White Gold: War In Paradise, aka Xenus 2, aka Boiling Point 2 is the free-roaming FPS-RPG we’ve been meaning to take a closer look at for ages. A sequel to the famously mad, broken and ambitious Boiling Point (of which even the patch notes are comedy gold) from original Kiev-based developers Deep Shadows! What could be more exciting? What, indeed. An account of my first in-game day follows. It is a tale of daring-do, heavy drinking, a snake, a beautiful car and an enema.
The pre-rendered cutscene that White Gold opens with does a good job of setting the tone for the whole game. It opens on a packed club, where we see a fat, white hip-hop star sat in a private booth. Flanked by two girls who look like they've had collagen injections in not just their lips but their entire faces, said hip-hop star leans down to do a line of coke that's on the table and dies immediately.
Cut to a ratty apartment where a man dressed in camo opens a door to a man in a suit. In an exchange that is entirely inpenetrable despite being in English (putting me in mind of this video) the man in camo is implied to be "the best", photos are exchanged, and the man agrees to head to a place to take on some kind of mission. At this point I've already contracted a powerful case of "Boiling Point Face", which is where your real-life mouth hangs open and your lower jaw is slightly retracted in a sort of gross awe.
It's only by having a look online that I discover the message this scene is meant to import- your mission is to trace the source of the dangerous new cocaine being imported into Western countries the world over and put a stop to it.
Next up, the player gets control and we get the game's introductory action sequence. I'll just let this speak for itself. Notice the lead character's voice. Slight error in casting there.
"Granvpa! Where a u going?" indeed.
So you're left washed up on the shores of an island, but it's not even the right island. A look at the map tells me that the game world is a sprawling archipelago, and my objective is several islands away. The map also tells me that I am in the South American nation of "Covumbia". Thanks, map. I decide to ask the men on the dock a few questions and see what's what.
The men on the dock are also the worst men. The above fisherman talks to me about fish for about a dozen text boxes with no purpose or message at the end. Next to him is a young man who the game tells me is "Footballer", who is cheery despite there being no football or football paraphenalia in sight. Through various questions I learn that there are all sorts of nonspecific factions on the island, from the Army, to Bandits, to Paramilitaries and other groups that fall out of my head immediately because I find the perk screen.
Yeah! One of the new features in White Gold are all these perks you can buy using experience earned from missions. The images are a touch vague and the improvements are mostly uninteresting, but it's still a nice idea. Look at this guy!
I'll be getting that first, obviously. Nevermind what it does.
From here I mosey on into town and am fairly impressed by the range of people and things I can buy. I talk to a guy about the state of the government and buy a cookie. I talk to someone else about the argument he's having with his friend and buy a dried fish. I talk to a woman about how the town is being pressured by the bandits and as I am walking away and figuring out the controls of the game my revolver goes off. I am a bad tourist. I buy a passion fruit.
The weird thing is, ever since I got to the village the voice acting of everybody I talk to cuts out a tiny way into their text, as if they were going to tell me about how their day went or whatever and then immediately think better of it. Is there something on my face? I quit the game and discover that this is an issue with the English version of the game. Half an hour and one gigabyte's worth of Russian voices pulled off the internet later, I'm back in action.
A fat man who may or may not be my contact back at HQ starts yelling in my earpiece. There's some contact or other I am to meet in a house at the top of a nearby hill. I get there and come under fire from men in suits. What?! Jerks!
Having committed four seperate and righteous acts of self defence I immediately set about raiding the pockets of the dead men, and also the cupboards of the house, where my contact is to be found after all, protesting his innocence. It's been a long time since I've played a game and had quite this loose of a grip on the plot, but I sure did take excellent notes about what I had in my pockets following all this item collection. Deep Shadows did not skimp on the incidental collectibles.
I head back to town, killing a snake on the way and putting it in my pocket. On hearing that some threatening banditos have been hanging out on the beach, I go down, kill them and take their stuff too.
By this point I am carrying a shotgun, an AK47, a knife, two grenades, two uzis, THREE revolvers, an orange, a passion fruit, a pawpaw, a banana, a grapefruit, a pineapple, some coca leaves, some cocaine, absinthe, tequila, beer, rum, vodka, a syringe, an indian relic, two eggs, playing cards, cigarettes, a casette tape, an enema, an energy drink, some beads, a dead snake, some cookies, some flowers, a coconut and a parachute, a tin of spam, some loose prawns, a lighter and two packets of condoms.
