about any great game.

So far I'm in the middle of season 2 (there's 3 seasons with 6 episodes each, one episode being one mission) and although it seems I've passed half of the game in a couple of hours, I've enjoyed every moment, and the episodes do seem to get gradually longer (the episode I'm on now is three times as long as the first few) so here's hoping they'll get longer.
The episodes are also challenging. Sure, most of them I've passed on first try, but a few I've failed miserably and even when you do pass an episode, there's still the rating to think about. The game uses "viewer ratings" as means to keep a score. You get more viewers by giving them action, but lose viewers when nothing's happening or if you just keep crashing into stuff repeatedly. After you've passed the episode, based on the viewer rating you get either a bronze, silver or gold medal. Apparently you need a certain amount of medals to unlock the next season, meaning that you might have to replay episodes. Replaying episodes isn't annoying though, as anyone who plays the game plays it for the gameplay, not because they furiously want to see the ending of season 3. Plus, since the episodes take place in an open city, you get a chance to retry stunts you failed or just try new routes.

The story, or stories as each season has it's own main story going, taking place in 1970's Bay City are told through animated sequences that are narrated by the original Huggy Bear himself. Any deep plot you wont be seeing though, they're very easy to follow. Each episode basically deals with something like catching a crook that rides a stolen vehicle that leads to another crook you have to catch in the next episode. If it sounds like I'm calling the story weak, my bad because I'm really not. The game isn't trying to give you a full episode of the original show fitted in a game or anything, it's just giving you two cops, Starsky and Hutch, catching criminals. The animations look sleek and are short and to the point, giving you the set up for the next episode without drowning you in pointless dialogue.

The music in the game is pretty great from what I can tell so far (though I haven't had time to pay THAT much attention to it with all the shooting at bad guys during high speed chases), done most likely with 70s funk in mind. One song in the game starts out so much like Kool & the Gang's Jungle Boogie, that I nearly started singing it. Although the music probably doesn't win awards for being the most notable score in video game history or make it into gamers' top ten lists to compete with J-RPGs, it does get you into the mood for chasing criminals in the 70's.

About the lines spoken during the gameplay, there's not much variety in it. In fact, I may get tired of hearing the same old "good shot", "perfect aim" and few other lines similar to these by the end of the game. So far, though, I'm not yet annoyed.

The gameplay, it's driving. You chase after the crooks, sometimes you have a few crooks in different cars, sometimes they're out of cars trying to ambush you and occasionally you're making sure that the snitch or the snitch's family gets safely to their destination while bad guys keep coming after them.
The game gives you power-ups, like viewer rating boosts, turbo speed or double-damage, that you either drive through or shoot to pick up. There's also some other stuff like keys and cards, which I believe unlock the 'TV specials' (extra missions) and specials like an interview with Antonio Fargas, the option to replay movies and the game music available for a listen. There's also special event tokens that do different stuff, sometimes blowing something up or triggering these weird guys in black cars appearing, to my aid I suppose.
There also two-wheels stunt tokens right before these mini-ramps that allow you to continue the chase on two wheels, but the normal jump stunts you can do whenever you see a ramp (naturally).

By default the game had aiming set on nothing in Controls, so I think there may be an auto-aim possiblity, but I've been aiming with the mouse myself, which is fun. You're driving the car as Starsky and shooting as Hutch, all at the same time. There's not too many controls to learn, which is a blessing for console gamers like me who don't have keyboards for hands (although mashing a keyboard with keyboard-hands is probably even harder). Just accelerate, reverse, turn left, turn right, handbrake, look left and right and shoot. No rocket science involved.

About the extras, the TV special episodes and the freeroaming, I can't say anything. I haven't touched them yet as I have been only playing the story mode so far.

So, all in all, Starsky & Hutch is a very entertaining driving-action game that is certainly above averige, just like all or most video game sites have rated it. It may be short, but at least it's 100% fun to play. Gamers who believe gameplay comes after story and graphics wont find their meds here, but casual gamers should be happy. I definitely am, and not only because it didn't cost me much. It's worth the 6€ I paid.

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