What is this? Another WW2 shooter? Haven't we had enough of this already? I've talked about this before with Hour of Victory, so why would I even want to touch another WW2 game? Well, this one's actually different. The premise is a unique twist that came way too late for it's own good considering how tired we are of WW2 games. Today I'm reviewing Turning Point: Fall of Liberty, released for the Xbox 360 and the PC by Codemasters back in 2006. It's probably worth noting that this game also has a limited steelback edition with a bonus disk, ohh fancy, except countless games do that these days. We're being over flooded with pointless limited editions almost as much as we are music games and Tony Hawk titles.
The creators of Turning Point: Fall of Liberty began with an intriguing question: What if the U.S. had never become involved in World War II? Would power crazed Nazi Germany, having gained control of Europe and Asia, eventually bring its military machine to bear on isolationist America?
As Turning Point begins, we're told that British diplomat Winston Churchill was killed when struck by a taxi in New York City in 1931 (Churchill really was hit by a taxi that year, but he survived and walked with a cane for the rest of his life). This alternate history provides the conceit by which the rest of Turning Point's story unfolds.
It's a solid introduction and a fascinating question of the type pondered by history nerds the world over. It's all downhill from there.
Despite its lofty ambitions, developer Spark Unlimited has delivered a shallow first-person shooter that largely fails to deliver. Set against such a grand backdrop, the game's thin narrative falls flat. There is little characterization, and I didn't find myself caring about much that happened in the game.
Apparently, my name is Dan Carson, and I'm a construction worker every man, who is unofficially drafted as America's savior after the skies over New York City become black with German zeppelins. If you love zeppelins, I mean if you really, really love zeppelins, you'll at least get something out of Turning Point as there's a blimp around every corner.
Apparently, by 1953, when Turning Point takes place, the German Luftwaffe has arrived at the inevitable conclusion that dirigibles are the aircraft of choice for low air support. I'm not sure what bulletproof material they're fashioned from, but the only way I can ground them is to shoot them with six consecutive rockets. They're actually called "assault blimps" in the game, and they made me laugh.
Super zeppelins and tepid story lines would be somewhat forgivable if Turning Point played like a dream, but it does not. Most of the levels are dull, and the ones that are interesting are plagued (like the rest of the game) with bad artificial intelligence. Except for the last act of the game (there are three), enemies are rarely aggressive and seem heavily scripted.
The AI in this game is about as smart as a block of Lego. Wait! I'm sorry, I just insulted Lego. Sometimes your enemies in this game will look directly at you and not react in any way. Usually, the enemy will just stand in the open and fire or slowly jog toward cover where they'll predictably duck in and out. Once they pick a piece of cover, they'll almost never move from it, even if you throw a grenade directly at their feet. They'll often walk up to you and stand there while you shoot them or melee them...sorry, "grapple" them. I've literally seen smarter Lego, if Lego robots count. I was never once flanked or otherwise outmaneuvered by Nazi forces, many of whom were wearing bright orange goggles that made them ridiculously easy to spot at a distance. Multiple times I was able to walk directly up to enemies who were facing me but seemed to not even realize I was there. I dealt them death, but my victories were hollow. That's because there's no blood or body damage of any kind in Turning Point. There are Nazi flags, swastikas and the twin lightning bolts of the SS at every turn, but I can't have blood?
It's usually no more fun killing enemies from a distance in Turning Point, either. I found the aiming controls to be jerky and inconsistent, and they often changed wildly in feel from one weapon to the next. The game uses a grenade detection system like the one used in Call of Duty 4, but it's also imprecise and tells you little about how close you are to a grenade or where it landed.
In the wake of recent FPS's like COD, BF3, and Halo Reach, Turning Point feels archaic. But that's not to say it doesn't work fundamentally as a shooter. If you're a hardcore gotta play'em all shooter fan and have been longing for a return to the WWII themes popularized by series like Medal of Honor, Turning Point will grab your interest. The game works, start to finish, and there is a cohesive (albeit thin) story to be told along the way.
Unfortunately, the straight-up playability of the game is marred by some examples of sloppy execution, the worst of which is the "hand" icon that is supposed to appear over usable items in the environment. It works well enough on doors, but in many levels of the game trying to get the icon to appear over levers, valves, elevator buttons and ladders is maddeningly difficult. I'm not playing a point and click adventure here, and I'm not interested in moving my reticule pixel-by-pixel over a lever handle until the hand icon appears. Glitches like these kill Turning Point's pacing, which is already spotty at best.
Boring story and rough gameplay don't matter as long as it looks awesome, right? Well, wrong, but it doesn't matter anyway because Turning Point is not a graphically accomplished game. The graphics are not impressive, and clipping and framerate stutter are common. When multiple enemies or other activities are present on-screen, serious slowdown usually follows. For a modern first-person shooter on a current generation console, this game performs poorly.
Turning Point is the very definition of a linear game, which would be fine if exciting things happened along the way, which they really don't. There are a few standout moments where the level designers seemed to break away and try new things, but the game is otherwise repetitive and uninteresting.
And aside from moving through the maps, there's nothing else to keep your attention. There are no secrets to be found, no hidden paths, no collectible items and few exciting scripted events.
Three or four times, I was asked by the National Guard to plant and arm bombs on vehicles and objects. As a construction worker with no military experience, I'm obviously the man for the job. This activity involves walking up to, say, a tank, where the bomb is already inexplicably placed. Click on it and match three wires, which correspond to the colors of your controller's face buttons. It is impossible to fail this "puzzle" unless you are color blind. In that case, it would be a game breaking problem.
Health is progressive, which means you'll have to take cover to heal when you get riddled with Nazi bullets. For firing back, you're allowed to carry four grenades and two weapons, which you can swap for dropped weapons as you come across them. Turning Point features some interesting boom sticks, like the MP50 sub machine gun, that were apparently in actual development in Germany during WWII. On the American side, you'll have use of old standbys like the M1 Garand and Thompson gun.
For all the broad backstory in Turning Point, there is little attention paid to detail in the game itself. There are cutscenes between each level moving the story forward, though, and they actually raise some interesting questions. But again, they have little connection to the actual gameplay and are quite forgettable.
Turning Point scores reasonably well with its "grappling" feature, which allows you to grab an enemy and either knock him out, which results in a cool animation, or use him as a human shield. The latter choice is pretty useless on the lower difficulty levels but can come in handy on the harder settings. It was a nice addition to the game and resulted in some of the more satisfying moments I had with Turning Point.
Multiplayer, however, is not satisfying and was clearly an afterthought. I played better multiplayer World War II games on the original Xbox. There are two modes, deathmatch and team deathmatch, available for up to 8 players online or via System Link. Hit a loadout screen before you head into a match, pick a weapon and then fall asleep.
Turning Point: Fall of liberty is a shining example of a great idea poorly executed. There is fun to be had with the game, but it's not the grand adventure it claims to be. Shooting Nazis in the streets of three major U.S. cities should be a non-stop thrill ride that has me on the edge of my seat. This game provides the opposite experience. If you're a die-hard WWII buff (or zeppelin fetishist), give this one a rent. Otherwise, skip it and read a Harry Turtledove novel instead.
Two word Review: Just terrible.