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Criticom (outside of North America known as Criticom: Critical Combat) is a fighting game developed by Kronos Digital Entertainment and published by Japanese company Vic Tokai Corporation (currently known as Tokai Communications Corporation). It was released in 1995 for the PlayStation and later for the Sega Saturn.
Two alien races, the Nezom and Zerai clans obtained a powerful crystalline stone called "The Relic," and anointed themselves "The Chosen Ones." The Chosen Ones used this power to subjugate the other races, exterminating those that failed to comply. After this era of war, The Chosen Ones began to enjoy a new age of peace. However, The Relic was stolen and The Chosen Ones' power was shaken. Now, warriors from all over the universe seek the relic, each with their own ambitions.
The fighting action takes place on a round, elevated platform. Each fighter begins the fight with a full power meter and one power meter refill in reserve that is activated when the primary meter is depleted. Thus, there are no rounds. The fight runs until one fighter is knocked out (no more power in their meter), one is knocked out of the arena (or steps/jumps out), or the time runs out.
Why It Critically Sucks
- The difficulty is so unfair that can make Soldier of Fortune: Payback look easy in comparision. First off, the artificial inteligence of the enemy is programmed to always block and make special attacks, and these special attacks are insanely hard to dodge. If you fail at blocking them, the enemy will knock you down very easily and hit you while you're still stunned on the ground, and when you're about to knock your rival out of the arena, there is a high probability that the rival will just roll to the opposite side and ruin your process. To make this thing worse, the game doesn't even have a difficulty selector, making the game almost impossible to beat.
- Although as previously mentioned the difficulty, the artificial inteligence of the enemies is on a pathetic level, making the opponent dumber than a brick. On the one hand, as it was said in WIS #1, he/she usually blocks and makes special attacks that are difficult to dodge, on the other hand, the opponent blocks himself for no reason, although you do not attack him, he cannot attack while you flip, sometimes the opponent cannot react to nothing, and the opponent falls from the level when he/she is close to the abyss.
- While the idea of a 3D fighting game is great on paper, the execution in this case is terrible. To begin with, the camera is extremely unreliable, it is supposed to adjust automatically according to the positions of the characters in the stage, however, it takes a few seconds to adjust correctly and it will only adjust to that position if you and your rival stay in the same position for that time brief. If you or your enemy rotate, the camera will not adjust and it will get in a very awkward angle where you won't be able to move correctly, the worst part is that the controls can also inverse without prior notice. For instance, the camera can adjust at the back of any of the characters and, depending on which direction the camera took, you have to move to the left or to the right to move forward.
- Terrible controls in general:
- All of your main attacks have a considerable input delay, something that can be critical if you're trying to hit your enemy or block an attack.
- Speaking of blocking, you have to go backwards to block the enemy attacks, something that is common in most of fighting games, but the problem is that the blocking is outright broken, most of the times the blocking will not be executed when pressing back, and when you can finally block, the enemy can still hit you and knock you down, in other words, blocking is entirely pointless.
- Just like Rise of the Robots, you only have a couple of special movements that can be executed by pressing R1 and R2 (on the PS1 version), but these special movements are also delayed by a few seconds and it's hard to hit your rival with them because of the unfair AI, also, the R2 special movement doesn't seem to respond or work at all, pressing it in combination with of the of the sides of the d-pad will never do anything, even after you level up your character.
- In the PlayStation version, the controls for selecting your character in the character select menu are inversed, meaning that you need to press the right button if you want to choose the character from your left and viceversa.
- As said before, the special movements are incredibly hard to perform because of how unresponsive the controls are, but they're not only unresponsive, they're also unreliable. There are some special movements that will knock you down if you don't hit your rival, leading to an unfair unadvantage against the enemy. The worst part of this is that this isn't restricted to only one or two characters, but all of them suffer of the same problem.
- The hit detection is entirely broken, not only because of the AI that can punch you and knock you down while your character is blocking, but also because there are times where you will never be able to hit your rival at point-blank range or your attacks can hit other parts of their bodies, for example, sometimes when you kick your rival in the torso, the hit detection will count it as a low or a high attack, this may be the reason why the blocking is so unreliable.
- Horribly unbalanced combat. All of the characters you can choose are incredibly weak and unreliable, and while this may sound logical because all of the characters start at level 1, the character of the AI will always be terribly overpowered, even if in the character select section his info shows that he's on the same level as you. This gets to the point that playing a "clean" fight is totally impossible because you'll always be in disadvantage against the AI. The only way to win a single round is spamming the charge attack, and this isn't even safe at all, as your rival can roll all over the stage to evade you, and it just gets worse in higher levels, which makes it unenjoyable and downright frustrating to play.
