10th Apr 2009 | 3,452 views
Back in 2006 when at E3 Disaster: Day of Crisis was first announced for Nintendo’s Wii console there was little to no info released about the game. We were told it involved a battle against a special forces unit threatening a nuclear attack, all to the backdrop of America being under attack from various natural disasters. Fast forward two years and the game is released with almost no new info than what we were first told. Is developer Monolith Soft’s first Wii outing as epic as it sounded in 06? Let us find out.
You take control of Raymond Bryce, or just Ray is everyone calls him, an ex-marine turned International Rescue Team member turned pencil pusher after a bad incident. Lisa, the sister of his late best friend has been kidnapped along with a professor by a special forces team named SURGE. It is up to Ray to rescue Lisa and stop SURGE, not to mention saving everyone he can from a wave of natural disasters including earthquakes, tsunami, volcanoes, hurricanes and many more. So not much has changed from what we were told
There is more to the plot than this but I wouldn’t want to spoil anything. The story is told through various cut scenes throughout the game, the acting is cheesy but the scenes are of good quality, especially during the action sequences. I cannot find any real fault with them.
Disaster’s gameplay is a mix of 3 game styles, a third person adventure, an on-rails light gun shooter and a driving game. More often then not when a game tries to include so many mixed genres they conflict and end up doing more to detract from a game than improve it. Disaster however manages to mix up the different gameplay elements in way that blends smoothly.
One moment you could be running through a city street escaping a natural disaster when you are attacked by some SURGE members and the game switches to a on-rails shooter, once you defeat your opponents you are switched back to third person adventuring and you may have to get into a car, and that is when then the driving stage starts. During the early ‘learner’ stages of the game these switches happen far too often and only last briefly, as little as 30 seconds apart sometimes, but a few levels into the game and the different sections begin to last a lot longer and become have a much more solid flow to them.
By far the better of the three styles is the on-rails shooting. A duck and cover system is used, the player leaning out/standing up when he wants to attack and then hiding again to give time to reload via shaking the nun chuck or to avoid enemy fire. Rather than constant shooting that many light gun games focus on Disaster is more focused on timing of attacks and precision aiming, as well as picking selective targets first. As an enemy is about to fire an orange crosshair will appear on his gun, turning red once he begins to fire, different crosshairs allow the player to clearly see who has what weapon as well as get a warning when he is about to be fired upon. Learning the timing for each encounter is vital to not getting hit yourself as is making use of explosive barrels you can find in some areas to kill groups of enemies.
You also have the option to zoom in or ‘focus’ as the game describes on targets, making it easier to hit weaker areas such as the head, doing more damage at the same time. This has some downsides to it though, you are limited for how long you can focus for, having to recharge over time between uses, as well as your own damage being increased while focused any damage you take will be increased also.
Before each level begins you get to choose various weapons to use in your gun fights, up to four weapons can be chosen to carry with you before each level with the ability to switch between them mid fight. Weapons range from pistols to machines guns to rocket launchers, all with varying abilities. Pistols have infinite ammo while for the other weapons ammo has to be found during the third person stages or in boxes you can shoot during the fighting. All of the weapons can also be upgraded with some needing to be unlocked before use, I will explain more on this this further on.
The third person adventure stages are much slower paced than any other, they mainly consist of avoiding small hazards while search for survivors to rescue. The ways to rescue hurt or injured civilians vary quite a lot and sometimes consist of a very short mini-game. You may need clean wounds by aiming the remote and spraying water on them, bandage them by circling the analogue stick, performing CPR by pressing buttons or gesturing the wiimote as shown on screen in time to heart beats and many more. They are varied enough that by the end of the game they don’t leave a feeling of repetition which is good because throughout the entire game you’ll be trying to rescue as many people as you can, won’t you?
As well as searching for survivors you will be searching for health items, ammo or survival points for upgrades, again more on this later. These are nearly always located inside boxes or metal drums or other items you need destroy by shaking the wiimote side to side causing Ray to punch and kick. There is no battling during these stages, all battles take place during the shooter sections. Occasionally a quick time event may take place, requiring you to swing the wiimote a certain way indicated on screen and sometimes you get very brief sections where you will need shake both the nun chuck and wiimote up and down to run from a wave or something equally as dangerous.
