Shoot-'em-up fans rejoice! There's finally a game out there that's taken up the "Quake" and "Half-Life" gauntlet...and, with the exception of a few minor caveats, it succeeds in its stated aim extremely well. Put your hands together, brothers, and make some noise for "Kingpin: Life Of Crime", easily one of the most violent shooters you'll come across this year!
"Kingpin: Life Of Crime" begins with you, the putative kingpin, being beaten up in an alley by a couple of musclebound thugs, in a very crisp and moody opening sequence. Bloodied and bruised, you rise, swearing revenge on your attackers. Thus begins your journey to the top of the gangsta heap - you'll be handed a series of missions, each one involving copious amounts of violence, and you'll be expected to carry them out without mercy Along the way, you'll pick up a bunch of conventional (and not-so-conventional) weapons, recruit new members to your quickly-expanding gang, and learn a whole new set of swear words...
If this sounds like fun, you'll probably find it difficult to turn this game off - the continuous violence, not to mention the gallons of blood, will be familiar to you from similar titles, but "Kingpin" goes one step further with its extremely realistic depiction of gritty streets in the 'hood, cavernous warehouses, dark and dingy tunnels and bars, and its ghostly night-time environment. The game is based on the Quake II engine, and you can see that the level designers and artists have put a lot of work into making it as realistic as possible - spend thirty minutes in its wrong-side-of-the-city environment, and you'll find yourself unwittingly drawn into its grimy urban-combat scenario.
Obviously, all this realism comes at a price - don't expect to be able to play "Kingpin" unless you have a 3D-accelerator card on your system. This might seem like a little bit of overkill on Xatrix's part, but trust me, if you've got one of those babies, "Kingpin's" fabulous environment will make you glad you spent the money. Quite simply, this is one of the best-designed shoot-'em-ups I've seen all year after "Unreal" and "Half-Life".
"Kingpin" also comes with some nice touches. For example, you can loot corpses, plunder their wallets and use the money you find to purchase new weapons, armour and health points from the local pawn shop. This has the added advantage of allowing you access to new weapons early in the game. The interaction between non-playing characters is also fun to watch, and you also have the opportunity to enter into conversations with the people you meet, thereby picking up valuable information that will help you in the missions ahead. As you grow in power, you can recruit more thugs to your gang, and use them to complete your missions - there's nothing quite like setting up an ambush for the rival mob boss and watching your trusty men blow him to bits with their tommy-guns as you watch from a distance!
The background music is great - some of the gangsta rap you'll hear has been composed by Cypress Hill - and so are the sound effects of bullets pumping into flesh and metal. Be warned, however, that the game has an obscene amount of bad language - if you're playing it in a family setting, use headphones to avoid outraging Mom and Dad ("Kingpin" does come with a low-violence setting which bleeps out most of the swear words).
Despite all this, though, there are a few caveats. The levels sometimes take an unusually long time to load, the guys you're trying to wipe out seem to have unusually good reaction times, and the game AI is sometimes truly awful. These are minor flaws, but they do take away from what is overall, a really, really good shoot-'em-up. If this is your kind of game, go out and get yourself a copy right away!This article was first published on 27 Sep 2000.