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PC Preview - 'Paradise Cracked'

by The Cookie Snatcher on April 5, 2003 @ 2:24 p.m. PST

u are a young hacker. Once, while in cyberspace you managed to break into a secured area and came across a series of strange data packets. You hurriedly copied these to disk, not even having the time to read their contents. Only a few minutes later you hear a police siren, followed by banging on the door and demands to open up. Buka was so kind to send us a beta build so we we gave it a crack ...

Genre: RTS/RPG
Publisher: Buka
Developer: MiST Land
Release Date: Spring 2003


Paradise Cracked is the latest entry into the cyberpunk-themed RTS sub-genre. Under development by a small Russian team of programmers (MiST Land) and being published by Buka Entertainment, Paradise Cracked is an intriguing mix of tactical strategy and RPG-style elements. The player assumes control of a young hacker on the lam as he makes his way through an unfolding plot revolving around a supercomputer named CyberBrain that has solved many global issues that have plagued mankind for centuries (pollution and over-population, for example), transforming earth into a paradise.

You’ll start the game with just the bare essentials; a pistol, ammo, a first aid kit, a electronic journal, and 100 credits. Paradise Cracked will feature an almost turn-based style of play wherein your character will be rated based on a host of different attributes. These attributes include strength, dexterity, reaction, accuracy, intellect, and driving. Along with being able to enhance the basic abilities of your character there will also be secondary attributes whose usefulness is a bit more topical like resistance to fire, line of sight, and health.

It isn’t long before you start the game that you’ll have an opportunity for combat. The first thing you’ll notice about combat in Paradise Cracked is that, despite its top-down RTS perspective, the actual fighting takes place via a limited-movement turn-based system. This style of play does a couple things (besides throwing established convention out the window). First, since the action isn’t real-time the player has more time to think strategies through before they are implemented. Also, it does away with frantic mouse-clicking by giving the player a certain amount of action points with which to concoct their strategy. Every move you make is dictated by action points, so there is definitely some forward-thinking involved in being consistently successful in combat. For example, you may choose to perform a surprise attack on your opponent by hiding behind a structure and striking out when the time is right, but if you don’t have enough action points to position your character into a safe region of the environment after you’ve performed your attack you’ll be vulnerable when it is the computer’s turn.

This of course, is just one example from a host of possible scenarios, and as you progress through the game more offensive and defensive options will open up to you. There will be over 60 different weapons, various vehicles, and an assortment of futuristic gadgetry (like electric force fields and spy cams) that you’ll eventually get to play with. But even with all these tools you’ll still need to do a fair amount of thinking in order to win. Enemy A.I. is capable of running for cover, calling reinforcements, and firing on you from different altitudes. The sheer variety of dynamics that goes into any given battle in Paradise Cracked is impressive. You’ll need to take into consideration the position of potential enemy attacks (since you are least protected from the back), the distance of enemy troops, and the potential moves that your opponent may make should you be open for attack.

The look and feel of Paradise Cracked -- with its cyberpunk motif and techno-gadgetry – is decidedly dark and foreboding. But once you get past the seemingly unforgiving surroundings you’ll realize that the environments are surprisingly interactive, allowing you to make use of various city services and interface with various NPCs. The versatile camera system ensures that you’ll get the ideal view of the action. You can pan around, zoom in and out, and even view the entire city if you want. (Though smaller moving objects won’t be visible from distance.)

The mission structure in Paradise Cracked will be non-linear to a large degree. It’ll be up to you as to what factions you associate yourself with. The more police you kill the more you’ll be favored by the criminal syndicate, etc. This style of open-ended play coupled with the breadth of customizable stats and equipment is what makes Paradise Cracked such a unique take on the strategy genre. The experience system is based off of points that you acquire from advancing through missions, points that can be spent on enhancing your overall abilities. Once you choose to adopt a particular ability you won’t be able to go back and switch your points around, so there is strategy in the fact that you’ll need to decide whether you should spend your points as they’re earned or save up for a particularly useful ability. The question is whether this culmination of gameplay styles will be successful in winning over fans of the genres it utilizes. It may be too early to tell but it is still apparent that Paradise Cracked is shaping up to be a promising title.

Paradise Cracked has been out in Russia and Europe for a while now with the US release just beyond the horizon. The beta version we tested didn’t have English voice-acting implemented yet but at this point it doesn’t take a psychic to know that the game’s cyberspace/cyberpunk plot will be a key selling point. Lets just hope that Buka gives this game the treatment it deserves in terms of getting the word out once it’s released, because Paradise Cracked is one of those rare and few games whose scope and vision is truly unique.

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