Largo Winch - Empire Under Threat
Release date: 09/2002
Game languages: English with subtitles in german, english, italian or spanish
USK: 12 years and up
A review by slydos 25th September 2002
"Largo Winch" is a 3rd-person adventure game after the comics of the Belgian Van Hamme. Van Hamme is one the most successful comic authors in Europe (Thorgal, XIII, Largo Winch among others). A TV adventure series was already produced after the comics, which was however displaced at the television station Pro7 before the series end. This can happen to conversions. The original story promises in any case suspense, action, locations around the earth and a good-looking, billions-worth hero, a guy women fly on.
The prehistory is the same as in the comic or the TV show: Largo, who never became acquainted with his real father, grows up in a monastery in Sarjevane on the Balkans. After the death of his father he finds out that he is Nerio Winch's son, a multi-billionaire with a world-wide imperium, and Largo is its sole heir. He is joined by his close friend Simon Ovronnaz, the ex CIA agent Joy Arden and the ex KGB agent Georgi Kerensky, all with very special abilities and on whom Winch could trust and rely. In addition there is John Sullivan, the 2nd man of the W-group, who advises Largo in all business things.
While the hero in the comic/TV series is searching for the real murderer of his father, we are not bothered with this problem in the Largo Winch game. The game is about a menace to the W-group and in the long run also to Largo's life by unknown opponents. During the game the W-group is attacked in different places, but Largo and thus the gamers don't know until very late in the game, how the individual attacks are connected and who is behind it for what reasons. There is a bomb threat during a party, forbidden gene manipulations in Winch's own laboratory in Mexico and a hacker attack from Russia. And of course our never-tired hero is always in the first line when it's about clearing up things and hurries with his jet from one continent to the next. And one must really be astonished, how he still succeeds to insert the one or other love episode in this restless life.
Largo Winch is coming on 1 CD in a DVD-box. A German manual is attached. If autostart is activated, the installation of approx. 300 MB runs automatically. When first starting in addition a configuration window shows up, in which one can adjust video and sound settings. One should press the Save-Button here in any case, otherwise one is led again and again into these options. The game ran without technical difficulties.
With each game start we must move through a set of screens. In the first screen you're asked for the sub-title language, since the game speech is in English. We have German, English, Italian or Spanish available. A one-time selection, e.g. in the configuration menu, would have been enough. If you don't select anything in this and other menus for 30 seconds, then a game demo appears automatically. You can quit it with spacebar.
Likewise with each game start you must watch the intro, which can be stopped with space bar too. Each time before a new game sequence, thus also before the intro, we see for approx. 10 seconds the loading screen - very nerving on a continuing basis. If we've reached the main menu, we have the choice between "New Game" or "Load Game" without the otherwise usual menu option "Save Game".
During the game we can only save by calling the "Quit"-option from our PDA to reach the main menu and load another saved game. If you select "Load Game", a savegame list appears and after the approx. 10 seconds lasting loading procedure the announcement "Game successfully loaded".
Here again one must confirm the selected savegame with space bar to finally start the game. It is really as laborious as it looks! A really bad menu handling and nerving waiting periods! Beside that we can repeat already watched video sequences or hacker mini games over the menu option "Bonus". In the option menu movement-mode and the language of the sub-titles can be selected, you can de-/activate sub-titles, adjust dialogue succession and volume.
With the first start we can watch Largo during another video sequence. He gives the starting signal on a relief work of the W-group for Drinavie, a small poor country in Eastern Europe. After he left the hall, we can finally intervene the game and lead Largo to the following cocktail party.
"Largo Winch" is completely keyboard-controlled, or by joystick or joypad. I would recommend to look into the manual first. Only 10 keys are used, but in different game situations they are differently allocated, what can confuse.
We move Largo with the arrow keys, the shift key lets him run faster. If he comes near a hotspot, this lights up highly visible. That can go so far that one sometimes already sees a brightly shining drawer in the distance just when entering a scene, so that it rarely comes to larger search actions. One then can use the enter key, in order to receive a more detailed description of the object or the person. Most actions are carried out with spacebar, like taking objects or beginning conversations.
