Friday, 2 January 2015

Boiling Point: Road to Hell (PC) - Part 2 - Guest Post

Hello I'm mecha-neko and I'm playing first-person open-world epic Boiling Point (aka. Xenus)!
Click here to go back to part one.


Welcome back! Previously on Boiling Point, we've taken Saul Myers from one end of the country to the other in search of his daughter Lisa. We've arrived in the second city, Pueblo Faro, looking for clues.

It's another sunny day in Realia...

Another car violently swerving across the road out of nowhere in an attempt to mow me down, before flipping onto its side and suddenly disappearing.

Something is very not right about this town.

Let's talk to the folks here and fill up my map with markers. I asked an old lady about weapons and suddenly her voice changed gender and her body disappeared. The other NPCs were so intrigued by this development that they all started wandering up to me, mesmerised. Their limbs started thrashing and I decided it was best to get away from this fulcrum of madness before something went seriously wrong.

It's rare that I can get through a full conversation without either Saul or the other party having missing lines, spinning madly or vanishing entirely. I think I may have reached the extent of where the developers stopped caring too much.

You're ruining my immersion, man!

Here's the list of stuff I've yet to do.

"Stop by the CIA agent", huh? That sounds like it will lead to some exciting adventures! According to the townsfolk, he lives in a small house decorated with gaudy US flags. They all know he's a CIA agent and sort of feel sorry for him as he's trying quite hard to fit in.

They have a point. Well, maybe he just likes the US? A false front of idiocy masking a mastermind with full awareness of the situation and over a hundred covert agents at his disposal. A genius, able to manipulate or execute whomever they need to with absolute deniability.

The genius, everybody.

Agent Weinstein has a super critical important secret mission for me. Only a mercenary of my caliber can possibly hope to execute this operation.

He wants me to...

Go back into the Guerilla building I just left and take a picture of the Commandante that I just spoke to. Ta dah! I guess.

The Commandante, as is the wont of every 'faction' leader in these kind of games, has his own set of missions for me, provided I'm willing to pledge my full allegiance to the Communist cause. Maybe later, guy. I'm real big on hoarding things. Like guns. And money.

Yeah, I don't think this communism thing is for me.

Saul is a man of extremes. Sometimes he's extremely non-chalant and a little bit dopey. And sometimes he insults old people selling flowers on the street because he's at BOILING POINT.

Should I take another CIA mission? That first one was a little lame. Was it just a test?

Whatever you do, don't shoot the civilians. No matter how tempting. Apart from being, y'know, murder, it's incredibly dangerous. The police won't materialise out of nowhere: they don't need to! Every civilian I've found is carring a concealed revolver. A few of them pack grenades too, because why the hell not?

I'd show you what it looks like being Public Enemy Number One, but being shot by invisible people with ridiculous amounts of health who don't drop anything of value is exactly about as much fun as it sounds.

I'm thankful that quick loading works, though the recent events were a bit too traumatic for a couple of the NPCs to forget and they've taken to blasting rats, birds or each other.

I couldn't find much else to do in Puerto Faro, so I took a cab back to the first town, immediately wiping out all the money I got from both bus driver missions AND my gun haul. There's no fast travel in Boiling Point outside the cabs, so I sure hope you like driving.

No 'Loading' screen once again. Clever ducks.

Let's check the mission list! Talk to the police. Huh. That sounds like a good idea; filing a missing person report would probably be a practical thing to do. They're closed, so I decided to do the next best thing and wander around aimlessly enjoying the quiet atmosphere until I got bored of that and indulged in some impromptu burglary.

(Hey, aren't you the bus guy?)

These are the blandest rooms I've ever seen. No shadows. No furniture. No money. Nothing to steal, except a couple of health syringes.

What a let down.

The Mayor's office! Now it's time to get something done!

Mayor said I should call the police. Fascinating stuff. Nothing to steal. Nothing to see. Beeeehhh...

At the police precinct, all the cops outside say I should 'go to the precinct'. Inside the station it's the same story: 'go to the precinct'. Whoever wrote the dialogue in there needs one hell of a thorough reality check.

Saul pipes up "My throat's dry. Gotta find a bar."

After that inanity, drinking sounds like a great idea. Hmm, now where could I find the bar? I haven't got a clue.

That is a kind of a clue.

Nothing says hard-ass like a jag-warr with a see-gar.

Here's the main boss bartender, Luis.

He's got some useful info for me! (Hurrah!) For a price! (Blast!)

