Geist (video game)
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North American cover art
|Artist(s)||W. Randy King|
Geist (stylized as geist) is a first-person action-adventure video game for the Nintendo GameCube, released on August 15, 2005, in North America; on October 7, 2005, in Europe; and on November 3, 2005; in Australia.
A prototype of the game was developed by n-Space, who approached Nintendo to be the game's publisher. Nintendo accepted, making Geist the second GameCube game published by Nintendo to receive an M-rating (the first being Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem). In the following years, Nintendo and n-Space worked closely on Geist. The game was first shown at the E3 2003 and was announced to be part of the GameCube's line-up for 2003. However, it was delayed multiple times, making it two years of delay for fine-tuning. During that time, the game's genre changed from first-person shooter to first-person action-adventure with second-person elements. The Geist franchise is owned by Nintendo, due to their contract with n-Space.
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According to the game's official website, it is set in the year 2005. John Raimi is a civilian scientist and a member of a counter-terrorism team sent to investigate the Volks Corporation. The team, called CR-2, sent Thomas Bryson, Raimi's best friend, to Volks Corporation for an undercover operation months earlier and now they have to get him out of there. After meeting up with Bryson, the alarm goes off and CR-2 is forced to battle their way out. On the way out, a monster appears and violently kills one of Raimi's squad members. At the end, one of the agents seemingly becomes possessed and kills the rest of the team with the exception of Raimi, who just gets badly wounded, and, as the latter later finds out, Bryson. It is not revealed what happens with the possessed agent though. Raimi is captured and his soul is torn from his body by an experimental machine. Soon after, Alexander Volks himself puts Raimi into a machine to brainwash him, so he will become a new soldier for Project Z. However, the spirit of a young girl named Gigi blows the machine's power to save Raimi. She then teaches him the basics of being a ghost and Raimi sets out to get his body back and save Bryson. His new ghost abilities (possessing other humans, animals and even inanimate objects) immediately prove to be essential if he wants to succeed.
Raimi damages the main piece of machinery used in the ghost separation in order to prevent Bryson's separation. In the chaos that follows, Rourke, the head of Volks' military department, orders the computer operator to fire a "catalyst beam" at the machine, despite their loss of containment. Following his orders, the laser is fired. Suddenly the machine breaks down and a humongous monster emerges from the rift. Because people normally cannot see ghosts, this goes unnoticed by the members of Volks Corporation. They know "something" escaped, but that is said to happen all the time, thus no more precautions are taken than the regular ones. Raimi is not too far away, attempting to make it farther into the facility. He soon notices there are other beings free as well. Escaped creatures from the rift are roaming the compound, killing everything that is not from their world.
Raimi manages to save Bryson and get a helicopter to pick him up. They part ways, because Bryson has to go and inform his superiors of what is going on, while Raimi does not want to go without his body. However, when the helicopter takes off, Raimi's body, possessed by Wraith, takes the helicopter down with a rocket launcher. Raimi follows him and ends up in a deserted mansion. There, he meets Gigi again. She then reveals to Raimi what her connection to Volks Corporation is. When she was alive, she lived with her aunt and brother in the mansion. Her brother is now the owner of Volks Corporation: Alexander Volks. Alexander was obsessed with the occult and supernatural when he was a young boy, often reading about it in books. One day he was reading a book in the big tree in the garden. Gigi tried to get his attention, but he told her to go away. She then climbed in the tree to get to him, but fell and died. Desperate, Alexander came up with the plan to use his knowledge about the occult to save his sister. He brought her to a "special place" (a seal to a demon realm) and tried to bring her back to life using spells he found in his books. The ritual failed however, and instead of bringing Gigi back to life, turned her soul into a ghost. To make matters worse, Alexander himself became slightly possessed by an ancient demon (Volks' Demon), which gave him a symbol-like scar above his right eye. Unaware of both results, Alexander became a puppet of the demon. It is revealed that Volks' Demon wants to seize control over the world through Alexander and with all that Volks Corporation has to offer.