To take objects however was already a bit tricky for me. Apparently you have to dfferentiate between objects, which are placed in other objects (e.g. in cabinets), or objects, that are freely accessible. Normally one presses space bar and gets the rotating object in zoomed view, again space bar and the object is taken to the inventory and one returns automatically into the game screen. But when I wanted to take an object from an open pot, which was not even shown in zoom-mode, I no longer returned automatically to the game and assumed, the screen had frozen. By assistance of other players I learned that here again another key had to be pressed, the backward key! Logical? No - I don't think so and also not documented in the description of the inventory in the manual. Senselessly and confusing in such a place to change the control to another key.
Likewise laborious to handle the inventory, which always opens in full screen mode, if you press the Ctrl-key. By the way a waste of space, since anyway only 1 object out of 3 is visible in the center of the screen in each case. The rest of the screen remains unused. One browses with the arrow keys and selects with space bar. Instead of simply combining objects with space bar, an unnecessary intermediate step with the arrow keys is introduced here again! There are in each case some "explaining" icons at the top of the screen, whose meaning one must however acquire through the online help-function or the manual.
The developers also thought out something with the mini games, e.g. "Hacking": instead of moving around here simply by arrow keys, one must press space bar at the same time. Why - you will ask with ever growing annoyance.
The PDA is opened with the ESC-key. There you have to deal with space bar and the backspace key, to quit and save the game, look at Largo's notes or to adjust the settings in the options-menu. A small note book symbol appears together with a short audio signal if a new note is added. Unfortunately this reference also rather often appears, if nothing at all was added and one scans often in vain the note book for new entries thereby.
Unfortunately you have only 6 letters to describe your savegames. The savegames are not limited in their number and are stored automatically together with location and elapsed play time. Again an unnecessary intermediate step with space bar is used here also.
Enough of this description - controls and handling are simply badly planned and converted! Unnecessary intermediate steps, long waiting periods, changing key allocation... One doesn't feel taken seriously as PC gamer. It should be possible, to design a reasonable control by keyboard or better mouse independently from console versions.
Both, background graphics of this 3D game and individual character graphics can please. The large number of indoor and outdoor locations is designed in detail. Particularly beautiful was the snow in Russia, where one believes to recognize even individual flakes on the ground, which melted briefly after. With the character graphics one must differentiate: while the male actors, particularly our attractive hero and his friend Simon were quite realistically pictured in their proportions and faces, the programmers pulled the ladies out of a stereotype potty. A set of bosom monsters were created, which can hardly walk because of their enormous chests and where their clothes must have probably been glued to their bodies. I assume that the programmers were locked up behind their PCs probably their life long, exactly like Largo's secretary, who must probably starve on her job, because there is no exit from her office furniture.
While the gentlemen move really very naturally, except Largo's gait on stairs, the women look like digital rubber dolls. Stereotypes are permitted with the conversion of a comicbook, but should be equally used then!
Gesturing and mimik are economical. Unfortunately there is no lip-exact synchronisation. The characters snatch for air, after they said their texts, until the scene is over. An example, in which mimik and synchronicity were well implemented: Dragonriders (Adventure-Archiv review), also by Ubi Soft.
Unobtrusive, film-like changes of perspective and camera angle are extremely well made on the other hand. One does not lose sight of Largo, only, if you actually direct him with intention behind some furniture. Likewise very well succeeded the numerous video scenes, which however frequently break the gameplay and condemn the gamers repeatedly to inactivity.
The English dubbing appears suitable and expressive to me, sometimes too expressive out of some expressionless and empty faces. As previously mentioned, the dialogues are not lip-synchronal.
Whether it is meant as a running gag, I don't know, but Largo makes with every new meeting with his secretary also new remarks about her: While she is always looking like a just beaten dog, he means first: "Candy, she always laughs!", then he notices "Candy, how pretty she is!" - well! - and when last meeting "Candy, she is always so serious!". Largo and the other characters are rather serious and, except Simon, rarely feel like joking. Sound and music are well set, the recurring main theme strengthens exciting scenes and give a movie-like atmosphere.
