Incognito is meant to deliver simplified versions of game play from different genres and bring them together into a game that’s epic in scale and requires different genre skills but is easy for the average hardcore gamer to jump into and play from beginning to end. In order to progress through each Episode, you’ll have to conquer challenges at each level, gathering information on foot, exploring in your ship, landing on uninhabited planets and establishing bases, and on hostile planets, invading a planet’s surface defenses in the hover tank.
What We Think
Here I go again on my own…
Welcome back to episode 2 of the twisted sci-fi universe that is Incognito. For those who haven’t played the first episode, or read my review, a little recap may be necessary… Being lost in space is never easy. In Incognito you play as “insert name here”, a brilliant, high powered, high profile investment banker who was ready to end his life when he couldn’t stand the pressures of his industry, right before the end however, he is pulled through a worm-hole by an artificially intelligent super being named H.E.I.D.I.
After an extended cryogenic slumber, H.E.I.D.I sends (insert name here) into the far reaches of space by himself to run errands and perform tasks which “she” needs to restore herself to full power. Without trying to reveal any spoilers, as the second episode begins, (insert name here) has been separated from H.E.I.D.I and awakes in an alien space station, with a cryptic message from H.E.I.D.I telling you to make your way back to her.
Just as in the first game, your journey will require you to play through a variety of game play types such as Real-Time-Strategy, Driving / Space travel, and First Person Shooter Sequences. The real question though, does this varied, ambitious title, get closer to planting the flag in the planet, or is it drifting quietly into space?
New Spaceship, New Parts, Same Pilot
Right out of the proverbial “star gate” you’ll notice that Incognito has undergone some mechanical overhauls since the appearance of the first game. Textures are much more polished, character models have been refined and improved, and systems such as the engines physics capabilities have been tuned and tweaked to provide (in some cases), to create a more integrated environment where all of the parts are starting come together in a more cohesive manner.
Graphical elements such as reflection mapping have also received a touch-up in that now nearly every part of the on-screen environment can be reflected without any sign of slowdown or frame-dropping which is a fairly impressive display on behalf of the game’s base engine.
Despite these noticeable improvements, the graphical quality of the game still varies from game type to game type. RTS sequences are still clearly the game’s bread and butter, and with the sharper textures, advanced reflection mapping and overall crisper environments, they are still the clear winner when in comes to showcasing the games visual aesthetics.
The FPS sequences have been given a much more finished look than that of the previous episodes. Increased environmental touches such as grasses, plants and lighting populate the areas now and with the added textures, levels are beginning to show a much more polished approach.
The character models are still where the game shows its weaknesses. Though they have been slightly improved and the textures do help to enhance their overall appearance, their design is still nothing outstanding, and I found them even slightly detrimental to the game as it keeps the overall mythos of the world from being fully realized. The creative vision behind everything from the smallest enemy to even the main character comes across as uninspired, and characters like the merchant Max Wolf can even seem slightly childish in design.
One Step Forward + One Step Back =
I’ll get right to it, my main gripe with the previous episode of Incognito was found in the games painstakingly difficult and slightly broken FPS sections. I’m happy to report that many of the issues that I found plaguing those sections are being smoothed out. Gone are the overwhelming hordes of enemies that can deplete your health bar in an instant, and have been replaced by enemies that seem more strategically placed and won’t just beat you mercilessly in the corner as you fumble to reload your gun. Mission types (from the FPS portion) also seem more varied now, where some even allow you to dabble in a constructive use of physics, such as controlling a large crane to help you fish for a submerged hover tank.
Weapons seem much more balanced now as there are multiple types that do varying amounts of damage to different enemy types, so having an increased arsenal now does more than just take up inventory space. You may want to load up your flame thrower when encountering swarms of bugs, or crank up your rail gun when it comes time to battle armed alien guards. The Issues that I encountered when playing the first episodes FPS sections for the most part seemed Ironed out and it made them much more enjoyable to play.
However there was a new major hitch to these sections which I never encountered in the first episode. The physics engine, although tweaked and improved for in-world objects, has also been applied to the characters in the game. This makes for some incredibly strange instances during the shooting sequences. Many enemies will explode after dying, and if you’re standing anywhere near them upon their demise, the physics system will inexplicably launch you in any direction with an inordinate amount of force, which can be ridiculously frustrating when it comes to certain environments that are multi-tiered, working your way up or down a slope only to get launched off of it by a downed foe can be slightly annoying. On top of that some of the level-designs are confusing without defined paths, and it’s easy to get stuck or even trapped on walls in strange locations.
Sometimes the physics would also downright break the game, one sequence has you going into an elevator, which, for no reason, begins dropping at a ridiculously fast rate, sadly the game also registers inertia and this sent me hurtling into the ceiling of the elevator. At this point, because I couldn’t grip the ground, I began slowly drifting towards the edge of the elevator and would eventually get launched outside altogether, which would instantly kill me. It is incredibly frustrating to feel like you are at the mercy of the game without any way of correcting what’s happening.
The RTS sections feel familiar and at its core are fundamentally sound and balanced. There is a new addition however which falls a little flat. One mission has you collecting plans so that you can build a “super-tank”. The tank itself is incredibly expensive and not nearly as effective as it needs to be as it can be bested by the “one-shot, one-kill tank” without hesitation. I found after a few attempts in these missions that it was best to forego using the “super-tanks” at all, and was better off just putting my money towards more “one-shot one-kill tanks”, which unfortunately makes it seem like a whole portion of the 2nd episode is mostly unnecessary.
One thing that I did greatly appreciate with the 2nd episode is that you are given story line choices which allow you follow varying branching paths, which definitely adds to the replay value of the game. Each branch allows you to focus on different aspects of the game, some will result in an increased amount of FPS sections while others will result in more RTS sections.
One Small Step for Magrathean
Upon starting up Episode 2 of Incognito I was definitely impressed at the graphical improvements as well as the balancing out of the variety of issues that plagued some of episode 1. The series definitely seemed to be plotting a course for success. However after encountering game breaking physics sections (in a couple of different areas, I also got stuck on a ladder that ascended out of the game world entirely) I have to say that it’s hard for me to completely recommend this game to any one in its current state.
I say “in its current state” for one particular reason though. After being privy to the improvements made to the second episode I decided to go back and revisit the first episode after a few patches had been applied to it. I was incredibly impressed to find that the graphics and balance issues that had mired the first episode were also being sorted out which kind of made it feel like a different game than the one I originally reviewed.
It scares me to think that a game can get better after its release, but in this instance the patches have done much more than just provide additional content or bug fixes. With this in mind it definitely makes it hard for me to write off the second episode completely, as it certainly has the potential and vision to be more than it is. At this point however, the flag is planted in the surface, but it’s just barely breaking ground. Though I think they have the technology and grit to do so, Magrathean is going to have to dig a little deeper if they want to lay claim to the multi-faceted space genre.
Download Incognito: Episode Two from Magrathean’s website.
Note: This is the Full Version of the game. A serial number is required to continue past the first half of the game.