Without Warning

Blind panic ensues as Without Warning begins, as soon as your mission starts barrels are exploding and comrades are being perforated

For a moment, blind panic ensues as Without Warning begins. There's no helpful introduction - as soon as your mission has been outlined barrels are exploding and comrades are being perforated everywhere you look.

It's mad: with every ball of flame that erupts, the screen judders and shakes and your sense of disorientation heightens. It's just like being in a Bruce Willis movie. Well, maybe a Jean-Claude Van Damme one. To set the scene, terrorists with a suspiciously Middle-Eastern twang to their accents are hell-bent on the destruction of a chemical plant. Unfortunately, as is always the case in these things, three hapless civvies have got themselves caught up in the action, and it's this that provides the game's crack at invention. You get to play from the point of view of each of them, plus three of the special forces troops sent in to salvage the situation.


With a 24-style overarching, intertwining story underpinning proceedings, this slant could have provided Without Warning with some real innovation. It doesn't, because it soon transpires that there's barely any variation between characters. Essentially, you've got to shoot as many terrorists and save as many hostages as possible, regardless of who you are (except when playing as secretary Tanya in the mandatory stealth mission). Sub-quests like defusing mines are tagged on, but it seems like a great idea has gone to waste.

There are many things Without Warning does well, mind. Riddling enemies with hot lead and watching as they crumple to the ground is mighty satisfying, and the explosions are immense. Controls seem a little fluffy, though, and your characters do feel like they're running through tar with bricks in their pockets at times - when machine gun fire is clattering about your ears you'll find yourself almost pushing the screen to hurry out of a tricky situation.

There's no denying what unabashed, volatile fun Without Warning is. But blowing people and stuff up over and over again soon gets tiresome and it's precisely then that the early promise evaporates. The multiple perspectives could've given Without Warning a really original slant, but as it is we've got an atmospheric shooter with pure octane running through its veins - it's just that it runs out of fuel when it should be steaming ahead of other, similarly-themed shooters.

The verdict

This should have been a great shooter, but the gameplay wilts when it should take off. It's got really nice explosions though.

PlayStation 2
Shoot 'em Up, Adventure