Survival horror has proved to be a major innovation for game makers. It’s an ingenious mix that has worked so well for companies like Capcom that a countless copycat games have slammed the market. But, what happens when you remove the “horror” from a game like this and just make it about survival? Welcome to the wholly original Disaster Report on the PS2.
The game puts players in control of Keith Helm, an inspiring news reporter heading to Stiver Island for work on their newspaper. Stiver Island is unique in that it was entirely man-made. Even the ground that you walk on was supplied by the government. While Keith was heading into the mainland, a massive earthquake struck leaving him stranded on a suspension bridge that could fall at any moment.
That’s exactly where your start the beginnings of a six-hour adventure. Completely stranded without any food or water, you must traverse across the bridge, onto the mainland, and hopefully figure out a way to get rescued. Along the way you’ll learn plenty about the doomed island and uncover a nice plot that surrounds the disaster.
Disaster Report firmly separates itself from other games in numerous ways. You will never handle a real weapon, you never fight, and you only meet people a few times in the game. It’s all about figuring out a way to get off the island and possibly helping another character with the same quest as well.
Water is extremely important, so carrying a fresh supply is critical. Below his health bar is a “thirst gauge.” Let it go down too far and not only will Keith slowdown, but also his health will deteriorate as well.
Everything is stored in your backpack for quick access and finding a new pack generally means you can carry more items. Saving the game means finding a source of water, whether it is a sink or a fountain in a park. Here you can fill your water bottles, drink, or just save and move on. These are always placed in convenient locations, almost always before a challenging segment.
Your backpack will almost always be full with items and creating some primitive ones can be a necessity. For instance, you can create a makeshift torch using lighter fluid, gauze, and a crowbar. Also scattered about are items used for protection like gloves and construction helmets. These are worn on your character until you remove them.
The game doesn’t suffer from one major flaw, just a lot of small ones. First and most obviously are the graphics. Though I’m not sure, this one looks like it started development on the Nintendo 64 and crept it’s way over to the PS2. Massive slowdown brings an already slow moving game to a near halt, everything has a washed out, colorless look, and some of the special effects (like fire) are laughable in this generation. There are some nice touches like the characters clothes tearing as the game moves on, but these are minor compared to the problems this game suffers from in this department.
Likewise, the sound is pretty bad too. The voiced dialogue is just hilarious, bringing a campy feel to a game that’s trying to be real and serious. Some of the sound effects are simply annoying, especially the rain effect about halfway through the game. Music is sparse (for effect) and only kicks in late in the adventure to accentuate some of the action sequences.
The aesthetics are not the only segment of the game with trouble. Keith has to be the thirstiest man on the planet. I have never dealt with anyone who needs to drink this much water. Some items you can pick up prove to be worthless (like the water filter system) since you never need them. Unsure, you’ll carry them with you the entire game wasting precious backpack space (repeat: don’t keep the water filtration system).
A few segments of this one are downright unfair, including a “Tomb Raider” style escape from the subway system. This section is so difficult, be prepared to take a lot of falls into a firey death caused by a fallen tanker truck. As a final mistake, the designers have included multiple compasses to find as a sort of mini-game that will help determine which ending youíll receive. No matter how great some of them are (check out the R-Type one), it just seems completely out of place in a game like this.
As mentioned before, the game only lasts about 6 (maybe less) hours which is pretty short. However, there are a few branching paths that add an entirely new dimension to the game and make it worth playing through again. These segments introduce new characters, challenges, and may very well give you an extra ending out of the five available.
Disaster Report is not a game for everybody. It’s very slow moving and will take a lot of patience. There is almost no action except for a brief segment in a mall very late in the game and the only real enemy are falling buildings. However, if youíre sick of killing the undead with a wild array of weaponry, this one is well worth a look.
Originally posted at Breaking Windows.