Largo Winch: Empire Under Threat
Review by Jen
Largo Winch is based on a French comic about a billionaire
playboy who was born in Poland and adopted by an American business
mogul. I'm not a comic reader so this matters not one whit to
me. I'm just throwing it out by way of background and because
it makes for a nice opening line.
In the game, Largo's adoptive father, Nerio, has died recently,
leaving control of multinational megacorporation Group W to Largo.
Cut to the present: Largo has just finished giving a keynote speech
at a charity shindig, thanking all of the sponsors for financing
a tanker full of milk to be shipped to the starving people of
some fictional country that is supposed to represent somewhere
like war-torn Serbia or perhaps war-torn Croatia. A bomb threat
is called in, and Largo springs into action, a la James Bond.
Following the threads of the story will set Largo to trotting
around the globe, from Mexico to the Mediterranean, from New York
City to Siberia, and back again, all in an effort to figure out
who is trying to sabotage his company and why.
I'll just say right at the outset that Largo Winch is
a game that, while ultra-cheesy, is a lot of fun to play. Okay,
now with that out of the way, let me get straight to the nitpicking.
First and foremost, the typos! Oh, the typos! I realize that
English is an evolving language, but the accessibility of the
World Wide Web to anyone with a second-grade education and the
wherewithal to post a home page has rather devolved the
language into a veritable patois. I daresay the language has changed
more in the past decade due solely to the influence of the internet
(okay, maybe rap music is partly responsible too) than in the
half-millennium since ye Olde English days. The possessive "it's"
is now so prevalent that a whole generation of children will grow
up not knowing that their forebears once cringed at the very sight.
Must I now view myself as a grammar curmudgeon solely because
I expect a modicum of proofreading and quality control in professionally
published printed text in any medium? Well, I will take up the
burden and stand as the last bastion between you, dear reader,
and the anarchy of illiteracy, and decry such wanton article abuse
and fanciful spellings whenever I shall chance upon them! Okay,
to be fair, I can't remember the last time I played a game that
had printed text and no grammatical or spelling errorsI
think proofreading is a lost art, a thing of the past. But I don't
have to like it.
Besides that, the printed text doesn't always match what the
actors are saying. Not only that, but the mouth movements don't
always match what the actors are saying. There are many instances
where a jaw will be flapping and no sounds emitted, or vice versa.
The voice acting ranges from bad to worse, although not in the
same league as The
Watchmaker's. The actors all too obviously are reading
lines straight from a script into a microphone. Sometimes the
cadence is way off, too, so I suspect the lines were not recorded
sequentially, either. A big segment of the game takes place in
Mexico. The Mexican nationals have Mexican accents. The action
jumps to Siberia. The Russian nationals have Mexican accents.
There is one puzzle where you have to disarm an electrified booby
trap to enter an apartment. To do this, you turn off the power.
Fine. You go into the apartment, and you can still use the answering
machine ... and the computer's still on.
There is a puzzle where you have to use a mainframe terminal
within the high-tech, high-rise penthouse Group W headquarters
to hack into another computer. When you start the puzzle, you
are treated to modem dial-up sounds. Surely a billionaire would've
ponied up for broadband?
Okay, where was I? Oh yeah, I was going to review a game here.
I got a little sidetracked. I apologize for that.
Gameplay in Largo Winch is straight point-and-click. Well,
not exactly, since you have to use either the keyboard or a gamepad
instead of the mouse. The interface is similar to that of Grim
Fandango, wherein Manny, I mean Largo, will incline
his head toward something that he finds interesting. Fear not,
gentle reader, in this not-so-subtle-by-half-as-the-sublime-Grim-Fandango
game the item will also be highlighted so there is no mistaking
the fact that Largo can examine it and maybe make some sort of
comment or pick it up. Once in inventory, items can be combined
with other items, or merely used in their unadulterated form.
Besides the standard inventory-type puzzles, there are minigames
(their word, not mine). I hate minigames! I feared the
worst, and from the outset I plowed forward in dread of some sort
of ugly arcade bullpucky popping up just when things were starting
to get interesting. It never happened. One of the minigames is
a poker game ... yep, you read it right, one of those big ol'
scary battles to the death with playing cards as the weapon of
That only happened once. And I was just kidding about the battle-to-the-death
The other two minigames are computer hacking and fighting.
You have to do the computer hacking seven or eight times throughout
the course of Empire Under Threat. It's a logic game where
you have to move across nodes and gather information before a
virus (the opponent) catches up with you. This is actually a pretty
fun puzzle, but there are two or three too many times you have
to do it and it loses its charm after a while.
The fighting ... oh yes, the fighting ... Scared you, didn't
I? Seriously, it's simplified, scripted, turn-based battling right
out of the console RPG design manual, only easier. Largo and his
cohort(s) (if any) always get to go first, and there's
always some tricky attack available that will disable one
or more enemies right off the bat. There are about 12 or 13 fights
in the game. I lost nary a one up until the final two, and then
in both of those cases it was a matter of losing once to figure
out what to do given the available options and reloading armed
with a full can of whoop-ass, or rather a viable strategy for
Anyway, the minigames aren't so bad after all.
There are many, many actions throughout the game that can lead
to the untimely end of Largo. Fortunately these are all made readily
apparent and you are always given fair warning and plenty of opportunity
to "don't do that!" Also fortunately, you can
save anywhere, anytime.
Saving and restoring both require an inordinate amount of button-
or key-pushing, but the controls are pretty straightforward and,
while not exactly intuitive, relatively easily mastered, mainly,
I think, because you really can't make any mistakes by pushing
the wrong button. Or key. (I played with a gamepad; I am always
grateful for that option when it comes to non-mouse-driven games.
"My name is Jen and I am a carpal tunnel syndrome sufferer.")
There are tons of locations, leading, since this is a 3D game,
to tons of long load times in between each scene. There are also
tons of cutscenes, which cannot be skipped even if you've seen
The graphics are surprisingly pleasant for what is so obviously
a B title, albeit a lovingly crafted one. Apart from the weird
lip-synching discussed earlier, the scenes are quite well-rendered
with plenty of polygons. And the cutscenes are very pretty, almost
blurry-photorealistic if that makes sense.
The in-game music works well, but the loading music got on my
nerves in a big way. Sound effects are believable and work well
as well. (I need a synonym for "well." Oh well.)
I guess that's about it, so I'll wrap this up now. Basically,
all of the goofy and not-so-goofy things in Largo Winch blend
quite nicely to make it fun, easy, light fare for the adventure
gamer looking for a change from the more somber Dreamcatcher Experience.
Release Date: September 2002
Four Fat Chicks Links
PII 300 MHz/PIII
128 MB RAM
GeForce 32 MB
Direct X 8
4X CD-ROM drive
350 MB free hard disk space
Keyboard or joypad
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