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Product: Reah - DVD Edition
Company: Project Two Interactive
Website: http://www.reah.com
Estimated Street Price: £35/$40
Review By: Byron Hinson

The Features and The Basics

Finally we get a new DVD-ROM title that takes advantage of the excellent space provided on a DVD disk. The game consists of over 87,000 frames of 3D rendered animation plus 40,000 frames of video sequences giving over 127,000 frames in total - this is definitely not an interactive slideshow. These are real numbers not the values "created" by marketing people. There are over 400 sound effects and similar number of spoken phrases - audio data occupies over 280 MB. Actually the developer had problems fitting the game on 6 discs.

It was impossible to fit the data on "standard" DVD-5 single sided disc after decreasing compression rate in order to take advantage of better DVD-ROM performance so Project Two have put it on one DVD-10 Disk (Which means you can turn the disk over to play the other side).

Here is the list of major features:

Plenty of interesting and challenging puzzles

The high quality puzzles are the true value of gameplay for many adventure game players. Reah has plenty of puzzles - the mix of inventory based, mechanical, and logical ones, ranging from very simple to quite complicated puzzles suiting everyone from people new to the genre to die hard adventure gamers.

Reah is puzzle oriented adventure

The players want to solve puzzles not just watch story - that's what movies are for. That's why Reah's developers tried to create a game which primarily concentrates on the process of solving puzzles, not searching for them or watching the story. The player won't have to desperately "scan" the screen looking for hotspots or items or just for clues. He won't have to use any carried item on any other in hopeless attempts to make any progress in the game. The player will just know that he's facing the puzzle and his task is to solve it. Of course there's a story in the game, a world created only with puzzles would look a bit... odd.

Great freedom of exploration

Although the game is entirely based on prerendered graphics, the player experience a very immersive environment, thanks to our V-Cruise™ Engine. The navigation is ultra-smooth, fast and seamless and gives a feeling of "being there". The player can move between hundreds of locations and he has the ability to perform full 360 degree turns in every location with addition of occasional up and down looks and zooms. The engine does not use the popular technology of projecting a flat image onto the inside surface of a cylinder like many other similar products do - it simply shows the picture recorded by moving or rotating the camera. Thanks to this the player clearly sees that he is inside the three dimensional world instead of just watching the flat projection. The effect of 3D is further enhanced with slight eccentric rotation. The navigation is entirely controlled by mouse movement and one mouse button giving the player intuitive and smooth control similar to real-time rendered games combined with the highest quality of prerendered graphics.

Highly realistic, beautiful graphics

The team of five artists created a beautiful and varied world - there're cities, fountains, arches, a jungle with a lake, a desert village, and a futuristic tech center. Although the game takes place in an alternative world which helped the artists to show their imagination but most of the objects in the game resemble real ones forcing the artists to pay special attention to every detail. They created about 9000 different objects, large and small, consisting of over 10 million polygons illuminated with over 500 light sources.

Dynamic, animated world.

The world in the game is not static - the engine allows the addition of many animations in various locations.

Full screen video sequences

The game features a small cast of real actors who prevent the player from feeling lonely and help the story to develop. The actors were carefully shot on digital video and then composited against rendered backgrounds. The video sequences are displayed full screen at 25 frames per second.

High resolution, high color display

The game works in high resolution - 640x480 pixels, full screen, in high color mode - 65 thousand colors. The actual game window is also big - 608x348 pixels and all graphics and video are stored and displayed exactly in this resolution, there's no scaling and other similar "tricks" involved in order to cheat the player.

The DVD-ROM version significantly increases the quality of graphics thanks to doubled data transfer rate (reduced compression ratio).
DVD-ROM vs CD-ROM DVD-ROM vs CD-ROM DVD-ROM vs CD-ROM DVD-ROM vs CD-ROM

DVD-ROM vs CD-ROM version comparisons (each picture is about 100 kB in size)

16-bit, high quality sound effects and music

All sound effects in the game are of the highest quality, all in 16-bits of resolution with 22 kHz sample rate. A virtual world created with amazing graphics and supported by superb sound effects is even more convincing and realistic. The game controls the location of the player's character and all sound sources in the virtual world allowing for precise positioning of them in stereo and updating these positions in real-time thanks to QMixer sound engine licensed from QSound Labs, Inc.

The DVD-ROM version uses the newer version of the sound engine - QMDX - which supports hardware accelerated 3D sound card allowing for full three dimensional positioning of sound sources.

Atmospheric, mesmerizing soundtrack

The music was composed by leading artists from the Polish techno scene. The result is a mix of trance, psychedelic, ambient, trip-hop and drum'n'bass styles.

