When Circle Studio, the team behind Lara Croft's original exploits, announced this game we were quite excited to see how it turned out. A team with a pedigree of third person action was finally going to give us fast paced action with multiple characters and a time limit. How wrong we were. Without Warning is a moderate game that suffers too much of the same old same old and fails to innovate when really, for it to have any chance, it had to. It's also, in our opinion, on the wrong platform but more on that later.
Without Warning tells a very cliche story of terrorists taking over a chemical plant to hold the local town hostage. When the game begins this has just taken place and you are part of the first response team, security team, media or office workers depending on the mission your currently playing. From here on you work through very short missions piecing the puzzle together across a twelve hour period. There is a lot of missions in the game but they are all extremely short.
The game is played from a third person perspective as you would expect but feels a lot like Kill Switch rather than something that's truly new and innovative and as a result is hard to recommend. Generally you have to solve two puzzles per mission before being forced into another character's shoes to continue the story. This is where one of the big problems with the game lies and it shows that Circle just couldn't come up with a way to show parallel storylines without compromising gameplay. The storylines intertwine, but it still feels very "hodge podge" and thrown together.
It's not all bad for the game however as sometimes it does feel truly cool and the developers have thrown in some curve balls to mix up the gameplay. One such example is the DDR style button mini game to defuse bombs, or the pick lock scenario, a bit like Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell. We have to admit that we laughed that such a system could be used in this action genre, but it does work very well, especially when it increases the atmosphere due to patrolling enemies who can shoot you while you're defusing.
The other thing is that because you're playing as multiple characters it's hard to get bored quickly. The only time this may happen is when you play multiple special forces missions in a row. Other than that there is a lot of variety, especially with the two characters who don't have weapons; the media man and the young office worker. When playing as the media man the general idea is to cover the story the best you can with the camera, and with the office worker, escape and not much else.
One problem with the game however is that it is just too easy. Holding down L1 gives you an auto-aim, which you don't have to use, but using it means just pumping the R2 button is enough to get through most levels. The only time you will have a challenge is when the game tasks you with defusing bombs in a set amount of time.
The missions are short and sharp which does feel like the game is moving through at a rapid pace, and it's this that makes us think this would have made a brilliant PSP game. It is a game which can be turned off anytime without losing much progress and the missions lasting about five minutes make it perfect for the portable genre. The shortcomings of the game would have been much more acceptable on a handheld and the repetitiveness may not have been such a problem considering most won't play a portable game for hours on end.
Another problem with the game is that it is completely set in the one environment. This of course is realistic and to really capture the twelve hours the game takes place in this had to happen but it would have been nice for Circle to move a little into fantasy land and offer much more variety than electrical power boxes, offices and outdoor areas. With that said, the game's environment can offer some tense moments and a lot of the environment is destructible - e.g hiding behind a box may not necessarily give you cover.
Visually the game is quite impressive, especially the character models but there is also some very bland areas and the environment overall doesn't keep you interested for very long. The destructive environment helps this somewhat but overall the game could have looked better. The action is however fast and furious meaning that you probably won't notice the environment, or lack thereof, too much.
Without Warning is a game that should have been on the PSP. It's perfect for the portable market and there is no reason why Circle shouldn't now port this. However on the PS2 it doesn't work at all because console games need to have deep, long levels with an interesting storyline, neither of which this game has.