Preview: 25 to Life

In late June of 2005, Senator Charles Schumer of New York along with other congressmen and network legal correspondents lashed out at Eidos Interactive’s 25 to Life. Scheduled for release in mid August of this year on PS2 and PC and in early October for the Xbox, 25 to Life was said to make “Grand Theft Auto look like Romper Room.” Schumer went on to say that “There is nowhere that the value of the police force is felt more strongly than here in New York, and to sell a video game that denigrates their value is simply unacceptable.”

Fortunately for Eidos, soon after these statements were made the issue quickly dwindled and the nation’s eye moved on to more important matters. However, this exposure only helped to pique gamers’ interest in the title. Luckily we were able to obtain a preview version of 25 to Life’s online multiplayer mode for the PS2 and can safely say that despite the negative publicity, this game shows a lot of promise.

In the online mode of 25 to Life, players assume the role of either law enforcement or hardened criminals in an attempt to complete the match’s objectives. In the preview copy we were able to select from three unique game types: War, your typical deathmatch-style game; Raid, where cops are tasked with finding the gangster’s loot and returning it to the swat van; and Tag which pits rival gangs against one another to tag various environment objects with graffiti.

Depending on the match type selected, three to four maps were playable including a downtown area, an extensive rooftop penthouse, a mansion, and a cul-de-sac of a suburban neighborhood. Each map contains various buildings and other structures that players may use to ambush the opposing team, or quickly escape a raid gone awry. Throughout each map there are also various interactive objects such as windows which could be shot out, or gas cans that explode when they take damage, injuring or killing nearby players.

Each match has an array of modifiable options to customize the gameplay. Such things as score limits, side changes, respawn limits and friendly fire may be turned on or off depending on the host’s mood. There were some limitation that we found with the match customization such as time limits may not be turned off, and if a “best of series” option other than one is selected all matches must be played, even if a team already won the first two out of three matches for example. The biggest limitation was that once the options were selected and the game was created, we could not alter the options unless we quit the current game and created a new one.

One of the unique features about this game’s online mode is that players may create custom characters from a base model and take them to the streets. Although this element was not fully implemented in our preview copy, we were able to choose from five different character models on each faction. We also had a variety of weapon choices at our finger tips that were unique to each side of the law. For example, the police are able to use batons, tire irons, combat knives, and stun guns as their melee weapons while criminals must resort to items such as bats, bottles and hammers.

In addition to melee weapons, you must choose a grenade type, one primary weapon (such as an automatic rifle or machine gun), and one secondary weapon (your choice of one of the many pistols available). Unfortunately there was no description or picture of the weapon options; so many times we would enter a match without the slightest clue of what type of weapon we chose or how it would function.

Players may also create custom tags to spray paint throughout the environment, a la Counter-Strike. These tags may be comprised of various letters and numbers and you can also customize the colors that make your tag. This enabled me to finally create the ultimate thug, complete with his own fuchsia on indigo street sig.

When actually inside a match, the environments are so believable that at times I actually feel anxious while attempting to clear out a building. Each map contains its own unique structure which provides both sides with the opportunity to use surprise to their advantage. During play you can adjust the camera angle between third and first person modes on the fly. You may also crouch to make your movements quieter and additionally gain more accuracy to get the upper hand on your opponents. Surprisingly there is no in-game radar or map which does add to the element of surprise, but can make locating your teammates a bit difficult if you happen to get separated.

Controls are fairly intuitive for anyone that has played a first person shooter on any of the consoles. The left analog stick controls movements while the right aims. Fortunately the button and analog configurations can be changed to your style of play in the options menu, so you’re not stuck with the default controls. You may also use the circle button to activate the microphone on your USB headset and communicate with others in the waiting room or inside the game. The downside is that you can only hear other players chatting if you have a USB headset plugged in as well. This, coupled with the slow on-screen text interface, can make communicating with your team challenging at times.

25 to Life’s sound effects were not that remarkable, just the standard gun firing and explosions that we’ve come to expect from this genre. However, Eidos was able to procure some notable talent on its soundtrack. Sporting mainly hip-hop tracks, 25 to Life features songs from names such as 2Pac to Public Enemy. Personally, when playing a first-person shooter (especially one without radar), I like to be able to hear the footsteps of my opponents so that I can gauge the proper time to pop out and gun them down. However, if you do happen to keep the music on and wish to move to the next track, the only way to do so is to find the boom box located in each map and use the action button. The problem with this is that it opens you up for someone to come from behind and either kill or apprehend quite quickly.

It’s apparent that Eidos had a community feel in mind when creating 25 to Life. From the main online menu you have the ability to maintain both a friends and a clan list. From the friends list you may track how well you stack up to your friends, as well as if they’re currently online and whether or not you can join the room in which they’re playing. Within the clan management option you can read up on the latest clan news, archived news, and also see who is currently online as well as your current clan rank.

Eidos also implemented an extensive stat tracking system that can be viewed from in-game, and also at 25tolife.com once the game is released. This tracking system keeps such data as kill-death ratios, the number of sessions you’ve played, your amount of kills, number of headshots, etc. It also ranks you according to this data and displays the ten people above and below your ranking. This allows you to track where you need to improve in order to move up a rank, or how close you are to being overtaken by the player below you.

After spending some time with the multiplayer portion of 25 to Life and comparing what we played to the negative press the game had been receiving, it really isn’t as bad as critics want you to believe. If anything it’s more like a cops and robbers version of Counter-Strike with an added community interface and built-in stat tracking than anything else. Even with this in mind, 25 to Life will be rated Mature, so youngsters should wait a few years before playing this title. In all there were a few spots that could use some polishing, but hopefully these can be ironed out before the final product is delivered in mid-August.

About the Author

Having over 25 years of gaming experience, Zach knows a thing or two when it comes to one of his favorite entertainment activities. Additionally, he has also written many articles previewing and reviewing titles which can be found in various places around the net, including VGBlogger.com.