Geist review

The long awaited ghost-based shooter puts the frighteners up NGC... For all the wrong reasons

Given that Gamecube hasn't really had its fair share of first person shooters, you could easily understand why we were looking forward to this.

Geist's pedigree isn't exactly the best, but after so many delays to improve the gameplay, we were pretty confident that it would at least be a decent game. And to a point it is. Kind of.

On paper Geist sounds pretty tasty. You have your standard FPS action, but the developers N-Space have added a particularly clever gimmick - this time you're a ghost, and you have all the abilities that ghosts traditionally have. So there is a large scope for some original and interesting set-pieces.

The concept sounds clever, as do all the other ideas crammed into the game. That is until you look at the way it all hangs together.

You see, Geist is patchy and wildly inconsistent. It's trying to be too many things to too many people.

One minute you're playing a generic shooter, the next you're treated to - no, teased by - some brief flashes of brilliance.

You'll be convinced things are shaping up to be pretty good, but the next thing you know, you're suffering at the hands of some of the most idiotic and downright awful game design we've ever come across.

The first thing you'll notice is that it's not the most elegant game ever produced. The textures are muddy, the lights have a white glare effect similar to Perfect Dark and the controls feel sluggish, particularly where the look/aim analogue controls are concerned.

'Still', you'll think to yourself as you're sniggering at the awkward character animation, 'it's early days, and it's certainly not the end of the world.'

Sure enough, you'll play through the first level with that optimistic 'I've played worse' attitude. You'll probably be cursing the game's refusal to let you alter the analogue sensitivity, but you'll hold firm in the belief that it'll get better when the ghost bits kick in. And it does. At first.

Following your character's 'death' very early in the game (don't worry, this isn't a spoiler), you're whisked away to a computer construct, where your disembodied soul is taught the basics of possession.

As a ghost, the game looks far more alluring, with a grainy, bleached-out effect that, while not exactly stunning, is certainly pretty enough to grab your attention.

On leaving this haven, you're also introduced to one of the secondary characters - the ghost of a young girl called Gigi.

She then goes on to explain the finer points of your spectral form like slipping through gaps, possessing people and interacting with inanimate objects to scare the NPCs.

This new ability lifts your spirits as the concept promises a great deal of potential, while Gigi's character sparks curiosity about who she is and where the story might be heading.

So you keep playing. And although it doesn't take long to realise the ghost sequences are heavily scripted, the feeling of mischief, that you're actually meddling in the affairs of the staff at a military complex, is conveyed pretty well.

It's unfortunate that the ghost aspect of the game isn't explored further, because Geist is really at its best when it's not trying to be a first person shooter.

There are many segments in the game that revolve around possessing numerous people or objects, solving puzzles and completing objectives with characters that don't wield a weapon. In one sequence, for example, you have to clear an entire canteen of guards by poisoning their food.

On other occasions you have to use animal hosts to your advantage. You can possess a rat to move through small tunnels, for example, or take over a dog to scare the commander of the facility.

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