|When Genetic Species arrived way back in the time when Vulcan still were supporting the Amiga, it did not quite get the reception it should have had. The main reason for this was that a major Amiga magazine, which shall remain unnamed, managed to print a review of a quality that continues to astound me today. The reviewer, who shall also remain unnamed, had obviously not bothered to actually do any research (reading the manual, playing the game, that sort of stuff) before he wrote the review. The result was a review that contained several errors and ommissions, and a far too low score. For those of you who were put off by that review, please read on, and get the opinion of a gamer who actually bothers to check out games before ditching them.
The first impressions
Like most Amiga games today, Genetic Species arrived in a single CD case, with no printed manual. This is always a bit of a letdown, but as long as the instructions on the CD are as good as in GS, I can live with it. The extensive manual covers most aspects of the game, and it does so in 16 different languages. Yep, that's right, 16 languages, and in several different formats, too. All in all, the GS CD contains more than 8 megabytes-worth of manual.
Installation of the game is not quite as trouble free as one would like it to be, and this is in fact one of Genetic Species' weakest points. You will have to install RTGMaster to use it. As this is included on the CD, you wouldn't expect it to be much of a problem, but it is. I remember very well the requestor insisting that I was missing a file, when I knew that I had installed everything many times. In the end I managed to overcome the problems, but it took a lot of trying, failing and cursing before I got that far. Things didn't get better when I got a graphics card either, and in fact I had to set up the game once more. In spite of all the trouble, I still haven't quite figured out how Genetic Species' RTG system works, and this lack of user-friendliness certainly lowers the game's "technical implementation" score.
After setting up the game, the next thing I saw was the impressive 200 mb intro animation, and some really good looking credit screens. There is no doubt that Marble Eyes went out of their way to make the presentation of the game as good as possible, and they succeded gloriously.
Telling the story
Unlike most games of its type, Genetic Species has a real story. You are not just running around trying to kill as much as possible. Genetic Species lets you take control of a so-called "Bioshifter". The Bioshifter is a high-tech probe capable of taking control of living creatures as well as robots, by linking into their neural systems. You are working for the CFA (Counter Force Alliance), whose foremost concern is to make life more difficult for the ruthless corporations that are now dominating the world. For years now, the CFA have been waiting for a chance to reinstall democracy in the world, by defeating the corporations. As the game starts, it could seem that the time has come. Corporate bases have been attacked by an unknown force, and a Bioshifter has been sent to the Cantex Supply Station to investigate. It is your job to control this Bioshifter. Your first task is to make it to the station's command centre. Further instructions will follow...
The intro and manual are of course a bit more extensive when explaining the storyline, and it is good to see a 3d shooter paying so much attention to a proper story. The instructions that you get on the screen make sense, and you get a better feeling of realism than in other similar games. Even saving the game has a proper explaination. You can save your position when you find a another Bioshifter pod. You then pick it up, and upload its position to the CFA headquarters. That way, you will be able to continue from that position, when your first probe is destroyed. Touches such as these, showing attention to detail, gives a feeling that a lot of time has gone into the design of the game.
Twists and touches
Genetic Species is quite unique, and can by no means be described as "just another Doom-clone". The progressing storyline is one of the features that makes Genetic Species stand apart, but the Bioshifter probe is a far more important one. At any time in the game, you can launch a "portable probe device", abbrieviated "PPD". You will then take control of the probe in its high speed flight, that ends after a given number of seconds, or when the probe hits an obstruction. If that obstruction happens to be a stunned enemy, the Bioshifter will leave it's former host, and take over the body of the stunned enemy instead. This will cause the former host to die. On many missions, you will have to take over certain enemies in order to achieve the objective, as different units can handle different weapons, and have different security clearances throughout the bases.
Another nice touch is the way the in-game map works. The map is toggled on and off with the caps-lock key. If caps-lock is on, there will be a nice, semi-transparent map in the upper left corner of the screen. Pressing the + and - keys will cause it to slide further into, or out of, the screen. This is intuitive, and very visually pleasing. Besides, for some reason, it feels good to see a light being lit on the keyboard when I turn on the map. Don't ask me why...
Earlier I criticized the GS engine because it was so difficult to get it to work. If you scroll to the bottom of this page, you will probably notice that, in spite of this, I haven't given it a very low score for technical implementation. The reason is that the engine, once you get it running, is very impressive. Smoke, fog, heat distortion and lightening effects are all working at good speeds, even on AGA/030 systems. The psychedelic probe flight looks terrific as well. One of the reasons for the speed of the engine, is that Genetic Species isn't quite as 3d as, for example, Quake. You can't go up and down. Everything appears to be on the same level, and you can't even jump or duck. Even when you take this into consideration, the engine still is very impressive, and the great overall design makes up for the possibilities that the engine lacks.
More on presentation
I have mentioned the great intro and the nice engine, but it should also be made clear that Genetic Species is more than a technical showoff. The graphics look great mainly because they are very well drawn, not because of the advanced engine. Marble Eyes have managed to make the levels seem both dark and colourful at the same time. The graphics are very varied, and you would need a very bad sense of direction to get lost, even without the map.
The sound of the game is great. High quality samples are used for all effects. The music is simply tremendous, putting you in just the right mood. In fact, Genetic Species won the "Amiga Nutta Best Sound Award 1998". I concur fully with the choice of Genetic Species for this award. Foundation comes very close to beating Genetic Species on the music side of things, but the effects are not as good. In my opinion, we'll have to go back to 1997 and onEscapee to find a game with better overall sound.
...and we've got a winner!
Genetic Species is easily the best game of its type for the Amiga today. When a Warp3d enhanced version of Quake is available, I might want to change this statement, but as for now, it stands. One of the things that makes Genetic Species stand apart, is that it is one of the few games that has managed to give me a real adrenalin kick. This happened while I was running like mad through dark corridors, navigating partly using the map, trying to get out before a reactor blew up. When I made it, I was exhausted. Very few games offer this kind of excitement. Genetic Species does. Buy it.