Oni (video game)
|Developer(s)||Bungie (Windows & Mac OS)
Rockstar Toronto (PS2)
|Publisher(s)||Gathering (Windows & Mac)
Rockstar Games (PS2)
|Release date(s)||Windows & Mac OS
|Genre(s)||Action, beat 'em up, third-person shooter|
Oni is a third-person action video game developed by Bungie West, a division of Bungie. Released in 2001, it was Bungie West's only game. It broke new ground by blending third-person shooting with hand-to-hand combat.
There are ten different guns in Oni, including handguns, rifles, rocket launchers, and energy weapons. Power-ups such as "hyposprays", which heal damage, and cloaking devices, which render the player invisible, can be found scattered throughout the levels or on corpses. Since the player can carry only one weapon at a time and ammunition is scarce, hand-to-hand combat is the most effective and common means of defeating enemies. The player can punch, kick, and throw enemies; progressing into later levels unlocks stronger moves and combos.
There are multiple classes of enemy, each with its own style of unarmed combat. Each class is subdivided into tiers of increasing strength. As in Bungie's earlier Marathon titles, tiers are color-coded, in this case by green (weakest), blue, and red (strongest). Also color-coded are the levels of health each opponent has, indicated by a flash when the player strikes or shoots them. Green flashes show the opponent has high health, red flashes show the enemy is near death.
Oni does not confine the player to fighting small groups of enemies in small arenas; each area is fully open to explore. The fourteen levels are of various sizes, some large enough to comprise an entire building. Bungie hired two architects to design the buildings.
The Oni engine implements a method of interpolation that tweens key frames, smoothing out the animation of complex martial-arts moves. However, frame slippage is a common problem when multiple non-player characters near the player are attacking.
The events of Oni take place in or after the year 2032. The game world is a dystopia, an Earth so polluted that little of it remains habitable. To solve international economic crises, all nations have combined into a single entity, the World Coalition Government. The government is Orwellian, telling the populace that what are actually dangerously toxic regions are wilderness preserves, while keeping the populace inside the cities safe using atmospheric conversion centres, which treat the poisoned air, rendering it breathable. The WCG uses its police forces, known publicly as the Technological Crimes Task Force (TCTF), to suppress opposition; their primary opposition is a terrorist organization known as the Syndicate, led by the mysterious Muro. The player character, code-named Konoko (voiced by Amanda Winn-Lee) begins the game working for the TCTF, in constant neural communication with an android named Shinatama, and under the supervision of TCTF regional commander Terrence Griffin. Griffin frequently consults with the TCTF scientist Dr. Kerr, who repeatedly expresses doubts about sending Konoko into the field.
Konoko's first assignment is to infiltrate a warehouse the Syndicate uses to smuggle contraband. The TCTF had previously sent in a mole named Chung to investigate, but he failed to report back. Konoko finds Chung's body; his notes lead Konoko to a company named Musashi. While investigating the Musashi headquarters, Konoko suspects that the Syndicate intentionally planted notes on Chung's body to lead the TCTF to Musashi as a diversion. Griffin confirms that the Syndicate are attacking the headquarters of a firm named Vago Biotech. Konoko heads to Vago and confronts one of Muro's lieutenants, an augmented human named Barabas, whom she defeats before he escapes. Konoko makes her way through Vago and gives chase when she sees Muro leaving the firm, following him to Vansam regional airport. Konoko plants a tracking device on Muro's plane before it takes off. Onboard, a Syndicate member informs Muro that they have been monitoring Konoko and have discovered she has a neural link to Shinatama, which interests Muro. The TCTF lose the signal from Konoko's tracking device, allowing Muro to escape.
Shortly thereafter, the Syndicate stage an attack on the TCTF regional headquarters. Konoko and the TCTF attempt to fight them off, but fail to prevent them from kidnapping Shinatama. Konoko kills Barabas in retribution. Against Griffin's wishes, she decides to rescue Shinatama herself, which leads her to an atmospheric treatment facility, in which Muro is torturing Shinatama. Konoko finds Shinatama, who reveals that Konoko's real name is Mai Hasegawa, and that she has been technologically augmented, making her far stronger and more resilient than others. Griffin grows concerned that Konoko is becoming too powerful and may become a threat if her growth is left unchecked, and triggers Shinatama's self-destruct mechanism in an attempt to kill Konoko. Konoko escapes just in time, and resolves to discover her true identity. Now wanted by the TCTF themselves, she heads to the regional state building in hopes of finding her TCTF personnel file. Before she can secure the file, however, it is stolen by a Syndicate ninja named Mukade. Konoko chases and kills him, retrieving her file and finding the name of her father, Dr. Hasegawa. Konoko goes to her father's laboratory and reads his personal files. Konoko's father was a college professor who fell in love with a student activist named Jamie, who protested against the totalitarian WCG. As part of an effort to uncover evidence of the WCG's corruption, Dr. Hasegawa and Jamie ventured into a "wilderness preserve", in which Jamie accidentally cut her leg. The wound quickly became lethally infected, and Hasegawa was forced to kill Jamie to end her suffering. Hasegawa writes that the world outside of the major cities is inexorably polluted and unsustainable, and that humanity will eventually go extinct if radical solutions are not found. Konoko also learns that Dr. Kerr is in fact Konoko's uncle.
