Tampons. Pizza. Contraceptives.
These are some of the few things that haven’t had the fortune of being associated with the marketing machine that is Ra.One. Rather than the movie’s production, it’s the stitching up of deals to have SRK’s mug plastered on everything from soaps to tablet computers that’s been the real feat. One of the many things in King Khan’s grand plan to drown you in all things Ra.One is video games. While the iOS version has an isometric, Contra-like approach, Trine’s debut PS3 effort is the focus of this review.
Last year’s Street Cricket Champions showed a glimpse of what could have been with a longer development cycle. Ra.One, on the other hand, shows no such redeeming qualities. The game pits you in the role of one of the three protagonists – SRK, Kareena Kapoor and some random dude trying to teach Arjun Rampal a lesson for trolling the entire human race (for reasons not pertaining to his acting, I think). In case you’re wondering why I’m not referring to them as their in-game characters, it’s because they surely don’t look or feel like their movie counterparts. However, the lack of quality presentation is barely scraping the surface of the game’s issues. Sure, the animations are wonky and every character seems to be moving as if they were on litres of Red Bull, but that is just dandy in the face of the game’s larger issues.
Ra.One takes place in stages that resemble arenas that all look alike. Here you’d find yourself pitted against a few generic soldiers in combat that’s best described as what happens when Super Smash Bros meets a wannabe dystopian sci-fi setting. I use the word ‘wannabe’ because every time an enemy yells “threat detected” I’d burst into laughter because it would sound perfectly retarded. You start off with a tutorial, where you’d want to keep track or note down what each button does on paper because there’s no explanation of the controls via the option menus. Yes. This is a video game in 2011 that decides it’s cool to let you fumble your way through it. I think that’s the way you’re meant to play it because even though each button has a specific function, such as ranged and melee attacks or block, the camera doesn’t zoom in to the action so you’d rarely know what you’re doing without sitting less than a foot away from the screen.
Surprisingly, there’s some form of strategy to the madness. It involves hammering down on your melee and ranged attacks long enough to fill up your power meter. Doing so allows you to unleash a special attack that does an effective job of clearing a room full of baddies. There are power-ups that allow you to regain health or enhance your speed, among other things. Certain levels have you trying to survive a rather timid onslaught before the timer runs out, but that’s as far as variety goes in the campaign. Before you know it, the game devolves into a race to tap your controller long enough to get to a super attack. It ends up being repetitive, sloppy and boring. The fact that almost every room looks the same and you only get to try out the skills of other characters for a couple of levels makes this a chore to play. There’s only so much of SRK screeching “Energy Blast” that your ears can take.
Once you’re done decimating your opposition in a frantic button mashing frenzy, you’re treated to cutscenes reminiscent of the Infamous series – comic book shots trying to say important things. The problem is, however, hearing the plot is a bit of a mess because the audio would stutter from time to time and the developers thought it would be a good idea not to include subtitles. Again, this is 2011. Not 1985. We deserve better. However, the forces that be firmly believe we don’t. Midway through my playthrough, I encountered a bug that halted all my progress. One of the games cookie cutter foes gained invulnerability to my special attacks in spite of my well honed mastery over button mashing. In addition to his newly found God mode that rendered my moves useless, one of my many hits propelled him to an invisible ledge above me. Even though I was playing as SRK, I couldn’t reach him. Mind blown!
“It’s probably a one-time bug,” I thought, so I rebooted the level and tried again. And again. And again. And again. And once more before writing this review. So yeah, I couldn’t progress past the halfway mark, making this a milestone of sorts in my gaming life. Not one I’m exactly proud of. My time with the game ended so abruptly that it makes TV soap opera cliffhangers seem like the stuff of legends. There is local multi-player, but nothing that would keep your attention unless you really, really, really do love Ra.One. On the bright side, and this is the optimist in me holding the rest of me at gunpoint, the game does look remarkably clear for what is perhaps an upscaled PS2 game. Oh, and there is Trophy support as well if you’re the sort who loves collecting those digital bits of satisfaction. Then again, there are far better games to get them from.
After this review, I won’t be surprised if I’m told off about the game’s commercial success. The fact is it will sell on name alone. The problem lies in the sudden free falling decline of standards that Ra.One brings to the table and the sheer magnitude of people that have had and will have the displeasure of experiencing it. If the objective was to get non-gamers into gaming by tying up with Bollywood, they’ve succeeded, but why does their first experience have to be, and if you can pardon my french, utter crap? There’s just so much wrong with this that it might just turn people off gaming completely.
So there you have it; Ra.One: The Game is riddled with presentation flaws, bugs, barely one-dimensional gameplay and horrific omissions of basic standards of what people – gamers and non-gamers – should have in games. I guess we can add one more thing to the Spartan list of items that don’t have a Ra.One association – a decent video game.