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Written by Silver Sorrow   
Monday, 19 February 2007 18:00

TITLE: SiN Episodes: Emergence
ALTERNATE TITLE: Big Ess, Little Eye, Big Enn. Episodes. Episodic Content, That Is. Big money. Cool Breeze.
DEVELOPER: Ritual Entertainment
PUBLISHER: Valve Software


Damn. Reruns again. Let's check the listings...

Hope & Faith
Series/Comedy, 30 Mins.

"This Little Piggy Went AAARRRGH!" Episode #199818.
Hope and Faith get into another wacky adventure, this time with the Ohio Mafia, who tie Faith to a chair and cut off her toes with a pair of hedge clippers.

Cast: Kelly Ripa, Faith Ford, Ted McGinley, Megan Fox, a few others not worth naming. Did I mention MEGAN FOX? I'll say it again: Megan Fox.

Up until this release, I had never played the original Sin. Oh, sure, when the demo came out, I played that...and got my stupid self killed in the bank, thanks to the brain-dead, over-healthed AI. (Bitter? Me? Naaaaah.) I don't recall being too happy about it, although I *do* remember thinking that raining death and destruction down upon targets while in the chopper was "not bad." But then HL came out, and I forgot all about it. It blipped across my screen several years ago when I saw the box on the same shelf as NOLF, but I soon forgot about it. Again. (Note to budding marketers: babe in jumpsuit trumps guy with gun every single time.)

Fast forward to last week (or whenever...it was last August, I think), when I finally opened my DVD copy of Sin Episodes. Hands trembling from heat exhaustion, I struggled with the various tapes, shrinkwraps, and explosive devices keeping my product safe from the felonious fingers of Hong Kong pirates. Foiled, they milled their junks around my mailbox in a surly manner, then sailed away.

[A side note: yes, I bought a hard copy. I could have had it downloaded, installed and running within...uh...hours...of purchase via Steam, but I like having an actual piece of material to call my own. And just in case I hate the game and feel the need to snap the CD in half, this gives me the perfect chance to send a shard of plastic directly into my eyeball.]

The DVD case was curious. A white background, a stylized logo, a redhead with an assault rifle and Britney Spears' fashion sense (in a good way; not the white-trash-livin'-in-a-trailer-goin'-to-7-11-to-buy-myself-some-diapers-and-a-microwave-burrito rut she's currently inhabiting), and the huge, faded face of John Blade behind her. But on the back, pink moon over the mountains! Elexis Sinclaire dominating several murky screenshots with her twin casabas of fun and joy! Yay, boobies! So I popped that shiny frickin' thing in the drive and got to installing.

It's been a while since HL2's release, and Steam and I have finally come to a wary understanding of each other: we realize the benefits that we derive from our acquaintance, yet we both lament the fact that the other exists. Still, you can't beat the convenience of the automatic update, even though it may screw up everything you know and love, at least until they fix the fix that was supposed to fix the fixes that weren't fixed right in the first place. In summary, Steam has its vapor-y little fingers in the installation. To quote Lou Costello, "Nothing matters anymore."

Before confounding you far more than is my intent, I should probably mention that Sin Episodes is bundled with the original Sin, which...hey! I made an offhand ecclesiastical remark that involves a stupid man-made concept! Yay me! Who's your Savior, huh? YEAH! Jump back, martyr myself!

So! I played the first game. Yeeks.


You are Col. John Blade, leader of Hardcorps, a locally owned and operated mercantile business with an eye towards the future, with a focus on exporting rare textiles from...the...or...um...oh, hell. It doesn't really matter. I didn't even read the manual and I got along okay, although I never understood what all those little icons in my inventory meant.

The Rest Of It
I started out in the training level. Couldn't hurt, right? Right. Sort of. This was probably the most boring training level I've ever played in any game. And here I discovered a serious problem: aiming. Pinpoint aiming was impossible as the various shooting ranges testified, unless I twitched *exactly* on-target. Response was a little weird, and screwing around with the sensitivity didn't help too much; either it was slightly too fast or slightly too sluggish. I went with sluggish...either way, I don't think it would have mattered as I missed a lot anyway. They didn't have the optical mouse in mind when developing this game, I suppose.

