Another Take – Disaster: Day of Crisis

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You can’t save everyone.

Disaster: Day of Crisis is one of those games that I considered getting many times but never actually bought. I can’t rightly remember why I never bought it but it was almost certainly due to the mixed critical reviews it received along with my waning interest in the Wii at the time. I had largely forgotten about the game until it was brought up a few months ago in AC chat. I searched and quickly found a cheap copy of the game and I’m glad I did.

Disaster was revealed in 2006 but didn’t see release until late in 2008 when the Wii brand was nearing the height of its popularity. The game was developed by Monolith Soft who were then better known for the Baten Kaitos and Xenosaga series and are now much better known for Xenoblade Chronicles. It is also interesting for being one of the few games released in PAL territories but not in North America, with the reverse being far more common.

Disaster: Day of Crisis could simply be described as a third-person adventure game but it actually includes a variety of gameplay styles, most using the Wii’s unique control features. The majority of the game is played in third person where you explore the environment looking for items, solving puzzles and rescuing people. The frequent gun combat sections use the Wii pointer with a simple button controlled cover system. There are also infrequent driving sections which are controlled using the gyro. Mixed in with these three styles context sensitive mechanics; including quick-time cinematic sections. So there’s a lot of button tapping, shaking, flicking and wiggling.

What makes Disaster more appealing though is both the world and characters. The protagonist, Raymond Bryce is a professional rescuer haunted by the knowledge that he can’t save everyone. As he moves from disaster to improbable disaster including an earthquake, volcanic eruption, a tsunami and a hurricane; he is constantly looking for people to save. The dialogue is often hilarious and I’m still not sure whether it is intentionally so or not. Even the gameplay mechanics such as the way Ray can smash steel drums and rocks with his fists and find giant hamburgers and soda cans inside have to be consciously tongue-in-cheek. The disasters are largely background to Ray’s pursuit of a dissident ex-military group known as SURGE who are threatening to detonate nuclear weapons and have kidnapped Ray’s deceased teammate’s sister Lisa. It gets a whole lot more convoluted than this and could be simply described as the combined plot of the films, ‘The Rock’ and ‘The Day After Tomorrow’.

The story mode will take roughly ten or so hours to complete and in that time, there is quite a deep progression system for weapons and abilities. There are also plenty of unlockable bonus items and even shooting galleries. As well as this there is a new game+ mode and multiple difficulty levels. In a single playthrough on normal difficulty I didn\’t come close to maximising all skills so I assume this is something intended to accrue across multiple games. This all extends it quite significantly for those that simply must spend a long time on any one game.

I have surely mentioned before that I did not and do not like motion controls and will always opt for the conventional option when available. As it’d been a while since I played a Wii game, I found the motion controls initially enjoyable but I was soon reminded of the inherent problems with them. The main issues are with quick-time events which surely must be the laziest and overused mechanics of the last generation. Button prompts are bad enough but when failing to flick the remote the right way results in having to go through an entire cinematic scenario again, it really drags down the experience.

Even outside of the problems with motion control, the gameplay can be quite repetitive and this is especially so during the shooting sections. Most of the time, these break up the gameplay nicely but sometimes they go on for extended periods of time. They are at their worst during boss fights where I repeatedly shot some bosses in the head only to have them laugh it off and escape in the following cutscene. Even with these problems, the game remains generally engaging and entertaining when not frustrating.

Disaster: Day of Crisis is one of those games where I can fully understand the perspectives of those who love, like and loathe it. The visuals were dated even compared to other Wii games and at the time it was released. The motion controls are good by Wii standards but also remind me of everything that was wrong with them. The ridiculous dialogue will also put off as many people as it entertains.

So why did I write about it in a feature reserved for classic, hidden or forgotten games? Well, because despite all the problems, I find myself on side with the people that liked it. Disaster reminds me of a time when games weren’t taken overly seriously and realism wasn’t considered so important. A time when leading critics weren’t desperately trying to have their jobs considered as respectable as that of a film, theatre or music critic.It’s also the kind of game I would include as an example of what the Wii was all about. Not just doing new things for new audiences but doing something new for old audiences.

After browsing auction sites, I found it still widely available and generally inexpensive. I can’t say that it will be liked by all but I certainly give it a cautious recommendation to those interested. I know it has a few fans here already.

May, 2016

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