This just leaves the driving sections, not too much to tell about these. The driving sections are few and far between, but they are very solid to play. The controls require you disconnect the nun chuck and turn the wiimote on its side, you then steer by tilting it left or right much like in Mario Kart. The steering is amazingly responsive and cannot be faulted. If you own a Wii wheel this a great chance to make use of it though the driving sections aren’t common enough to be worth the purchase of one alone.
These sections are very similar in some respects usually involving being chased by some form of threat, SURGE or disaster, while avoiding various obstacles in the road. Some sections require quick reactions to avoid, for instance a large boulder may fall into what was a clear path, it is never just open roads. The game could have used more driving sections since they are pretty fun.
Throughout Disaster there is a very heavy focus on survival, and given the plot there should be. During both the shooter and adventuring stages in addition to your health bar you also get a stamina bar. The stamina bar is forever ticking downwards, if it reaches zero then your health bar will start to decrease. Everything you do causes your stamina bar to decrease, often you may need to sprint and jump through a fire to reach the other side but both the jump and sprint will increase your heart rate, which is displayed in the corner of the screen. As your heart rate increases the faster you will lose stamina, so you’ll always be making sure not to overexert yourself. Stamina can be regained either by instantly eating food you find in boxes/drums or by using pick-ups found the same way that you can carry in your inventory. The stamina system helps a lot to keep a sense of urgency in the game and it does it really well. Your health bar can be depleted from things such as catching on fire, requiring to shake the nun chuck to put yourself out, or taking damage from gun fire during the battle stages. To refill it you can use first aid kits found in boxes/drums along with everything else.
A good job is done in regards to change of scenery, a large portion of levels are set in the city but just as this starts to get repetitive the game will change location and take you to the mountains or to small towns, providing a much broader array of settings be it in forests, railways, rivers and others sometimes providing little used ways to play such as swimming or escaping poisoned atmosphere running between safety points. It keeps the game feeling fresh.
The visuals of the game are a mix, in some areas they are really great with entire buildings collapsing into streets, in others they are just average graphics with nothing to take note of. At no point are they ever bad but they could at least be consistent.
One of the bigger negatives of the game is the music score, it is very limited and you spend a lot of game listening to the same few themes over and over. The sound effects of the rest of the game are of good quality, when you are on the run from a giant wave you really hear the water roar, you hear the earth rumble during earthquakes and the thundering of fierce winds. A special note has to be made of the wiimote’s speaker, during the game you’ll receive various radio messages all spoken through the remote and when you fire your gun the gunshots come out of your wiimote too, combined with the rumble of each shot it really goes well to immerse you into the game.
Another feature of the game is the previous mentioned upgrade system, during the shooter stages you will earn battle points. Battle points are used to purchase and unlock new guns or upgrade already owned guns. Attributes to upgrade include damage, reload time, magazine size and so forth.
The adventuring stages allow you to earn survival points. These can be obtained by rescuing survivors, finding pick-ups or eating food when your stamina bar is already full. Survival points are used to upgrade Ray himself, allowing you to do things like increase your ammo/item carrying capacity, gain more stamina from food ate, increase your strength for when destroying boxes and others. It will take multiple playthroughs to fully upgrade both Ray and all weapons, which carry over to new games, adding good replay value which the game has lots of.
In addition to the upgrade system to keep you playing, there are many unlockables in the game. From your second play through onwards a ‘stamina campaign’ is unlocked with hidden signs place around the adventuring levels for you to find, some are easy to find, others aren’t. There are also hidden alternate costumes throughout the levels, other costumes as well as weapons are unlocked by performing certain tasks during the game, not to mention there are 100 titles to unlock by performing tasks such as reaching a set amount of headshots, not taking damage and, well, 98 others. There are additional difficulty levels to unlock and a shooting range that you can use to gamble battle points with as well as unlocking some weapons, just playing the shooting range alone can be fun ignoring the added benefit it can give.
Overall Disaster is a good 10 or so hours of game for a first run through, with very varied gameplay and options that are presented in an easy to understand way, all of which and blend well with a mostly unoriginal yet still interest worthy story. Disaster is just the type of game that the Wii needs. It is only let down by the limited and repetitive music, the adventuring levels lacking real challenge for most of the game and the fact it quite heavily story driven, so you will lose interest with each additional playthrough.
orioncete posted 05/01/2011, 09:24
Why it's not being tracked on EMEAA? It's not just that it's one of the 2 zones where it was released, it's the zone where it sell the most, Japan sales don't make justice to the game. Anyway, really enjoyable game IMO, gotta replay it anytime soon.
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