Overlord: Raising Hell Review

Overlord hasn't had a very good run in the game world. First, the game appeared on the Xbox 360 and was met with lukewarm reviews and downright disappointing sales (though the latter was more than likely not his fault; it's tough being a mid-summer game, especially one released squarely between the powerhouses The Darkness and Bioshock...). That wasn't the end of its misfortune, though. The game was picked up and advertised on television by Gametap, almost a sure sign that the retail version was detestable. If you need proof of this trend, simply check out the other recent Gametap free releases - Jaws Unleashed, the most recent Tomb Raider games, Hitman, BloodRayne... ugh. Even an announcement that Overlord would be hitting the PS3 with some new features couldn't drag the game from the pits of obscurity, where it was no doubt sandwiched between embarrassments like Earth Defense Force, Shadowrun and the Burger King 360 games.

Now that Overlord has made the jump to Sony's console with the most fully-featured version of the game yet, it will probably still be ignored by the RPG and FPS crowd that seems to hold the majority these days. The thing is... the game is actually quite good. And on top of that, gamers everywhere should be kneeling and anointing the people at Codemasters' (the team behind the game) feet. Why? Because even though Overlord has some annoying issues, it's a fun mix of Pikmin-like strategy and brutal, though strangely light-hearted, gremlin mayhem. And best of all, it has the noble aim of doing something a little bit different than all the pointless shooters, weak RPGs and barely updated year-to-year sports games that tow the line for the "same boring gameplay with prettier graphics" gamers. If you want a game that doesn't really "fit" in the torrent of releases best described as the same-old, same-old, Overlord should be next on your shopping list, despite the game's rocky and unimpressive history.

If you take my advice and give Overlord a shot, the first things you'll notice are the game's graphics, animation and sound. I'm voting a straight ticket on these three - they all suck. The graphics are just plain ugly, with lots of pop in and "fog." Both the characters and the scenery, even the Overlord himself, all look like they would have fit right in with PS2 games from three or four years ago. The character animation is no prize either; half the time the Overlord looks like he's hovering about 6 inches of the ground and the enemies and NPCs just mill about aimlessly until you kill them or pass them by. And finally, the sound is just awful. Characters repeat the same phrases over and over, the background music is all but non-existent and the sound effects seem to be about a half step behind the action. Worst of all, though, is your minions. They shriek the same three or four things ad nauseum and being that their voices are best described as the Cryptkeeper after performing the whole helium-makes-your-voice-sound-funny trick, they can get pretty annoying. At first, it's kind of neat, but as you progress it just gets more and more tiresome, especially as your minion army grows (five annoying voices is much less grating than 20... or more...). After just a few hours, the detestable soldiers from Haze will look funny and interesting by comparison.

...now, I wouldn't be much of a gamer (or reviewer) if I were only interested in graphics and sound. That's why I put those complaints toward the beginning of this review; I can now get into all the things the game does right, in spite of being offensive to both the eyes and ears.