The move to 3D game development in the 5th Generation of Consoles introduced several interesting design problems regarding translating well-liked genres, such as 2D Shooters like Contra, into 3D space. Many developers went in different directions in answering that problem at a time when camera control concepts were in their infancy.
One is a 3D Run & Gun that attempts to channel the hectic bullet-filled action of its 2D counterparts (mainly Contra) into 3D space, and it succeeds in principle, but not in practice. This is not the answer fans of the genre (or good games) were looking for.
Genre: 3D Run & Gun.
Publisher: ASC Games
Developer: Visual Concepts.
First things first, I am changing my rating system to a simpler 10-point system. I fully recommend games that get above a 7, and those that get below are mostly a waste of time. The recommendation for a game scoring a 7 largely depends on your personal taste.
"I made a mistake..."
The game begins with a well-constructed cut scene; the player character suddenly wakes up without knowing who they are and is then chased by a helicopter hell-bent on killing them. It is an effective opening that hints at an interesting background that is alas, never properly explored.
Instead, your hero, who has a gun for an arm, basically runs forward shooting everything that moves, and many things that don't.
Could this actually be a good game?
Other than a few quips by enemies and the female voice of the computer AI, there isn't any dialogue and even less story exposition. It is clear that you are heading to a secret base, but you can only guess why you are going there.
Usually, shooters don't have much of a story, but they can still create an interesting world visually. In One, there is certainly an attempt at that, with some great theoretical locations, but the early PS1 graphics don't convey as much as the 2D sprites do in a game like Metal Slug.
In the end, you are left almost as confused as the main character.
"What is he made off of?!!"
One thing that isn't confusing is what the gameplay is going for. This is a clear attempt at converting the Contra Run & Gun formula into 3D space. You are running forward while constantly pushing the shoot button, but you are doing it in a 360 degrees environment.
As a concept, it is mostly fine, and that's certainly the case when everything lines up together. Then, enemies are dispatched in a glorious symphony of bullets and explosions. Except, as often happens in 3D space, that's more difficult to pull off.
The camera runs behind the player most of the time, making aiming at having enemies a chore, and that's when the camera is actually behaving (which is rare). Aiming your gun is also a chore since you are always shooting forward, with the ability to strafe shoot being unreliable, and locking yourself in lace to "free" aim a recipe for disaster. As such, you are constantly expected to flail around, which is why the unreliable melee attack option is suddenly such a valuable tool.
Thankfully, the game's signature "Rage" mechanics keep things from getting unfairly difficult. As you kill more enemies and destroy environmental objects, you build up your rage meter which doubles as a health and power-up meter. This helps you maintain your survivability while dishing out more pain and managing this meter becomes a big part of the game.
Unfortunately, this won't be an earl 3D PS1 game without the inclusion of finicky platforming, which is easily the most frustrating part of this game. Not only is depth perception continuously awful in this world, but the movement and jumping controls are as chaotic as the camera you are fighting against. The entirety of the 5th level (in a 6 levels game) is a nightmare because of the terrible platforming, which the developers obviously knew considering how liberally they placed extra lives there.
Sure, introduce a timer in your platforming-heavy level
Overall, the game feels like a prototype for the twin-stick shooters that will start being developed later, and it says something that one of its biggest strengths is its own short run time.
"Airlock sealed. Environment compromised. All non-expendable personnel please evacuate immediately"
Other than the fact that it is almost entirely made in 3D (faraway backgrounds are 2D paintings) there is very little of note regarding One's graphical accomplishments. The graphics are almost as unimpressive as the main character's design who-in closer inspection art-looks like the box art version of Mega Man. Equally generic are the enemy characters and visuals you fight, including a laughable final boss design.
Sure, there are some brilliant shot compositions, especially with the opening and some of the camera angles in the 3rd level. However, these are weighted against consistently unimpressive grainy visuals and the deluge of special effects that cover the screen at times.
Not that it is super pretty in the first place
Interestingly, the game's soundtrack is quite decent. It may be a familiar militaristic movie score type of soundtrack and not one as driving as the 2D games this one is aping, but it is very good nonetheless. It has some epic sections interspersed with solid percussion work, somehow giving the game more gravitas than it deserves.
Finally, little can be said about the special effects or the small voice-acting clips sounded throughout the game, which are fine without being distracting in any way.
Like many of the games that mindlessly tried to convert the tried and true genres of the 16-bit era into 3D space, One fell short of being a fun game. Sure, it was competently made and actually delivered its gameplay promise. However, the balance of the game and the feeling of playing it was all off, and frankly a huge downgrade from playing even the low-quality 2D Run & Guns of the day.
When the person playing the game is thankful that it is soo short, it is a sure sign that the game has fundamental flaws in its design. The design problem for moving genres to 3D space was a key issue in the 5th Generation, and One was clearly a wrong answer.
1- Keep tabs on the rage meter and play evasively when it's down.
2- Learn to incorporate the "free-aim" controls into your regular Running & Gunning.
3- Bosses usually have a gimmick to them, so figure it out.
4- You will need most of your lives in the 5th level, so be careful about it.
5- Good luck with the terrible platforming, there is no tip for that.
6- Learn to love the melee attack, you will have to use it a lot.
7- You can jump and kick, which is necessary in some cases.
Admittedly, the game does have some cool compositional qualities
For those reading one of my PS1 review blogs for the first time, here is the basic concept:
I already reviewed both major Generation 4 consoles, and am now reviewing Generation 5 consoles. I already finished reviewing the Sega Saturn, so I am now reviewing the PS1. In these reviews, I take a top 100 games list and review the games that interest me in that list.
This time, my review series is based on this list from Retro Sanctuary and other sources, since the PS1 can handle a list bigger than a top 100.
Also, note the following:
-If you have any suggestions for a game that is not on the Retro Sanctuary list that I should review, please suggest them.
-Make a bet on each game to check whether Chris Charter played it or not.
Yet, there is just so much you can do to improve a badly conceived game
I should have reviewed Brave Fencer Musashi here, which I enjoyed but stopped midway due to personal reasons. As usual, I struggle to get back into games that I drop for an extended time, so I jumped forward to play and review this game. I probably would have ended up giving Brave Fencer Musashi a 6 considering it had some great ideas mixed with some questionable execution.
In contrast, there aren't any great ideas in this game, and the execution was plain terrible, making One one of the worst games I played on the PS1.
I hope that the next game in the addendum list, (C-12) Final Resistance, compensates for that bad experience but I have my doubts. It is supposed to be similar to Syphon Filter (which I am going to review soon), but it doesn't look like it has a glowing reputation despite it appearing in some "top 100 PS1 games" lists.
For Previous PS1 Game Reviews: