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February 16th, 2001


Oni
Contact And Other Information
Developer: Bungie
Publisher: Gathering of Developers
Product Home Page: Oni
Description: 3rd person "full contact action" game
Address: 2700 Fairmount St.
Dallas TX 75201

Price: US$39.99 at GOD Store
Telephone: (877) GODGAME
Requirements: System 8 or higher
300 MHz PowerPC or higher
64MB RAM
800MB free hard disk space
3Dfx Voodoo 2, ATI Rage Pro or Rage 128, or higher
CD-ROM drive

System Used For Testing: PowerMac G4 dual 500MHz
256MB RAM
20GB Hard drive
Stock ATI Rage 128 Pro (16MB)
[Review]
Oni - Full Contact Action On Your Mac!
by Ricky Spero

Introduction

Oni, the widely anticipated and closely watched "full-contact action" title from Bungie, has finally made it to market. It has had a rough time getting there, but many believe it will still be one of the greatest games of all time. Is it worth your time and money? The short answer: while Oni is the victim of many broken promises, it is still a brilliantly designed and intense game. Read on for the details!


Um, what's an Oni?

In Japanese, "Oni" means "Demon." But for anyone using a Mac, PC, or Playstation, Oni is the latest game from Bungie Software. Purchased by Microsoft last spring, Bungie is responsible the Marathon and Myth titles, widely regarded as some of the greatest games ever. It is being produced by Gathering of Developers.

Bungie began hyping Oni years ago, promising to blend and redefine game genres once again. The objective was to take a Mortal Kombat style of game (where two characters fight in an arena to a K.O.) and fold it into a first person shooter (FPS) like Quake or Unreal (where many characters run around with large guns and try to destroy one another). The result is a third-person perspective game with plenty of gunplay, but rooted in rock-em sock-em martial arts combat: you'll fire off a few rounds, then close in to administer the finishing blows. Bungie calls this "full-contact action," and it all happens in their slick Animé world.


Plot

While Bungie makes action games, they've also developed a reputation for creating intricate and compelling plotlines. Oni is no exception.

Our heroine is Konoko, a deadly operative for the mysterious TCTF police force. After some basic training, you begin the game with a simple mission: bust into a warehouse and halt an illegal shipment of arms. As you investigate, you begin to find clues to bring down an organized crime ring called "the Syndicate."

Through effective cut scenes and superb voice-overs, you begin to understand that all is not as it seems. Friends become enemies, and you discover secrets about your past. We'll let you discover the plot twists for yourself. Suffice it to say that Bungie has created a plot with spunk, full of absorbing (if predictable) twists and turns. It is a significant element of the game's appeal.


Gameplay

Bungie makes great action games—don't let anyone tell you differently. The play is fast and furious, full of bone-crunching throws and kicks, packed with explosive weaponry. You command all of this with a mouse (two buttons STRONGLY recommended; sorry Apple, but your "no button" concept won't get you too far with this game), and the keyboard. The controls are simple and easy to learn, but the key combinations and timing to execute complex and deadly special moves take practice to master.

There is no blood in Oni. Apparently this got some people really put out, but we've decided that it was a good call. Instead of blood, there are flashes of light, and different colors inform the gamer of the type of hit. In particular, blue means the hit was blocked, and the redder the flash, the closer the victim is to dying.

We've also decided that the camera, while controversial among some gamers, is one of Oni's most brilliant design elements. Third-person games have always had the challenge of simultaneously informing the gamer of everything that's going on around the protagonist while preventing the camera from being blocked by solid objects like walls and furniture. Oni deals with this by making such objects disappear when they get in the way. Bungie calls it "jello-cam." The obvious problem is that the gamer can sometimes spy on enemies in another room by positioning Konoko the right way against a wall. Cheating? Perhaps. But it's a small price to pay for a camera that finally manages to let us see what we need to—without getting nauseous from constant zooming in and out. Better to see too much than too little.


