Have You Played… Sin?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Released on October 31st 1998, less than two weeks before the first Half-Life, Sin is an odd footnote in the first-person shooter’s growth from carefree, violent romp towards the carefree, violent romps with scripted story bits they are today.

There’s lots that’s consequently old-fashioned about it, chief among them the awful, inflatable villain Elixis Sinclair. In the context of 1998 though, it was ambitious: it was one of the first FPS to have locational hit detection, so shooting enemies in the leg would cause them to limp; it had extremely destructible scenery, as tables and bookcases would crumble under fire from the still-satisfying shotgun; it had in-engine cutscenes (albeit rubbish ones), and in-game computer terminals, and at least some slight branching to its scripting.

Half-Life is the much better game, but it’s also much more limited in scope and ambition by comparison. Sin was attempting to carry the ideas of Duke Nukem 3D forward, and while it’s consequently crass and dumb in retrospect, there are still reasons to remember and play it today.

59 Comments

  1. Stense says:

    I’ll tell you if I’ve played Sin once it finishes loading the first level from the demo.

    Ho ho ho, that was a joke about its notoriously long loading times. This is how we amused ourselves in 1998.

  2. shaydeeadi says:

    I remember my 14 year old self secretly downloading the patch overnight since my dad wouldn’t get me a magazine with the patch on. Resulting in an amazing phone bill.

    • Turkey says:

      I didn’t know about download managers and my connection broke halfway through downloading the patch. Luckily I managed to convince the clerk at my local game store to get it traded in for Half-Life.

      • Cleave says:

        I remember having to download the 20MB patch for Half Life that added TFC about 10 times as the automatic 2 hour cut off from BT kept kicking in just as the download was about to finish.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      The patch was also entirely necessary due to the fact that the 1.0 release version of the game featured a bugged, unkillable boss.

  3. BobbyDylan says:

    I really liked sin. It’s a pity it never went anywhere. The Sin episode thing was also made by seemed to be worse, actually.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Really? I rate the SiN Episode: Emergence thing they made above the HL2 episodes easily, and lament that the devs got swallowed up by casual phone games.

      Also SiN was everything right about ’90s FPSes, and I say that from playing it in the latter half of the ’00s. Half-Life is more of an important milestone, but SiN’s probably more…hushed tones now…fun.

      Edit: From the looks of the comments, I played it at the right time. The version on Steam—where whole games, let alone patches, download in minutes—had no noticable bugs, and load times on my amazing space-future computer of the 21st century are unsurprisingly not an issue.

      • Geebs says:

        I thought the Sin episode was a great romp and I was very disappointed they never made more.

  4. Volcanu says:

    I never played it but do remember it having that weird 1998 perspective thing, where it looked as though the enemy character models were poking their guns practically out of the screen.

    Just tried a google image search, but searching for ‘Sin: The Game” turns up some rather NSFW Elixis pictures….just as a heads up!

  5. Colej_uk says:

    SiN was the first FPS I ever bought. I ran it on a 200mhz PC with 16mb RAM and no graphics card. I think it managed about 15fps, maybe less, and was *incredibly* buggy. The patch was too big for my dial up to download.

    I still had a blast though, I’ll always have fond memories of it. Even though it’s not really what I would call a good game, as you say it actually pioneered a few cool things.

    Edit: I also remember it had ‘vehicles’, or specifically an ATV. It must be the worst handling implementation of a drivable vehicle ever. Abysmal. It might be the first FPS that did it though?

    • kwyjibo says:

      It did have shit vehicles.

      I’d say it was still better than the APC in Siege.

  6. Crafter says:

    I played the demo as a kid and bought it on the cheap on GOG a couple of months ago.
    I have not gone past the first level. old school fps did not age well :( .

    • Premium User Badge

      G-Lord says:

      You are not alone on this. I can usually take a lot when it comes to playing older games today, but I somehow couldn’t stomach SiN.

    • mukuste says:

      It’s funny, though, that Doom has aged so much better than stuff from this later era.

