When Origin began work on BioForge, they set a lofty goal for the project: They intended it to be an “interactive movie,” one that would blend cinematic techniques and solid gameplay to captivate the player, but one that didn’t rely on grainy full motion video. A few design twists later and the game changed quite a lot, though it still stacks up fairly well in its overall awkwardness.

14Set on a distant planet far in the future, the story is simple and encourages you to explore the world Origin has created. As gameplay begins, you see someone – part man, part machine – lying on a bed in cell. That’s you, and after letting an insistent robotic nurse know that you don’t feel like resting anymore (i.e., you beat the thing into scrap-metal, shorting out your cell’s forcefield in the bargain), you realize you have no idea who you are or how you got here.

Freed from your cell, you begin to explore your surroundings. Several logbooks have been left lying around, and before long you realize why no one’s bothered to pick them up — a nuclear reactor located somewhere in the complex is about to go critical. The logbooks reveal that someone named Mastaba has been performing some pretty bizarre bio-enhancement experiments on hapless victims like yourself. Well, you’re not so hapless anymore; Mastaba’s madness has left you with the strength of many men, as well as a few other nifty add-ons that will come in handy as you struggle to survive.

Talk about motivation! Right off the bat, you’re faced with several compelling tasks: escaping the complex before the reactor blows; locating a weapon to take care of the robotic guards and automated defense systems scattered throughout the base; discovering your past identity, and trying to comprehend what you’ve become; and learning who Mastaba is, as well as the ultimate purpose of his experiments. And as you progress, you’ll discover even more mysteries to solve.

One of the first things you’ll notice about BioForge is the animation. You play the game from a variety of angles that change automatically, allowing you to enjoy the smooth, lifelike quality of your character’s movement; when it comes time to duke it out with one of Mastaba’s minions, you certainly can’t blame your death on jerky animation. The animation for the enemies you face is equally impressive, be they humanoid guards or futuristic dinosaurs.

8For the most part, the combat interface is as good as any I’ve seen in an adventure game. Using a combination of the numeric keypad and the CTRL and ALT keys, you can unleash a variety of attacks — uppercuts, roundhouse kicks, body punches, two-fisted overhead blows, low snap kicks, to name a few. You can even do a back flip to get out of a tight spot. But best of all, the keys associated with these moves are laid out logically enough that you’ll master them in no time flat.

There are a couple of problems with combat, however – and one of them is the direct result of trying to bring cinematic techniques to the game. As your character moves through the complex, the viewing perspective switches automatically to create the effect of multiple camera angles. This looks great when you’re not fighting, but there are times when a cinematic angle on the action makes it almost impossible to tell how close you are to an opponent. Miss a couple of punches, and he’ll be all over you.

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Another problem is that the direction you’re facing changes slightly after each kick or punch you throw. It can be pretty frustrating to land a solid roundhouse kick to a guard’s head, then have to carefully adjust your position before you can finish him off. And once you get a blaster pistol, you’ll find that aiming it can be pretty tricky, too.

But these are things that you can get used to, so they’re not too big a hindrance. Bioforge has an intriguing concept, and has enough weird to make it worth sticking with the game until the end.

System Requirements: 486/33 MHz, 8 MB RAM, 6.5 MB HDD, DOS

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