June 17, 2008
Release Date: June 2008
Every so often one comes across a game which is the perfect example... of something. Perhaps it is the perfect example of the “Horror” genre, or the perfect example of a story-centric game. Belief and Betrayal is the perfect example of a “B” game - “A superior game. While lacking either the innovation or perfection required for a grade of ‘A’, a ‘B’ game is professionally produced, enjoyable and leaves you wanting more.” I couldn't have said it better myself.
Let's start with the story. It is a very good story for an adventure game, which is to say that it has mysteries which need to be solved, exotic locations to explore and danger to dangle your characters over. It is professionally written, except that the basic premise is just a little silly. Journalist Jonathan Danter, the main character, learns that his Uncle Frank, who died ten years ago, had been murdered. It seems that Uncle Frank was a member of the Vatican Secret Service “whose mission is to guard all of the Vatican's secrets.” And Scotland Yard finds it necessary to drag you from New York to London so as to impart this information to Jonathan in person. Why not just have Jonathan live in London in the first place? Or why not have Scotland Yard contact their U.S. equivalent to provide protection? Or how about just explaining all of this over the telephone and saving the price of an international flight?
Problem One – you don't protect secrets. You destroy them. If it is vitally important that nobody find the certain piece of paper, then you burn the paper. You don't leave any historical records which need to be protected. So Frank had a job which should never have been needed. Problem Two – there is a killer in London and I am in New York. So you bring me to London, where the killer is, to protect me? Thus we have a professionally written story with some minor imperfections. Solid “B.”
Let's look at the graphics. You can see from the screen shots that the graphics are very nicely done. The buildings are beautiful, the cities are dirty and the textures are broken up enough so that they don't appear to repeat. But the people are just a little cartoon-y and their feet don't always stick to the ground when they walk. Professionally done, but with minor imperfections. Solid “B.”
The sound is a bit more extreme. The background music is wonderful. It is classical, classy and does a wonderful job of setting the mood. The special effects are spot-on as trains and cars go by at random moments and generate realistic sounds. That might have earned the producers an “A,” if it hadn't been for the voice acting. The voice acting suffers from the all-too-common problem of actors not knowing the context of their lines and sounding funny as a result. Listening to the Scotland Yard Inspector was especially painful as life and death situations were spoken with the sing-song voice a mother uses to read bedtime stories to her children. And don’t get me started on the main character – blah! So it all averages out to a “B.”
The puzzles are mostly inventory based with a few logic puzzles thrown in for good measure. Nothing innovative, but nothing gratuitous either. I would rate the difficulty as medium – not obvious, but the solutions are logical and nearby if you look. Solid “B.”
And, finally, there is game play. The game is played in third person 2.5D. That is, you can go from screen to screen and move your character pretty much anywhere within the screen. A dynamic cursor makes hot spots and screen changes obvious. I did not notice any pixel-hunting, but the next screen could be at a radically different angle from the screen you are on and I sometimes lost my sense of direction (I exited to the left. How come I'm on the left hand side of the new screen? Oh, I'm now looking down from a different direction!). This was only an occasional annoyance, so navigation retains its “B.”
Hot spots can be clicked on with an Examine or Use cursor. Fair enough, but some items have to be examined twice before you notice what can be done with them. And there is no indication as to which items these are. So you end up having to listen to most descriptions repeated. This was the one thing which I found really detracted from the immersion potential, but it wasn't so bad as to ruin the game. “B” again.
You get to play as up to three different characters at the same time – Jonathan Danter, Kat (one of Frank's fellow agents) and Damien (another agent). This adds to the interest by allowing the work of one character to aid the efforts of another character. But I also found it a little frustrating that none of the character's personalities matched my own. Thus my character said things that I would never think of saying real life. Not a big deal, but enough to keep us out of “A” territory.
So what we have is a professionally made game with all the right pieces in all the right places, but with enough imperfection to prevent an “A” rating. It is a game I enjoyed playing. It is definitely a game worth buying. It is not a game that has set any new standards, but is an overall solid product.
Final Grade: B