The DVD-ROM version uses MPEG Audio Layer 3 (MP3) technology licensed from Fraunhofer Institut which allows for an improved soundtrack of full CD quality and increased length. Next to that, an extra track, especially composed for that version, is added.

The standard CD-ROM version for the North American market features all sound enhancements of the DVD-ROM version.

Simple, intuitive interface

All movements are handled with the mouse and one of its buttons. The interface is simple - the inventory items are automatically highlighted and ready to use when an appropriate hotspot is discovered - there's no need to guess what item should be used at a particular point. All other options are available via an auto-hiding top menu bar. There are also keyboard shortcuts giving access to the most important functions.

Installation and In-Game Options

Installation is easy, first you just put the Reah DVD disk into your DVD-ROM drive and let AutoPlay do the rest. Next you'll get a list of options - you click on install, choose the directory you wish the game to installing into and in a few seconds installation is complete. Finally you can choose whether you wish to install DirectX.

Once loaded you are greeted with a few options:

Continue Game - This lets you load up the last game you saved
New Game - Begins a new game and introduces you to the world
Load Game - Obvious
Sound - Allows you to change the music and sound effect volumes
Credits - Lists the people involved in creating the game
Quit - Quits back to Windows

When you begin a new game, you are greeted by a nice looking introduction to the world of Reah. Once the intro has finished your quest begins, you are presented with your first look at the interface that you will use for the rest of the game.

Gameplay

You have been sent to investigate a mysterious artifact on an alien planet. The artifact turns out to be a portal to an alternate reality. As the portal becomes unstable, you get sucked in to it, and you find yourself outside the walls of an ancient city.

Your first challenge is to enter the city. This first puzzle - studying symbols on sundials, making logical connections you open the gates and walk into the city - is typical for the rest of the game. The puzzles throughout the game can be mind-numbingly difficult to figure out, thankfully though there are a few "Beginner" puzzles for you to get used to Reah's way of thinking, but they are few and far between. Completing puzzles usually results in a short cutscene and then another puzzle for you to solve will crop up elsewhere.

You also have an inventory which lets you hold a number of objects which you use during the game, unlike most point and click adventures that lets you choose the object you wish to use, in Reah moving your mouse pointer over a certain locations means that inventory objects are automatically highlighted when they are needed.

Graphics & Sound

How It Grades
Originality: C-
Gameplay: B-
Story: B+
Graphics: B+
Cutscenes: B-
Sound: A
Interface: B
Multiplayer: N/A
Overall: B-

As is expected for a DVD-ROM title - both the graphics and sound are superb, there is no doubt that these types of graphical puzzle games are perfectly suited to DVD. Every location has 360-degree views based on pre-rendered images. In certain locations you can look up and down, while in others you can zoom in on important maps and the suchlike.

The video sequences which are played back at various points in the game when you meet people you can talk to were a little blocky, but far better than has been seen in the majority of FMV adventure games.

The DVD soundtrack is excellent, wish suitable music played in each new location. The speech is well spoken and clear, but unfortunately isn't well written which is a little disappointing for an adventure with a good story. Reah DVD edition also supports a number of 3D Sound cards such as the SoundBlaster Live! And it makes very good use of the 3D sounds in the game.

Final Comments

Reah is one of very few DVD-ROM titles currently available, it does though make very good use of the medium. Improved graphics and sound are both apparent, but the main plus point is the fact that there is no longer any CD swapping that can spoil many adventure games these days. On the gameplay side it can be very hit and miss, while some puzzles are enjoyable to complete and figure out, others can be annoyingly frustrating and the badly written dialogue is also a little disappointing. But I can say that I recommend this to all of you puzzle lovers out there, and judging from sales of Myst and Riven, there are a lot of you. Also those of you looking to show off a DVD-ROM title can't really go wrong with this (Overseer was a big let down as a DVD title). Obviously if you don't enjoy puzzle solving - avoid this at all costs.

Overall Score 79%
Version Reviewed Version 1.0 US
Release Date Out Now
In The Box? 1 DVD
1 Set of instructions
Reviewers PC Setup Pentium II 450
Windows 98 Second Edition
128 Meg SD-Ram
Voodoo 2 - 8mb
DirectX 6.1a
SoundBlaster Live! Value
Toshiba SD-1202 DVD-ROM - 32x
17" LG Electronics Monitor
ATI 8mb XPert AGP Graphics Card
Microsoft Force Feedback Pro
Microsoft Freestyle Pro (USB)
PC Required Pentium 200
16 MB of RAM
120 MB of available hard disk space
DVD-ROM drive
Microsoft DirectX 6 (Included)
DirectX Compatible Sound Card

 

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