Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
I wasn’t sure if I remembered Crusader: No Remorse more fondly than I should and then I noticed that it’s free on Origin at the moment, so I downloaded it to check. You should download it as well because it might well be better than my memories of isometric carnage suggested. It’s a game of tactical violence wrapped in a sci-fi action shell that is both darkly dystopian and tremendously technicoloured. Yes, you need to use Origin to play a game created by Origin Systems for free, but you can also buy it alone or with its sequel at GoG.com.
I was fourteen years old when I first played the isometric action romp and my teen spirit was lifted by the gruesome death animations, particularly when they were the result of an unarmed (but EVIL) scientist stumbling into a trap. Almost everything in Crusader can be broken, whether it be man or machine, and even though violence was the sole means of engagement, the world invited interaction on an unprecedented level. Remember flushing toilets and flicking lightswitches in Duke Nukem 3D? Crusader’s world had the same sense of solidity.
There is a perfect approach to every level, usually involving clever use of cover, a skilful sequence of rolling, targeting and shooting, and several doses of the old ultraviolence. Some of the trickier rooms are puzzles in need of a solution rather than the application of instinctive, reactive combat, but part of the game’s brilliance is that it disguises its true nature so well. Even when you’re replaying a section for the twentieth time, you’ll feel as if you’re starring in an 18 certificate sci-fi slaughterfest that’s sort of how I imagine Verhoeven would have made The Rocketeer.