Scrapland Offers Superb Surprises
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American McGee is known for creating games that are unexpected in one aspect or another. His most famous title, Alice, was a very creepy and critically acclaimed retelling of that famous story. His latest work of art, Scrapland, is poised to beat even that success.
Scrapland challenges players to forget what they know about most RPG/Adventure games. Right off the bat, you know Scrapland is going to offer you something different.
You play D-Tritus, a robot who starts the game happily zooming around in space on his rocketship/motorbike, living a carefree existence. And since you are not human, or not even organic, most of the old rules about life and death are immediately thrown out the window. He comes across a planet called Scrapland, and decides to pay it a visit.
Scrapland it turns out is the equivalent of robot heaven. The history of Scrapland is that humans at one point inhabited the entire world, but moved on. Likely they poisoned the planet too much. They left their robots behind. And the robots thrived.
The robots built a huge planet-wide metropolis complete with towering skyscrapers, public transportation tubes, combat and transport vehicles and generally created a stunning cityscape that is a cross between downtown Tokyo and Las Vegas.
And although the world is a bit violent, with combat breaking out quite a bit, nobody ever dies so it's kind of all in good fun. You see, there is a great database that stores the profile of every robot living in the city, including you once you show up. If you die, you are simply rebuilt. The only stipulation is that you have to have enough lives stored up, which you can buy or even steal. If you don't, you spawn in jail. But at least you are not dead.
Everyone in Scrapland has to have a job, which in addition to a strict no-humans policy, seems to be one of the only rules. You are assigned the job of television reporter, which is how the game mostly introduces the main plot to you.
There are two main components to the game: exploring on foot, and zooming around the city in your rocketship, which looks like a Harley. Either aspect of Scrapland could probably stand on its own as a solid game. Together, they are a perfect compliment.
On foot, you have several abilities that further make the game interesting as you explore in third-person. Early in the game you learn how to hack the great database. This lets you dissolve your actual form and rebuild yourself as one of 15 different characters in the game. So if you need to get into the restricted area at the police station, you can rebuild yourself as a cop robot. If you need to escape from jail, you can rebuild yourself as a small electric stapler robot and shimmy through the ductwork.
There is one robot type called an observer that you have to avoid in your cloaked form. If you let a floating observer scan you too carefully, it will realize that something is wrong and trigger an alarm. So it's not a perfect disguise, but works most of the time.
When flying, you often get into some scraps in the air, or have to attack people as part of a mission. The city is huge, and flying at over 200 miles per hour through a maze of skyscrapers, transport tubes and streams of other flying traffic dodging missile fire or pouring rounds into an opponent is quite a rush, even more so thanks to the breathtaking cityscape.
Certain characters will offer you some interesting challenges, like blowing away robotic cop vehicles or attacking certain characters. When you succeed, in addition to money they will often offer you some plans to upgrade the hull, weapons or engines of your ship, or even a completely new ship type. There is a garage in the game where you can design new ships based on components and plans that you have acquired. This lets you completely customize your ships.
Perhaps you want a big well-armored missile boat, or a tiny racer with huge engines and lots of turbo boost. You can own several ships, so it's possible to create different craft to use on different missions. I found it was best to have at least one racing ship and one combat ship, and perhaps a good middle-of-the-road craft for zooming around town when you don't know what you might run into.
Oh, and the game also lets you steal ships too. Pretty much robots don't tend to lock their doors, so any ship you see sitting around can be "borrowed" by D-Tritus if needed.
The plot of the game is also quite engaging. Robots are actually being permanently murdered, which is an unheard of and unthinkable crime. Someone is stealing their profiles from the great database and then killing them, which means they can't be reborn. As an ace reporter, you are charged with getting to the bottom of the mystery. You will talk with shadowy informants, crooked cops and a host of other unsavory characters - some of which end up dead as you get closer to the truth - while unraveling the mysteries of Scrapland. There is even a rumor that the evil humans have returned! And only you can unlock the truth.
If combat is what you crave, the multiplayer mode offers many different maps and play styles from racing to all out last-man-standing bouts.
Scrapland is a visual feast and a stunning masterpiece RPG that challenges players to think outside the normal swords and sorcery box. It takes a little while to figure out how to interact with the vastly different type of world McGee has created, but is more than worth the effort. Scrapland earns 5 GiN Gems for proving that something new can emerge in the RPG field from time to time. It may be scrap, but it's certainly not junk.
John Breeden II is the Chief Editor of GiN. While a forward thinking man he admits to a fondness for older video games. You should have seen him at Videotopia. John can be contacted at : firstname.lastname@example.org.