Raimi soon is captured once more and again, Volks Corporation attempts to brainwash him. Due to another attack from some monsters, Raimi manages to free himself and continues his search for his body. Eventually, he gets his body back when facing Wraith. Once Raimi destroys him, he goes on in an attempt to stop the Volks Corporation from killing and possessing the world leaders (Project Z). He manages to stop the attack and at the end, comes face to face with the possessed Alexander Volks. When Raimi kills Alexander's body, Gigi appears and gets pulled into Alexander's body by Volks' Demon. Raimi follows her (as a ghost) and ends up in some ethereal realm which could either be Alexander's psyche, or (part of) the world on the other side of the rift. Raimi kills Volks' Demon here and witnesses the reunion of Alexander and Gigi (both ghosts now). They thank him and fly away. Raimi escapes from the collapsing cave and is picked up by a helicopter. In the helicopter, he meets Bryson again, who survived the attack. He also sees Anna Richardson and Phantom again, two characters he has possessed for some time during the game. Apart from the happy ending, this is likely also an indication CR-2 has already started cleaning up Volks Corporation's mess.
A level is progressed through by completing its stages. A stage can be a period in the game in which the player has to puzzle and/or fight his way to a certain point or can be a boss fight. Upon completing a stage, a new checkpoint is reached.
As a disembodied spirit, Raimi cannot interact with the physical world except through possession. Gravity still affects him though he floats and can elevate himself for short periods and he cannot pass through solid walls. Normally, his sight is blue/white, but when standing at the same spot as an object or creature, his sight turns red. Ghosts are invisible and intangible, though they can be seen by other ghosts and animals can sense their presence even when they are possessing something. Without a host, a ghost is a lot faster than the physical world and sees everything in slow motion.
When Raimi possesses an object, such as a dog food bowl, he sees things from the object's perspective even if the device has no visual apparatus. He is able to provide some motive force on an ordinarily immobile object, activate electronics, and alter an object's appearance; for example, turning water from a possessed faucet red, or changing the reflection in a mirror. Creatures can only be possessed when badly frightened or startled. This is accomplished by performing a set combination of actions. Glimpses of a host's recent memories are sometimes gained immediately upon possession. Raimi has the same control over a host body that he would over his own. The only exceptions are an inability to make the host approach something which frightens him or her very badly, and the very difficult task of resisting something the host likes.
If a host is killed or destroyed, Raimi is unharmed and returns to his ethereal state. However, he cannot remain outside a host indefinitely; his spirit is continuously pulled towards the afterlife. Raimi can only anchor himself to the world by possessing something, though absorbing life from small plants grants him additional time in this world.
The abilities of hosts differ. The most noticeable is the way the world is seen through the eyes of the host. For instance, most animals see the world in several shades of grey, while imps have binoculars-shaped sight. For the most part, Raimi gets to possess guards who carry one weapon and an unlimited amount of ammunition. Some weapons have a secondary function in the form of a grenade launcher or infrared scope. Other possessable humans are professors, engineers and several people with different supportive jobs. They cannot do battle, but allow access to new areas and sometimes carry objects with them that may be needed to proceed. Human hosts have no memory of what occurs when Raimi possesses them. They recall only being badly frightened, and then suddenly being in a different room. They will not do anything or get less frightened when Raimi dispossesses them, so they can be possessed again at any time.
Animals also cannot be used for combat, but are vital to reach some areas. Due to their size, rats and dogs (rabbits and roaches in multiplayer) can crawl through some small holes and reach the room on the other side. Bats can fly to otherwise unreachable areas. Other animals are tools to make a human host possessable. The only exception to animals being useless for combat situations are imps, but they can only be possessed in the multiplayer mode.
Each host has a different ability. Some human hosts can sprint and others can crawl. This means a character that can sprint cannot crawl or vice versa and this goes for all abilities. In some cases, the L button activates the zoom function. Most humans in the multiplayer mode have a different ability: jumping.
In Geist, the player can find two kinds of collectibles as a side-quest. There are Ghost Collectibles, which are only obtainable when in ghost-form, and Host Collectibles, which can only be picked up when possessing a host. Ghost Collectibles resemble Gigi's teddy bear and are the diary entries of Giselle Tallant. By picking them up, the player learns a deeper part of the story.
The multiplayer section of the game is played with up to four human players and up to seven bots. It has three different modes: Possession Deathmatch, Capture the Host and Hunt. Though these modes are common multiplayer modes, the ghost aspect gives them a unique touch. Possession DeathMatch is played between ghosts. Therefore, each player is invunerable until he/she possesses a host, after which the game plays as a normal deathmatch. To prevent players from staying a ghost, they have a timed ghost life. Capture the Host is a combination of deathmatch and capture the flag. Again, the battle is between ghosts. However, this time, kills made are not kept until the player dispossess the host on a base. There is also a key mode where a shield will surround the base and the players have to find the key to open it. Hunt is a hosts versus ghosts mode. The hosts, armed with anti-ghost weapons, try to kill the ghosts, while the ghosts try to get the hosts to commit suicide by possessing the hosts and letting them walk into one of the various deathtraps. Hosts can attempt to free themselves from the ghosts' grasp. The first team to get rid of all their opponents' lives wins.
