Source: http://planethalflife.gamespy.com/View.php?view=Reviews.Detail&id=50Before anyone gets excited, let me make it clear that I won't be making any references to figures over a certain amount, the present state of spherical objects, or whether or not my physique is capable of receiving punishment. We've all been on YouTube, we've all seen the videos and we've collectively killed off the joke. Now that small piece of frivolity is out of the way, let's get down to the nitty gritty, the bare bones, the inert balls. I hope your body can take it, cause this review is over....ah dammit, couldn't resist myself.
Earth's Special Forces, cunningly titled to avoid possible lawsuits, is a Half-Life 1 modification based around the absurdly popular Dragonball Z. Taking the over-the-top martial arts and energy ball flinging to it's logical conclusion, the mod offers a series of battlegrounds for you to Ki Blast, Final Flash, and Kamehameha in and around until you're blue in the face. Players can take control of a number of heroes and villains from the series, including staples like Goku and Krillin along with Cell and Buu. Such a mod then stands almost entirely on it's faithfulness to its source material, and on that it can't be faulted. Self-propelled, highly improbable flight? Check. Quantum-entangling charges of energy? Check. Oversized eye-sockets and lack of noses where applicable? Check. Both in terms of graphics and gameplay, it's every fan boy's dream. Special attention has been gushed on the character models especially, with the 2D art of Akira Toriyama successfully transferred over to a 3D environment. What little in the way the original Half-Life engine provides in terms of particle effects is stretched to its limits, with some of the larger attacks like the Spirit Bomb being genuinely impressive. I defy anyone not to stop and stare the first time a fully-charged Spirit Bomb blasts them in the face. It all adds up to an experience that will send many people glazed eye for Saturday mornings spent idly staring at the television in awe.
Either Goku's holding the moon or we're in trouble...
When it comes to the actual gameplay, however, it is sadly a different story. Unlike many other Half-Life multiplayer modifications, where a new player may get trounced initially but be able to pick up some gameplay knowledge and possibly a few kills, ESF by comparison has a learning curve as steeper than a sheer cliff face. Certain concepts are easy enough to pick up, but putting them to practice, especially against seasoned players, is much harder. Thrown blasts are harmlessly blocked, Ki Blasts are cut short by an impromptu counter-attack seemingly out of nowhere, and the melee system is so unfathomable the most many can do is launch at an opponent whilst jabbing buttons and hoping for the best. The melee system in particular is perhaps the most unbalanced, especially when you consider that a simple button press can by-pass it entirely and instead turn the skirmish into some bizarre dance using the âthrowâ command. What episodes of the show I have watched contained more fist-fights than throwing, so to see this initiated every time is both disappointing from an aesthetic point of view and frustrating from a gameplay perspective. What it means is that once you do manage to start mastering the undeniably tricky controls and fighting techniques you gain a definitive sense of achievement, though the road to such joy is paved with many an annoyance and low frag counts.
There are also issues in regards to the general interface scheme, perhaps most criminal of all being a lack of a lock-on system. While against multiple opponents an auto-lock-on system would prove detrimental to staying alive, attempting to keep a player in your sights requires both a monitor the size of a SUV and eyes like Superman. The levels are so large and the movement of players so quick that trying to get a decent shot at another player can be near impossible. Targeting ends up becoming a strange âWhere's Wally?â-esque exercise where you slowly creep your cursor over the landscape until it turns red. Coupled with the naturally slow movement of blasts the only time you'll ever connect a hit is either by sheer luck or if the player in question is otherwise occupied. There is a radar included which is useful, but it's range and the fact it doesn't discern the height of an opponent means that it's a minor help at best. Such problems serve only to exacerbate the already difficult to control system, and can be a major turn-off for new players.
Having said all of that there is no denying the sheer fun that can be gained from ESF. If you're a fan of the series then it's definitely something worth persevering with, especially since there is little else on the PC or any other format that allows for multiplayer Dragonball Z fighting. If you're a casual observer or otherwise indifferent then there's perhaps less to keep you gripped here, as it's the sort of mod that requires dedication to understand its various nuances. Those who don't like the series or are scared by all this anime malarkey are advised to stay well away. Really what it comes down to is enjoying the style over the substance, with the style as flawless as you could expect, and the substance a bit of a mess under the hood. What's more unlike most online mods that aren't about counter-terrorism units there's always plenty of servers around for you play, so you'll rarely be stuck for a game. Just remember to make sure your ping isn't over eight thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine. I mean one eight thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine? That's enough for anyone to break their scouter in anger.ESF is fun, unashamedly bombastic and over-the-top, though suffers from notable gameplay issues that can prove tricky to overlook for some.