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By Bobfish10-10-2013
MrJenssen (editor)
StuntmanLT (editor)

The Defence

Arcade, Platformer
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4 GHz
AMD Athlon 64 X2 5600+
Nvidia GeForce 8600
AMD Radeon HD 3470
2 GB
3 GB

The Case

An enduring classic from days of yore, reimagined for a new generation by the original team. Applauded to this day as a classic, the original Flashback left a lasting impression on many gamers, myself included, and the industry as a whole. But how does this modern day “2.5D” remake stand up to the impressive calibre of its 90s forefather?

The Trial

Well, by now it's no secret that Ubisoft done goofed on this one. It's been kicking around on the consoles for a while, and the general consensus seems to be that Ubisoft have dropped the ball. Not to say that it's terrible...well, apart from the obligatory fanboys that will never be happy with anything. But certainly it is no secret there are a lot of flaws. But that was the console version, right? Ubi have had time to address and repair the issues they had with this PC port.


Quick! Duck and cover!

Quick! Duck and cover!

Yeah, you keep telling yourself that. One day you might even believe it. You'll be thoroughly deluded, but you might believe it. The simple fact of the matter is that Flashback is a poor showing. It's not a terrible game, don't get me wrong. It’s actually pretty good, all things considered. But it does not, by any stretch of the imagination, hold a candle to its namesake. Nor is it up to the standards we have come to expect of Ubisoft in recent years.

Graphically speaking, it's nothing to write home about. The environments, while interesting enough, are nothing more than acceptable. Even that is pushing it, honestly, especially coming from a company as large as Ubisoft. They aren't particularly short on cash these days, and could easily have splashed out on a much prettier engine that, probably, would actually have run better too. Though, to be fair, it runs extremely fluid and the X-ray effects of the molecular goggles which look pretty cool.

Animations and other functional aspects of the game are solid, for the most part. Though I had some rather amusing moments with Conrad taking damage whilst at a platform's edge. He will often roll out into open air, begin the falling animation, supersede it by trying to stand and do a funky slide roll thing to end up back on the platform. Sometimes to then immediately fall back off. It's a bug, yes, but hella' funny, so it’s a forgivable one.

Worst possible moment to forget your Red Bull.

Worst possible moment to forget your Red Bull.

Combat is another story. On paper I'm sure it sounded great. But the method for aiming and throwing items is just downright sadistic. Hold down middle mouse (seriously, middle mouse) to ready a grenade, then the right mouse to aim it...then let go off middle mouse to actually throw. But beware, taking your finger off the right mouse will cancel the throw, so...yeah. Clunky is a massive understatement. I mean, you can just tap middle mouse to lob one, but you have no control over where it goes, and several puzzles involve lobbing things through narrow air vents to land in a specific place.

Thankfully, the shooting mechanics are much more effective...right?

Sadly not. Though, again, they sound simple on paper, and can actually work fairly effectively on a good day, they are plagued by one of the most bizarre bugs I've ever come across. With aiming being handled by the mouse, you'd think it would be no great problem to pull off shots with pinpoint accuracy. Just orient your mouse so that your laser sight is on the correct angle and pew pew. Only...it goes absolutely mental sometimes, and decides that a hair’s width of movement will re-orient Conrad's aim 90 degrees straight up, so he's aiming at the bloody ceiling. Most inconvenient when a security drone is right next to you, shooting electricity into your face.

Hurry up in there! I'm busting for a pee.

Hurry up in there! I'm busting for a pee.

Worse still, he'll sometimes just turn round for no discernible reason, so that you have your back to whatever you were trying to murder. Leaving you wide open to a nasty (and hilariously animated) melee attack that does so much damage, it seems like all the game's firearms are overly ornate spit ball shooters. Though, on the other hand, if you get yourself in a position to perform a melee attack from behind or, whilst hanging below, you do have some pretty swish stealth takedowns. Though even they are a bit flaky. Some enemies will be taken down, and hit the ground dead, but there'll be a ghost of them left...which you can then do a takedown on for a second time. Another bug, but a fairly innocuous one. And again, it's rather amusing to see Conrad perform a kick in the nuts to thin air.

For some reason, a levelling system was included to...make the game feel more tactical, perhaps? But as your enemies level with you, it becomes almost entirely redundant. It's something akin to what Final Fantasy did, but the other way around. Far from you slowly improving and creeping away from their power level, you find that the extra levels are weighted in their favour. So, all your allotted skill points ultimately amount to keeping combat at a static difficulty. Upgrades that you pick up on the other hand, now they do have an impact. Eventually.

The sound design, thankfully, is one area of the game where I have no complaints. The music, the incidental sounds and the voice acting are all top notch. Conrad himself comes across as feeling a little bland at first, but over time he really starts to grow on you. And actually, when you think about it, it really does feel like an intentional decision on the part of the voice director, since Conrad starts with no memory and is, literally, a blank slate with more of a personality starting to show through in both narrative and voice work as the game progresses.

There's something on your shoulder, but I got it.

There's something on your shoulder, but I got it.

The story itself is only minimally altered from the original, which is to its benefit. It's a good plot that doesn't need any work. Though there are some extra bits and pieces thrown in, including some new characters that help flesh out (and lengthen) the game. It would have functioned just as well without them. That's not to say that they're uninteresting, or even unnecessary. Merely that not having added them would have had no real impact.

The Verdict

The long and the short of it is that Flashback falls victim to being a whole load of wasted potential. Even without the thick nostalgia glasses of the ultimate fanboy, it still falls short as a game in its own right. The inclusion of the first game, fully playable in an arcade machine at the menu screen is a nice touch, but the lack of audio whilst playing it is jarring. The various bugs on top of it all make it a complete chore to play the main game at times. Having said that, if Ubi were to patch and fix the issues mentioned above, it still has the potential to be a solid sidescroller. Sadly, it is at the moment nothing more than a missed opportunity.

Case Review

  • Art Style: Though barely par for the course technically, the environments are engaging and visually quite pretty.
  • Plot: Thankfully unchanged from the original, with minor additions that help it feel fresh.
  • Sound Design: As good as you would expect from Ubisoft.
  • Flashback 1992: It's nice that it was included, but without sound it ends up being little more than a novelty.
  • Bugs: Most are innocuous, but some can be downright infuriating at times.
  • Levelling System: Entirely unnecessary and ultimately kind of distracting.
Score: 3/5
Bugs, bugs and more bugs. At least some of them are amusing.
Comments (2)
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Posts: 3290

It's...eh. And, to be fair, Flashback pretty much created the genre, so it's going to be generic no matter what you do. You do know that means 'of a genre' and not bland right?


Posts: 1317

Sidescrollers need to have something REALLY special about them to get me interested, these days. Or at least Co-Op. This looks awfully generic, if you ask me.