Konoko tracks down Kerr to a TCTF science facility, in which he explains to her that, in an effort to develop a solution to the encroaching pollution which threatened humanity, he and Dr. Hasegawa developed a biotech invention called the Daodan Chrysalis, a cell which could be implanted in the human body and which would replace damaged tissue and organs as the host body experienced harm, eventually resulting in the host becoming exceptionally strong and resilient. Unfortunately, Kerr and Hasegawa were unable to receive funding from any legitimate entrepreneur and were forced to turn to the Syndicate for funding. When the Syndicate learned of the Chrysalis's potential, they kidnapped Hasegawa's son, Muro, and stole one of the two Chrysalis prototypes Kerr and Hasegawa had developed, in order to implant it into him. Kerr then took Konoko to the TCTF for her own protection: Griffin ordered that the other Chrysalis prototype be implanted into Konoko, to ensure that the TCTF would have a match for Muro. It is for this reason that both Konoko and Muro are preternaturally strong and resilient. Kerr and Konoko are interrupted by a TCTF officer, who fires at Konoko: Kerr dives in front of Konoko to protect her and is killed.
Konoko infiltrates the TCTF headquarters and questions Griffin, who quickly escapes to his basement bunker. Konoko tracks him down, and discovers that he has used the remnants of Shinatama's body to secure himself in his bunker. Konoko reluctantly overcomes Shinatama, who then attempts to fight back against Griffin; Griffin shoots what is left of Shinatama. Konoko disarms Griffin, and the player is given the choice to either kill him or let him live. Immediately afterwards, Konoko infiltrates the Syndicate's mountain compound, in which she learns the full extent of the Syndicate's plan: Muro is planning to reroute all of the world's atmospheric conversion centres in order to pollute the few remaining habital areas. The only people to survive will be those who pay Muro to give them a Chrysalis. Konoko realises her only hope is to destroy some of the atmospheric conversion centres before Muro's plan can reach completion, which will save some of the remaining cities (but at the cost of millions of lives). Thereafter, Konoko confronts Muro. If the player had decided to let Griffin live at the end of the previous chapter, he and several TCTF officers come to her aid and help her to defeat Muro; otherwise, she must battle Muro alone, and the Chrysalis inside Muro has mutated his body until he is several stories tall.
After defeating Muro, Konoko walks through the ruins of one of the cities which was destroyed when she destroyed the atmospheric processors. She ruminates that the Chrysalis will change humanity irrevocably, and hopes it's for the better.
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The game's universe is heavily influenced by Mamoru Oshii's anime film Ghost in the Shell and John Woo. The main characters Konoko and Commander Griffin look similar to the film's protagonists Motoko Kusanagi and Daisuke Aramaki.
Marketing and release
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Oni received mixed reviews from critics, with aggregating review websites GameRankings and Metacritic giving the PC version 75.44% and 73/100 and the PlayStation 2 version 68.69% and 69/100. Some reviewers were unimpressed by the minimal detail of the environment graphics, the lack of intelligence on the part of the AI in some situations, and the plot, which was occasionally criticized as underdeveloped. The game's difficulty in combination with a lack of savepoints was sometimes cited as a negative.
Moreover, many fans felt cheated because the game did not deliver on all of its promises. The most notable shortcoming was the absence of LAN-based multiplayer, which had been demoed at hands-on booths at Macworld Expos during Oni's development, but removed before release due to stated concerns over latency issues. This too contributed to some lower scores from reviewers. Some of the game's content was cut as well. This included the highly anticipated "Iron Demon", a large mech shown in-game in one trailer. Also, many of the weapons featured in the trailer and the game cover were not in the game.
However, Oni received the most praise for its smooth character animation and large array of fighting moves, as well as how it blended gunplay and melee combat. Thus, reviewers gave Oni mostly average-to-good scores in recognition of the enjoyment factor of the game.
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