Be Prepared! That's the boy scout motto, isn't it? I guess the boy scouts wouldn't let me in, what with the booze, drugs, guns and the enema and all. I should probably get rid of some of this stuff.
By sunset I've been advised that I should find myself a ride, and on cue I hear that some paramilitaries about a hundred metres from where I shot and killed the bandits are holed up with some guy's car. Score! I go hopping down to the beach, open fire and am immediately shot and killed.
That didn't go so well. I try again, stealthily picking my way through the darkness and undergrowth, killing man after man after man via White Gold's dreary yet brutal FPS mechanics. Having gotten shot several times, I end up squatting in a bush and eating great handfuls of prawns to recover my health. Finally, I reach her! My prize!
She's so beautiful! A rebel colonel intercepts me on my way out of town. The rebels want to work with me. Well, who wouldn't? I eat a banana. Alright, I say. What do you need me to do?
What the rebels want me to do is drive out to an army camp and steal a generator. Nooo problem. I eat a pawpaw and head off, drinking the absinthe in the car. On the way the car takes Massive Damage as I drive straight through a firefight between bandits and the army, who both seem to dislike me. Those waterheads! Don't they know how beautiful this car is? It's one of a kind! It genuinely is! There are no other cars anywhere!
I approach the generator at dawn, which as every thief knows is the perfect time for thievery. Dawn, or night. One or the other. A helicopter flies high overhead, but I am a sneaky thief. Stupid helicopter.
White Sands' aggro mechanics are such that everyone requires about a second of staring straight at you before they'll attack, allowing me to perform the awesomely believable feat of trundling into their small camp, attaching the generator (mounted on a trailer) to my car and driving back out as if I worked there, with the first shots only being fired when I'm driving away at about 30mph. Later, suckers!
The army colonel is nonplussed at my incredible feat of daylight burglary. I consider shooting him and taking his stuff. He probably has something really awesome, like a bit of rope or a papaya or something. I resist. He tells me to go driving off to an even more heavily armed army base and blow up their power transformers. I say OK. Myself and the beautiful car drive off. I drink two beers and crash the car into a ditch. I reload my save. Myself and the beautiful car drive off. I drink two beers, plus the whiskey, narrowly skidding my way around the ditch. Ha! Who's laughing now, ditch? I drink the rum.
BOOM! It takes a tedious 15 minutes but I kill everybody in the camp and set to work blowing up the transformers. They are not, disappointingly, robots in disguise. I am bored again and out of anything to drink. Looking around for more explosives, I find a surviving government man.
Boiling Point had this problem. This is the Army guy who hands out missions if you decide to join the Army faction, but they sit him down so you'll always know where to find him and so that he doesn't end a plot arc by accidentally getting killed. He is so incredibly docile that he hasn't even moved when that bit of debry from my demolitions came flying in through the window and landed on his hands. Do I kill him? Of course not. He is noble in the face of death. I eat a pineapple.
The rebels reward me for my work by giving me a jeep, armed with a mounted gun that I can control remotely with my mind. I celebrate my new jeep by accidentally driving it into the sea. Well, you win some, you lose some. I eat some more prawns and take an enema.
I should probably sleep. Do you need to sleep in White Sand? I wander down the beach and encountered "Frightened Diver". It's ok, Frightened Diver. What's got you so scared?
Frightened Diver informs me that him and his friends were out diving when an enormous undersea monster appeared, sending him swimming for the shore and his friend down into a network of underwater caves. Somebody has to save his friend! But first, I'll need to find an oxygen tank. Frightened Diver informs me of an old man who might have one. I check my map. It's on the other side of the island. In a torturously long journey I manage to drive my jeep out of the sea, get to the tank, nearly kill the old man just on principle, eat a grapefruit and drive all the way back. This takes more than 15 minutes.
RIGHT. Here we go.
This is where I find out that the oxygen tank is a story item, not an equippable item, and can only be given to the lost diver. I am expected to just hold my breath. Several of the game's perks improve your ability to hold your breath. I have none of them, but there can be no turning back now. I eat a cookie and chase it with an energy drink. Let's do this!
It takes some 3 or 4 minutes of me swimming in a straight line to get to the point on my radar where the caves should be. I swim down. I find a cave! I don't find the diver. I drown.
And that was the end of my first 24 hours in White Gold. It's a less inspiring game than Boiling Point with an awful lot more downtime, but it certainly does have its moments. I might just do 48 Hours In White Gold. We'll see.
[Jim's note:White Gold is on Gamersgate.]