The classic puzzles are very simple. There are not more than 6 items at the same time in the inventory. Since the game is linear, one is held at a scene, until a puzzle is solved. Usually objects disappear then from the inventory. Objects can be combined within the inventory. One always knows, which task lies is ahead and by the small number of objects and combination options the solution is a piece of cake.
Apart from this kind of puzzles we can find another set of moderately difficult mini games such as Poker, a sliding puzzle and a door latch. In addition there are 7 more complicated hacker games, where the hero must hack a computer over a network. Here it depends on thinking ahead game moves - your own and those of the opponent. If you've once developed a solution algorithm, you can use it also, similar to sliding puzzles, quite simply in the next mini hacker game. But at the latest after the 3rd hacking, the mini game loses its originality and seems to be assigned to prolong the game. Having to complete two hacker-games directly one after the other, I find not very imaginative and in addition nerving.
Largo must also win some round-based fights, which can be ridden out easily. Neither here nor at other places players must possess speed or reactivity, the fights are more a brainteaser, as to defeat the opponents with the correct person and weapon sequence. However Largo can die here and in some other places too.
Looking at the puzzle-design Largo Winch is developed like an adventure game for children of the age group between 6 and 12, where one uses to combine easy inventory puzzles with somewhat heavier mini games, like in "E.T. - the Extraterrestial "(Adventure-Archiv review) from Ubi Soft.
One can also replay, if desired, the hacker games over the menu option "Bonus". Even beginners are barely challenged with exception of these mini games. But "Largo Winch" is not suitable for the age group specified above because of adult contents.
The story is interesting and can even increase suspense in the end. It's the best of the game, beside the graphics. However there are too many intended or unintended interruptions and too many problems with the handling, which prevent the gamers from really identifying with cool Largo Winch and dive deep into the story. You somehow remain outside and ask yourself in the end, what actually happened apart from hacking?
The game with a length of approx. 18 hours, you can read that off from the last savegame, will appeal to Comic -, Van Hamme- and Largo-Fans and is interesting for keyboard-tested adventure beginners. Advanced gamers, who look for proper puzzle challenges beyond an interactive story, don't get their money worth. Likewise all should be discouraged, who don't want to rack their brains about controls and handling.
Total rating: 57%
80% - 100% excellent game, very recommendable 70% - 79% good game, recommendable 60% - 69% satisfactory, restricted recommendable 50% - 59% sufficient (not very recommendable) 40% - 49% rather deficient (not to be recommended - for Hardcore-Adventure-Freaks and collectors only) 0% - 39% worst (don't put your fingers on it)
- Windows 95/98/2000/ME/XP
- PII 300 - PII
- 64 - 128 MB RAM
- Geforce 256, 32 MB
- DirectX version 8.0
- 8x CDROM-drive
- DirectX 8 sound card
- 350 MB on hard disk
- Keyboard or joystick
- Windows XP
- P IV 1,6 GHz
- 512 MB RAM
- 16x DVD-ROM (Artec WRA-A40)
- nVidia GeForce 2MX400 64 MB graphic card
- Sound cardDirectX-compatible
Largo's father - Nerio Winch
The bomb threat was too much for Candy
The first fight in Central Park - no problem for Largo
Every task is noted in In Largo's PDA
You often have to watch the loading screen
A nightly walk in Central Park
Sharon owns a large-scaled apartment in New York
This happens when you meet a guard!
Largo moves his mouth even when he has nothing to say!
Candy - locked up behind her desk!
Also in the Mexican lab Largo has femal encounters
Even if it looks hot - my screen seemed to be frozen here
Beautiful snow flakes
The large-scaled inventory takes the whole screen
A poker game must be won
The saving function of the PDA
What Largo needs for puzzle solving is mostly not far away
As in Larry 1 there is a fire escape
Like an Ulla Ulla drink?
Looks like Simon has a problem
At home in monastery Sarjevane
Even if Largo isn't near a hotspot, it's highlighted - here a cabinet on the wall