He tells me all about Don Pedro's big secret hideout full of goons. One step closer to tracking down my lost motorbike. Or was it daughter? Probably daughter.

Well I'm fairly certain that I wasn't supposed to be drinking, but this isn't good. Either I got talked into some kind of drinking game when I wasn't paying attention or this guy is simply describing the drinks so vividly that I'm feeling the effects. On the stats page, I'm 100% addicted to alcohol now...

"You know the routine - murder, terrorist attacks, kidnappings, extortion. Just go straight to our base. It's not that close, and our men aren't too friendly. But for 100 pesos I'll tell our trigger-happy brethren not to blow your brains out on sight. Is it a deal?"

Mafia located! That Mafia schmooze sounds like a right bargain for 100 pesos. I'll take it. You tell 'em all to be sure to not shoot the guy driving the burning bus.

Ugh, what a mess. I could barely walk out of the Negro Jaguar. I'm lurching from one side to the other...

Apparently, I'm so drunk they sent out the attack choppers to gun me down. I don't last a second under the automatic fire before I'm deaded. There's a slight pause, and I'm magically revived at the local doctor! Some brave soul must have gone out with a lead umbrella and scooped up what was left of Myers into a bucket. Healing isn't free and I'm told that 'some of my belongings' may be gone too. Great.

I don't have any idea where I am or what I'm doing any more. This game is very realistic in that respect.

Hey, a lighthouse. That looks cool. I wonder if I can go inside?

I sure can! And there's a dude up here who doesn't mind company. That's nice. I tried to manipulate the objects on the table with my Oblivion-style telekinetic powers, but everything I tried to 'Lift' shattered instantly and the guy got awfully upset.

And that's not all, I seem to have triggered some kind of fracas down over there. Let me zoom in a bit...

Oooh, a boat. I like that. I want that. That's going to be mine.

Here we are at the boat. Guess what? I can't use it.

Saul says he's not ready yet. He needs more experience. He needs blah blah. He needs a smack is what he needs.

Damn it. Well I can't use it, and I can't raid it as if it were a container. I can 'Push' it though... and off it silently floats into the horizon, never to be seen again. So long, boat.

Now what? I'm bored.

Ooh, a hangar full of vehicles! This ought to make up for the boat.

Saul doesn't want to take ANY of them. When you try, you just get a cryptic message at the top of the screen saying "No go, Amigo.". I got the same thing trying to carjack random guys as I tried in vain to escape my bus ordeal; Saul just won't touch these. You idiot, man! I thought you were ex-military. You've got to be able to drive these things. I don't care if you don't know how. JUST GUESS!

Boiling Point has its own kind of humour. It's a little different to the human humour I'm used to.

And isn't he another copy of the bus guy?

I can't believe I'm still wandering around the town enjoying the plants and stuff. I'm going to put the rest of my money together and get some serious stuff done. How long have I been playing this ridiculous nonsense anyway?

Practical plan. I need a car. Right, I left Lisa's car at the newspaper office! That's a good plan. Oh, it's completely out of gas because I didn't turn the engine off when I left it. *slams head on horn*

I have to buy a car instead because Saul doesn't steal vehicles. Well, that's not exactly true. He's just very reluctant to do it. Direct carjacking is impossible, but if you kill the driver in just the right way with a single shot through the windscreen, the driver falls out and the car is yours. You can sit there, sitting proud and pretty, with blood on your hands and 2% fuel in your broken car that can't make it up hills.

"These cars aren't stolen, are they?"
"How should I put this...? Yes, but we have some that are not stolen too."

Let's see what 900 honest pesos gets me.

A truck! Like the bus it's as slow as hell, but it beats walking through the jungle. Let's do it.

I'm going to cross off some of these couple-dozen objectives I've racked up from talking to passers-by. Hmm, the Editor guy gave me an instruction manual about boats and told me to visit an instructor somewhere. If I can find this guy and get him to teach me how to drive boats, that'll let me drive boats, which is good. Unlike now where I can't, which is bad.

Several miles of driving later...

It's time for a boat tutorial! Huzzah! This is exactly the kind of vehicle training I need! ... for this game set primarily on land. Well, you can't have everything.

Don't fall in the water by the way: killer fish!

Those reflections in the water are awesome. All realtime, and all that jazz. It's as if they got the jungle and the water working, and had to finish the rest of the game in a month. There's even been a little attention to detail spent on the audio: unusually for an open-world game, there's background music.