Screen Shots

4x4_1.jpg 4x4_2.jpg 4x4_3.jpg 4x4_4.jpg

Click the thumbnails for larger views.

Graphics

The character modeling is also first-rate: no contorting limbs or impossibly limber individuals here. Konoko and her enemies are guilty of quite a few gravity-defying moves, but no one needs some slide rule-toting dork to point that out. It's all in the name of the Smackdown.

Bungie has also successfully executed their Animé design concept. For those out of the loop, Animé is a style of animation originating in Japan that has recently gained popularity in the United States. The most widely known example is probably the television show Pokemon. Oni's buildings, characters, and objects all have the sleek, crisp lines so integral to Animé's appeal.

As for the graphics engine itself, complaints abound that the game's scenery is plain and boring. It's true that Oni's engine comes with severe restrictions on complexity due to the early date it was started. But even if it doesn't have the stunning odds and ends scattered about like Rune or Unreal Tournament, the game play is still first-rate. Oni might lack the ultra-advanced 3D engine of Quake III, but Bungie has shown that with a solid vision for the game's design, you don't need such spiffy technology.

Bungie has also set a new standard for floor plans in games. Designed by real architects using AutoCAD software, the compounds, airports, and office buildings through which Konoko travels add to the immersive aspects of the game. It's subtle, but it makes you feel like the female James Bond running, sneaking, and shooting through real buildings after the bad guys. (Those bad guys, by the way, are just about as smart as the average bad guy in a Bond flick: they don't do anything too dumb to be distracting, but they rarely surprise you.)

The only hitches in the graphics engine are some pretty severe clipping issues. A guy killed in one room will have a limb hanging out into the adjacent hallway. When you kick a wall, your leg goes right through it. Details, yes, but noticeable ones.


Multiplayer—oh, wait. There is no multiplayer.

That's right: Oni is a single player game only. Apparently, Bungie had all kinds of problems getting Oni to run smoothly over local networks-which means combat over the internet would have been prohibitively slow. They chose to get the game to market with an intact single-player game rather than continue to delay it.

Unfortunately, because it is single-player only, you fight when and where a level allows you to. You have to watch certain cut scenes over and over. And you never get challenged by anything more severe than the AI, which, while good, is no match for a reasonably intelligent gamer. There is no substitute for multiplayer. It turns a great single-player title like Oni into an epic with unlimited replay value. Indeed, in this day and age Oni feels like half of a game. The combat is so engaging that you want desperately to play against other people. But we'll just have to hope for a full-featured Oni II. As for this Oni, the absence of a multiplayer mode knocks down our rating by one full point (out of five). Bummer.


Other Details

Oni will fit well into the oncoming Mac OS X world. While Oni is carbonized, there are problems with the intro and "outro" movies when the game is run under the Mac OS X beta. OS X also does not support input sprockets, making the mouse behave a little oddly. But running the game under Classic apparently fixes both issues. And as far as we can see, none of Oni's OS X issues are Bungie's fault, and the Bungie crew definitely deserves kudos for making this game OS X-compatible out of the box.

Two game conventions are, oddly, not supported in Oni. Command-Q does not quit and you cannot reach the options screen by hitting escape during the game. But generally speaking the game is very stable, which is a pleasant surprise in a Mac game. And its hardware requirements are refreshingly low: I played Oni on a PowerBook G3 at 400MHz with 192MB of RAM, with virtual memory set to a commodious 250MB, and it worked beautifully.


Conclusion

And in the end, Oni is one hell of a game, even without any multiplayer support. While clipping problems and sparse levels are too bad, the superb game play easily makes up for them. You will play this game all the way through, then go through again and relive your favorite moments. Alas, if only there were multiplayer, because with it, this game would have earned 4 1/2 Thumbs Up if not higher.


Final Score (Maximum Score is 5 Thumbs Up)
4 Thumbs Up
Pros
  • Awesome, addictive, immersive game play.
  • Great story line
  • Great level design
  • Good graphics
Cons
  • No multiplayer
  • Irritating clipping problems



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