(I apologize in advance for picture quality)
There weren’t a lot of Run’n’Gun style games that could compete with the undisputed king of side-scrolling shooters, Contra, yet in the mid to late 90’s, when the next generation of third person action games were stuck with a problem; 3-d action shooters were very frustrating sumbitches to play. While games like Spyro and Tomb Raider brought out the best efforts of third demonsion gameplay (even though the camera will still kill you often), others like Fighting Force, Rascal, and Eidos’ legendary crappy Ninja game (Why can’t a ninja swim!?!?) left gamers frustrated and annoyed at unresponsive controls, a faulty camera, and unintelligible graphics. Even Contra’s first venture into the genre was below average with C: The Contra Adventure, blending it’s 2-D and 3-D stages. One game that got lost deep in the shuffle of the PSX library provided a healthy balance of adrenaline-pumping action in the 3-D realm was ONE, a very exhilerating, yet frustrating nonstop killfest.
STORY 5/10: The image above is the first scene in the game!! You’re being strafed by a jumbo hoverjet as you run as fast as your cyberlegs can carry you!! Any attempt to stop and catch you breath that’s near an open window will get you the hell shot at, not to mention falling debris. It wastes no time. Armed with little to no memory and a gunarm, it’s up to you to fight though…okay the story is not important. You have to recover your memory by blowing the ever living shit out of things. Nothing’s overdone, in fact, you could argue that it’s not done at all. The story isn’t as good as Apocalypse (duh), but it matters not. Amnesia, sure, whatever, kill.
VISUALS 7/10: The graphics look pretty good for their time, preferably the level design. You scale atop buildings in a rainy metroplois that looks like unused Blade Runner footage crossed with Gotham City, later traversing across mountains and canyons until finally burrowing through sewers to reach the underground facility. It’s easy on the eyes, until later, when you encounter some the most frustrating jumping puzzles I’ve ever delt with, but that’s coming up later.
The character models, not as good as the layout, are blocky and kind of uninspired. The guy you control runs around shirtless with bright green spandex like Jake the Snake Roberts. His face is grizzled and unshaven, so he looks like Gabe Logan from Syphon Filter after 989 studios crumbled. The enemies are even more illdefined and I could only tell them apart by vaguely different color schemes and how much damage they did to me. They look all for the world like a a box of those green army men got out and started to attack you. This was a middle of the road PSX game, so these visuals might be a bit underwhelming, but I assume a low resolution count was make sure most of the fast-pace action could be accomodated with little slow down. That and as long as you can make out yourself without blending in with other enemies or the enviornment does more than make up for the negatives.
CONTROLS 6/10: This is where the game is kind of a mixed bag; the controls can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Because the action is so frantic and targets spring up from literally anywhere at any time, several vital elements are required to ensure a fun, yet challenging experience. ONE gets it about half right, and here’s the breakdown:
Controllable Camera: None whatsoever. You can zoom slightly out using L2, and it’s effect is marginal at best, but inablity to manipulate the camera in any conceivable fashion makes this incredibly taxing, especially during the aformentioned jumping puzzles. The camera flexes at certain intervals to corperate the scenary instead of the action. For instance when you are scaling a building while in third person perspective and are about to come around the corner, the view will snap directly into 2-D side scroller mode. It can throw you off while on narrow platforms or jumping from crumbling rock columns in stage 3. Not being able to raise the Y axis to peg a better vantage point to land jumps will drive you batshit crazy. Stage 2, for example features a portion where you jump forward onto traffic lights and bridging gaps, and it’s done from 0% elevation and third person view. Since you are facing your next jump from a dead even perspective, it requires precise timing and much trial and error before you get the hang of it. Stage 5 even worse, as you’re on a timer while fire is shooting at you!! Death, death, death and more death!!!!
