The Fortress of Dr. Radiaki
The Fortress of Dr. Radiaki is a first-person shooter video game co-developed by Maelstrom Software and Future Visionary. It was released in 1994 for MS-DOS by Merit Studios. It took about seven months to make this game from start to finish and a very low budget was used for its development.
Dr. Radiaki has created an army of genetically modified creatures and threatens to destroy the world if the amount of $1 billion is not deposited in his bank account. You are a special agent named Mack Banner and your mission is simple: go to the Radiaki's fortress and kill him.
Why It Sucks
- The whole game is so ridiculous and stupid that you might wonder if this game was made with the intention of being that bad or no, specially with the plot that seems to be taken from a sketch comedy like Robot Chicken or Pop Team Epic. The game was announced as a game with "avant-garde humor", but in reality, the game has a lot of bad jokes and a poorly implemented bizarre humor.
- Terrible controls:
- Unlike many other FPS games of the times, the left shift button fires your weapon, the control button activates doors and switches, the right shift button reloads the weapon and holding alt lets the player run. If you try to run it in a Windows environment, pressing the shift key repeatedly will bring up the Sticky Keys pop-up, which can be annoying.
- The mouse controls are even worse; you need to hold the left mouse button and then move the mouse like a joystick just to move, and the right mouse button fires the selected weapon. With either control scheme there's no strafing or sidestepping.
- The movement is stiff and turning around is imprecise because you can turn either too fast or too slow, something that is really inconvenient when we talk about an FPS, to make the things worse, you can't adjust the sensibility of your keyboard/mouse.
- Because of this, using weapons like the rocket launcher or the flamethrower cannon is almost impossible, because their projectiles are not so fast, meaning that you can either fail to shoot an enemy or shoot yourself accidentaly.
- To hit an enemy, you must aim exactly at him, something that is incredibly hard because of the stiff and inconsistent sensitivity of the controls.
- Awful graphics for the time, the color palette lacks of vivid colors and makes the game look muddy, the textures are grainy and ugly as the ones from Nerves of Steel and sometimes they will glitch, as they can move strangely for no reason in a similar way to Planet Of The Apes, some items can look pretty dark because of the poor amount of vivid colors and it can be difficult to find them, and the animations are terrible too, the doors just open immediately without any kind of animation and the enemy sprites when they shoot you or die look ridiculous and can be compared to a cheap stop-motion film made by a high-school student.
- The game uses CGI generated cutscenes for the introduction and many other parts of the game, but these cutscenes look horrendous, mostly because the Dr.Radiaki moves a lot when he talks, like if he was having a seizure, just look by yourself.
- The FOV is way too high to the point that the levels and sprites may seem larger and closer than they should be, the camera doesn't do a better job, because it's placed in a pretty strange angle, like if the protagonist was wearing a neck collar or he wasn't able to look down and it bobbles everytime you take a single step.
- The game can be misleading at times. This can be seen in the introductory cutscene, which states that Mack Banner was sent to the first level with only a corked baseball bat, but in reality, the player also starts with a pistol.
- Bad collision detection that is at par with Nerves of Steel, you can't walk near the edges of the walls and you need to be very precise to move through narrow corridors and not getting stuck.
- While the walls can be at angles other than 90 degrees, it can get hard to fire or to move around these walls at times, mostly because of the troublesome controls and the awful collision detection.
- While you have a decent selection of weapons to choose like a pistol, a shotgun, a tommy gun, a katana, a bat and much more, the weapons are completely unbalanced and broken. For instance, you can kill a non-armored enemy with only two hits of your starting bat, but if you use your pistol, it will take four shots just to kill him, and not only that, the tommy gun requires the abysmal amount of 15 shots just to kill that same enemy.
- The levels have no coherent theme to the enemies, the first level has rat-men, ninjas and cuban soldiers that look like Fidel Castro, but the later levels have robots with flamethrowers, samurais, lizardmen and a robot soviet tank called "Mecho-Comrade".
- The boss fights are just terrible and impractical because there is no real strategy to beat them, instead, you just shoot until they are dead. All of them are boring and unfair because of the abysmal amount of damage of their attacks and movement speed, it's also worth to mention that their designs are just terrible and incoherent, the most notorious examples are but not restricted to:
- The level design isn't much better, as it consists of a lot of huge, boring and confusing mazes that include dead ends or closed doors that you can't open until you find the right key to open them, this example must be enough to show you how ruined and terrible are the levels.
- There is a map that can help you to navigate through the levels, but you can't move while it's on screen and it needs to be drawn constantly by moving through the map, this may sound good, but what makes it almost useless is that there is a bug that prevents you to draw the map adequately that can only be fixed by hugging the walls.
