Cyberia

Posted by Philip Jong.
First posted on 15 November 1997. Last updated on 24 February 2010.
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Cyberia
Danger lurks around everywhere in Cyberia.
Cyberia
Zak must infiltrate the Cyberia complex.
Cyberia
A romantic scene is acted out by synthetic actors. Yikes!
Cyberia
Zak must ensure humanity's survival against the doomsday device.
Cyberia
Cyberia is a rail shooter game in disguise.

Claimed to be over 2 years in the making, Cyberia is billed by Xatrix Interactive Design as "an arcade/adventure game that pushes interactive entertainment to the next level". Whether or not this laudable claim is true is highly debatable. Considered to be more hype than substance, Cyberia is an easy game to criticize. While the cinematic cut scenes are certainly visually stunning, its poor story development and puzzle play surely prevents Cyberia from ever rising to the next level!

In the year 2027, your alter ego, Zak Kingston, has been accused of betrayal and espionage as a computer hacker. It has been five years after World War III. Powerful Cartels are battling for the control of the world power in the new order. The Free World Alliance, to which you now seemingly entrust, strives to conserve the power against those who attempt for world domination. Unfortunately, a long forgotten doomsday device has just been discovered beneath the frozen wasteland of the Eastern Block. Named Cyberia, it was designed in an era of long forgotten peace by the most brilliant minds in nano and cybernetic technology. Should this ultimate weapon fallen into the wrong hands, it will stand as the instrument of humanity's destruction. Your only chance is to steal the TF-22 tactical fighter and fly to Cyberia. With a pair of specially equipped visors called BLADES (Bi-optic Low Amplitude Displayed Energy System), you need to guide Zak to infiltrate the Cyberia complex and destroy the Cyberia weapon to save the world.

Despite its lackluster gameplay, Cyberia is among the first game titles to combine computer animations and Hollywood film technique to form visually stunning graphics and cut scenes. Atmospheric environment are fully pre-rendered with location lighting. Developed on state of the art Silicon Graphics Workstations, realistic character movements are animated using digitally captured motion to generate "synthetic actors" with new levels of fluidity and precision. Digitized speech is played with stimulated lip synchronization. Cyberia is produced by Ali Atabek, founder of Mind Craft, whose past credits include Magic Candle and Siege. The CD-ROM quality musical score and sound effects are recorded by Thomas Dolby Headspace production studio.

Gameplay in Cyberia alternates between two basic modes—arcade and puzzle. BLADES performs three functions in the game. It can detect all infrared sources or thermal energy. It uses magnetic resonance to see through objects. It can scan and identify all types of organic matter. The arcade portion basically consists of 11 rail shooters. Targets are displayed along pre-rendered animated paths, with the player having minimal or no control of the navigation. The puzzle portion contains small number of logic based puzzles that control access to key areas necessary for the progress of the game. Three levels of adjustable difficulty are available for both the arcade and the puzzle sequences.

Aesthetically, Cyberia sports impressive pre-rendered graphics and cinematic cut scenes even in 320x200 resolution. The game is also accompanied by a decent soundtrack. A combination of arcade and puzzle actions provide a balance of those who seek thrills in both game genres. However, this game plays more like an arcade rail shooter than an adventure title. The puzzles are weak, simplistic, and not well integrated into the story or gameplay. Despite a decent story premise, its development throughout the game is superficial at best. It feels as if the story merely acts a loose lead-in for various unrelated arcade sequences. Even the arcade portion needs much improvement. Not only are the paths during these rail shooters fixed, the targets themselves also are predetermined instead of randomly generated. Thus, success in completing each arcade sequence mounts to little more than memorizing how the targets appear onscreen and anticipating their appearances during each sequence. The claim by the developer and publisher of "incredible action sequences... more intense and realistic than anything ever brought to the home computer" is simply greatly exaggerated!

At its core, Cyberia is a rail shooter with pretty graphics and weak puzzles. It makes for a poor choice for adventure games. Players who crave for both action and adventure may find some value in this title. Otherwise, this title is a classic example of beauty but no substance.

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