      • Turkey says:

        I feel like the best of the 2.5D shooters hold up a lot better than the early 3d ones, and I kinda wish there was a indie renaissance of them.

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          G-Lord says:

          Absolutely agree with both of you. I have no problems playing Doom and Duke 3D these days, but I didn’t manage to get into Kingpin and Blood 2 either.

          • Jackablade says:

            Blood 2 was a broken mess of a game, even when it was first released.

        • malkav11 says:

          Early 3D is much, much uglier than 2D stuff. Frankly, I didn’t think it looked all that great back in its time, and it ages terribly. And then you factor in that a lot of that stuff spent more time on the tech (that has no wow factor anymore) than gameplay/story/etc, and it doesn’t work out too well for things like Quake.

    • XhomeB says:

      I find old school shooters infinitely more fun and playable than the modern ones. Even the ones I have zero nostalgia for, because I didn’t play them back in the day (like Blood 1). It’s actually crazy.

  7. Arithon says:

    I played a lot of SiN multi-player with my then little brother.

    SiN: Episodes was, like Half-Life 2, sold mainly on the promise of additional content (episodes) which failed to appear.
    SiN: Episode 2, like Half-Life 2: Episode 3 will, most likely never show up.

    Shame, it was silly fun at the time.

    • jonfitt says:

      I think SiN multiplayer had the map where you were tiny people in a giant living room. I played a lot of that one.

      However!
      To suggest Half-Life 2 was sold mainly on the promise of additional content (episodes) is bizarre and wrong. Episodic content didn’t exist in 2004 when Half-Life 2 was released. Digital distribution that would enable episodic content was still in infancy. HL2 was the first time most people got Steam.

      Episodic gaming started around 2006 when SiN: Episode 1 and HL2:EP1 released. The magazines were all full of articles about how this new idea was the future. So yes, HL2:EP1 was sold on the promise of episodic content, but HL2 was not in any way.

      I think you may have meant to say HL2:EP1.

  8. cloudnein says:

    Finished SiN, was a master of the one-kill headshot.

  9. Turkey says:

    The thing I remember most about Sin was that there was this big perceived versus thing between it and Half-Life, just like when Quake and DN3D came out in 1996. They both had these big ass cardboard cutouts where we’d gather around to discuss which one we were going to get.

    I later learned that Thief was secretly the best game of 1998, but by then Looking Glass was already dead.

  10. Shakes999 says:

    Nice. I got it for my B-day (or X-mas can’t remember) but I DO remember it being a unplayable piece of garbage out of the box. Started DL the patch at 10 and it was done at about 10 the next morn.

    I think I liked it? Can’t remember a single thing about that game other than I got to the last boss and got bored of playing it. Never did beat it.

    Watched the SIN manga a few years later, what a turd. They kill off JC (the best thing about the whole series) 2 minutes in to the movie and replace it with his “Tough yet vulnerable” sister like every other predictable shitty manga ever made. Terrible, terrible movie.

  11. DarkFarmer says:

    ahhhh yes the year I lived in Denver, that winter- LAN Parties in the snow… playing SiN until 7AM in the morning. Then to work the next day, listening to Placebo and being emo. Life before drinking.

    That Sasquatch Potion though, am I right?!?!!

    • Colej_uk says:

      The U4 that could turn you into a mutant thing that could jump 20ft, ran about 10x human speed and had instant-kill melee claws? Yeah that was pretty awesome!

  12. zat0ichi says:

    When it was released I played the demo to death and was speed running it for many months trying to do it with only head shots and no damage.

    Then I got Soldier of fortune and gore went to the next level.

    I picked Sin up for pennies the other day. Didn’t finish it but had good fun for an evening.

  13. A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

    No but I have played the demo about 1000 times. That was enough for 14 year old me. Never did work out if I enjoyed it enough to buy.

    • Shadowcat says:

      You clearly enjoyed it enough that you should have bought it.

  14. Cleave says:

    I remember standing in HMV with SiN in one hand and Half Life in the other. I chose poorly..

    .. although am glad I did because I liked SiN and it would have seemed pretty shit after playing Half Life.

