Friday, 2 January 2015

Boiling Point: Road to Hell (PC) - Part 1 - Guest Post

Back by popular demand, guest poster mecha-neko has returned one more time to write up his thoughts on the first few hours of obscure Ukrainian open world FPS Xenus, better known as Boiling Point.

To hell with Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Get out of here, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.. Begone, Far Cry 4. The future is here. This is the ultimate game.

This is Boiling Point: Road to Hell.

Your presence here affects everything. Each step you take is crucial. Every game is different. Forget linear games with levels and loading times. This is real life. Your enemies take things personally and they never forget. Every action you make will come back to haunt you. And with the army, Guerrillas, and Mafia on to you, you'd better watch your back. Help them out, or blast your way through. Either way, the heat is up and you'll be pushed to Boiling Point.

Let me tell you all about my holiday in Realia!
You can click on my holiday snaps to view them in full resolution.


"Pick up, come on, pick up! Dad, it's Lisa. You gotta come get me. Get on a plane and come get me!"

Lisa Myers is in big trouble. Lost in the little-known South American country of Realia, she's found herself on the wrong side of the wrong folks. She rushes through the halls of the hotel, hammering on the lift buttons while footsteps approach. She gets inside the lift, but just as the doors shut... goons.


"It's Pierre... the newspaper has confirmed - there's been no sighting of her for 48 hours... Saul, I'm sorry... she could be anywhere..."



And then he explodes. Really!


Hey, what's that sound? No... it can't be... the installer has its own theme song!

We get the plot of the game in song (YouTube link) as we wait. You can't fault their enthusiasm, though the lyrics are pretty unique:

"In the swarm of lies and violence, in which people throw off their mask,
unsure whether he will find her, but should we always do go best?

He was walking on the thin line, getting his own crime.
Whilst dealing with the devil, and a fear he has high.

From the North to the South, From cooking to the Boiling Point.
From the East to the West, To care what's ever with your own. (and the Boiling Point...!)"

I'm reluctant to go on any further. I don't think any game could live up to hearing this song out of nowhere. Twice.

We open with a narration from Saul. He looks a little lost, sounds a little Max Payne-y.

He knew his daughter was a journalist, but only recently found out she was a war correspondent, covering revolutions in all the far off third-world banana republics of the world.

"So now she's in Realia... How many times have I warned her? But she's as stubborn as me... Only worse. Yeah, this ain't the best country to have to go looking for a missing daughter - but, believe me, there's worse."

Saul gets a bus into town. He has one lead: he knows the address of the editor of the newspaper where Lisa worked. By retracing her last known movements, we're going to track down her whereabouts. Failing that, he's going to tear the country apart with his bare hands, brick by brick, until he finds her.

And, go!

Nope, we're not going to get shoved into another cutscene. This is it, right here. Boiling Point is a free-roaming first person shooter action role playing game. Somewhere deep in the Ukraine, somebody took a look at The Elder Scrolls and Deus Ex (and maybe Bethesda's earlier open-world The Terminator) and thought 'You know what? We could do that. With guns. In the jungle.'. And they DID.

And you know how strange Bethesda games can be. Imagine the scale of The Elder Scrolls, with the bonkers-ness of E.Ψ.Ǝ: Divine Cybermancy.

Here's what the retail read-me on the disc has to say...

'Congratulations for buying this great product'. (Hey, I won!)
  • After the player completes a mission, it can happen his car disappears whereas its location is still marked on the radar. This bug has been rarely noticed during the tests but unfortunately could not be solved yet.
  • Due to the complexity and scope of the game, some minor but noticeable issues such as NPC's and cars behaving strangely, texture dropouts when flying, and minor framerate drops may be encountered. We are aware of these issues, and hope to have a solution in the future via a game update.
Hmm, sounds serious. Maybe I should patch this after all. What does the next patch fix, anyway?
  • Player and Non Playable Player positions in the environment have been checked and no character appears in mid-air or stuck in one of the scenery item.
  • Collision: grenades do not remain stuck in walls when launched, prisoners do not remain stuck in walls when delivered, tree have collisions.
  • Jaguar floats across screen at treetop level.
Okay so they're daft, but nothing serious.
  • Sometimes all items from inventory were lost.
Okay, they're both daft and serious.
  • Police station cannot be destroyed by a crossbow anymore.
Alright, fine. Maybe I bought the game because I thought it was going to spontaneously burst into flames in my hands as soon as I paid money for it. Yeah, I'm playing unpatched retail Boiling Point and there's not a damn thing you can do to stop me!