It changes depending on the time of day, whether you're in the jungle or the town, whether you're in a vehicle or walking, whether you're in combat or not. There's not so many tracks and they're all compressed to buggery, but I'm going to point out the few things this game does right because they please me muchly.

This is the life. I've got my truck. I've got my boat. I've got my boat license. Actually I don't have my boat because the game won't let me drive it any more because it doesn't belong to me.

For fuck's sake.

I can't even ride this bicycle because it's not a tangible object.

Having exhausted all sane options, I might as well see what the Mafia have to say. Get my 100 pesos worth and all.

I don't even know how this could have happened. This could have been the helicopter that pursued me while I was stumbling about in a drunken fury. After it had completed its mission, it must have decided to go to sleep in mid-air and fell on top of the motel.

The Government still don't like me much, even though I did my very best not to smash through their checkpoint this time. It still went awry and I had to make the fastest getaway this old thing would allow. The bastards popped the tyres on the way out so I had to stop off at a gas station and spend my very last pesos getting them replaced.

There's another flashpoint up ahead (or perhaps the one I started earlier is still going on thirty in-game hours later). I decide to just kill whoever's in the way. I can't talk them out of it, and they want to shoot me because I'm amazing.

Despite fighting in near-complete darkness it's a good result. I'm intact with swag. Killed quite a few of either side (I don't recall which) and only got knocked down to half health. Delicious fruit eases the pain and I'm on my way.

The Mafia base is shown on the map. Almost there. I need to switch to a dirt road.

Damn it! What the hell!? The Mafia guys just felled a God-damn tree to block my path and they're shooting the crap outta me! Man, have I ever been hustled! Friggin dips, I'm not letting no two-bit well-equipped, vast organised crime network stand between me and my daughter!

Roight. Action time!

I couldn't have picked worse circumstances to make an assault. It's pitch black and the Mafia can hit me from miles away. I can hear them taunting me from every direction. I just need to keep running and ducking and diving and picking them off when I can see them until it gets light. Then I'll scoop up the dead, stick 'em in my boot and get rich.

What was that sound...?

They kidnapped my daughter, made me drive an empty bus across an entire country, disintegrated all my guns, ambushed me and trapped me in the deadly jungle...

But this? THEY BLEW UP MY TRUCK. I have now reached Boiling Point™.

Don't do that, by the way. If you go out in the open for a second (on Medium at least) you're going to be shot seven ways from Sunday.

The only hope you have for defeating guys is to stay perfectly still, use your stereo sound to determine which direction their standing and shoot them quickly before they shoot you. Don't use their guns because they're broken and jam. (A curse which Far Cry 2 later contracted.)

I'm alive. It's a miracle. I had to quick save and quick load a lot, but I am alive. It was the only way. There had better be some amazing treasure to be found in this Mafia base.

When I make it back to town, I'm going to be hailed as a national hero for killing all the crime. Every time I kill a Mafia guy, the act of murder is psychically transmitted through the universe, manifesting as positive reputation with the Government and CIA.

The Mafia base is in sight. I just need to... OH COME ON. You shouldn't be able to see me at that range. I mean, in real life you could, but your frickin character model just popped into existence. How am I supposed to sneak up on somebody who I can't see until they can already see me...

Let's just say stealth is completely out of the question because this game is a creaky, barely game-shaped embarassment and leave it at that.

Saul's personal pistol is still at 0% damage, so if I can make all of these shots (and I can, because I'm ace) I should be able to clear out the encampment without leaving my cover...

ARGH, A SNAKE! IT'S A SNAKE! HELP!

Dead.

Try again.

I picked off all the guards I could see, including the one in the tower, and did a little victory dance. I was about to make a stealthy run for the entrance when I heard not one but TWO choppers tracking me down. It looks like the Government and the Mafia have joined forces to try and take me out.

Guess what happened next.

If you had said 'they crashed into each other and exploded', give yourself a big prize!

For those stupid enough to run towards a pair of wrecked, burning helicopters that might explode at any moment, you also win two 0% damage revolvers. Yummy.

Sneaky sneaky!

KABOOM. That's some sterling glass smashing effects you've got going on there, game. Shattering into realistic triangles and falling correctly. I like it.

Nope. No sneaky sneaky. There's Mafia guys popping up all around me and I'm starting to panic. They keep yeling at me and interrupting each other, making their yells crash and restart, deafening me with a whirlwind of repeating unintellible Spanish garbage. That might be why the gunshots aren't playing any more.

"Where's that Yankee Doodler!?"