- As stated previously, the game tried to implement an innovative system where the player could level up their fighters each time they won a fight, something that is great on paper, but terrible in this case. You can only level up by winning a certain amount of rounds, but this is almost impossible due to the broken controls and unfair difficulty. Leveling up your character will only unlock more special attacks and the stats will get increased, but it's almost pointless, as these special movements are completely unresponsive and your character is still very weak against the AI.
- Since this game was one of the first 3D fighting games released for the home consoles (and in general), all of the characters jump ridiculously high, but here, the jump height of the characters is so abysmal that it gets to the point that it can surpass the jump height of Tekken, a game that was well known for having characters that jumped insanely high.
- Weird combat system. Unlike many other fighting games that require you to win two rounds to get to the next stage, here is only a round per stage, and while this may not sound bad and it's kinda innovative, due to the unfair AI and how weak is your character by default, you will probably hate this system because of how easy is to lose at this game.
- It's worth to mention that at the start of each round, each character has two life bars, the first one represented by a green bar on the top of the screen and the second one by an orange dot under the green bar, when you lose your first bar, the orange dot will dissapear and the green bar will fill again.
- For some strange reason the game doesn't let you change your character when you lose, but you can change it when you win.
- Several frame-rate issues, especially on the Saturn version.
- False advertising appear in the game's European back cover:
- "Eight futuristic characters who each undergo three unique transformations - 24 characters in total": In fact, there are still only eight characters that stand out in appearance and have a few extra attacks. Throughout the game, none of the characters, including transformations, according to the back cover being counted as additional characters, perform any new trick.
- "Power up with awesome new weapons and projectiles as you progress through the ranks": They only differ in appearance and deal the same damage as basic weapons and projectiles.
- "Earn additional cruncing combo moves as your combat skills develop": Even after leveling up your character, you'll still have the same two special movements, or one if you don't count the unresponsive R2 movement.
- "Spectacular Hollywood style cinematics in game and character introductions, and true 3D character control": While the cinematics look alright for its age, they don't have the "Hollywood style cinematics" quality that the back cover claims, also, the 3D character control in the game has a noticeable lack of polish and several issues with the controls.
- Awful and stiff character animations. All of the movements that the characters were animated by hand instead of using motion capture, as result, the punching, kicking and jumping animations look weird, like if the characters were robots or they couldn't move their extremities adequately.
- Ugly and dull graphics, especially for 1995 standards, Although they are bit acceptable, the problem is that all of the stages are exactly the same, only with other colors and a different background, there is nothing that can distinguish one stage of another. Also, all of the backgrounds are poorly detailed, making the stages look pretty empty, lifeless, and unattractive, the character models look like thawed meat boiled in a dog bowl 1 week ago. They are so dull and ugly that you may refuse to watch the game for more than 2 minutes.
- The FMV cinematics look terribly pixelated, and it's not helped by the fact that the voices and sound effects are also of a very poor quality, to the point that it can be hard to understand what is the narrator trying to say, to make the things worse, there isn't an option to enable subtitles, meaning that, if you're not a native english speaker, you will experience a lot of troubles trying to understrand what is the plot about.
- The voice acting is terrible, all of the characters will scream some lines when making a movement or winning a round, and their voices are really annoying, the best example is the Genji's voice that resembles more of a stereotyped cartoon alien voice. Their lines aren't much better, the more you play, the more they repeat them over and over.
- The soundtrack is actually pretty good, and while it's not as memorable as other soundtracks of its genre, it can be pleasant to listen to.
- Even if the game has an abysmal level of difficulty, fortunately you have an unlimited amount of continues.
- Despite the terribly pixelated quality of the FMV's, they actually look pretty good for its age.
Criticom initially got praised by the critics when the first news and captures about the game were published. The american magazine VideoGames & Computer Entertainment even called it "one of the coolest fighting game experiences in a long time", however, when the game was actually released, it was heavily panned by critics and nowadays it's considered one of the worst fighting games of all times according to the critics and the users alike.
Next Generation gave the game a 4 out of 10, praising the impressive graphics, the visual details and the characters, but critizing the poor animations and the choppy frame rate that interfered with the gameplay.
IGN gave the game a score of 3 out of 10, making mention of the good graphics and backgrounds, but critizing the choppy animations of the characters, the sloppy controls and the low frame rate. They also called it a disappointing game.
GameFan gave it a 44 out of 100, considering it the worst fighting game after Rise of the Robots and saying that it's as playable as a violin with one string, however, they mentioned that the only good things about the game were the graphics and the music.