This interface is right out of the original Deus Ex. Not just in style, but the entire interface: separate health for each body part, and you can't see it here but you even get the same ten-slot freely assignable toolbar to play with. But unlike Deus Ex, get a load of all this daylight! That fresh air!

(You might want to take a drink every time I mention Deus Ex).

We've got no loading times, no levels here in Realia. Saul is going to track down his daughter with nothing but his wits, a knife, a pistol, one hundred bullets, a camera, a cell phone...

... and more menus that anyone would know what to do with.

Saul may be an ex-Legionnaire, but when he learned about his missing daughter his overwhelming fury obliterated his memories of serving in the Foreign Legion and now he doesn't know how to use or do anything. There's a faint glimmer somewhere in the back of his mind that's telling him that you drive a car from the front seat, but that might be because he was making funny 'honk honk' noises in the back of the bus just now and it wasn't helping.

There's no 'Explosives' skill, surprisingly. You'd think a guy about to hit Boiling Point could easily find a use for grenades and rocket launchers. Instead, the skills go from 'Automatic weapons' and 'Sniper Rifle' to 'Cold Weapons' (?) and finally 'Ancient Weapons' (!?).

You can hover your mouse over the skills to how they affect your shooting, what weapons they apply to, and how you improve them... nahhh, I'm just kiddin'. It's all a mystery to me.

A cupboard full of bland hints falls on your head as you navigate through each tab. They don't tell you anything you couldn't already guess, but it's nice to see they understand this might be a little overwhelming to some.

Alright, here's the first test: can I talk to any random NPC? I sure can!

And Saul's fully voiced! There's a sort of comforting monotone to it. He could be JC Denton's nice uncle. Everybody's being so polite in return, wishing me luck and stuff.

Saul isn't much into small talk, he's got a list of highly functional and pre-defined questions that he's ready to fire off at every hapless passer-by. They range from the simple "Where's a good place to get a drink?" to the slightly suspicious sounding "Are there any spies in your town?", which Saul delivers in a hilarious sly whisper.

Things are getting a little twisted as I start interrupting the poor Realians' daily routines. Occasionally folks will painfully contort into a arms-raised default pose during dialogue, and boy do they not take well to colliding with each other.

It's strange, but yeah, I do like it! Take it easy, fellow other gringo guy!

Every time I ask somebody for information, the hints I'm given get added to a secondary goal list. I've got a whole bunch of things to look into now: I can rent a car, buy weapons, talk to the police... You can click on any goal to have it highlighted on the mini-map (or not, if you enjoy the drifter life). Important characters are even added to a page of mug shots so you can immediately locate plot-critical characters if you've forgotten which rectangle they live in.

I'm standing next to a guy in some kind of information booth... wouldn't hurt to get myself some more information, right?

Let's talk!

So, uh, a funny thing happened.

The information booth introduced himself as a bus conductor, and he asked me if I'd like to do a little job to earn some money. Long story short, I'm now a bus driver and I've gotta drive this thing from one end of the country to the other.

The way I see it I get a free car for a while and there's a stack of cash waiting for me at the finish line. Adding places to my map is good too! If I miraculously happen to find Lisa, I'm sure we can both set aside a few minutes to deliver the good peeps of Realia to the bus stop before we head back to the good old United States of Paris together.