Fine. I'll just stick with automatic weapons and walk the rounds into them, I thought.

So, playing the game...well. With all due respect to those who loved Sin, it was...okay. I think of it as being either a mediocre Quake mod or a less-than-mediocre Quake II mod, depending on your tolerance for ass-tastic graphics. The real fun is how a game plays, right? Of course! And it plays...okay. Not too bad. Sort of awful, really.

Nothing I say after this point will endear me to those who loved Sin. Sorry, but that's how it's gotta be. I cannot honestly judge a game using older technology, because it is out of context. It needs to be judged solely on its own merits without preconceptions...and that's too hard, so I'll just say what I think:

The AI is completely stupid, although how they would run in place as you emptied clip after clip into them was charming, in a way. The gameplay was repetitive and boring, but the game itself was mercifully short. Respawning AI is in evidence, which is such a throwback to the 1990's that I almost expected them to torture me with Alanis Morrissette and Third Eye Blind. There are some bright points here and there, but the parts I enjoyed most were anything involving Elexis, the end movie, and the dialog between Blade and J.C. as the credits rolled.

That is to say, it's like when that guy asks the other guy what he thought of his song. The other guy says, "the part at the end." The first guy asks, "you mean where I--" and the other guy says, "no, the part WHEN IT ENDED."

With the first game thankfully out of the way, I could then focus on the new installment.

Disclaimer: I know, I know...drag me to a stake and set me alight for even daring to question Sin. But you have to admit one thing: if you played the games you revered back then today, for the first time, you wouldn't get that dreamy look in your eye. Memory as it relates to experience is faulty. For example: people who reminisce about their high school days often forget what a stupid goddamn cesspit high school actually was. As I've said before, nostalgia sucks.

Sin Episodes: Emergence

Beats the hell out of me.

What's Left?
Ooooookay. It opens with a pair of Partons right in my face; never before has a game started so well. (There may be *mainstream* precedent; discuss it in the forums. Be good. Use metaphors. Wear black leather and a purple boa. Now SPANK that booty! Yeah...) Then some dude's face is in the picture and it sort of ruins it for me. It's like those "films" where they keep switching between the woman's face and the dude's face. I don't want to see HIM. Only [gay slur of your choice HERE] want to see the dude's face. This is why I have vowed only to invest in "films" with all-female casts.

http://starfoxweb.com/rimage/SinEp1/sinSE002_250.jpg http://starfoxweb.com/rimage/SinEp1/sinSE002a_250.jpg

Anyway, it turns out that Blade has been captured and has just been injected with...something. He doesn't know, and no one's telling. Well, things go nuts about that point. Elexis and the killjoy, Radek (who strikes me as being an oily European pimp...not that I've met many of those), take off and Jessica** Cannon -- your underling (oh my god yes under the desk behind the sofa in the dark in the shower wash me clean I'm such a dirty little boy) -- runs in and rescues you from the shame of looking at gigantic breasts. You can look at hers, but they just aren't the same. Especially since they're fully-clothed and not as...well...never mind. Let's not compare apples and watermelons.
[** This is totally off-subject, but every time I hear the name "Jessica," I hear that Allman Brothers song IN MY HEAD. Make it STOP.]


At some point, Blade has some sort of hallucination/vision of Elexis knee-deep in water wearing a red bikini cocking her ass at him then she turned around and I blacked out. Fortunately, I collapsed on my F5 key and you can see for yourself. In fact, that scene makes up most of the screenshots you see here, which speaks volumes about both myself *and* the developers.


[An imagined -- yet quite possible -- ultimatum from the project lead: "If I'm not poppin' a chubby within 5 minutes of starting this thing up, none of you are ever seeing your families alive again!"]

