I like watching old movies, and recently I spent a couple of hours watching Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. It amazes me how such an old movie can be more entertaining than many of today’s current movies. Indiana just has so much charisma and attitude! Obviously, the Indy franchise had to be expanded to computer games. Those who’d seen the movie just had to get the games as well. Over twenty years have passed since Raiders of the Lost Ark, and we’ve seen a few Indy games, and incidentally; Indiana Jones 4: Fate of Atlantis happens to be one of my favorite games of all time. But today we’ll take a look at the latest Indiana Jones game, this time involving the tomb of an emperor.
The story this time around isn’t extremely original, but it is told in a very familiar way that will surely please fans of the movies. After an adventure, Indy returns to his teaching position and it doesn’t take long until a mysterious pair, going by the name of Mei Ying and Marshal Kai, contact him. The two people tell you that a very important item is located inside the Emperor’s Tomb; a tomb that many simply think of as a legend or non-existent. It does however exist, but requires various pieces of a “lock” to open. The Hitler regime is naturally also interested in this item, so you will not be alone on your quests.
The game itself mixed platform, action, and some of adventure genres. Allowing you to control Indy in a third-person view, you’ll climb and jump quite a bit, but you’ll also get into fistfights and shootouts with plenty of baddies. The game’s action aspects are the most interesting because unlike many other games, things look, sound, and feel really satisfying. You even have the option of picking up or destroying objects such as chairs, bottles, brooms, pipes, table-feet etc, and to use them to your advantage in a fight. One of the things which made the fistfights particularly satisfying, especially in the Xbox version, was the use of the rumble feature. You literally felt the pain when Indy got smacked around by a group of vile Egyptians, but you also smiled even more when you found a pipe and ended up beating the crap out of those who’d attacked you earlier. For PC gamers, unless you have a game pad with the rumble feature, you won’t feel much of the power of Indy’s blows using the keyboard, but it’s still quite fun.
When it comes to actual weapons, there aren’t many adventurers that use a whip as often as Indiana Jones, and in this game it also has some pretty fun uses. When facing one or more foes you can use it to hold them back, you can use it to relieve them of their weapons, directly attack them, or even use it to swing across pitfalls and chasms. Indy isn’t afraid to use firearms, so even though this game takes place in 1935 you’ll be able to pick up and use revolvers, shotguns, semi-automatic weapons, grenades, and more. Ammo is usually sparse, so the game really encourages close combat using fists or whatever you happen to be carrying. In fact, I like the fistfights so much that just shooting people isn’t much fun in comparison. When facing crowds of angry mustached Germans it’s usually best to find a gun, but luckily most of the enemies come alone or in small groups.
The game doesn’t focus entirely on combat though. The levels are filled with puzzles of varying difficulty that usually involve using your whip to swing from chandeliers or other fixtures, climbing all kinds of obstacles, jumping from platform to platform, moving things around, pulling levers, and shimmying across chasms. However, the level designs don’t necessarily feel historically accurate. The fact that there are just too many obstacles with ropes that conveniently hang just where you need them makes most of the levels feel artificially designed for the gamer, instead of, for instance, the people who actually “built” everything 1000’s of years ago. Most people won’t buy this game because of its historical accuracy though, so whether the levels are fun or not is essentially what matters. I can tell you that in my opinion the levels rank fairly high on the fun-meter. You do have a few areas that are somewhat annoying, but for me, the action sequences make up for it by a long shot. As you progress in the game your enemies grow stronger and more resilient to Indy’s fists, but you’ll also get better weapons. The storyline also progresses nicely as you play along, with some surprises as well as some things that aren’t too hard to guess.
Graphically the game does a decent job of making the player feel as if they are actually in a dark and damp temple, on the rooftops of some huge castle, or in the fiery heat of a desert. The levels are fairly varied in terms of coloring, textures, architecture etc, so just exploring a level for the sake of eye-candy is a pleasant possibility. The textures aren’t terribly sharp, but never so blurry that it’s a problem. Indy also has a nice shadow, which as usual adds to the realism. A funny thing to note is that absolutely no environmental objects cast shadows. At one point, Indy was climbing on some cages over water the only shadow you could see on the water was of Indy. We’ll likely have to wait a while until games can have that many shadows of such a high quality, but it’ll sure up the level of realism. The characters also look fairly good, with the most detail naturally put on Indy. It’s easy to recognize the face of Harrison Ford, so the artists have obviously done a very good job. It doesn’t seem like an equal amount of work was put onto making diverse villains, because each level seems to have a very small set of enemy skins, so in a way it feels like you’re fighting the same guys over and over again.
There are a number of things you’d just expect to be included when you start playing a game based on a character like Indiana Jones. The theme music is one of these. The musical score obviously consists of the theme, but also variations of it, and basically music fitting the game pretty well. There score is derivative of the movies scores and helps to make it feel more like a movie than a game at points. I would’ve liked more of the music to have been composed with the environments in mind to help immerse you into the game even more while running around in temples and whatnot. The sound effects are standard for a game of the type but are fairly satisfactory. The stereo mixing is done well and it sounds like they’ve actually gotten Harrison Ford to do the voice acting for the main character. This combined with the authentic sounds of weapons such as the 1940’s Lugar pistols help to pull the overall sound to just above average.
Indiana Jones doesn’t push the bar much in terms of graphics, sounds, controls or lack of bugs. It does take a little bit of playing until you can appreciate the finer points of the game, or even manage the camera properly. But I can assure you that if give the game a go you’ll find an entertaining story involving a lot of fistfights, big explosions, beautiful women, and plenty of evil goons to trash. If you don’t have a game pad with a rumble feature, I recommend you to either get one or to purchase the XBOX version of this game because it really makes the game a lot more fun. However, even without a game pad, this is a solid title that will entertain fans of the series as well as those who have never seen even one of the movies. All this just as George Lucas, Stephan Spielberg, and Harrison Ford have announced plans for a fourth movie installment for the series.