I don't have a time limit so I don't see the harm in having a bit of a look around before I settle into my new life as a bus driver.

I'm a little confused at exactly why I have to drive an empty bus... nobody seems to be waiting for it. There's a bunch of folks milling around but everybody I meet seems perfectly content to wander around the place doing their own computer game NPC thing. Maybe some passengers will show up if I leave it in a prominent location.

A few well-directed questions and I've found myself at the local arms dealer's place. All the guns and ammo I could ever want! Look at that, I could buy myself an RPG... but I'm quite happy with Saul's standard 50-caliber pistol for now. There's a whole bunch of Deus Ex-like gun upgrades on the second page of the shop, too. Fire rate, magazine size, reload speed, all the classics. If I'm relying on the 50-cal for the time being, I might as well upgrade its magazine up from the ridiculously stingy starting '5'.

"You ruined the upgrade because you do not have the competence to work with these materials."

Bang. My several hundred dollar upgrade vanishes because I have 0% technical aptitude. What a complete crock.

Sadly the dealer isn't too interested in dealing in information. He's flanked by bodyguards (which Saul likes to poke fun at as he walks past), so kicking up a fuss is a bad, bad idea right now. Let's move on.

This town is huge! It takes quite a while to get from one end to another and you can go into a few of the buildings too, but I'm going to lay off the looting until I need to.

Deep Shadows did their best to make this seem like a real place. At first I was surprised to find that everybody was so relaxed, and I felt like a complete idiot when I realised that these people aren't under attack or anything like that. This is just a normal day and I'm just a normal guy and everything is normal. The sun is up, the birds are singing, people are driving to and from work, or talking to each other while sitting on (or glitching through) benches, reading newspapers.

And speaking of newspapers, it's time to get down to some serious business. Let's find the editor of the newspaper.

Bingo. Here's Editor, the editor. At least, that's what the caption says.

Aw, it automatically holsters my gun when I enter the building. I haven't been wandering around shooting everybody in sight, but it's a little disarming when I'm, well, disarmed. I heard that Fallout: New Vegas was specifically written to assume that the player might decide to end any conversation with a bullet which although I desperately hate the game is something I respect a lot.

Conversation choices! Should we ramp it all the way up with "Where's my daughter, you bastard?" I suppose this is just the First Guy and it would be a little out of character for (assuming) Neutral Good Super Dad to start blasting reporters in the face. He doesn't really sound like he's at Boiling Point right now, more like 'dopey' point.

This cheeky tyke in front of me makes a critical mistake immediately. A woman goes missing, presumed kidnapped by unsavoury characters. Shortly after, her father shows up asking for information. What does this guy do? He asks me for money. To ensure his own protection, of course. He's not the smartest person I've met.

We go back and forth... he tells me that she was writing a thing on Don Pedro (and not about his amazing recipes) and gives me her personal belongings. I have her diary, her directional microphone, her car keys, an instruction manual on how to drive boats. And 'a rock'. Yay.

There seems to be a little commotion outside. Let's take a look!

Oh boy.

There's my bus on the left where I parked it. And over there on the right... um... the red civvie pickup couldn't figure out how to overtake my bus and decided to veer to the side, crashing against the wall and mowing down a pedestrian. Then two more pedestrians ran up to it to see what the hubbub was all about, and got crushed themselves when the driver decided to have a go at backing out and driving forwards once more. Finally, one last guy wandered up to the mess, took one look at it and instantly knew who was to blame and pointed a gun at me. You are now an enemy [Civilians], says the interface. Cue the combat music! Erk.

Saul automatically responded with "Don't shoot, I'm with you!" which somehow managed to defuse the entire situation.

You are now a friend [Civilians]. Phew.

It seems like the citizens of Realia are very set in their ways and don't like to be disturbed. I'd better move that bus before somebody else gets hurt. I think I've worn out my welcome in this town, anyway.

By the time I get down there, all the bodies have disappeared as well as the blood splat. Weird.

