Chris "Pwyff" Tom checked out the adrenaline-packed MMORPG-FPS hybrid GunZ: The Duel, but he's not quite sure if the game is packed with anything beyond that. Read on to find out why!
As I blunder along in my journey to find unique MMORPGs, two questions always float in the periphery of my vision. The first question concerns the MMORPG as a genre; what really 'defines' the MMORPG, and where do we draw the line? The second question I have is really just a complaint but voiced as a question (don't you just hate those?); just how much 'grind' can a game have before it becomes pointless? Well, unfortunately, as I ventured into the world of Gunz Online, I discovered just what happens when you really take the MMORPG genre to its limits - but not in a good way. Not to spoil the article but... bad things happen.
Gunz Online is an MMORPG/MMOTPS (TPS standing for Third Person Shooter) developed by MAIET Entertainment and published by ijji for North American players. When I first wanted to check out this game, I wasn't entirely certain if it really could qualify as an 'MMORPG,' because the game uses purely instanced rooms, where up to 32 players can congregate to blow each other up in a shooter style game. On the other hand, Gunz Online also has an extremely light 'quest mode' (how misleading!) and it offers the players the ability to level up and purchase higher grades of equipment for their avatars. While you may disagree with my inability to pin the genre tail on this donkey, I'd like to point out that hybrid MMORPGs that incorporate an FPS (or TPS) style of game play are pretty neat points of curiosity.
If you've ever played games like Gunbound, DotA or even those online Poker games, then you'll very quickly understand the method by which players play this game. Users 'host' Gunz games under one of several modes, and then players can join the game and participate in whatever mode the host has set. In this game, since most online FPSes are driven by competition, there are a few 'PVP' modes to pick from - team deathmatch, team 'gladiator' match (melee weapons only), free-for-all deathmatch / gladiator match, an 'assassination mode' (where players have to protect their VIP and kill their opponent's VIP in order to win a match), and a free-for-all assassin mode, where the VIP target gets a damage buff and must protect himself (whoever kills the VIP becomes the next VIP).
I also mentioned that there is an extremely light 'quest mode' advertised in this game, and I want you to really understand that I mean it when I say 'light.' The questing in this game is simply hosting a game where little AI controlled monsters start mobbing up and walking towards you. All you have to do is shoot them while backing up, and you're golden. The bosses are harder (they take more bullets!), but that's the extent of the quest mode in this game.
To be honest, I could care less about the story or questing in this game because I've really come to accept non-existent storylines from every other Asian MMORPG on the market. Fortunately, most story challenged Asian MMORPGs redeem themselves via interesting game play. Unfortunately, Gunz Online sort of fails in that category as well.
Game play in Gunz Online seems to be originally intended as a third person form of Counter-Strike, except players can do neat little wall runs and dives while shooting their weapons. Double tapping a key in a certain direction allows you to dive in that direction, but it also makes you fairly predictable because the dive cannot be cancelled. If you switch to a melee weapon, your mobility increases by a lot because your dive now turns into a 'dash,' a move that propels you forward a short distance very quickly and can be used repeatedly with no ill effects.
Interestingly, Korean players of the game quickly discovered a method of 'quick-switching' their weapons while dashing around with their swords so that they could combine the mobility of the melee weapons while firing powerful weaponry (like a shotgun or revolver) in between dashes. Unfortunately, the whole process requires an incredible amount of finger dexterity, and is pretty much useless if you don't do it right. I sat down for a little while to learn this thing (the locals call it 'slash-shooting,' or 'k-style,' short for Korean Style), and my fingers still hurt from remembering it. I won't go into specifics here, but the method basically involves consecutively pushing about 5-6 keys per second (that's about 300 actions per minute) while aiming a weapon at an opponent and staying aware of the direction you're going in.
While I'll admit that I was really enjoying the process of learning this finger-intensive playing style (even if the developers didn't really plan for it at all), the game became unplayable for me a short while later.
First, the game is almost impossible to play while experiencing any form of lag. I remember shooting someone with a full clip of ammo, but since he was lagging, his computer thought he was somewhere else and so it refused to register the damage of my bullets. Not only does this make the game incredibly susceptible to hackers (they just need to intercept some packets and make their computer refuse to acknowledge their character being hit), but it really ruined my ability to enjoy myself. Near the end of playing, I had to shoot in front of the player because I was compensating for the delay. It wasn't uncommon to get a kill by firing a full shotgun blast into the empty space in front of a running character.
Second, the game is incredibly shallow once you get past the accidental depth that arose from the slash-shooting glitch. While they may have been going for a light Counter-Strike-esque format, the game's entire selling point rests upon its incredibly laggy and glitchy gameplay. You basically enter a game, get pushed around by a hacker or frustrated by someone who's lagging, you get a couple kills towards your next level, and then you repeat. Not only this, but levelling up is an incredible chore, and unless someone agrees to stand around and be killed for EXP, it actually takes a while to pick up your first decent piece of armor.
Ultimately, Gunz Online just seems to be an extremely simple MMO-shooter with an incredibly steep EXP grind and game play that's largely overshadowed by its poor execution and lack of any form of network support. While Gunz Online is a game that pushes the MMORPG genre to the edge, it has also pushed my tolerance of that 'same old boring grind' right over the cliff and smashed it on the ground. With this particular fusion of FPS and MMORPG, Gunz Online does nothing to make the user feel like he's evolving over time - it's really just shooting things over and over. Perhaps other developers who are looking to make an MMORPG-FPS game should keep this in mind and try to make sure that their game has a lot more depth and stability than this one.
Chris "Pwyff" Tom