Painted in a washed-out palette of blues and greys, Aurora Watching desperately wants to be Metal Gear Solid. Unfortunately, setting its sights on a seven-year-old console game appears to have been a mite ambitious for this title, a hopelessly mediocre stealth effort from Poland. Also known as Gorky 02, it's a sequel to last year's equally pedestrian Gorky Zero: Beyond Honor, completing a trilogy of sorts with the ancient Odium, a strategy/RPG affair set in the same universe.
To be fair, it's not completely disastrous. The presentation is alright, the weapons and gadgets tolerable, the stealth kills at least partially satisfying. You also have the option of switching from third-person to a tactical overhead perspective, which takes a lot of the guesswork out of your sneakery. The problem is with the gameplay.
This, unfortunately, is as washed out as the colour scheme. It's like what an apprentice Sam Fisher might have learned on his first day at spy school. You can sneak, do knife/silenced weapon kills and use knockout gas, but beyond that it's just a really slow-moving third-person shooter (and I mean slow - in stealth mode you need a GPS tracker just to prove you're in motion).
OK, so you can drag bodies around as well, but the fact that you tend to kill everyone in your path makes this a tad redundant. Perhaps worse is the rambling, tedious level design, which has more padding than a jumbo futon. The second level alone has enough grey corridors to fill ten such games, and the number of computers that need hacking is nigh on comical.
Switching to a female character part way through the game does nothing to improve matters, aside from changing the view slightly. And seeing as you're never going to play the damn thing, I may as well tell you that Aurora Watching also drops the old DNA-manipulation/zombie mutant clanger - a kiss of death that we were willing to overlook in Far Cry, but never want to see in another videogame as long as we live.
Elsewhere, the AI is predictably primitive and inconsistent, with enemies failing to hear gun battles right outside their windows, yet spotting you with unerring ability at unlikely distances across the map. You can also have great fun with the civilians in the game, running in front of them to put them on alert, then ducking behind them for ten seconds until they forget you ever existed. Then running in front of them again, obviously, just to blow their little minds.
If that sounds like your idea of fun then by all means ignore us and buy Aurora Watching - it's only 20 quid, after all. Otherwise, stick with proper games like Splinter Cell.
Watching paint dry
- Plenty of stealth kills
- Two camera views
- Most rudimentary possible stealth system
- Slow and repetitive
- Tedious level design