Before I go, I should check out my daughter's car. I'm not going to take it though.

And not simply because I blocked exit of the newspaper building with the stupid moron bus...

And the less said about this particular hiccup the better. I swear I didn't do anything! I just got in the bus and everybody around it collapsed like it was emitting seismic death waves! Now I'm sure I've worn out my welcome.

Onwards, to the next town!


I don't have a 'show papers' button, but as far as I know Saul is currently kosher. The intro showed him being waved through the checkpoint, so I suppose I should just wait and see what happens.

"No problem, guys. Here you are."

There we go, it all went swimmingly and completely without incident.

Right up until I didn't notice there was a second checkpoint immediately behind the first and smashed right through it like a lunatic. Sorry guys, I'm a bus! I can't stop! You can get a new pole, right?

You are now an enemy [Government]. Bugger. Floor it!

I'm not getting much floorage going on here. This bus has two speeds: 'stuck' and 'trundle'. Its a nice, relaxing trundle though.

Eesh, what a mess! Skirmishes are breaking out all over the road!

I can't tell exactly what's going on from this position, but occasionally the interface is showing that this is a battle between the Mafia and the Government.

I don't want to get involved, I've got a route to make! I start to slowly move off, plotting a route that will run over the minimum of dudes when a yell of "Grenade" forces my hand. Driving straight through it is!

The Government still hadn't forgiven me for the incident at the check point and it wasn't long before all hell broke loose. I decide to pull over to one side to let the impatient bastards who won't stop honking behind me get past, and then wait for the gunshots to die off. They don't. Should I intervene? And should I side with the Mafia or Government? Neither side looks like they're going to stop. Before I make a choice, somebody shoots a passing truck carrying CIA agents and it all gets very complicated very quickly.

And now they're shooting at my bus. My bus.

Time to put the kibosh on this insanity. Easy does it, though. I'll try to figure out who the Mafia guys are first, and maybe that'll cool down the other two sides and we can back to driving.

Ah heck. It always shows me which group a character belongs to just a split second after my amazing neko reflexes have taken them down. Not that it matters because everybody considers me their enemy right now. I might as well finish what I've started, and make the road safe for future travellers.

Shooting people doesn't feel very real, it feels more like a suggestion than anything else. You get aim-down-sights, but it's very weak. My gun is loud and blammy and two headshots takes down a bloke, anything else is useless. There's no ragdoll deaths. I can barely notice when I take a hit myself. Add it all up and what do you get? No surprise, it's like Deus Ex, except played much faster. And with fun rock combat music!

And so it goes; everybody is dead.

Time to see what I've won. Hey, my very own assault rifle! Collection! I've got an AK, another thing, a military looking thing, and a whole other thing. Very pleased. None of this insane, illogical 'identical guns disappear' crap from Human Revolution. Nope, I am officially a one-man armoury at this point. Heck, the dead guys even had some ammo on them.

This is turning out to be quite the holiday.

Damn, I'm wounded! Limping like a crazy thing... I had no idea I was so low on health! I just need to get back to the bus. My beloved bus. Get to the next town, get my reward, sell my guns, win prizes. And something about my daughter, I dunno. Maybe it's her birthday?

Hey, my phone's ringing! Who could it be?

It's Julia... who I guess is my wife? Maybe? She wasn't in the intro. She sounds very upset, but probably not because she got left out of the intro.

Um. Shit.

The conversation ended, but Saul is still holding his phone. I can't get rid of the subtitle at the top of my screen, access the inventory, open the map or anything! That damned phone has jammed up Saul's brain and now I'm totally helpless!

Worse still is that I figured out why I was moving so slowly: I'm over-encumbered! Turns out a dozen assault rifles are kinda heavy when you strap them all to your back.

I agonizingly limp into the bus, which thankfully still works despite Saul's newfound mental catatonia, and drive for miles hoping to find some sign of civiliation. The road stretches on to the horizon both in front of me and behind. In every other direction lies impenetrable jungle.

