Odium is all about eye candy

Odium may be defined as hate coupled with disgust, but when it comes to the game Odium, my feelings lacked such passion. In fact, I was left with profound indifference.

Following the thoroughly playable Septerra Core, Monolith has released TopWare’s Odium — and some unsuspecting gamers might be duped into buying the new title.

It’s 2008 and you play for three NATO military commandos known as Group Two, sent into a hot zone where Group One has disappeared. Obviously, Group One has disappeared or been disabled. But for some reason, Group Two doesn’t exactly come well stocked with ammo, weapons or supplies.

Odium’s 3D graphical environment is, without a doubt, phenomenal. Characters, environment and objects blend seamlessly together and animation appears quite smooth. Odium makes Septerra Core look almost amateurish. The interface allows character movement on the battlefield, a good contrast to one of the major drawbacks of Septerra Core if you re a strategic player.

But Odium isn’t a successor to the Core. Odium’s turn-based battle sequences may offer strategic value in placement of characters, but battles get even slower. In fact, strategy is more important than firepower.

Battles are more like chess and the battlefield resembles a chessboard grid. Each character can move a certain distance. Each weapon offers a limited attack vector and distance. For example, a pistol can shoot only four directions from a character in a straight line north, south, east and west. A rifle shoots eight directions, also in straight lines north, south, east, west, northeast, northwest, southeast and southwest. Other weapons offer a greater range or shorter distances or improved vectors.

Battle victory lacks dependence on just firepower although it helps tremendously. Mutant attackers also have limitations. One creature, I found, could never attack if backed into a corner because it needed at least one vacant square to launch its missiles.

If a member of the player’s party is killed, the game ends. But Odium allows a player to repeat the battle to improve strategic moves. The remaining part of the game may be devoted to battle, however a player will spend more time searching for ammunition and bandages.

As characters continue in the game, each gains experience with the weapons most often used, so continuing to use the same close-range weapons proves a distinct advantage. When characters advance a level, the player chooses where to put new experience points. For example, characters can increase their luck, counterattack or accuracy percentages. It’s an interesting concept that I liked.

Odium devotes too much time to the plot development. Movies are wasted to introduce the hard-to-kill boss creatures. The overly lengthy dialogue, which slows the game tremendously, resembles a bad B-grade movie starring some Jean Claude Van Damme clone. Moreover, despite muscular appearance and masculine voices, the troop has moments when they want to run away screaming like little girls.

And speaking of sound, when a character gets bandaged up to restore lost health points, the moan doesn’t exactly sound like health improves. In fact, at those therapeutic moments, I expect the soundtrack to switch to an elevator instrumental version of Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing. These commandos have been together a long time and apparently, they ve taken erotic comfort in bandages, ointments and other bindings.

And speaking of sex, when they encounter a tightly-clad female doctor from Team One, she lacks military-issue clothing, unless erect nipples are required to be visible on this very well endowed Laura Croft knockoff.

The puzzles in Odium also explain why the term military intelligence is still an oxymoron. Early in the game, I encountered a barrier of rocks from a cave-in. Obviously I needed an explosion to gain access. As I was considering my options (grenades being my first choice) I just happened to right-click on the rocks. A window popped up: Use oxygen cylinder on rocks? Of course, I clicked: OK. Kind of takes the puzzle aspect away from the game.

Attempting to be a military version of the X-Files, Odium lacks real mystery. I figured out the basics pretty early: it’s aliens, mutants and an experiment gone awry.

Oh, Odium may inspire plenty of emotions: Confusion on why the hell a military team did not arrive on this mission with adequate supplies; slight arousal from the sexual healing of muscle men and the endowed rigidity of a female doctor; or extreme boredom waiting for battles to conclude.

Overall, Odium lacks the engaging plot for a successful role-playing game, the kick-ass factor for a shoot-em-up and the intelligence for strategic play.

Quick notes of interest: If you check out Monolith’s Web site at www.lith.com to see screenshots of the game, my interface appeared nothing like the graphics available for download. The screenshots here at GiN appear as the game actually is — or at least on my 500-MHz Pentium III with 16M 3D graphics accelerator.

And another note is that Odium is known as Gorky 17 throughout the rest of the world. The game was originally developed in Poland, which is becoming a powerhouse for some game development. The characters in Odium have a distinctly more American appearance, although our homoerotic troop lacks an American among them. The commanding officer is Canadian, although you never hear how he pronounces the word about.

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