Have You Played… Messiah?


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

You are a chubby baby, sent down from heaven to Earth in order to… I dunno… possess workmen and force them to jump into big grinding industrial machinery? That’s certainly how I played Messiah. There might have been more to it than sneaking up behind people, diving into their soul and then making them do a fatal pratfall, but I couldn’t tell you what.

When I think of games that I was really excited to play until I actually played them, Messiah is right near the top of the list. There was something appealing about the idea of playing an angel and causing havoc by leaping from one person to another, forcing them do your bidding.

Messiah is not that game. Or rather, that’s a very small part of the game, and the rest is a weird mixture of stealth and awkward 3d platforming. It’s a game that so decisively discards or sidelines its best feature – Hitman with an angel – that I’m getting annoyed just thinking about it. But if I really want to lose my tempter, I just have to think about the main character’s tiny little wings.

Levels have lots of verticality and you have tiny little wings. You can flap those wings to fly, but only for short periods of time before becoming exhausted, and you don’t so much fly as bob up and down in mid-air like a cork in a puddle. I spent more time trying to find a place to rest as I flew through ugly pipes and vents than I did possessing people. It’s a game in which you are forced to play as the kind of annoying, tiny flying enemy that everyone hates.

Messiah isn’t the worst game I’ve ever played, not by a long shot, but it’s one of the few that still makes me cross.


  1. pookie101 says:

    *SIGH* I remember that and my opinion is close to yours. A great concept with flashes of brilliance let down by crappy controls and game play

  2. Da5e says:

    Was this the one they advertised with a picture of the Pope smoking a joint?

  3. LTK says:

    I liked Messiah, and it still pains me that I can’t get the game to stop crashing beyond a certain door halfway into the game.

    It did have a lot of annoying 3D platforming, but the Hitman-esque sections where you had to fight or problem-solve your way through an area more than made up for it. I remember that sometimes you needed an engineer to work a control panel for heavy machinery, or a scientist to use a bit of advanced tech, and sometimes you just needed a high-ranking officer to get access to a ludicrously big gun. Messiah had a lot of good guns, you know.

    • HelpfulFerret says:

      Having finally played through the entire game a month ago, this is the fix that worked for me (it appears to be a bug that’s been present in the game since release):

      1) Make a shortcut of the MessiahD3D.exe on the desktop.
      2) Add this on your shortcut
      “C:\Program Files\Shiny\Messiah\MESSIAHD3D.EXE” -i -x +!
      (fix path as applicable)
      3) Disable “Pre-load cached files” in options

      Another solution I saw was to disable sound in the game. You can reenable it once you’re past the door.

  4. PancakeWizard says:

    I always get confused between this one and that Quake-era FPS where you were an angel that could turn people into pillars of salt or boil their blood.

  5. BeardyHat says:

    Yup! I remember back when we were experiencing hype for it; I recall my friend at the time being really excited about it, only to find the same opinion on release.

    Boy that takes me back!

  6. Thankmar says:

    I will always remember Shiny as the company with the biggest ambitions gameplay- and stylewise, but always got in the way of themselves one way or another. The idea of Messiah is still brilliant, but it came out as described. And iirc it had some form of ahead of the time lod which caused the models to blur and wobble. And on top of that, it had a soundtrack from Fear Factory, which I thought was the coolest thing at the time.

    • mmandthetat says:

      Yep. Every Shiny title is one or two maddening design decisions away from being one of the great hidden quirky masterpieces of PC gaming. Sacrifice and MDK both come within striking distance of genius but I still find them both a bit too frustrating.

    • Chaz says:

      I remember them talking about that fancy lod thing they had in it, basically saying that it would make the graphics constantly improve with new technology, so that in many years to come the game would look absolutely amazing and just get better and better looking year after year. Obviously it was all complete bullshit.

  7. geldonyetich says:

    I have! As I recall, it was a very edgy game, pulling together edgy Christian subversions, ultra-violence, and over-sexualization into the same sadistic package. By and large, the characters in the game were treated as pathetic mortals who deserved to have their lives thrown away by Bob (our cherubic persona) in order to solve puzzles or just for the amusement of the player.

    As my younger teen self, I think I found myself more impressed by the prostitutes than the gameplay, as 3D rendering in games was only then approaching the point where ladies were seeming attractive, so what an interesting little artifact these street walkers were.

