You ever shacked up with someone and absolutely hated their guts but just couldn't walk away? That's what playing P.N. 03 feels like. It's got a look, style and outright sex appeal that beats any other running-and-shooting action game out there, but is just so damn disappointing once you start looking for any depth.
From the moment the impossibly attractive leading lady Vanessa Schneider dances - literally - through her first search-and-destroy mission, the action never changes. Guide Vanessa through room after sterile room, blowing robots into scrap while prancing around incoming missiles and laser blasts.
In theory, Vanessa is supposed to be a slinky, top-level bounty hunter who can dodge bullets. She sure looks like she can, yet she handles like a tank. Sure, you can side step, leap and twirl away from projectiles, but how about being able to run and shoot at the same time, guys?
So there you have it. Run through corridors of identical-looking space stations, destroy power supplies and collect some cash. The more you play, the more you'll wish Vanessa wasn't trapped in such a shoddy game. Her suit is upgradeable (and available in a rainbow of colors), but to fetch enough bank for the power-up, you have to run through randomly generated (yet often repeating) trial missions in between the main story missions. They're repetitive as hell and really strain what little fun there is to have. Think about it - a space station the size of a small city and you're stuck roaming the same 10 rooms.
But for some of us, the stingy, awkward control and bland rooms aren't enough to keep our minds off Vanessa. Her habitual dancing and gyrating to the ever-present techno music is eyeball alcohol, and even if the visuals are simple, they do convey a bleak, machine-ruled future that operates in terms of black and white. It's a simple but effective style that goes hand in hand with the game's straightforward but workable gameplay. Or maybe we're just reaching really, really far to say something nice about a pretty girl.
Who cares if the game is shallow? That's the one human characteristic that glares through all the cold, calculating metal. In fact, it's shallowness that lets us fully appreciate Vanessa as one of the hottest heroines around. The game may be a clunky bastard to control, but as long as we're getting an eyeful of Vanessa and her many wardrobe changes, it can't be all bad. Unless, of course, you prefer ogling the bulk and sinew of the male of the species. There's not much here for you.
As you've probably guessed by now, this is a tragic case of style over substance. Even feasting on eye candy has its limits. There doesn't always have to be a reason to blow up a base, or to shoot first and never ask any questions, but with a compelling story, some variety and decent control, this could have been the next big franchise.