Abomination: The Nemesis Project deserves absolution for its sins

abomination

Abomination: The Nemesis Project could never be mistaken for a good game. Hothouse Creations’ 1999 real-time X-Com-like was plagued by wonky, unresponsive AI, poor controls, opaque and unclear campaign progression and a vast slew of bugs. The UK retail box described and showed major scenes that never appear in the game, so add ‘deceitful’ alongside ‘busted’ to the list of Abomination’s sins.

Broken, perhaps, but a fascinating game. It holds a special place in my heart, even if I’ll never shake the enthusiastically repeated combat bark of “It’s Freak-Splittin’ Time!” from memory.

Perhaps it was the ever-so-90s ‘X-Men Battle Lovecraftian Horrors’ story, with your starting recruits each having a defining superpower? Maybe it was the brooding ambient & industrial soundtrack? I’m sure part of it was the horrifically beautiful way the UI itself broke down, then grew increasingly infested with biomechanical awfulness as the campaign dragged on.

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Entropy was a core part of the atmosphere. Early phases of the game had you assisting local police & military forces against cultists, but as the city died, so did human resistance, replaced by biomechanical monsters and towering flesh-ziggurats lined with twitching bodies. Against all odds, it sold the comicbook body-horror aesthetic.

Abomination was busted, but it deserves a chance to get it right, and more fame than a lone YouTube Let’s Play. Maybe Firaxis are looking to revive another strategy franchise?

RPS is out of office today. We asked our friends to write short posts like the one above on subjects of their choosing. Read them all here.

26 Comments

  1. Palindrome says:

    I loved Abomination. There were all kinds of things wrong with it and I’m certain that it would be a poor game by modern standards but even so I have fond memories of it.

    It did a very good job of creating an atmosphere of doom with its increasingly desperate survivors of a nameless plague that is killing of the world, doomsday cults with their macabre rituals and finally full on alien beasties. The overall ‘gribbly’ atmosphere was well realised even by the crude graphics of the time.

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      It got pretty slammed by reviews even at the time, so wasn’t really up to par even back then, but yeah, the atmosphere worked. It had a bunch of clever ideas, too. You can really see the UI degradation in that Let’s Play, too.

      I’m still frustrated that the box had this on it, though:
      ‘Explore an entire city, the frozen wastes of Siberia, the jungles of Peru and the New World of the Faithful’ – and it even had screenshots showing off frozen and jungle environments!

      But as far as I can recall, you never got to leave the city.

      • sjg says:

        Trust me, they were all in there. All those screenshots in the image above are using tilesets from the game, so I can only assume you didn’t get to those missions! There *was* a piece of concept art printed on the back of the box as if it were a screenshot, though, but that was entirely down to Eidos’ incompetence than any attempt to deceive. Here’s some video of the Arctic base (you didn’t miss much): link to youtube.com . I think the Peruvian temple made a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it single appearance because the tiles were a bit cartoony and didn’t quite jell with the rest of the sets.

        Can’t blame Eidos for the game being a bit of a shitshow though, that was largely down to the complete inexperience of most of the team; first game for almost all of them as I recall. Source: created virtually all the above graphics about a million years ago.

      • Archonsod says:

        It’s been more than ten years since I played it, but I seem to remember some of the story missions did leave the city, they just found some way to use the same map. IIRC the Peru mission for example had you attacking an ancient temple which looked suspiciously similar to a regular underground map.

        Was probably my second most played Hothouse game (after the pirate one they did, which I always remember as being one of the best pirate sims ever).

        • Dominic Tarason says:

          Ah, if I misremembered, I apologise. Never managed to get it working on modern PCs, and that Let’s Play is the only real archive I could find of the game as a whole.

          • Dominic Tarason says:

            Just spent a half hour skimming through the Let’s Play, and I honestly can’t find any missions in there outside of the city at any point. Am I missing something here? I feel oddly confused.

          • jezcentral says:

            Towards the end, you battle through a load of monsters to go to pick up a VIP. (I think it is set in a mountain area.) The VIP is never heard of again, and was clearly meant to play angie important part later which got cut.

            The gameplay was similar to the UFO Aftermath/shock games.

