Thursday, April 17, 2014

Mars game review - Chaser

Mars game - Chaser screenshot
Welcome to Mars...
As there are quite a lot Chaser game reviews (of which the review by GameSpot seems to be the most comprehensive), in this review I will give a much closer focus on my general interest in this game - Mars and the story of the game. Unfortunately there are not so many video games set on Mars, so despite quite a few minuses Chaser is still one of the best. Even considering that only less than a half of the game actually takes place on Mars (the first part of the game is about getting to it).

In general Chaser is a classic first-person shooter (FPS) game where the player will be shooting various enemies a lot and the story is mostly told by cutscenes in between. Game is quite long and difficult (mitigated by easy quick-save-load system) not to run through too fast.


The game takes place in late 21st century where there seems to be failed states and various criminal organizations on Earth (at least in those locations in US and Siberia where the main character wanders around) and on Mars there is a well developed colony controlled by authoritarian corporation called Mars Corp (equipped with the latest military technologies).

The protagonist (main character of the game) is John Chaser who awakens on board the space station H.M.S. Majestic in Earths orbit. He doesn't remember anything about himself. In meantime the space station is being attacked by unknown troops and the main target seems to be Chaser who fights his way through the crumbling station. He gets to escape pod and crushes into some criminal ghetto in Montak City (US). The player's goal is to find out who Chaser really is and why he is being hunted.

In his adventure Chaser works for mafia in a gang-war thorn Montak City where there happens to be people willing to help him (authorities treat him as dangerous terrorist who has blown up the H.M.S. Majestic), then helps some Caucasian criminals in US and Siberia, fighting his way through both American and Russian military bases. Eventually the Caucasians turn against him and Chaser has to help some Russian guy to escape from Gulag prison to get into partly abandoned spaceport in Siberia. Not without difficulties :) he gets into a ship to Mars where his real troubles only start. After failed attempt to flee from Mars spaceport Chaser is imprisoned, but a cell mate, who happens to know him, helps to escape. Then he does several hi-priority tasks for Mars Resistance, which fights against the oppressive regime of Mars Corp, in the end blowing up the director of the corporation - Samuel Longwood.

Mars game - Chaser screenshot
Never trust your memories.
Victory seems to be in the grasp and they fly to the secret headquarters of the Resistance. Suddenly there are lots of Mars Corp soldiers killing Chasers comrades. He fights his way through endless levels of the now occupied Resistance underground base only to fall into the hands of never killed Longwood and his army, who has used Chaser as a bait to get to the leader of the Resistance. Turns out that Chaser in truth is a head of Longwood's security - Stone - who has planed all this operation with his master and erased his own memory to become Chaser and infiltrate the Resistance.

Something sounds familiar?... Yes, because the main line of the Chaser's story is very similar to the Total Recall (1990) - a Hollywood movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger. The first part of the game on Earth is quite different from Total Recall's, also a lot of story details on Mars are modified and there are no Martian artifacts and mutated people in Chaser (aspects frankly I think were needless in Total Recall), but all in all Chaser is a video game totally inspired by the story of Total Recall. The ending is almost 1:1. And it's definitely a + for this game, because Total Recall is a great movie.

Visuals and physics

Chaser was released on August, 2003, but even now, more than 10 years later, I would say the game is visually enjoyable although definitely outdated. Graphics are a bit weaker in dark areas and in high distances (check the screenshots). Objects sometimes moves through the walls and hang in mid-air. Could be more variety in textures.

Physics are as of its time. You can shoot some barrels (killing or injuring nearby adversaries) but you can't move even smallest objects and won't influence the world much. The only influence comes with scripted events (like falling beams behind or ahead of you in some situations).

Verdict: 7/10

I'm giving the game 3 points below the max 10 because of these drawbacks:
  • Although the general story of the game is good, in some spots it's badly explained. In several moments it's completely incomprehensible why, for example, a close comrade is suddenly turning against you without any logic, or why the entire game level with mini-submarine was necessary at all;
  • Repetitive and in some cases boring level design with heavily scripted one-only path through the game levels;
  • Graphic errors in some spots and a bit frustrating minor elements of the gameplay (ladders, unreal-low jumping height, "unsurpassable" bricks on the ground etc.).
Despite these minuses Chaser is still a great game and definitely a must-play for Mars fans. If someone would remake Chaser correcting the drawbacks, upgrading graphics and physics and adding some role playing elements, it would be a perfect concept for a Mars FPS game.

Video walkthrough

Here is a complete, very good video walkthrough of the game:


As my general interest is Mars I have included here only screenshots from the second part of the game taking place on Mars. All screenshots are my own and in chronological order. Click to view in full resolution:

Mars game - Chaser screenshotMars game - Chaser screenshotMars game - Chaser screenshot

Mars game - Chaser screenshotMars game - Chaser screenshotMars game - Chaser screenshot

Mars game - Chaser screenshotMars game - Chaser screenshotMars game - Chaser screenshot

Mars game - Chaser screenshotMars game - Chaser screenshotMars game - Chaser screenshot

Mars game - Chaser screenshotMars game - Chaser screenshotMars game - Chaser screenshot

Mars game - Chaser screenshotMars game - Chaser screenshotMars game - Chaser screenshot

Mars game - Chaser screenshotMars game - Chaser screenshotMars game - Chaser screenshot

My reviews of other games set on Mars:

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