  15. Werthead says:

    SiN was pretty great, until you played HALF-LIFE, which simply blew it out of the water. SiN was still a remarkable game though. I remember the graphics being pretty incredible for the time and its install size was huge. I think it was 800MB, which was twice the size of HL1 at a time when a lot of people only had 4GB hard drives (or smaller).

    Being able to kill people with fork lifts was pretty good. A mechanic sorely underrepresented in subsequent FPS games.

  16. MrTambourineMan says:

    Wow,sure I played it. I played a ehole lot of it actually! At the time I was openly proclaiming that it was actually a better game than HL (which it really wasn’t). I also enjoyed an official add-on Wages of sin which was funnily enough developed by studio which bore a name that is the same as the year we’re living in (except orthodox Christians). I loved it because of level design which was done by many of the same people that made Duke Nukem prior to that (Richard Gray (or was it Grey? Levelord in any case) anyone). Ritual was studio with so much potential (scourge of Armaggon) that kinda sadly went to shit in 2000s.

  17. Scandalon says:

    I have – I played the demo when it came out (and DM-Spry I think the multiplayer level), loved the “interactive” console stuff.

    Rather later I think I bought the Mac version when it came out, played it through several levels, was wowed by it technically (especially compared to when it was released), but didn’t have all that much fun. The save game sat there on my HD over multiple years and moves, probably a hardware upgrade or two. Never could bring myself to finish it.

  18. puppybeard says:

    Game breaking bug for me. Whenever I tried to use the machine to turn into a human again after being a mutant thing it would crash.

    I only had one save and it didn’t seem worth starting again.

    Still the opening level was kind of mind-blowing at the time. There was a visceral aspect to shooting people that the gibs of Quake hadn’t quite created.

  19. jonfitt says:

    SiN took the Quake 2 engine, but was still very much Q2 feeling. It added the story and interactivity that Q2 didn’t have so in that respect took it forward but it wasn’t a million miles away.
    On the other hand while HalfLife was based on the Quake 1 engine with elements from Quake 2, it was so modified that it never felt like a Quake derivative. Combine that with the use of scripted sequences to tell the story (revolutionary at the time), and it was a suddenly the benchmark for first person games.
    SiN just sort of paled in comparison. It had its fans, but “odd footnote” is the best description.

  20. Marclev says:

    Sin was very distinctly not bad at all. But it could take minutes for a level to load, which in a 90’s FPS (i.e. a properly hard one where you die a lot, and that’s just on “normal”) meant that it was simply too frustrating to get far into it unless you enabled god mode (or had the patience to get a cup of coffee every time you needed to load a quick save or advanced a level).

    They released a patch eventually to fix the loading times, but by then it was too little too late as Half Life had arrived an claimed the FTP crown.

  21. buzzmong says:

    I liked Sin. I definitely played it shortly after it came out, didn’t get very far as I was a youngun and it was on my brothers PC not mine.

    I actually played through it a couple of years ago when it first came onto Steam properly. I think it still holds up fairly well as a game, mostly because it was a little bit sandboxy and importantly had a lot of interactivity in it. Defintely had some good levels though, very varied. I remember the Oil Rig being a bit difficult though.

  22. TheBigBookOfTerror says:

    I loved messing about with the in game PC’s, looking up account codes and stealing money! Was gutted SiN episodes ended on a cliffhanger, especially since I had a pathetic crush on poor Jessica. Nows she’s forever stuck in limbo. That the car chase level that the interactive elements in the car seemed to suggest never materialised also makes me sad.

  23. sinister agent says:

    Can’t help but feel like there was a great opportunity for an Abbot and Costello routine here.

  24. Sweetz says:

    I had just gotten into PC gaming about 2 years before Sin and what I mostly remember about it is that it was my first experience with a buggy to the point of being unplayable PC game. The initial release of that game was ridiculously busted. Several minute long load times, scripting that failed to activate and advance level progress, and random crashes.

    It is the first PC game I ever returned (such a thing being possible at the time). Now, I shit you not, the game I bought with my store credit: Trespasser – which had come out the same week as Sin was not known to heaping pile of dung itself yet. The painful irony. I was nearly ready to stop playing PC games at that point. Luckily I did not, since barely more than a week later one of the best PC games of all time would come out (Half-Life).