          • Sin Vega says:

            In the later phase of the game (which, depending on which game length you chose, might take and last forever, or even be borderline impossible because it wasn’t properly balanced) some key missions sort of warped you across time/space/etc to retrieve culty artifacts and blow stuff up. By that point it was clearer than ever that the game needed longer in the oven, but also that you’d never use 90% of the arsenal, and that you were probably sick of the game by then anyway.

    • Vilos Cohaagen says:

      I loved the game too. I’ve played it to completion (or to the point where a bug killed the game) many times. I still use the soundtrack in pen and paper rpg sessions.

      Great game, criminally underrated.

      • Premium User Badge

        The Almighty Moo says:

        Any thoughts on where to pick up the soundtrack? I have the game on CD but it’s in a lockbox at a family members.

  2. Kefren says:

    I played it a fair bit, and completed it once. It always took a while to get used to the interface again, but it was fun once you did. My favourite bit was having people lay on a roof, auto-sniping at whatever the fourth character led into their line of fire. I remember giant crab monsters that took a hammering, and rushing for crate drops of supplies. It began to get really hard once it reached the point where you were sliding down flesh pipes and assaulting their underground organic bases.

  3. Drib says:

    ‘X-Men Battle Lovecraftian Horrors’

    Neat, so the new Gollop game is a remake of this then?

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      That’s in part what led me to write this. Phoenix Point definitely has the body-horror aspect going for it, although it seems to start out deep into the apocalypse rather than having it play out over the course of the game.

      • Drib says:

        I do like the idea of things progressing as you play. Sorta reminds me of what people say about XCOM Apocalypse, though that game looks too clunky.

        But hey, I’d never heard of this one. Seems neat.

  4. The Sombrero Kid says:

    I only played the demo but I quite liked it. It stuck in my mind, i’ve always had a hankering to try and salvage it’s better ideas.

  5. scut says:

    I recall playing a demo of this from (I believe?) a PC Zone mag. In hindsight the art is pretty cool for a game of that era. Thanks for the LP link!

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      I was so glad to stumble upon that LP, because it’s the only real standing record of this game anywhere on the internet.

  6. peterako1989 says:

    This is something I expected not to stumble uppon. Not even here.

  7. Nietzscher says:

    I’d love to see a Abomination remake by Firaxis! The game sure had problems, but it alos is one of the most memorable games I’ve ever played. Never forgott about it – almost 20yrs later.

  8. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    This all sounds and looks incredible! why isn’t this on GOG?

  9. mcnostril says:

    Oh wow, I remember being hyped for this and then never thinking about it again. Looking through the Let’s Play, it still looks as fascinating.
    Is there actually a version that works on modern PCs? There appears to be some copies of the original CD floating around, but I highly doubt they work. There’s the vote thingie on GOG, so perhaps there is hope (but it doesn’t have all that many votes so it’s likely it’ll never go anywhere).

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      I’ve tried (and failed) to get it working on Windows 10, sadly. Given its age you could probably run it in a virtual machine now, but that’s hardly ideal.

      A GOG release would be nice. Until then, the sole decent record of the game is the LP linked in the article.

  10. Sin Vega says:

    First game I ever bought for the PC. It was a super atmospheric game with great music and an amazingly gruesome setting. But so buggy and repetitive, with most of its best ideas half developed at best. The sheer horror of the plot with its gleefully documented doomsday cult activities was something special, as were the creepy descriptions of the monsters – e.g. the Spawn being a gigantic crab-like thing with several horribly warped human embryoes as its “brain”. It also had one of the most terrifying (in context) creatures in all games, which also had the coolest name: the Kindred. There was no good countermeasure for them, they could detect you almost without fail, they were fast, tough, and deadly, and emitted a horrible BRAAAK when they gave chase. If there were stairs nearby, you might escape. But if not… brrr.

    It holds a special place in my heart, too – the exact phrase that came to mind.

  11. Premium User Badge

    The Almighty Moo says:

    Dominic. Thank you for this, it has been so long since I played it as a naive young teen and have fond memories of not really realising what was broken with it or why. But I loved the atmosphere and watching the let’s play brought back fond memories of getting totally pumped by the level briefing music. Great atmosphere thats still unique.

    Interestingly we pulled this up on some old machines a few years back and it’s playable in co op…. Now there’s a remake possibility.

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