El Matador Review

You are Max Payne, a gritty hero with an obvious attitude problem. Somewhere along the line you found out you could slow down time. Except, you aren’t Max Payne. You seem to be called El Matador, and what are you doing in South America? Oh well, there’s people to kill and places to see, no need to get caught up in the details.

Overall the graphics look very nice, and even my fairly recent computer had difficulty rendering the Very High texture settings, so I made due with High textures. The engine is clunkier than it should be and requires a fairly
recent computer to run smoothly. Textures are all detailed and the environments look pretty sharp. Character models, and even their animations, are also pretty smooth for the low budget feeling of the game. Once you toss in dynamic lighting, shadows, and HDR it starts
looking very pretty in South America. Though this all sounds good on paper, it’s not going to win any awards. Compared to today’s top of the line graphics, such as Oblivion
and Quake 4, you can start seeing a drop off in quality. Graphics are a long way off from being bad, though, and it is easy to become immersed in the game world.

Sadly, load times are pretty bad. I hate staring at load screens. Every time you load a quickload it takes about 10 seconds, every time you quicksave it takes about 5, and new areas take around 15-20 seconds to load. Though 10 seconds isn’t that bad, in some cases you’ll be loading a bit more than you should be, and those 10 seconds start to add up real quick. You’ll start to get a bit irritated about the time you spend loading new areas.

It’s worth noting that some effects add a lot of the game. The slow motion effects are pretty great, keeping with an almost up-tempo gameplay. The quick cut-scenes you see in mission usually have some visual flair and text that look pretty nifty too. To sum it up, El Matador is slightly above average in today’s world of FPS, load times get annoying, but the effects add some flair to the world. Graphics in this title aren’t going to have any
The music is a variety of very up-beat techno tunes. The music does add a bit of a twist to the game, especially in slow motion. The music slows down, giving the slow
motion a surreal feel. If fast techno music blaring through your
speakers isn’t your thing, there’s no way to really customize it other
than the music right off. This detracts from the experience though. The
music doesn’t always fit the game, since a lot of the time you’re creeping
through, firing bullets at medium to long distances from behind cover. The
music is almost begging you to jump in, flying around in slow motion
trying to kill people in close quarters. That tactic sadly leads to your death
more often than not.

The sounds are nice, again the focus being in slow motion that the whizzing and explosions all seem about twice as cool as before. Any sort real world ambiance is lacking unless you consider blaring
techno music to be a good source of ambient sounds. Whether you’re in a
house, alleyway, rooftop, sewer, or night club turned war zone, there is no big differences sound wise. You can’t appreciate the little things – like a water dripping in a sewer, the crunching of the gravel on your feet, or the creaking of wood floors. Those sounds aren’t
there, or at least they aren’t noticeable. Even if they were present, the
music is so overpowering it doesn’t give you time to be a part of the atmosphere.

You fire with the left mouse button, and zoom in with the right mouse button. You move with WASD, jump with space bar, toss a grenade with either your middle mouse button or F, crouch with CTRL or C, and switch weapons via numbers or your mouse wheel. Then, slow motion is activated with TAB, or you can go into a slow motion dive with shift + a movement key. It’s easy to learn and use, and once you get in the game the controls are nice and responsive.

It caught me off guard that the entire game is in third person view. I
was expecting a FPS. The camera is over-the-shoulder, and you are closer
to your character than in most other third person games such as Max Payne. This isn’t a problem though, and you get used to the camera quickly.
The only thing I think this game could have offered would have been a
“lean” command, which is something that everyone else in the game can do –
except you.

The game is about killing. You can’t be bothered with the politics or story to drive the game. Your character is just wanting to shrug off those minor details, and get to the core. And the core is… killing a lot of people. Specifically, those evil drug lord folks who keep doing evil drug lord stuff. The story shows itself occasionally, but overall the plot of the game is pretty weak.

First thing that you’ll notice is the game
is unforgiving. On normal difficulty, I had to reload the mission about 15
times during the first level alone. Now, as you get better at the game
you’ll be loading less and less. You still end up loading a lot in some
situations though. The difficulty levels warp around a lot. Some places
are incredibly easy, but some areas are exceedingly hard, most noticeably
boss battles. Though boss battles do offer a change of pace from shooting
swarms and swarms of the little guys, they take so many bullets that it
really just sucks the immersion right out of the game. Two sniper rifles
to the head? The boss shrugs it off like nothing. You’ve got to finish
the boss off with a rocket launcher. Well, that’s one less
drug lord to worry about.

The game
is repetitive because you’re fighting the same kind of people over and
over. However, the slow motion breaks up the monotony. You can create some
very unique situations. Jumping through windows with your SMG blaring
away, or slowing time just as some poor enemy runs around the corner while
you make perfect aim for his head. This game would not only be a
lot less fun without slow motion, but also a lot more difficult. As you
continue you seem to be fighting more and more people at once. This makes killing about 3 or 4 people in a single dive with slow
motion both rewarding and challenging.

The game has some style, fairly diverse locals, and upbeat action to get things moving along. Add to that friendly reinforcements that grace you every so often, but that brings me to AI. The AI is average at best and is extremely scripted. You’ll see enemies doing the same things again and again, running predictable routes, and using the same cover. This relates a lot to the quick save / reload nature of the game you run into. Sometimes you’ll get to a part that is a lot more difficult than usual, and the only way to get through it is to master the movements of your enemies, since they end up doing the same thing time and time again. This lack of dynamic AI hurts the game, especially when you are looking at the replay value. It isn’t a huge problem, but it isn’t exactly it’s finest point. To top it off, the game is completely linear and there is nothing open-ended about the game.

There is no multiplayer. There are no additional modes of play. You have a campaign that runs about the
average length of any FPS, but once you finish there is no reason to go
back and play it again unless for some reason you really loved the game
and are willing to tread through the same exact content twice. To be honest, the fact that this game offers nothing but a single player campaign will probably warrant you to think about buying this game from the bargain bin in a few months. Unless, of course, you really want to play Max Payne 3: Killing Drug Lords In South America.

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming. Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter. Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 21 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
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