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Charlie's Angels

Review By:  Siou Choy

Developer:  Neko Entertainment
Publisher:  Ubi Soft
# of Players:  1
Genre:  Action
ESRB:  Teen
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  8-8-03

Boy, it’s sure lucky Neko Entertainment has a cute logo (for the Japanese language-challenged, it’s an animated cat).  Because have they given us something ugly here...

As that great philosopher of our generation, Vin Diesel once recited, “stop thinking...and start thinking Playstation”.  Playstation 1, that is.  Danger Girl meets the very first Tomb Raider by way of VIP and the Scorpion King (though all of those illustrious games, it must be said, kick this one’s sorry ass decisively, and with force).  Whatever merits Charlie’s Angels may have as a source of camp amusement, graphically speaking, it just couldn’t be any worse (wait till you see the part, only minutes into gameplay, when the Cameron Diaz character jumps into a speedboat and takes off into an ocean of barely rendered virtual mediocrity...).  It’s actually shocking that a game with this level of graphics can be released for a Next Generation system, and sport more than a $9.99 price tag...

In the game, as you might expect, you get to play as Hollywood’s current popular favorite “actresses”, the cast of the two cinematic masterpieces from which the game takes its name (Hitchcock and Kurosawa are doubtless rolling over in their graves right now; Godard and Truffaut quaking in existential fear).  Someone has (get this) stolen the Arc de Triomphe, Stonehenge and the Statue of Liberty, and it’s up to these three geniuses (and by default, you, the purchaser of this hunka hunka virtual cheese) to get ‘em back.  OK, Rashomon it ain’t, but did you really expect that?

The Lucy Liu character comes off the worst of the three. In the FMVs, she tends to have a flat, angular 2D look in comparison to the others (and the Bernie Mac character – love that suit jacket, by the way...); while in the course of actual gameplay, she looks like a Korean hooker in dreadlocks (and I thought her hair was long just a second ago in that FMV – how is it a shoulder length bob now?).  That aside, she is without a doubt the weakest link in terms of fighting skills.  Which is surprising, given that we’re talking about a crappy Hollywood product here.  After all, aren’t all Asians supposed to be masters of kung fu?

Speaking of martial skills, the girls all spout embarrassing noises as they fight (some kind of cross between Elvis doing ‘karate’ in his stage show (“hee-yaah!”) and the real life actresses in question after a typical night out (insert repulsive vomiting noises here).   The Cameron Diaz character stops to pose after each move, hips thrust to one side, elbow crooked insouciantly.  Which is doubly amusing, considering their idea of an animated Diaz is a 7 foot tall stick figure/broomstick...

The Drew Barrymore character, aside from what appears to be an unsightly patch of body hair running downwards from her navel (doesn’t this woman wax or shave?), moves with appropriate torpor – unable to jump very high, with slow, deliberate kicks and awkward punches that resound with a thick thud wholly appropriate to the beefy Ms. Barrymore’s frame.

If only the Diaz character was tailored so appropriately.  By far the strongest fighter on the team, her leaps, punches, and kicks do at least twice the damage of the Liu character, overall displaying several times the mobility and fluidity of the stocky Barrymore character (who, it would seem, can barely move off the couch to grab the remote and another slice of pizza or gallon of ice cream, much less kick some burly dock worker’s ass).  Did I mention that the Diaz character positively towers over the opposition?  Has she been scarfing down that good ol’ growth hormone-laced U.S.D.A. grade chicken and milk since the last movie, or is she fighting a crew of Guatemalan midgets here?

In all fairness, the one thing they did try to get right was the likenesses.  At least in the FMV, that is.  Well, in comparison to the actual gameplay character models, anyway...oh, come on, I have to say something good about it, damn it!   But seriously, insofar as the cinemas go, there was a definite attempt to put a little effort into things.  Sadly, that appears to be the only area any effort was put into, whatsoever.  Even the sound is bottom of the barrel – the audio during FMVs is so poorly compressed, it makes Summoners static-laced yelling sound great.  In fact, the sound here is among the worst in video gaming to date, and not only in terms of the aforementioned cram 120db into a 5 watt speaker buzzing-and-crackling bit.  Above and beyond that, the dialogue comes out sounding so choppy, you’ll actually notice it cutting in and out in the middle of words, as if you were listening to someone yell at you through a helicopter landing.  I don’t even know how to put into words exactly what the sum effect is, but the closest approximation I can come up with is as follows:

bzzzt HcrackleLO (no sound) SbzzztCKER (no sound) YbzztVE JbzztST BE(no sound)N RhisssPPED bzztFF!”

