By Jason "loonyboi" Bergman
Note: this review covers my initial experiences with Klingon Honor Guard from the launch party, and does not reflect the single player aspect of the game. A full all-encompassing review is forthcoming.
t's weird to think about, but just a few months after the release of Unreal, we've already seen the release of the first Unreal engine game, Klingon Honor Guard. If anyone is to be blamed for this sort of thing (and it's not really a big deal, it's just strange is all) it would have to be Epic Megagames, for taking as long as they did to get Unreal finished.
The problem with releasing a game using the Unreal engine as close to the release of the original, is of course, that the inevitable comparisons to Unreal are going to be that much harsher. Playing Klingon Honor Guard, it is fairly obvious that the designers haven't changed the engine itself much (if at all, really) but instead chose to create an entirely new game within the confines of the standard Unreal system. This would probably be a lot worse with the Quake engine, and thankfully Unreal lends itself much better to such a design decision, but after seeing some of the great changes some developers have done to the Quake engine (Sin and Half-Life being two fantastic examples) I suppose I was hoping for something along the same lines with Klingon Honor Guard. And of course, there really isn't much of a major fundamental difference between Unreal and Klingon Honor Guard (KHG). Playing KHG, I found myself thinking of it as more of a polished total conversion than a standalone game.
Of course, nobody ever said that a polished total conversion is a bad thing per se. One of the things in particular that I didn't care much for in Unreal was the weapons, and thankfully the designers of KHG have done a great job in this department. The weapons, which range from the D'k tahg knife (great stuff) to the Phase Disruptor (likewise great) are all very satisfying to hunt down your friends with.
If you're shaking your head in disgust when you hear the word "D'k tahg" then leave now...KHG is not the game for you. If you can't stand that geeky Star Trek universe, then you're really not going to dig this game. On the other hand, if you're (like myself) a hopeless trekkie, then you'll definitely enjoy the evil thrill that goes along with slicing up your opponent with a big ol' Bat'leth.
As a deathmatch experience, KHG surpasses Unreal in just about every way. The wimpy weapons in Unreal never made me cackle, and cackling is what I love to do when playing one-on-one (my preferred deathmatch arrangement). Those D'k tahg knives may not look very menacing, but they are actually quite powerful when thrown just right (or in close combat). But be careful...as a Klingon pointed out to me at the recent KHG launch party, throwing a D'k tahg knife may indeed kill someone (and be an enjoyable experience), but if you miss...you're definitely screwed. You can pick up multiple knives at a time, but if you don't have a backup, and you miss, you better be prepared to run for cover.
Of course, if you've got a Phase Disruptor, you can just well...disrupt your opponent, and that whole thing isn't an issue at all. (Insert evil laugh here). There's really quite a great feeling that comes from actually...evaporating your friends.
As a Klingon thing, the game actually works pretty well. The battle arenas are appropriately Klingon-esque, and everything definitely looks the way it should. Even those Disruptors really kill people the way they do on the show. A great deal of care was put into making sure that the game would appeal to Star Trek fans, and they pulled off an admirable job.
I had the opportunity to play one definitely heated Klingon Honor Guard deathmatch against Christopher David Clark, one of the game's developers at the KHG launch party last weekend, and you know? It's a lot of fun. A few subtle things were put into the game to ensure a decent, and at least original multiplayer experience...first off, the game uses a fairly realistic movement system. If you're scratching your head and wondering what the heck I'm talking about, I'll explain it (and even if you aren't I'll do it anyway).
It's like this: in Quake, and just about every other first person shooter out there, when you run, you do so and incredible speeds, and can stop on a dime. This isn't the case in Klingon Honor Guard. You see, in KHG, when you run, you actually gain speed. That is, you start fairly slow, and eventually work up to a full gallop. It can make running away like a chicken pretty difficult, but then...you are supposed to be a Klingon. Stand your ground, infidel!
Another nice (albeit subtle) touch, is the fact that you can blow up ammunition that's lying around on the ground. After playing the game for a bit, you'll find yourself hiding, and waiting for someone to walk over to that box of rockets, just to have it blow up in their face. Oooh yeah...a truly satisfying kill.
So the game's got a lot of the things that I've come to expect from any relatively decent game...satisfying kills, pretty graphics (if you've played Unreal, you know what to expect here)...so what's wrong with it? Well...being an Unreal engine game, and being released as close to the original as it has, it carries with it all the problems of the original game. So if you've got a modem, be warned...KHG will not offer you a better online game than Unreal (in fact, there's a good chance you may even get a worse game, since they may not have implemented the most recent networking fixes yet). For now, like Unreal, if you're planning on playing multiplayer KHG (and who wouldn't?) plan on doing it over a LAN.
Also, while I suppose they may have just been doing this to be slightly more realistic than the requirements for Unreal, the game's system requirements are a bit more than Unreal's. Most notable, is the box's assertion that the game requires an MMX processor in order to play. This puzzled me, since while Unreal took advantage of MMX processors for higher quality sound, it wasn't an explicit requirement. I haven't tested the game on a Pentium Pro, but I wouldn't be surprised if it actually worked. System requirements should always be taken with a grain of salt...just remember this: Deer Hunter II supposedly requires a p133. :)
So can I recommend Klingon Honor Guard to your average joe who wants a good deathmatch experience? Yes, and I do so quite happily. With five really good original deathmatch maps, and seven so-so ones from the singleplayer at your disposal, you'll find yourself really getting into KHG's multiplayer. I can't say it's really worth the full price of admission yet, but if you're looking for a decent DM game, check this one out. And be sure to brush up on your Klingon. :)
- Jason "loonyboi" Bergman is the editor-in-chief here at loonygames. He likes beer.
|Credits: Bargain Bin logo illustrated and is © 1998 Dan Zalkus. Geek Toys is © 1998 Jason Bergman. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is a majorly hostile gesture.|