  25. kalirion says:

    It was a nice game, but I hated those snipers that would get a 1-2 hit kill on you unless you knew exactly where they were ahead of time – and sometimes even then.

  26. Tjermnon says:

    I still love SiN, even though I haven’t played it in ages I still listen to the soundtrack occasionally.
    While the single player part wasn’t as good as Half Life, the multiplayer was so much fun compared to HL. (We were all Quake 2 addicts back then)

    I fondly remember dueling with a friend – both equipped with the IP36 from the Wages of Sin Addon – and other people dying left and right in the blast radius trying to intervene. Still one of my favourite FPS weapons of all time.

    Oh, and Hover Bikes!

    I was heartbroken when Ritual was bought out and SiN Episodes was cancelled – refreshed when SiN Gold was released on GOG and rumours spread that there may be more to come: link to reddit.com

  27. babbler says:

    I was in high school when Sin came out and a bunch of us put the demo on the computers in computer lab and had lan parties every lunch time when we were allowed to use the computers. Wasn’t even the full game demo with only three levels but we loved it.

  28. Axyl says:

    Genuinely surprised no-one has mentioned the hidden hottub, where you could find Elixis Sinclair playing with herself.

    To teenage me, this was literally the coolest, most awesome thing ever. To adult me, it’s still pretty cool. :P

  29. TheManko says:

    Sin was a better followup to Duke Nukem 3D than Duke Nukem Forever was. And Sin Episodes had the best 3 weapon loadout ever. They nailed the feeling of shooting people in the head. And the auto difficulty adjustment worked rather well! The core mechanics of Episodes were so good I put several hours into the arena mode. Can’t say that for 99% of FPSes released since then.

  30. Jakkar says:

    All this Half-Life comparison lovin’.

    Unreal was the winner.

    I did love the SiN demo, but I must admit… I don’t remember much except blood and a blue-grey colour-scheme. A funky helicopter, possibly.

  31. unit 3000-21 says:

    Actually I’m in the middle (or maybe more like near completion) of my first play through now. The game is so gloriously late nineties – John Blade a huge-gun-toting mofo with dreadlocks and Lennon glasses, and his “hilarious” buddy JC the hacker, fight an evil corporation run by a pair of walking tits. And there are mutants! Pure gold. It’s really fun to play and I think it could have been my favourite B-movie type game instead of Soldier of Fortune had I played it earlier.

  32. derbefrier says:

    I remember playing the demo. It was a cool game.

  33. Distec says:

    This comment section has got me hankerin’ for a lot of oldies/goldies I’ve since lost the CDs of. Time to cram my Steam wishlist with a dozen more titles.

  34. Hicks233 says:

    Played the demo, enduring the load times on a below spec machine and still loved it. Got the full game and found it a lot more fun than Half-Life ever was – of course this was tantamount to heresy back in secondary school at the time. Choosing to flood the dam or not, finding parts of the maps that could be affected for the next section. Messing around with the computer terminals and payphones. It was like Duke 3D had gotten a tribute act and kept the boobs and one liners.

    I may have cheated to use the helicopters rotary gun as well…

    There was something wonderfully solid about the Quake series engine based games. Pity FAKK 2 sucked balls though.

  35. pund says:

    I think this is the game were you could swap armor with the baddies as well? So if you headshotted your opponent you could easily get most of his gear intact..
    It was a fun game but I never finished it.

  36. Bweahns says:

    We used to play this in our computer room in High School. I’d always end up with a computer facing the door and would get kicked out by the teacher for playing games whilst everyone kept on playing. Outside of school we used to just play DooM of course. Aaah, the good old days where all the students knew more about the computers than the crotchety old wood work teacher did. I have no idea why they gave the miserable old wood working guy the computer job.

  37. vorador says:

    I played the demo on it’s day…and that was it.

    I bought in Steam with the Sin Episode a few years ago, but i never did get into it. May be i should try again.