- Outright broken and unbalanced AI. Most of the enemies are not harsh because their AI sometimes will not detect you when you are nearby or you shoot directly to them, but there are times where the enemies will move incredibly fast, and taking in count that your aiming is imprecise because of the bad controls, it can be a painful task to kill them, and not only that, if you're unlucky enough, the enemies can clip through closed doors and shoot you. Even the bosses are affected by this, because they will get stuck in a wall oftenly.
- God-awful audio design that can make your ears bleed in matter of seconds:
- The stepping sounds are of a low quality, and this can proven when you realize that some kind of snaps can be heard along the stepping sounds.
- The voice acting is absolutely terrible, and it gets to the point that it seems to be ripped from a black humor cartoon like south park and is able to make the [Ride to Hell: Retribution] voice acting sound like one of the best ones of all the times in videogame history. Besides the screams that don't involve any kind of suffering or dying sensation, the most notorious examples of the terrible voice acting are the cuban soldiers, when they start attacking you, they will start screaming the same quote over and over ("Cuidado!"), but the most cringeworth and infamous lines are the ones that they scream when they die, like "Ay, mi cabeza!" or "Madre de Dios".
- The ninja enemies that you might find in some of the levels will speak in chinese instead of japanese, if you didn't know, ninjas were originated in Japan and not in China.
- The ending is generic and worthless, it just consists of a narrator speaking while some newspapers appear on screen.
- It's one of the few FPS games of the MS-DOS era where you can actually reload your weapons.
- Just like Nerves of Steel, the level design is not restricted to only right angles for the walls and curves.
- The music is acceptable, specially the music from the first level, which is pretty catchy and makes the task of wandering around through the level slightly better, take a listen.
While the game wasn't well known at the time, it received generally negative reviews, and along with Nerves of Steel, it's considered one of the worst FPS games of the 1990's by most of the critics and it has an average user score of 1.7 on GameFaqsand 2.3 on MobyGames
Computer Gaming World (CGW) gave the game a 40 out of 100, stating that "The Fortress of Dr. Radiaki was a great idea, but one that was not followed through. There's too little wackiness, and too much time spent trudging through mazes, wishing for a map that worked. And as RADIAKI doesn't offer anything original aside from that wackiness, I'd pass on it, unless you're a DOOM-a-like-aholic looking to collect a complete set."
The german magazine Power Play gave the game a score of 23, and in words of the person who reviewed it: "With criminal disregard of any quality standards, fans of the 3D action are served one snappy plagiarism after the other. This example is not only visually particularly ugly, but also has all the obvious flaws of a loveless game design. The level design is under all cannon, senseless mazes and unintelligent corridor systems without any tension build-up rob you of the last nerve and the unsuccessful automapping leaves you in the lurch. Strictly hierarchically structured, each level section is populated by only one type of person / monster in the corridors, so surprises and aha effects are left out. Your opponents are stupid, poorly animated and anything but beautiful to look at, while the color palette of this game rivals the color selection of a crayon box of a primary school student. Only interesting for absolute 3-D shooting fetishists and trash fans who want to own every bad game of this kind."
PC Joker gave the game a 29% out of 100%, shortly describing "You will look in vain for flair, atmosphere and mood, instead you will only find dreary boredom everywhere you look and shoot. Therefore, one shouldn't take it too seriously that there are automapping, 20 types of opponents and various weapons, because on the one hand the mouse or key control is pure mockery, on the other hand the motivation starts at zero and then slowly falls off."
Génération 4 gave it a 45% and stated that "If we add to that the inability to play correctly under a 386, requires a setting of the visual window, this game really does not have much going for it."
The highest score was of 81 and it was given by PC World, praising the character graphics, the sense of humor and the gameplay, but critisizing the level graphics and design and the lack of joystick support. In short words: "Fortress of Dr. Radiaki may not be the best shooter around, but it's definitely worth a look."
- This was the first and the last videogame developed by Maelstrom Software. After the game was published, they had to shut down for unknown reasons.
- GameFaqs's user score: https://gamefaqs.gamespot.com/pc/564996-the-fortress-of-dr-radiaki
- MobyGames's user score: https://www.mobygames.com/game/dos/fortress-of-dr-radiaki/mobyrank
- PC Joker review: https://www.kultboy.com/index.php?site=t&id=2085
- Génération 4 review: http://download.abandonware.org/magazines/Generation%204/generation4_numero073/generation%204%20-%20N073%20-%20%20janvier%201995%20-%20page172%20et%20page173.jpg
- MobyGames's page about Maelstrom Software: https://www.mobygames.com/company/maelstrom-software