Run Like Hell is an interesting delve into the Survival/Horror genre created by classics like Alone in the Dark and the Resident Evil series. Thanks to a few modifications to the rules one would expect to see in this genre (somewhat unlimited ammo and unlimited inventory space), it turns out to be a fun romp while it lasts.
The back of the box describes the overall game rather well though – You return to your station to find the crew dead. Your mission: Not to join them.
The graphics in Run Like Hell are a mixed bag. The space station you play on looks like your average military installation – shiny walls, lots of lights, interesting views of outer space, and lots of alien goop pulsating all over the place. Er, scratch the last part. See, when you get back to the station, this alien organism has taken over the place, infesting itself all over, turning the once pristine station into something much more alive.
The character models in RLH are done well. Sporting lots of polygons, and a high detailed skin placed on top of that, you’ll find yourself drawn in and impressed when looking at the characters. Even better, you won’t have to look at humans all the time either, as there are a multitude of aliens on this station as well. The various aliens you’ll encounter and shoot at look rather impressive, looking like something that might come out of Aliens. Once you learn how they were created, the things get even creepier to look at.
The animation has some problems though. Your character seems to be missing a few animation frames somewhere, as he starts and stops running without any delay. The various aliens are a tad odd to see move around as well. It seems that they spent their graphic budget on how everyone looks, not how they move.
Other glitches include in-game cinema scenes where props are left out with no reason whatsoever. In one scene, you are passed a glass to drink by one of your buddies. Your character takes the glass, drinks it, and seems to either pass it back or put it into his pocket. Unfortunately the glass in question is never seen. Sure, your hand is holding something, but as to what, you’ll never find out.
There are quite a bit of movies as well to explain the story. These are all done with a slightly enhanced in-game engine however, so they won’t fare against something like Square or Namco’s CGI work. But they aren’t bad enough that you aren’t taken away from the game either.
First off, Run Like Hell supports Dolby Digital Surround Sound. It’s used well, allowing you to hear things like doors, bullets, and aliens creeping up from behind you.
RLH is called a full talkie by us old gamers, which roughly translates into the fact that everybody talks. Unlike most games in the survival/horror genre however, the designers paid quite a few semi-well known actors to speak in this game, to a rather impressive result. Actors like Lance Henriksen (many movies/TV shows), Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek: Voyager), Michael Ironside (Starship Troopers among other things), and Clancy Brown (many assorted movies/TV shows) round out the voice work very nicely, with each actor expressing their character rather well. Although the whole ‘we all have a universal translator installed in our ear’ makes some of the conversations questionable at best as some of the aliens just wouldn’t be able to speak in perfect English, the amount and quality of the speech more than makes up for it.
The music on the other hand is rather sparse. Considering you’re on a space station that is slowly being taken over by some kind of alien growth, one wouldn’t expect a musical soundtrack blaring in your ear all the time. What little music there is though (the mood music for lack of a better term) is done well. However, during boss battles, you’re treated to some full vocals from an up and coming band called Breaking Benjamin Music. It draws you out of the game somewhat to hear it, but it does greatly spice up the ensuing fights. Unfortunately there is no music select in the game, so listening to the vocals is difficult at times because of the gunfights going on in the foreground.
The rest of the sound effects are done well, but ultimately generic. The guns you fire off constantly sound the same time after time, and the constant plodding of your footsteps echoing off of the empty halls gets to you after a while. It does increase the tension however, so it never becomes an annoyance.The controls of Run Like Hell are simple and to the point. The default controls point all the controls to where they naturally should be, so controlling your onscreen avatar is never easier. Unlike the Resident Evil series, moving the analog stick around makes you move in that direction (instead of turning), so you’ll be able to easily get around the station with little problem. There is even a tutorial mode included so you can learn what everything does before you get into battle.
After having an unusual dream about possible things going horribly wrong on the station Forseti, you and a female companion wander out to do some simple mining operations on a nearby asteroid. Returning to the station after a day, you’ll find things have gone all to hell and back. Security cameras show people dead everywhere, and a giant creature of some sort bursts out of nowhere to eat your companion. Fortunately you run into the security chief of the station minutes after landing, or else you would of ended up the same way as the female shortly thereafter. And thus the game starts.
Run Like Hell is another game based around the whole survival/horror genre. As you progress, you’ll become increasingly paranoid about what might be around the next corner. If you let yourself fall into the story that is being woven by the designers, you’ll actually begin to care about the plot and the characters it’s based around. For myself, I fell into the story that was created and enjoyed it completely. However, there are a few things worth noting.
Being saved by the security chief of the station has its advantages – for starters, you get a gun with unlimited clips. That’s right – unlimited ammo. You still have to worry about running out of ammo in the clip in the middle of a firefight, but you have all the clips you could ever worry about. Which is a good thing as you’ll be facing plenty of opposition in your journey to rid the station of its alien presence. Not all guns are this way though – the more powerful weapons have a very limited amount of ammo scattered throughout the station. Does this make the game too easy though having guns with unlimited ammo? No. The monsters you’ll face are designed around this aspect, and you’ll be shooting plenty of beasties from the beginning to the end, so being able to blast them instead of running away is a blessing in my book. The weapons can be upgraded as well from the scattering of mod chips placed here and there throughout the station. This is definitely useful as the monsters get tougher and tougher.
Most of the quests in the game are various modifications of the standard ‘fetch’ quest – go here, retrieve this item, bring it back to where you started. However, they are well disguised – you’ll need to go here to power down the station’s shields, but only the commander had the passcode to get in, so you’ll have to go to his room and hope he left it on his computer. This type of mission is repeated rather often, but it feels like you’re actually doing something important instead of just running around.
Other things to note are the constant degradation of the station as the days progress. As the alien growth works its way through the station, walls begin to cave in, the ceiling tiles collapse, and the goop that covers the walls grows. Basically you end up traveling the same paths from day to day, but each day it’s different due to the passage of time.
The PS2’s slowdown monster rears its ugly head from time to time, mainly during huge (5+ monsters on screen) fights. Unfortunately, since most guns are based around how quickly you can push the fire button, this leads to a problem where you can only shoot a bullet or two every so often, instead of the constant stream of lead needed to wipe them all out. It never really kills you off, but it does get annoying after a bit.
One last thing – games of this genre attempt to scare you from time to time. Short of the constant and nagging fear that something is out there to get you, you’ll rarely jump out of your seat due to the fact that most monster spawning areas are rather clearly visible, and one can assume that a critter or three will come out of them when you get near. The fact that the station is slowly falling apart makes for a very moody atmosphere however if you let it.
Your $50 gets you basically about 10 to 15 hours of gameplay, depending on how quickly you move through the game. While average for the genre, due to the engaging storyline you’ll have little reason to replay this game once completed. At least until you forget the story anyway.
That 10 to 15 hours however will be well spent, due to the amount of action you’ll encounter, and the well written story you’ll be going through. Never do you feel like you’re just doing a mission because the designers put it there for you to do, and instead you’ll feel like you’re actually there to save the station.