Auto-Target Locking: It exists, but it kind does what it wants. It will target enemies that are close, chances are, it won’t be as big a pet peeve as the camera issue. Like Contra, you can just hold down the fire button and hope to eradicate everything in front of you, using more bob and weave tactics for larger, stronger opponents. you’re capable of strafing (holding L1 and picking a direction to fire while running) or lock and shoot (by holding triangle and moving the pad or stick) to make yourself a human turret until everything in front of you stops moving or if their soul is still dancing. The melee combat would’ve really benefited from a sort of lock mode, like Devil May Cry. Zelda Ocarina of Time was released several years earlier and offered a lock-on button for close range battles, so it always astounds me that developers didn’t take this into consideration when making a game like this. Fortunately, it’s a last resort when you’re swarmed or you just want to get some debris out of the way.
You get several weapon powerups like Flamethrower, missiles, grenade launchers, but to be honest, they only come in handy sometimes and are more of a luxury than a neccessity, because the questionable autolock doesn’t allow you to take advantage of them. I found the flamethrower and homing missles to be the most useful, since aiming isn’t as important. The other weapons are effective, but targeting is a bitch in the heat of the action and there is a good chance you’ll die. Best to just power up your Rage Meter/Life bar to max and it’s just as effective, if not more than the big guns you can get, as well as having a faster firing rate of 1,000,000 shots per second.
Double Jump: ONE (if that’s his real name) has the most stubborn double jumps I’ve dealt with in a long time. I’ve had an easier time getting that spin kick in Double Dragon 3 to work!! In more than 93% of the time, you just tap jump in succession to properly execute a double jump in other video games. But ONE has to change the game a little bit. Tapping jump twice very fast, you will do a somersault and gain twice as much air. Other times, you’ll attempt this and he’ll somersault while jumping slightly higher and he’ll glade down instead of dropping. I’ve never got the hang of this due to it’s wild inconsistance and it’s important to get a grasp of it for the late stages. In fact, jumping is a pain in itself. ONE does not gain momentum as he runs. The second you pick a direction and go, he flies at top speed!! It’s tricky to pace yourself during jumping and hitting your mark on a narrow platform will make you tear your hair out. To make sure you don’t careen over the edge, you have to gauge the distance of your leap, watch for the shadow on your intended destination, and then let go of the d-pad. You should fall safely, otherwise ONE will continue forward like a 6 year old jacked up on Mountain Dew and wearing rollerskates and fall to your death! Death, death, bags of death!!!
DIFFICULTY 9/10: This is one of the legit hardest bastards I’ve ever played on the Playstation, and while some of that can be blamed on faulty cameras and controls, the game provides some clever challenges and like Street Fighter 2010 for the NES, you start to get really good at it. You don’t get a traditional life bar, nor are there power-ups. You replenish health by destroying enemies or loose debris or structures (Billboard signs, falling rocks, methane tanks, EEEWWW!!!) and in turn it powers up your primary gun, increasing fire rate and damage. When your Rage meter is fully charged, you deal maximum damage and hitting the melee attack releases a devastating blast that destroys infantry!! GROOVY!! (Hey, he looks enough like Bruce Campbell). Amidst the powers and wanton destruction, bad guys still swarm you like angry hornets. They’re pesky at first, but they do damage if their numbers grow. Later stages introduce rocket soldiers, riot cops with baton shields, and snipers. these guys will pick you off if you let them get momentum. The boss battles are all very good, mixing natural difficulty and strategy; half of the fights involve tactical evasion or shooting convieniently placed gas containers. It’s a healthy break from just pumping a giant tank full of iron or missiles and ends the stage on a satisfying note of using your brain when earlier you just shot stuff without using a thought.
IN CLOSING: For it’s faults and flaws, ONE is one of the better action games thats definately worth checking out. It’s simple, blood-rushing pace will keep you on your toes and the difficulty teeters safely enough on hard without being too hard. It may not be the most memorable game in the PS1 library, but it’s a pretty good ONE (Hah HAA! My tomato dodging skills have increased since my last really bad joke!!)
OVERALL SCORE: 7.5 out of 10
PROS: A great challenge, the audio (the police chatter about your subsequent actions are awesome. “He just took out the sign!!” “What’s this guy made out of!?”)
CONS: The fixed camera, caffene controls, stages 5 and 6 will turn you into this