    However, by and large, I was turned off not only by the overwhelmingly janky gameplay, but the overwhelming cruelty on display. Messiah’s world is not a pleasant place, after all the idea is that Satan won, and I think a bit of developer myopia might have set in that delivered to the players something more repellent than they realized.

    • Thankmar says:

      This is want I meant with Shiny “getting in the way of themselves”: treating humans as pathetic mortals “who deserve to have their lives thrown away by Bob” is a great starting point for satire, because thats just the thing old testament god would do, and its far away from the well-trodden sci-fi and fantasy tropes as well. But instead of elaborating on this they went for pseudoedgy unpleasantness.

      • geldonyetich says:

        That’s a good point. I wonder if they knew they had that divine comedy satire opportunity, but the message became lost during development, or if this prime setup was just a coincidence.

  8. Beefenstein says:

    “But if I really want to lose my tempter…”

    Oh, please don’t lose that, it’s so tempting.

  9. kalirion says:

    If you want to play an angel who can possess people to do his dirty work, Requiem: Avenging Angel is one to give a shot. It’s an FPS that’s not fantastic or anything, but the angel powers, including possession, are fun to use.

  10. Mecha_Rocky says:

    I must have played the demo for this over 60 hours. Terrible controls but it was fun to possess random people and cause a ruckus!

  11. CelticPixel says:

    One of the first PC games I owned. It was one of those 3 for £5 budget titles you’d get in Electronics Boutique. The cinematic’s wouldn’t play so I had no idea what the story was about, but it was such early days for me in PC gaming that I was entirely non judgemental and quite enjoyed it.

  12. mpk says:

    I remember this game purely because I owned a legitimate copy that refused to run on my PC. I never actually played it.

  13. April March says:

    I got it on GOG and played a little, way after its prime. The first time I tried I couldn’t get it to run. The second time, I could, but the controls were janky (though apparently that’s the usual experience?) and I couldn’t figure out how to proceed.

    Still, I like any game in the possess-em-up genre. There’s this, Space Station: Silicon Valley for the N64, Prototype, Everything… and Mario Odyssey, I guess?

    • Premium User Badge

      Phasma Felis says:

      As someone said upthread, there’s Paradroid, the very first possess-em-up ever. It’s still rather nice IMHO, despite the extreme simplicity of the graphics. (And I guess there’s Paradroid 90 if that really concerns you.)

    • Thankmar says:

      Also Geist on the GameCube, but my two-hour experience was rather meh.

  14. Premium User Badge

    zigguratvertigo says:

    That cherub in the header image looks weirdly like John’s son.

  15. OmNomNom says:

    Wow blast from the past. This was the game I bought my original Geforce DDR for

  16. Chillicothe says:

    Andy Richter Simulator 2000

  17. AyeBraine says:

    I had this as a demo, I think (or a weird pirated version), and I never got past the first level.

    But it was a juggernaut to me, a dreamy glimpse of something future — it had high concept, it had strange new fluid animations, and it made my 5×86 Cyrix computer writhe in agony just to render five frames per second.

    I never found out the plot to the game or its gameplay variety. I just posessed a latex-clad dominatrix (or her bulky male slaves) and tottered around the weirdly vertical, narrow level with a death pit.

  18. TheSplund says:

    I picked up a copy but it barely ran – I must dig it out to see if I can get it to run – or can I be arsed?

  19. Theroux says:

    I remember spotting this in PC Gamer, looked interesting, brought it up in Sunday School and got a right earful about how its a clear example of how Satan weasels his way into society, my argument that the hero was a cute cherub called Bob didn’t fly.

  20. Mermantis says:

    Ahh memories. Anybody else play Requiem Avenging Angel??

  21. wisnoskij says:

    Great game. Played this so long ago. The gameplay just wasn’t quite there. Honestly, I have no idea how any of the more challenging modes (that restrict possessing) are possible. While the combat is actually quite good and nuanced, it has a habit of just being too deadly. Too Many people get too close together and you just have to instantly transfer to a new host every second as your old body gets riddled by hundreds of bullets.

    I remember the puzzles of getting the right type of person to solve the problem actually quite fun at the time, but I imagine it would just be too simple to be enjoyable now.

  22. Krayy says:

    I bought Messiah and got a pewter statue of Bob the angel that has sat in front of my monitor for the last 20 years. He’s very well made and has the added bonus of being my wedding ring stand. The game was not that bad except for the final stage, which was a serious PITA and took me like 3 days to beat.

    • oddheader says:

      Really I never knew there was a Bob statue. Any chance you can share a picture? I’m highly interested in seeing it.

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