PUBLISHER: Bizarre Creations
DEVELOPER: Bizarre Creations
DATE RELEASED: November 22nd, 2005
NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 1
XBOX SYSTEM LINK: no
XBOX LIVE COMPATIBLE: yes
HDTV Support: 1080i
5.1 Surround Sound: No
GENRE: Xbox Live Arcade/Action
PLATFORM: Xbox 360
ESRB: E (Everyone)
Retail Price: 400 MS Points (~$5 US)
Any Fan of The Project Gotham Racing series should be familiar with Geometry Wars. In Project Gotham Racing 2 Bizarre Creations added a mini game to the game's Showroom in the form of a classic arcade shooter you could walk up to and play. "Geometry Wars" was an instant classic. The game was so popular in fact that with Project Gotham Racing 3 Bizarre Creations has released a sequel to the original Geometry Wars (now dubbed "Geometry Wars: Retro"), "Geometry Wars: Evolved". If you have a copy of Project Gotham Racing 3 you can find both the "Retro" and "Evolved" versions of the arcade machines in any of the game's Garages. The Evolved version is only a demo however and will limit your play time to 4 minutes. The demo version also will not grant you any Achievement points outside of the "Arcade Player" Achievement in Project Gotham Racing 3. The demo can also be downloaded through the Xbox Live Marketplace and the full version can also be purchased the same way for a very cheap 400 MS Points (Approx: $5 US).
Even if you own Project Gotham Racing 3 and have no intent on purchasing the full version of Geometry Wars I would recommend downloading the demo as you will be able to play it off of your Xbox 360 Hard Drive or Memory Unit at any time. Though I was a bit disappointed that Project Gotham Racing 3 did not include the full version of Geometry Wars, I was further disappointed that it offered no way to "install" the demo to your console's storage device from the game disc; forcing you to download it. But those are really problems with Project Gotham Racing 3 rather then Geometry Wars. In the Xbox Live Marketplace it's listed as "Geometry Wars Retro Evolved" and that will give you both the Retro and the Evolved version of the game. The Retro version comes completely unlocked with the demo download.
For those of you who aren't familiar with the game it feels and plays like finely tuned sequel to the arcade classic Asteroids. From the moment the game loads, the Bizarre Creations logo, the menu, and of course the actual games are all displayed as if on a classic vector arcade monitor. You play as a small geometric shape that can fly around and shoot other small geometric shapes. The arena is a finite sized rectangle which you can move around in using the left stick to determine the direction you move and using the right stick to shoot in a particular direction (similar to games like Robotron or Smash TV) pulling either of the triggers will release a "bomb" in the form of a circular ripple that emanates from your ship destroying anything in it's visible path.
Before I get too far into the review it's important to keep in mind that this game isn't trying to be a new and advanced title. The goals set by the developers are quite clearly to make a game in the CLASSIC arcade style. I feel it's always important to judge games for what they are, so keep that in mind as you read through this.
Being done in the classic arcade style Geometry Wars prides itself on a less is more mentality. The game is so simplistic that it becomes endless in game play and replay possibilities. Literally there is no end to the game (at least none that has been found) it simply continues on indefinitely until the player dies. Much like a classic arcade game there is no real goal outside of getting the highest score possible.
The graphics of the Evolved version of the game are a vast improvement over the Retro version. The Evolved version is simply put, beautiful. Even those who don't like this genre of game will find themselves mesmerized in awe watching others play. The Evolved version of the game also natively supports resolutions up to 1080i. The colors are vivid and the game plays incredibly smooth. Yet for all the graphical beauty it's done in a style as if the game was running on a classic vector based arcade machine. Little touches like the Bizarre Creations logo being re-done in simple green lines immerses you in the experience from the moment the game loads. Though I highly doubt the evolved version of the game could actually play through an old vector monitor it gives the game an old school arcade feel.
Sound in the Evolved version is fantastic as well. Each enemy has a unique spawn sound. Simple enough to have been potentially generated from a classic arcade game yet rich and full enough to not be as harsh on the ears as many of the beeps and clicks of actual classic arcade machines. Each spawn sound is unique enough that the player is instantly alerted that a specific enemy has entered the arena, even if the player can't yet see said enemy. Sounds of the explosions and projectiles are equally as distinct and classic in nature.
In terms of music the game has 2 songs: one very mellow song that plays while in the menu and another very intense song that plays during game play. While there is only one song it's very distinct and suiting for the game. If you don't enjoy it you have the option of using a custom soundtrack. While the music is a little too good to have been from a classic arcade game it is reminiscent of old MIDI based video game music.
The game doesn't support surround sound; actually, I believe all of the audio is possibly MONO, though I could be wrong. Considering the nature of the game I'm not quite sure if I'd consider that a downfall or a feature. Classic arcade machines certainly didn't have surround sound; then again they didn't have Hi-Definition graphics either.
