Most Broken Game: Off the Rails

Written by Phil Hartup

September 8, 2010 | 12:51

Tags: #boiling-point #bugs #experiment #funny #most-broken-game #road-to-hell #sandbox

Companies: #retro-games

One of the great tests for any sandbox game is to see what happens when you throw your toys out of the pram and go on a good old fashioned killing spree. Whether it’s starting a police chase in the GTA series, trying to take on the whole Third Reich at once in The Saboteur or picking fights with the population of Oblivion, these moments let us test the boundaries of the game and experiment freely. They can also be incredibly fun.

Unless you’re playing Boiling Point.

My personal killing spree in Boiling Point: Road To Hell began quite by chance. Returning to town from a spell in the jungle, I’d just saved the game and driven into the main town when, whoops, splat! I’d run over a local, oh dear. Somebody was shooting at my car in retaliation so I got out, identified the shooter as another civilian and killed him. It seemed rude not to under the circumstances and I hoped I could consider the matter settled. Unfortunately, things just escalated.
Most Broken Game: Off the Rails
To counter the violence in games debate, I gave birth to twins after this

Or they would have done, had there been anybody to rampage on anyway. Boiling Point, being an older game, wasn’t able splurge a load of system resources on large numbers of random passersby, so my ‘rampage’ ended up being a lot slower paced than you’d expect. It was less of a killing spree and more of a death amble. The town was so spread out that, despite my best efforts to cause carnage, very little really happened.

Assorted civilians spawned into being, sometimes in plain sight, and got shot. A few had the audacity to de-spawn before actually dying, which fuelled my murderous mood but didn’t leave me with any way to retaliate. A precious few fired back with revolvers they apparently carried just for that purpose, so I soon picked up a few hits and was pumping myself full of painkillers… but still the experience was more akin to an early level of Ghost Recon than a proper urban battle. The lacklustre popping of the pedestrian pistolas gave the battle the ambience of an incredibly weak New Years Eve party.

The police drove by a couple of times, but didn’t seem too anxious to get involved. The faction system in Boiling Point categorises civilians and government as separate entities, so the fact I was popping the local serfs with an AK didn’t fuss the police one iota. The most aggressive creatures I encountered were actually the piranha in the water at the docks; spending more than a few seconds in the water inevitably leads to the little swine trying to nibble you to death.

Most Broken Game: Off the Rails
Even with a loudspeaker I couldn't goad the cops out of the doughnut shop

Things escalated somewhat when I found the police station itself and decided to Terminator things up a notch by assaulting it directly. The first stumbling block for this plan was a simple game mechanic clearly put in place to stop just such a rash move – namely, as soon as I walked into the building my weapons were magically holstered. I overcame this problem by opening the station door and shooting through it from outside, however this still only got me into trouble with the three policemen inside, and none of them lasted too long.

I was surviving and killing a lot of innocent people, so I’d guess you’d class this off-the-rails experiment as a success, but let me be clear on one point; this was without a doubt the most bored I’ve ever been in a video game. No atmosphere, sporadic encounters with badly animated, slow moving Latin American peons, no sense of threat or escalation. The vibe was not helped by the fact that my character was, by this point, exhausted. All out of stamina, every act of unspeakable carnage was punctuated by his colossal yawns that made him sound like a homicidal sleepwalker.

I was considering calling it quits, a grenade with my name on it weighing heavy in my inventory. I consoled myself with the grandiose claim that I could bow out as undefeated master of the world, but then a police car drove up. I took a shot at it, succeeding in popping a tyre and jamming my rifle, whereupon the policeman got out of the car and shot me clean in the head. One shot, done.

I would have felt hard done by if I hadn’t felt so relieved.

Boiling Point: Road to Hell was a FPS/RPG released in 2005 which is remembered here for both it's ambition and the bugginess of the original release.
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