For those of you who have the 15th Anniversary release of the Reservoir Dogs DVD, you will find the interview on the second disc that ultimately piqued my interest in this game. The programmer they interviewed made the Reservoir Dogs sound quite promising, but I had already read scathing review after scathing review of the game. I was never one to rely on critics’ reviews — or even word of mouth — so I decided to try it out for myself.
Granted, Reservoir Dogs is something of a budget title. If it wasn’t for Eidos’ marketing behind it, the Reservoir Dogs name and a few other key features this would be nothing more than your run-of-the-mill budget software. But, somehow, some way, I’m all right with that. Reservoir Dogs doesn’t want to be the best game ever made and it never mistakes itself for it. All it opts to do is explore the world of the film even further, answer some previously unanswered questions, and provide a little fun in the process. And at that, Volatile Games has certainly achieved its goal.
The main problem that arose when trying to develop this game, as evidenced by the aforementioned interview, was ‘how do we make an action game out of a film that was 90% dialogue.’ The solution is simple, really. You stick with the dialogue, but cover completely new ground, story-wise, as well. The developers let you, the player, go through parts of the film that were only discussed. How did Mr. Pink get back to the warehouse? What happened when Mr. Blonde went nuts? What led up to Mr. Orange getting shot in the stomach? All of these questions — and more — are answered and it’s you who answers them. You even play through infamous key sequences of the film or watch reenactments that draw you further into the Reservoir Dogs universe. Not so much a pure film-to-game adaptation as it were, but the idea of filling in the empty holes is still a novel one.
There are two main types of game play – shooting sequences and driving sequences. The driving sequences are only hampered by mediocre vehicle physics and poor steering. The locales are nicely detailed, however, and there’s quite a bit of ground to cover. The driving missions just aren’t varied enough and become rather repetitive. The ease in difficulty didn’t bother me any because I’m not really a fan of your standard driving game. There is a feature in this section of the game that allows you to boost the speed of your car when you perform a number of outrageous stunts/maneuvers. I completed these segments without using it much, so I’d question whether or not this particular feature was really worth the effort the programmers spent in creating it. The poor steering seriously hampered my enjoyment with this segment of the game as well.
The shooting segments, which seem to be more plentiful, are much easier to get accustomed to. They generally control better and are much more fun to play through, too. It gets fast and furious at times and with the wide array of weapons at your disposal, shooting the crap out of anything that moves (or not, depending on which ending you’d like to finish the game with), is a blast. Akin to Max Payne, you can build up a meter, and when full, pressing the Q key (by default) allows you to perform a Bullet Festival. You can shoot multiple targets at once, watching bullets fly slowly through the air, and in the perfect usage of slow motion and various effects, throw your foe backwards in a highly stylized manner. There’s also the ability to take hostages during game play, subdue police officers, and other various features that gives Reservoir Dogs some added depth.
Graphically, Reservoir Dogs is in the wrong era. The system requirements are as listed; an 800 MHz Athlon, 256 MB of RAM, and a 32 MB AGP video card. Although the shadow/shading effects are resource hogs, if you turn those off, it’ll be smooth sailing from there on out. The pre-rendered lighting looks decent, as do most of the environments, but once you get up-close and personal to everything, you really get a chance to see what a lousy graphics engine powered this title.
The character models, however, are the worst offenders. They could easily fool anyone into believing this to be a first year Playstation 2 game as opposed to one significantly more recent, especially one produced by a big banking company. The explosions do look nice, however, but one of my pet peeves in any genre of game is that it must have a decent fire effect. Reservoir Dogs has one of the worst I’ve seen in years. Unbelievable, but yes, it’s actually worse than the poorly designed and skinned character models. As if that wasn’t enough, Volatile adds insult to injury by making the now infamous jewel thieves look like anything but their film counterparts. Even Michael Madsen, who lent his likeness to this one, looks very little like his actual in-game character. Graphically, the computer-animated cut-scenes are better looking the actual in-game graphics by far.
Aside from Michael Madsen — as Mr. Blonde — lending his voice to the project, and the surprisingly above average imitations delivered by most of the voice actors portraying the various black-tied criminals, most of the other voice acting (for the NPCs), is atrocious. But it is ultimately forgivable considering that these aren’t major characters and their voice work is, consequently, not as important as a whole. Michael Madsen, apart from sounding considerably older than he did when the film was released, hits all of the right notes and brings about a certain sense of authenticity to the title. The other voice actors are fairly decent (especially Weetus Cren as Mr. Pink and Michael Cornacchia as Nice Guy Eddie) even if sometimes they don’t sound the part. The various sound effects are all on the money and the sound quality is relatively high. There’s also a choice for EAX. It would have been nice if they had included a surround sound selection for those who have it, though.
The game is easily controlled and there aren’t many keys to do so. It’s a relatively elementary game considering some of the more complicated titles on the market today. The shooting segments are, by far, the easiest, both in terms of getting acquainted with and ease of use. The driving segments, however easy to use, just don’t handle that well. It’s that lack of decent car handling that really makes them so much more difficult than they should have been. The cars feel “heavy” and players will often need to really hit the brakes to get a good turn out of your vehicle. The driving distances, thankfully, aren’t too bad and the goals can be accomplished relatively easily. The controls, otherwise, are intuitive and quite responsive.
There isn’t really any A.I. to speak of in this one. The enemies just aim and shoot. Although there is some intelligence involved when working with hostages, other than that, it’s your typical run-n-gun action game. There’s nothing particularly wrong that because, as open-minded players will learn, the A.I. isn’t much of a hindrance to the game’s enjoyment factor. Reservoir Dogs is a blast to play — even with all of its faults — and it doesn’t need mind-numbingly complex A.I. to entertain.
Reservoir Dogs is a game that perfectly redefines what “good” is. The graphics are incredibly dated, the driving portion of the game is far from extraordinary, the driving controls needed some fine tuning before shipping, and, for some, the lack of any real A.I. could be the final nail in the coffin. But Reservoir Dogs isn’t trying to be the biggest and baddest game on the block; it’s just trying to be a fun little diversion for the good six/seven hours that you’re playing it.
As I mentioned at the beginning, it succeeds at that. It shouldn’t be enjoyable, but, ultimately, it is. If you’re a fan of the movie and can’t get enough of Mr. White, Pink, Blonde, Orange, and the rest of the gang, this should keep your appetite satiated. Those who haven’t seen the movie or don’t particularly like it probably won’t like this much because, simply put, as a game, it does need some fine-tuning. But, beyond its faults, there lays a good game just waiting to be unearthed.
Reservoir Dogs is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language. This game can also be found on: PS2, Xbox.