Eventually I find some kind of lay-by with one poor man who looks to be in worse shape than me carrying some huge sacks of grain on his back. I dive out of the bus and stumble up to him. His wise words of wisdom set Saul's brain straight once more, and I immediately chuck all my guns on the ground and praise the trees and the sun and the sky like a loon. In return for his generosity, Saul offers the old man a lift (no really!), but he makes a goofy old man joke about not wanting me to have to carry him on my back all the way to the next town. What a character!

Thanks, my friend. I won't forget you. Or run you over accidentally. Today.

Back on the road. The sun is beginning to set, and I've got another 5.2km to go before my contract is fulfilled.

I barely noticed the sky changing colour as I drove. I wonder if it goes faster when you're in a vehicle? It's very subtle and very clever. I love it. Hmm, what can I do to pass the time here?

I forgot about Lisa's diary! Let's dive in and see if there's any useful information.

June 3rd 2005 - Finally! I met Ramon in the bar and he told me that he could arrange a meeting with one of the old drug lords that's turned to the adrenaline trade. I better rest up now if I want to impress Mr. Synthadren. PS, Ramon asked for twice as much money for this interview... If this keeps up, I'll have to find another source of information...

Hmm... Ramon, a bar, drug lords... lots of interesting stuff to look into! Though I don't know if this could actually be any more vague. There must be dozens of bars here, and I ran over half a dozen drug lords smashing through the skirmish on the highway.

I've got to wonder how much money Atari put into this thing. Either somebody had a lot of faith in Boiling Point or they had a lot to drink. They gave it a bit of pizazz by shelling out for the Collector's Edition-style cardboard sleeve, but they also went the extra mile and included a copy of the 'Realia Tourist Guide'...

... which folds out into a full poster-sized map of Realia!

I started in the top left in Puerto Sombra and I'm currently crossing the long North-South bridge to the right of it. The first skirmish was immediately outside the town limits, before the first bridge, and there's been a couple more since then which I've smashed through like a battering ram. It seems like hell of a distance, especially with all the distractions. The back of the box promises 450 square kilometres of Realian rainforest. I can believe 'em. How do they fit all of this on one tiny DVD?

Right now I'm experiencing thirty kilometres of South American bus driving, but I'm not feeling that short changed by it. It's shooting. The game has some rather nice musical themes. Together they make the game feel coherent (a big change from the surreal combat).

Hmm, there's something up ahead? A market stall? That's some good news!

A fruitseller. Excellent. Time to ditch all of these ridiculous guns and reclaim my ability to walk!

*hobble, hobble, hobble*

I... um. "Old lady" is a guy with a pencil mustache. There's no two ways about it. Or is it a guy's head on a female body?

I'm not buying that. Infantryrifle.

How dare you! How dare you be realistic at me!

Oh well, might as well see what's for sale. Pineapples, oranges, bananas, coconuts... yum yum! Full of nutritious instant healing vitamins! Saul Myers says eat your fruit, kids! What else, pickle jars... grenades?

Huh. I didn't see that coming! Ohh... Pineapples. You know, I bet Old Lady spent his entire life up to this moment saving up so he could set up his own fruit stall in the middle of the jungle and make that pun! Bless you, Old Lady.

I can't buy any pineapples of either kind because I'm still full of guns. I'll make a note of this place in case I need some tasty healing fruit.

(Here's a hint, you can skip dialogue with Backspace. If you don't know that, you'll be stuck listening to Old Lady yelling about POMMAGRANATS several times over before her shop screen will appear.)

More skirmishes. I don't know how they can possible fight in complete darkness like this. It's absurd. They don't even have lights on their guns.

Enough of you idiots! This bus calls at designated stops only.

The sun rises and the sky turns a nice shade of purple. The driving music comes back. Rain batters on the windscreen and the hood. Thirty minutes of just driving from place to place, watching the sky change colours. It feels just like Jurassic Park but without the dinosaurs. Deep Shadows should have made a bus driving simulator instead of an FPS action RPG.