This scene alone is worth the price of admission, and really...why go on with an in-depth review? This is clearly the basis of the entire game: Elexis Sinclaire and the intense work that went into making her more interesting than a real woman. People bought Unreal 2 for Aida (they sure as hell didn't buy it for the long-lasting gameplay), and middle-aged men dropped a few bucks on a copy of Britney's Dance Beat. (Bob Dole is rumored to have seventeen thousand copies, all of them stuck together.) So we can conclude that the hotter the babe, the more the thing sells. Alyx? Hot. HL2 sold more copies than Stephen King's To Hell With So-Called "Literature"; Let's Make Some Money! Garrett? Not a [female] babe. The Thief series remains a cult favorite, dear to women hot for Stephen Russell's voice and guys who favor immersive gameplay over industrial-size gazabadingas. Those freaks.

An exception to this exists: Oblivion. Sure, you could *make* your character hot, but it takes time and a little talent with the face sliders. Naked, however...well, they wear underwear. But if you have an internet connection, you can see some naked ladies. And they're...kind of ugly. In fact, they look like boys. And I'm not into that. So thank god for the modding community, who are working around the clock on gigantic, pneumatic waist-overhangs that would make that Pamela Anderson freakshow look like an eight year old Ethiopian boy.

Discussion Questions:

1. Why an Ethiopian boy?

2. Why not an Azerbaijani boy? Or even a particularly emaciated Muppet?

3. Does the author's obviously crumbling sanity affect his conclusions?

4. And what about Scarecrow's brain?

http://starfoxweb.com/rimage/SinEp1/sinSE005_250.jpg http://starfoxweb.com/rimage/SinEp1/sinSE006_250.jpg

Where was I? Oh, yes: why continue the review when I've discovered the main thrust (bwa-hahahahahaa...huh??) of the game? Because Starfox threatened to kill me if I didn't get off my stupid lazy ass and review something oher than my own navel. Of course he'll deny ever saying so...but I have moments of pure psychic power, and I feel definite consternation from the direction of France.

So let's analyze the game beyond the HUGE BOUNCING BREASTS (which are a religion worthy of human sacrifice) and focus on what's really important, at least to eunuchs and homosexuals: gameplay.

I know, I know: gameplay means absolutely nothing to most gamers; the people who value looks over substance and say any game over one month old looks "dated". (They shall be buried with their fake plastic lightsabers driven through their hearts.) Take Crysis, for example. You know and I know that it's going to play like frozen dog excrement, but it's almost photorealistic! It's gotta be a great game, right? Exactly.

However, I will not be paying for a completely new system and suffering through a major OS change. Truth be told, the only thing major about Vista is the fact that it's going to be a major pain in the ass. I will instead be spending my money on food and possibly a new shirt when I eventually pit this one out. You Vista-buying freaks will be broke, hungry, and thoroughly screwed in a very bad way. Just to play one or two games. And I will laugh at you. Just like I'm laughing at you now. Ha. Ha. Ha.

But back to those of you who are not complete morons. Have you played any HL2 mods? This is exactly what this game feels like: a really good HL2 mod with more jiggling breasts than you can shake a phallic symbol at. Gameplay, though...huh. The system is supposed to be some sort of fancy-schmancy hoity-toity aren't-we-grand scaleable skill thing, which...I don't know. Whatever happened to just putting bad guys in a level, number and type based on difficulty, then letting the player go nuts? If you make a lot of headshots, they provide as an example, the bad guys will be wearing helmets later on. So they learn. Where's the fun in that, I ask? Fun is when the bad guys, who never learn, keep poking their heads out to see if you committed suicide or something, only to have them blown off. THAT is fun, and to meddle with canon is to engage in impudent vainglorious folly. Thy sins shall be corrected forthwith at the pillory.

http://starfoxweb.com/rimage/SinEp1/sinSE007_250.jpg http://starfoxweb.com/rimage/SinEp1/sinSE008_250.jpg

Anyway, I soon noticed that I was entertaining -- ballistically -- hordes of bad guys. Wave after wave of them would come out of inaccessible doors, etc...and I wondered what idiot decided to add respawning AI to this game? It's unknown whose decision it was, but it was clearly uncluttered by the ravages of intelligence. This isn't the 20th century anymore, people. Certainly you can think of a better way to do things.

