released on Nov 04, 1998
When the CEO of SinTEK Industries begins injecting the streets with a DNA-altering drug, it's time to reassess the laws of morality. When the same twisted biochemist plans to conquer the world with her army of mutated abominations, it's time to rewrite the golden rule.
You are Colonel John Blade, head of the most prominent private protection agency in Freeport. Elexis Sinclaire is waging her holy war against the security industry...and you along with it. You've made a religion out of fighting crime. Now you're going to make Elexis pay for her sins.
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SiN is a 1998 FPS game using the Quake 2 engine created by Ritual Software and published by Activision. While it was overshadowed by Half-Life on release (still trudging through that, stuck on Gonarch's Lair where she's glitching), it was a bit revolutionary gameplay wise. It was the first game where you could fully interact with consoles that could alter things in the map (like open doors and turn off enemy turrets). Combat is kind of wonky to start out, but you get used to it as the game goes on as your arsenal increases. The plot of this game is absolutely ridiculous, straight out of a sci-fi/cop b-movie. The ending sequence literally had me burst out laughing because of how absurd it is. The difficulty curve in this game is absolutely ridiculous at some points, though. Snipers can eat away at your health in seconds if you don't have armor (luckily they are only in certain levels), and while stealth isn't really my strongsuit (see my review of Jedi Outcast) this game does it decently enough. Despite the flaws this game has, I can't help but enjoy it because of it's over-the-top cheesy plot.
if half-life hadn't released, this sewer crawler wouldn't have magically turned not awful
On the surface, Sin seems to be another by the standards 90s first-person shooter with attitude and a lot of gore and violence. In reality, there is a lot of fun with high action levels, fun dialogue, and some surprising horror thrown in at the very end. The main downside is that the game falls into some of the trappings that come with early 3-D first-person shoots. There are a few confusing levels to navigate, some sequences seem unbalanced with it being impossible to beat if you don't have enough health or ammo, and the controls are clunky when it comes to driving vehicles. It won't blow you away with its story or plot but it's still worth checking out.
Even for something from the late '90s trying desperately to be 'badass' the tone of this is astonishingly juvenile. It is, at times, clearly meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but that doesn't really stop the cringe. The core gameplay is fine but the level and objective design are not up to the task at all. Plays like a bumbling version of GOLDENEYE. But one big point in its favor is a high degree of frivolous optional interactivity with the environment, which is always great and got lost a bit in this era.
Stuff like this really makes you appreciate HALF-LIFE a lot more.
On Christmas day, a close friend of mine gifted me SiN, the often forgotten Half-Life killer. Launching in a buggy and unfinished state due to Activision (of course), the game was not nearly as popular as it could have been. Thanks to Nightdive Studios, however, the version sold on Steam is mostly stable other than a few minor graphical glitches. SiN was Ritual Entertainment's first major project, coming hot off of the very well-received Quake Mission Pack 1: Scourge of Armagon.
For a first attempt, this is actually pretty great for the most part. The gunplay is extremely satisfying and the weapons all feel great to use, with the exception of the laser weapons seen later in the game, which are pretty contextual in their use. Movement is pretty similar to Quake 2 but feels slipperier, and the player seems to have a forward lurch to their jumps, even if standing still. This isn't really a problem for the most part, other than the rare platforming segment but even those are pretty generous with the player. The enemy AI is a bit of a mixed bag. There are points where it's actually pretty impressive for the time and seemingly reacts quickly to what the player does, and times where they get stuck on walls. I'm not entirely sure if this is just a bug or simply strange AI programming, so I will assume the latter. I found the boss fights, in general, to be pretty mediocre, with the final being the best. Most of them are just fine, working as intended but never being anything special, but the Eon and Peon fight is just utter BS and incredibly unfun. However, something Ritual did very well is the level design. It feels consistently very tight, giving the player a decent degree of freedom in how to approach mission objectives and feeling pretty fair for the most part. The mappers for this game cut their teeth on Quake and it really shows, as a lot of the same qualities that game's levels make their way into SiN. The lategame levels do suffer the same problem that most 90s FPS games suffer from however, being a severe drop in quality. While not nearly as bad as say, Doom 2 or Red Faction, I found myself enjoying it much less while playing through them. The levels are mostly really solid though and I can recommend the game on that basis alone.
SiN runs on iD Tech 2, the same engine that powered games like Quake 2 and Soldier of Fortune. The game has a lot of that engine's quirks as a result, such as jiggly models. The game looks really good for the time, with a high level of interactivity in the environments. It scales pretty well on modern hardware and requires practically zero tweaking to get running properly. Being a game that released around 23 years ago, it can also be run on practically any PC nowadays at 60FPS or more. The art direction looks similar to 90s comic books, giving it a fairly distinct visual style compared to say, Quake 2, which technical advancements aside looks quite bland in comparison. My only real complaint with the visual presentation is the lack of any sort of facial animation. This is a minor pet peeve of mine and it makes characters during conversations appear more like animated marionettes than people, despite being well-put-together otherwise. This especially looks strange when you compare it to it's main competitor, Half-Life, which did feature facial animation.
The game's original soundtrack (composed by Zak Belica) is atmospheric and sets the mood for each location you visit, ranging from industrial hard rock to soothing synth pieces. It's a shame the game's OST hasn't been released on digital streaming or even vinyl (a la Red Faction) so I could enjoy it in high-quality. Though I believe the YouTuber Accursed Farms released some of it courtesy of Belica, so check that out if you're interested.
The story follows John Blade, a member of Hard Corp (ha ha ha) dedicated to catching the elusive and supposedly sexy Elexis Sinclaire, the CEO of SinTek, a cosmetics company. She's made a new product that's begun to transform ordinary citizens into violent mutants, therefore Blade and his nerdy partner, JC, must put a stop to it. The game's narrative is pretty over-the-top and silly, and clearly Ritual did not intend for it to be taken too seriously. The radio banter between Blade and JC is often amusing and the overall voice acting is surprisingly pretty solid for a game of the time period. The story doesn't really feel like it knows exactly what tone it wants to go for, whether it be an incredibly violent game for adults or a Saturday morning cartoon for kids, but seeing how silly the game is overall I don't think this is as much of a problem as I've seen others claim.
Does SiN reach it's goal of killing Half-Life? Not quite, it has some issues that prevent it from reaching that level of excellence, but it's still a damn good, if not great FPS in it's own right. The game is currently priced at $10, which might be a little steep for some, but it does include the Wages of SiN expansion pack, as well as all additional official content produced for the game after launch, if that softens the blow a little. Maybe wait for a sale, but nonetheless I'd highly recommend you check this out if you have any interest in retro FPS games and/or enjoyed Scourge of Armagon