I had a brainwave some time after meeting Old Lady. I got out of my bus and decided to check if it had any storage space of its own. It does! Every vehicle has its own inventory space to help you carry your swaggeroo from the combat zone back to town. Seems like every time this game throws something crazy at me, it blindsides me with something nice and straightforward like that. This bus is now the most well-equipped bus in the world. I'm surprised I picked up so many guns. The 'Pick up' buttons are mapped to the F-keys by default, so with WASD movement you can slurp up enemy goodies quickly without really thinking about what it is you're taking. Sadly I can't mount the weapons to the sides or fire my weapons out the windows while driving.

Wait, this road isn't heading in the right direction any more! Did I miss the turn off? I don't think so. There's no road? Rather strange for a bus route, don't you think? There's only one thing for it. This bus is going off road!

Phew. I've arrived at Salvatore, my destination. I was expecting some kind of city. You know, a place where people might actually pay money to go. I started to get a bit suspicious when I turned onto a dirt strip, and then the dirt disappeared and I had to fumble through the dense brush in complete darkness.

It's actually an Indian settlement populated by stereotypical, slightly (okay, very) racist Indian characatures, of the "Ho, white man come from town. White man come in peace." kind that would've made early Tom & Jerry feel queasy. All straw huts, and no gun shops.

At least there's an identical clone of the bus guy from the first town here to congratulate me on my trip. When I talked to him to finish the mission, he praised my skill and dedication and, as a special reward, disintegrated my bus. With all my guns in it. Son of a BITCH.

He's like a freakin' djinni or something. Are you punishing me for my greed?

Well, it's five miles to the nearest town. All that the Indians around here are good for are bead necklaces. There's only one way back. I'm going to have to accept another bus driving job.

This doesn't look like the way back to the highway! Ugh, I can't believe I have a full map on screen at all times and I still managed to get lost. Now the bus is hung up on a little hill and I'm stuck... but I also discovered a creepy, bombed out house!

It was empty. Completely empty. Nothing in sight: no enemies, no loot. There was plenty that wasn't in sight though: I was harangued by invisible Government troops the entire time I was here. Saul kept automatically replying that he had a package for the commander as if he knew what was supposed to be happening here, but I soon got sick of arguing with my invisible friend and I got back in my bus and left.


Finally, I reach the second town! Welcome to Pueblo Faro. I make sure to take my whole new haul of guns OUT of the bus before I give in the mission. Except I can't do that because the bus guy isn't here because it's the middle of the night. You win again, bus guy.

What should I do now? Let's explore.

The Guerillas live in this great big place, which seems to be the only building still open at this time of night.

The Guerillas weren't particularly pleased to see me but they were very happy to receive my gun collection. 30 pesos per rifle, because they're all 65% damaged. A new gun would cost me several hundred so it was barely worth it. Ammo is one dollar a bullet, making it the real prize. Come to think of it I don't recall any of the bodies I looted carrying any money. That's a bit strange.

There's an in-game map which tracks everywhere you've explored. There's a bizarre straightness to it. All right angles, not a curve to be seen anywhere. Realia was designed by robots. (Or perhaps it was based off a map drawn on graph paper, like a Spectrum game.)

I just realised something quite shocking. True to the promise on the back of the box, I haven't seen a single bit of loading during gameplay. I wandered around the first town, drove two buses several miles from one town to the next over the course of 20 in-game hours and saw not one 'Loading' screen or even a slight pause. It was entirely continuous! Very nicely done, gentlemen.

Saul's started to whine about being tired, but it's hard to find a place to sleep. I wander around the town but everywhere is apparently 'too dangerous'. Luckily, (somehow!) the Guerilla base is counting as allied territory for now, so I can sleep here. I can also sleep at any time in a vehicle (with hilarious consequences).

Phew, what an adventure! Take a well-earned rest everyone, and join me later for part two!

Semi-Random Game Box