Hell, who am I kidding? This is the generation that gave us reality shows and the XBox. Clearly, we are headed straight for the darkness as hellhounds madly hump our shins.

One entertaining feature of the first game was the conversational babbling 'twixt badass and hacker. However, this time around Blade doesn't say too much, even when people are yelling at him or insulting him, whatever. You couldn't shut the guy up in the original game, but he's almost Freeman-like in his taciturnity here. He'll say something when he's contacted by either J.C. or Jessica, but that's pretty much it. He rarely even responds to their comments, either. That's what made the original at least marginally interesting for me, Blade's ongoing patter with J.C. Even J.C. seems more subdued this time around. I have no idea why. I have no idea about a lot of things, it's true, but I hate to keep adding to the list, you know?

Speaking of marginally interesting, when Jessica starts on a tirade about Radek and what a terrible person he can be, I almost ate a grenade. "Not ANOTHER female with baggage!!?" I shouted, lapsing into a seizure.

Near the end of the game, you have to take the elevator and ride up to the roof of Sin's corporate offices; however, about halfway up the elevator gets stuck and you're required to run around outside the building on the ledges to get there. Now, this sequence is either an extremely transparent metaphor for erectile dysfunction (read: the "elevator" cannot make it all the way up the shaft, so...), or...or something much, much worse. I'm counting on worse.

Once there, you'll suffer through this and that, and finally the ubiquitous boss monster battle. Yawn. I'm not yawning because it's easy and boring, no...I'm just tired of being processed through the Gameplay Cliche Machine yet again. A boss monster. Wow.

In one of the standard variations of these boring little tributes to the era of Gameplay Of Yesteryear, the ultimate battle is foreshadowed by a battle against a much weaker version of the last fight. This is true in this case. It's further augmented by another boss monster, which is also standard procedure. You wonder if accountants are designing the games these days.

I'm sorry for being jaded/cynical/bored, but COME ON. I'd rather chew off my own left testicle than play another game with boss monster battles disguised as innovative gameplay. It's the same old crap we've had to suffer since the dawn of gaming, and nothing has changed. You want different? You want innovation? Play the Thief series. The Looking Glass guys were brilliant. Play Half-Life 2. Valve kept you on the run, they kept things fresh, and they didn't stick you in a tiny little room with a 900 ft. eight-armed troglodyte with machine guns on each arm. (Not that this game does that, but you get the point. I hope.)

I'd *like* to talk more about the shooting and jumping and bleeding and stuff, but that's sort of beside the developers' intent, which is: Elexis' breasts, how good they look (thanks to the physics engine), and how standard-issue the gameplay really is when you get beyond the boobs. So forget it. See, I played through the thing only once. I had no motivation whatsoever to play through again, and didn't see any point in doing so.

http://starfoxweb.com/rimage/SinEp1/sinSE009_250.jpg http://starfoxweb.com/rimage/SinEp1/sinSE010_250.jpg

Okay, in short: cliffhanger, end of episode. We await the next installment (which probably won't happen) blah blah blah with something akin to baited breath. I bait mine with minnows and tarragon. Kiss me, you fool.

Sin 1: [noncommittal shrug] Enh.
Sin Episodes: It's breastakaboobical, chestakamammical, pendular globular fun! Sort of!

What am I, an Applause-O-Meter? Okay, 3.5 out of 5. Happy now?

The Grace Scale
Grace doesn't approve of my screenshots, so she's locked herself in her room until I start acting like a human being again. She has a long wait ahead of her.

Game Rated 7/10


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