Requiem: Avenging Angel is a classic example of a game that should be very well known, but isn’t. In fact, it’s more likely that you've never heard of it, which is odd considering that it was the first ever game to feature bullet time, while having similar gameplay to Jedi Knight. That sounds like a winning formula, right?
Requiem has more going for it than just a single feature and a passing similarity, though. It was also one of the first modern games to tread in Half-Life’s shoes; trapping players in a first person perspective and allowing players to travel back and forth through some levels.
Unfortunately, Requiem had a whole heap of problems, which outweighed these strengths and stopped it from collecting acclaim of either the critical or commercial variety. Firstly, the levels were incredibly boring to fight through and, while Requiem opens strongly with a few gory levels in hellish Limbo, it eventually descends into a blocky romp through generic sci-fi locations. The obligatory sewer section doesn’t help either.
Requiem’s biggest problem, however, is simply the subject matter; Catholicism.
It's dangerous to go alone...to the blood bank!
Requiem isn’t a strictly, devoutly religious game; it has more than the usual level of violence, guts and gore. It casts players as a warrior angel, Malachi, who tries to sabotage the plans of a sect of fallen angels who have infiltrated human government and begun planning a war on heaven. On your way through this quest you end up slaughtering untold hundreds of souls, using both secular weaponry and angelic powers that let you boil enemies’ blood in their veins or turn foes to salt.
Despite trying to liven up the game with an injection of blood and bullets, however, Requiem always feels like it’s held back by its subject matter. Like it or not, religion just isn’t cool, meaning that the violence and gritty edges bolted onto Requiem feel try-hard and at odds with the rest of the game design.
It would be really difficult to make a decent first person shooter with a religious premise. I honestly have no idea how you’d do it.
Possessing enemies and making them do squat thrusts is fun
Requiem’s religious veneer means it isn’t all that surprising that the game failed to find a market either, in my opinion. Generally speaking, you won’t find all that many teenage gamers interested in playing a messenger of God, regardless of whether he has a gun or not. At the same time, those who are attracted to the game because
of the religious wrapping will likely be put off by the level of violence.
That said, though, I
bought the game back when it was released in 1999, so maybe there was an audience for it after all. Of course, I only bought it because I liked the cover art.
I’d love to say that Requiem is an underrated shooter and that, if you can look past the religious trappings and hokey level design then there’s a solid and interesting shooter underneath. Sadly, that’s just not true – Requiem is average at best, despite a plethora of industry firsts and clever ideas. Looking back on it now my response is one of pure ambivalence.
Twice. It was a long, boring summer.
Requiem: Avenging Angel was Cyclone Studios’ last game before closure – unfinished projects included BattleSport for the Nintendo 64 and a sequel to Requiem called Wrath of the Fallen.