As if it wasn’t bad enough that Neko saw fit to burden gamers with some of the worst sound and graphics  ever to grace a next generation console (even taking into account the (sub)standard fare of the now-notorious PS2), we have to put up with some of the worst camera angles in gaming, period.  The level where you’re forced to fight on a yacht could even make hardened fans of Castlevania 64, BMX XXX, and Summoner seasick.  Admittedly, Drew Barrymore was present on said boat, but even someone of her girth shouldn’t be capable of rocking the boat quite as much as is apparent here.

The controls are absurdly simple.  Beyond Dark Angel simple.  We’re talking VIP simple here, and possibly worse than that, guys...without the laugh per minute value, that is.  Three buttons: jump, kick and punch; and given that the jump never seems to work the way you want it to (attempts to utilize the combination move “jump kick” indubitably throw you off in another direction from where you planned to move), it’s really a two button game – Evil Zone: 2003, with nicer (if still half-assed) cutscenes.

Don’t get me started on gameplay, either.  Each brief level (and there aren’t all that many of them in the first place, making this a mercifully brief gaming experience) is so simple and basic, there’s really no effort involved for the experienced gamer (say, anyone over 12 and younger than 50).  Traditional “level boss” play is completely upended as well: rather than waltzing your way through the entire level, only to face the fight of your life from the big guns at the end, you’d be lucky to recognize the “boss” if you stumbled across him by chance.  Literally, you can beat a boss without realizing you even saw one: without exception, “bosses” look exactly like (and for the most part, require an equal amount of effort to beat) the generic thugs you’d been beating the crap out of throughout the course of the game.  Which would, I imagine, explain my befuddlement on finding myself being congratulated on capturing the ship’s captain, an event I have no recollection of whatsoever…

Charlie’s Angels is really a mindless beat ‘em up of the lowest sort.  You could almost literally beat the game with your eyes closed or with the TV screen or monitor turned off (which might be not be a bad idea, given the illogical, nausea inducing camerawork), by just hitting those 2 buttons over and over: Punch. Kick. Punch. Kick.  “Congratulations, Angels!”

One of the most annoying things about Charlie’s Angels is the “invisible wall”, a bizarre phenomenon you’ll find yourself encountering more often than you might expect.  This occurs when the game decides that there are still few baddies lurking somewhere for you to beat up, despite the fact that they are nowhere in sight.  Once you run into that invisible wall, though, out they come; with even more enemies in sight, but just out of reach, since you can’t actually get to them until you’ve finished with the first batch (who weren’t visible in the first place, until just now).  It’s also rather commonplace to step into a room and be hit with a magical knife, wrench, or explosive. I say magical, because it’s a mystery where the hell these items actually came from, as there is only one enemy onscreen, and they obviously didn’t throw it...

Overall, not a lot to recommend here.  There is a definite camp amusement to playing as three famous cokehead bimbos being passed off as slick, unbeatable secret agent/detective/spies (when all the baddies really have to do is wave a ziploc of blow in front of your face, the basic premise becomes kind of a stretch), but when gameplay and graphics are quite this subpar for the day and age, it ceases to be funny anymore.  Basically, it’s a junk bin special – if you’re desperately looking (like myself) for another Spice World, Scorpion King, or VIP to proudly show off to your disbelieving, doubtless more straightlaced and less sophisticated friends with a twinkle in your eye and smirk on your face, this may well be worth an under $10 price tag.  Any more than that, and you’re getting ripped off, son.  No two ways about it.

Highs:

  • For those who actually give a damn, those critical darlings of the thespian scene Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu, and Drew Barrymore provide the voices.  Not that you could tell, given the amazingly shoddy sound compression and mastering.

Lows:

  • Graphics bad enough to make you wonder if everyone at Neko Entertainment is going blind.  My apologies to any visually handicapped members of the development team, should this happen to be the case (which would explain everything)…

  • Camera angles, always the plague of 3D gaming, still manage to be the worst I’ve seen, anywhere.  And that’s saying a lot.

  • The sound.  If you think I was kidding with that example I gave earlier in the article, go rent a copy and see for yourself.  Just don’t say I didn’t warn ya.

  • Bargain basement controls, gameplay, in-game character modeling, etc.  Face it, even notorious PS1 games like Deathtrap Dungeon look positively high tech in comparison to this piece of crap.

Final Verdict:

Look, we all know the movies this game was ostensibly based on (or at least cynically marketed to tie in with) are crap.  Guys, girls, nobody’s fooled by this “girl pow-a” crap anymore (ahem – Hollywood, hint hint, here…), it’s high time to bury that whole schtick.  But seriously.  Are you guys kidding with this?

Overall Score: 1.0

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