Maybe trying to take on a well-defended enemy installation by myself wasn't such a fantastic plan after all. Never fear, nobody stops Saul Myers! He's at Boiling Point don'tcha know.

Come to think of it, Saul doesn't have any special abilities whatsoever. Boiling Point is just a name, not a special ability gauge like the 'Balls' meter that makes you indestructible in Scarface, or the Tequila Power in John Woo's Stranglehold. Saul is just a dude. A dude fighting off near-invisible enemies in the Deep Shadows of the Realian jungle.

I'm so nearly dead now. Nothing cures a chest full of bulletholes than eating ten pineapples whole! Mmm, and I'm back in the game.

And a pineapple for you too, sir!

Frankly, the combat is kind of lame. Everything seems really weak, the sound effects sort of match what's going on. You don't have a lot of sensation of getting hit; it's a good thing that the bad guys are all dropping health pickups. Saul won't shut up about his sudden morphine addition now!

"This modern chemistry is going to be the end of me."
"Dammit, my veins look like they could star in Trainspotting."

That seems to be the end of them. Every nook and cranny searched. Every last Realian Mafia blasted, and I'm free to claim my hard-earned treasure.

Nothing. No secret mega-gun, no stash of drugs or gold. I thought there'd be something here. Damn. At least I've got my pick of the Mafia's vehicles now. This Hummer looks like a fine prize, especially since they BLEW UP MY TRUCK. Allons-y!

"No go, amigo."

Fuck off, game. This makes no sense. There's NO WAY I could have gotten a vehicle in and out of here intact. I want to do a cool escape after shooting up the place, and you clearly want me to drive one of these out. It makes logical sense, but you're not letting me do it. WHAT'S GOING ON?

It's doing that thing again! It thinks it can throw up a lens flare shining between some trees and everything will be forgiven!

Not this time, Boiling Point! You're outta chances, and I'm turning this ridiculous piece-of-nonsense off once and for all.

But first...!

I'm going to take out my frustration on that damned bus. YOU started all this, damn it!



And here's the trick - none of that was the actual plot (except the Editor). Every time you talk to somebody, try to use a car, find a weapon, or go somewhere in Boiling Point, you never know what's going to happen. It is unpredictable. Stupid, yes, but never predictable. It's not procedurally generated, heavens no! None of that heartless, bland random garbage here. Everything in Boiling Point has been meticulously designed and placed with absolute precision, the developers just got everything, everything, so fantastically wrong that the game itself is practically alive; a whole new entity formed accidentally out of the parts of the game that are functional enough to coalesce together.

Boiling Point doesn't have rough edges, it IS rough edges. It's a patchwork quilt of rough edges hastily fastened together with used, rusty surgical staples.

And that's why Boiling Point is the best game ever.

Of course, this level of questionably-enjoyable creativity couldn't have gone unpunished. Deep Shadows were mercilessly pilloried, thoroughly erased from the annals of computer game history and everybody was much happier for it. Right?

Not exactly. All of that above stuff did happen, more or less, but Xenus: Boiling Point wasn't where it ended. Somewhere in the world, somebody thought it was really, really good. So they made a sequel, Xenus II: White Gold: War in Paradise.

As far as I can tell, Xenus II is exactly like Boiling Point in every way, except more. It has multiple islands. It got an English release (somehow) and this time the developers outdid themselves by making it unplayable until you download the full original Russian voice data from elsewhere. Gamersgate sold it briefly but then they stopped, presumably after they'd actually had a go.

You'd think that after all that somebody would have told them to stop. But no, they didn't. Deep Shadows are unstoppable. They made a whole new engine and decided to take their FPS RPG dreams to the next level. Their next game, Precursors, is set in space. With multiple planets, and space combat.

Deep Shadows are truly the best of us all.

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3 comments:

  1. That was amazing. Boiling Point is the modern-day Damocles remake we've been waiting for, only rubbish.

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  2. Hostile wildlife? Who would have thought that this game preceeded Far Cry 3 by 7 years! :D

    I heard some rumors about its hilarious glitchiness when I was searching for sandbox FPS games, and then I found this video > www.youtube.com/watch?v=pq-73Va2-R4 I have seen lot of bizarre glitches, but that one is just priceless.

    Should we take it that you are open to requests again, mecha-neko? If yes, would you give try to MechCommander 2? I would like to see you tackle RTS for change, as it is rather overlooked genre on this site.

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  3. Great diary of the charms of Boiling Point! Beamdog were selling both Xenus and Precursors a few years back, not sure if they still do, and both have the same nonsensical beauty as BP.

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