During the story mode, hidden collectibles can be collected in order to unlock more multiplayer levels and characters. The abilities of ghosts and most hosts are slightly different from the story mode. For instance, most soldier hosts can jump, instead of sprint or crawl. Also, roaches and imps can be possessed in the multiplayer mode, but not in the single player mode. Another difference is the presence of power-ups, with various effects. The players can choose from a list of "advanced settings" to adjust the multiplayer mode to their wishes.
Work on Geist started in 2002. Its early working title was Fear. N-Space learned that Nintendo was interested in a first-person shooter action game with a unique feel to it. n-Space came up with the idea about making a game with an invisible man as the protagonist. From there, the concept changed from being an invisible person to being a ghost and Poltergeist.
After about eight months of work, n-Space finished the prototype and sent it to Nintendo of America, from which it was sent to Nintendo. Nintendo latched onto the game, and it was decided N-Space and Nintendo would work together to develop the game. After six months, object possession was introduced in the game after some suggestions from Shigeru Miyamoto. Geist was first shown to the public at the E3 2003 and it was later stated that Geist would be released the same year. In the months after the E3 both companies realized they "weren't working on the same game"; N-Space had envisioned Geist to be a first-person shooter while Nintendo (more specifically, Kensuke Tanabe) considered it to be a first-person action-adventure. The adjustments caused the game to be delayed many times until it was finally released two years later in 2005, but Geist was present at both the E3 2004 and E3 2005.
Nearing the end of development, a Nintendo DS port was rumored by an IGN tour to be in development. Although this port was never announced, and no information of it has ever been officially released, n-Space did have development kits for the DS at the time, and traces of the ports existence have been found within the ROM of the DS version of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, which was developed by n-Space, as two text documents for the credits of "Geist DS" are present.
Geist was Nintendo's E3 2003 surprise, as it was not a new title from one of their old(er) franchises and no rumours about it had been going around before the E3 2003. In general, people were enthusiastic about the demo.
Two years later, the game received "average" reviews according to the review aggregation website Metacritic. While the game was praised for its originality in ideas, gameplay and story, it was held back by a weak engine (IGN: "Unfortunately, a game engine incapable of matching n-Space's ambitions occasionally hampers the experience") which meant Geist was unable to maintain a smooth frame rate throughout the first-person shooter sequences. The game suffered from sluggish shooter controls that were not on par with other first-person shooters of its time. Nintendo World Report wrote: "There's a constant struggle with the controls that makes the game more frustrating than it should be," and IGN called it "not exactly poor, but it certainly doesn't compare to better shooters on the market, either." The game was also burdened by poor character animation and AI. Some reviewers were disappointed the game only allowed one scare tactic per person or animal and did not allow the player to be creative. Or as GameSpot put it: "You'll wonder how the game might have been different if it gave you more freedom to accomplish your objectives."
Most reviews did praise the scare tactics for always being different and fun (Nintendo World Report: "Figuring out how to scare hosts is a lot of fun, especially because the ways in which you scare them are often very inventive"). Although the animation was not considered especially good, the graphics were praised. Altogether, the game was mostly placed in the "reasonable-to-good" range, with remarks as "Geist at least serves as an important reminder that an original game design and a first-person perspective aren't mutually exclusive. The shooter portions of Geist aren't all that special, but there's a lot more to this game than meets the eye" from GameSpot; and, "The concept is refreshingly inventive and Geist is propelled into something much greater than a FPS clone" from IGN; but also, "Unfortunately, no sooner does Geist suggest it can blossom into something fresh and exciting that it’s undermined at every turn by a frustrating insistence on being nothing more than a mundane firstperson shooter" from Edge.
Jim Schaefer of Detroit Free Press gave the game three stars out of four, saying, "I like this game simply for its twists on an old genre. I enjoy many shooter games, but the ability to change characters gives this one a real personality." CiN Weekly gave it a score of 71 out of 100, saying, "An undeveloped but great take on first-person views makes this a strong rental but iffy purchase." Maxim gave it a score of seven out of ten, saying that players will "spend more time scaring the crap out of people than blowing the crap out of people, which slows down the action." However, Common Sense Media gave it two stars out of five and called it "an original first-person shooter haunted by repetitive gameplay" due to "blocky, dated graphics and choppy slowdowns".
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