The game play is where Geometry Wars Shines. Geometry Wars is the ultimate twitch arcade player's dream come true. The Analog sticks provide dead accurate control and the player receives immediate feedback through the smooth vector-esque graphics. Enemies "pop" assuredly when met with your projectiles and I've never once seen the game so much as flinch, it plays as rock solid as the graphics are smooth and simple. One key feature is that once the game has ended the player can quickly and easily jump right back into a new game with only a few button presses and no loading time. Also considering the immense amount of items on the screen at once the developers opted to disable the “Achievement Unlocked” notices, holding them until the end of the game so they that do not distract you while playing. Though there are still sound queues that alert you to achievements having been reached.
One thing that was added to the game mechanics since the Retro version is the size of the arena. In the Retro version the entire arena could be seen at all times. In the Evolved version the arena is slightly larger than the visible area. At first it would seem to make the game more difficult as you can no longer see everything on the screen at once however after playing for a while you will realize that you don't need to see the entire arena with the audio queues as distinct as they are. Actually it seems to make the game a bit easier, the larger arena coupled with HD graphics give a much more open feel to the game where the Retro version was almost claustrophobic. Also it makes the use of bombs more interesting as well as bombs only destroy the things visible to the player; meaning baddies in the arena, but off screen, will survive.
While the Retro version of Geometry Wars that came with Project Gotham Racing 2 was fun to play, seeing as the game had no end the only motivation was to get a higher score. How much of a higher score was almost arbitrary, you could compete against your own score or those on Xbox Live, but the scores on the Xbox Live Leaderboards were so lofty they were almost unobtainable for the typical gamer. This changes somewhat with the addition of Xbox 360 Achievements. Like most Xbox Live Arcade games Geometry Wars has a potential of 200 total points that can be earned to add to your Gamer Score. On par with Bizarre Creation's other Xbox 360 release the points are extremely difficult to actually earn. It does add some very important aspects to the game though. With only a Leaderboard you don't have any solid goals. Trying to progress in the game would be like running uphill against the entire human race. How do you judge your progress? The Achievements bring solid goals for the player to accomplish. Reach X level of points, Reach X level of points without using a life, etc. In addition to straight point based accomplishments the game has a few other interesting achievements. It has an achievement for collecting a certain number of lives, forcing the player to play as hard as possible without dying; it has an achievement for collecting a certain number of bombs, forcing the player to play as hard as possible without using a single bomb. Probably the most interesting is the "Pacifism" achievement which requires the player to survive for 60 seconds without firing a single shot. While these achievements are interesting I wish there were more of them. More than half of the achievements are score based. It would have been nice to see a few levels of the Pacifism achievement, perhaps additional achievements of 2 minutes and 3 minutes etc. I would have liked to see something like an immobility achievement where to earn it the player could shoot but not move for a certain period of time. And while there are goals to reach X multiplier or X number of lives or bombs There is only one for each of those and they are so difficult that I don't see very many actually accomplishing them. It would have been nice to see one or two easier variations of those as well.
While the game doesn't have any typical multiplayer modes at first glance you wouldn't expect it to. If this were an actual arcade game it would be turn based anyway. Even still they could have added a "pass the controller" type multiplayer to add to the classic arcade experience where it simply compares scores for that round. I'm also a bit disappointed that there was no addition of a timer. A simple timer could have added enormous amounts of game play elements and replay value along with time based achievements such as "survive for X amount of time" or "earn X points in under X time". It would have also lent itself to a time attack mode where the player simply attempted to reach the most amount of points within the time limit. I think this all could have been done without distracting from the games simplistic classic arcade nature. Especially when considering the Retro version stands as the solid classic version. How evolved is "Evolved" in terms of game play outside of a larger arena? Perhaps these things will be added in the next rendition of the game, sure to be released alongside Project Gotham Racing 4.
In a direct comparison of the Retro version and the Evolved version obvious improvements in graphics and sound have been made. The addition of the Xbox 360 Achievements and the larger playing area add a great deal of replay value and game play to Geometry Wars. But they could have added even a turn based multiplayer some more creative achievements or added some additional game play elements with the inclusion of a timer. Even still, the game stands tall as easily one of the best Xbox Live Arcade games available and at only $5 for both the Retro and Evolved versions it's definitely an enormous value for any classic arcade fan. If nothing else the Geometry Wars series reminds those classic arcade fans that the heart and soul of gaming is still alive and kicking; and that good games can still be made without being a 3D succubus or using every last function of a new controller.
Judging both versions as a single game I give Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved a 9.0/10
Edited by twistedsymphony, 29 December 2005 - 03:00 PM.