Geist Review

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Graphics: 8.5
Sound : 8.0
Gameplay : 8.5
Multiplayer : 8.5
Overall : 8.2
Review by John K.
Who can’t remember the endeavors of Bob, the little angel sent by God to defeat Satan in the world of Messiah? Many believed Messiah was a great concept, but bugs and poorly conceived gameplay prevented it from become a truly great game. Now, more than five years later, N-Space have published Geist, a game where the main character has been ripped from his body only to leave him as a fugitive ghost in search for his lost shell.

Geist kicks off with a cut scene explaining that a company called Volks Corporation is under suspicion of tampering with cell modifications. The game’s main character, John Raimi, is briefed to infiltrate the Volks Corporation, retrieve a sample of the modified cells and bring it back for further examination. Naturally the alarm immediately sounds after Raimi secures said sample, forcing him and his team to shoot their way out. Even so, everything seems to be going according to plan, even despite the impromptu appearance of large snake-like monster that swiftly kills one of the team members. However, just as Raimi is about to be cleared for extraction, a strange being invades the body of one of his men and abruptly turns his weapon on the other squad members.

When we next see Raimi, we find him strapped into a bizarre machine that, moments later, extracts his very soul. Alexander Volks, the mastermind behind these ethereal events, is seen while Raimi’s soul is transported to what seems to be a training facility for ghosts. Inside the training program, Raimi is instructed about his new form and abilities. As a ghost, Raimi moves so fast that the world seems to be moving in slow motion. Raimi also has a limited energy supply and must drain the life from plants in order to replenish it. The ability to possess animals is also explained and Raimi is instructed to possess a rabbit in order to try his new power. Shortly after exiting said rabbit, the training program begins to malfunction, which eventually leads to the machine Raimi’s spirit is held in exploding.

A young female ghost then suddenly materializes and proceeds to introduce herself as Gigi. Gigi explains to Raimi that he is now a ghost, and she shows him how to take full advantage of his newfound abilities by possessing inanimate objects as well as living creatures. The only catch to possessing living creatures is that they must first be scared before enabling possession. Through a brief tutorial, Gigi possesses a trashcan and instructs Raimi to possess a telephone so they can both scare a janitor. Once the janitor’s visible aura becomes red—which indicates he is scared enough to allow possession—Raimi then claims the body and prepares to embark on an adventure to reclaim his own.

Geist almost falls outside the realms of consideration in terms of the first-person shooter genre, especially since shooting is hardly where the game places its emphasis. The best way to describe Geist is as an adventure game from a first-person perspective with sporadic shooting elements interspersed throughout. Possessing objects and creatures also refills Raimi’s energy bar, so possession becomes crucial for survival. The successful scaring of creatures is a well-developed part of the game’s structure and varies from easy tasks like blowing up possessed computers, setting fire to trash, and the possessing of a ladder in order to make it fall before a passing guard. Yet inanimate possession also expands in creativity to the possessing of a fire extinguisher to make it spray around, and also possessing a pressure control valve for exhaust pipes so that steam billows into a room. There’s an unmistakable feeling of accomplishment garnered from the game once you’ve figured out exactly how to scare specific creatures, and it’s a definite plus point.

Also, selecting the appropriate creatures or objects to possess in order to advance is equally as important. For example, rats can crawl through narrow holes in walls, whereas dogs can crawl through raised vents that are too big for humans but also too high up for rats to reach. The type of human you possess is also important, especially seeing as how some parts of the experimental facility are only accessible to authorized engineers.

Sadly though, Geist doesn’t always inspire in terms of impressively flawless gameplay. Its actual shooting elements are woefully underdeveloped to say the least. Aiming with a console controller is always somewhat harder than with, say, a mouse and keyboard—though games like Metroid Prime and TimeSplitters managed to pull it off convincingly enough—and in that regard, Geist’s aiming mechanism and general movement feels both sluggish and sloppy. As if taking aim in Geist wasn’t hard enough, there’s another added obstacle to take into consideration; when the action becomes more intense, the frame rate tends to drop dramatically, which only compounds aiming frustrations. Luckily the game’s emphasis isn’t placed on shooting, and the bigger part of the game unfolds through solving possession puzzles. The notably underdeveloped shooting events that take place within the game are rather unexpected, especially since Geist was in development for such a long period.

Graphically, Geist is definitely one of the better GameCube titles. The models are all well designed and the special effects look amazing. The eye for detail extended by the developer is quite stunning; in your geist form, your vision is slightly blurred and portrayed through a blue tint. As an animal, you get the color spectrum inherent to the animal and an accompanying blurred tunnel effect that really recreates the feel of the specific creature you’re possessing. When possessing inanimate objects, the perspective view really is what the perspective of the object could be like. For example, when possessing a computer, the view comes from inside the monitor with all the text mirrored as if you were actually inside. Possessing keypads and other interfaces also displays the mirrored view, which adds a small element of difficulty if you have to read code from it for instance.

Musical tracks in Geist often promote player reminiscence in Microsoft and Bungie’s popular Halo. As an added detail, music becomes muffled and is played slower than normal. The musical track played also depends on which creature you are possessing. For example, possessing a rat produces a funny, faster-paced track than that which you hear when you’re a dog. The sound effects in the game could have been a little better, but they’re all produced to a high enough degree as to not promote aural annoyance. At times sound effects come into play that may remind players of Perfect Dark and GoldenEyefrom the Nintendo 64.

Geist also offers three fresh multiplayer modes, which are all possession-oriented to some degree. In Possession Death Match, players must possess idle soldiers, explosive boxes or gun turrets to eliminate players on the other team. Power-ups are spread throughout the level, which vary from extra speed or height, to a hijack power-up that allows players to steal the opponent’s host body. Capture the Host is clearly a spin-off from the Capture the Flag multiplayer mode seen in many videogames. The idea is to capture a host body and fight your way back to the base to subsequently dispossess on your team’s platform. In Hunt mode, the battle is on between Hosts and Ghosts. Hosts are equipped with anti-ghost weaponry that can eliminate ghosts, while ghosts have to try to possess the host and use the various hazards in the level to kill them. Hosts can try to shake out ghosts once they’re possessed to balance the game mode a little.

Multiplayer can be played with up to three friends with or without added bots. In a game where there are eight players, the game’s engine problems come in to play again, causing severe framerate drops when a couple of models are in view. What is a fun addition is that there’s only one player needed to play in a multiplayer game, because up to seven bots can be added then. This is not often seen in console games where usually two or more players are needed for a multiplayer game.

In conclusion, Geist is an original videogame that unfortunately lacks the overall power and control mechanics to emerge as the game it could easily have become. Minor bugs, and what feel like rushed elements, could have been prevented to make the game more wholly enjoyable, but this certainly does not mean that Geist isn’t a thoroughly decent game. If you like adventure games and shooters, you simply must give Geist a try. Anyone who insists that the GameCube only offers games for kids is probably now possessed.