Few games have the special recognition of not only being portals for players to engage in escapism in the genre of their choice, but being so mind-numbingly bad that players wish they were back in the real world instead. Utopia City not only meets those conditions but exceeds them in rare form. Not only do the visuals seem like a relic of the past, but the game itself is so broken and riddled with bugs that you’d probably get better use out of it as a coaster.But I digress, Utopia City does have an interesting premise: a virtual reality city that users can plug into to satisfy the most creative of imaginations. This matrix-like city, however, has one drawback: it’s so addicting that users get hooked and can’t unplug themselves, eventually resulting in death from dehydration and starvation. A secret government military squad plugged into Utopia City to free the world’s population but communication was lost and no one knows what happened to them. That’s where you come in; because we all know if a crack squad of military troops couldn’t overpower this cyber-evil, a single man dressed like a cliché 1980s Miami cop can. That oversight aside, it’s an interesting premise that could have succeeded if everything fit together just right.When the words “low-budget” are added to the equation, however, that rarely happens. For starters, the magnificent Utopia City is less of a city and more of a small island made up of about seven locations like a police station, bank, dance club and hotel, to name a few. Inside these locations, which function as the game’s different levels, security personnel and civilians mingle about. Outside these buildings it’s a much different story. Killer robots wielding dual-firing rocket launchers patrol the empty, wide-open streets and shoot anything that moves. Luckily, you don’t have to take part in this robotic ballet of death until the end stages of the game. But if you’re bored on any day of the week those end stages may come fast. Utopia City is a very short game, with most players being able to finish it in under five hours.The main objective of each level is to gather artifacts that were taken into Utopia City by the first military force that was sent in to topple the evil Mastermind computer. These artifacts, once acquired, give you special abilities like the ability to slow time, shield yourself from enemy fire or travel lightning fast. They’re supposed to supplement your regular run-and-gun combat skills by being rechargeable but here’s where the laundry list of bugs beings: the artifacts never recharge. Without that element to the gameplay, Utopia City boils down to the basics of shooting, dodging bullets and hitting switches. And it’s not even all that enjoyable. Enemies have lethal accuracy and one or two brushes with security teams will leave you struggling for life. It makes your artifact powers necessary and their uselessness robs the game of any semblance of fun.The biggest innovation of the game is using energy to recharge your health, ammunition and artifacts. Pods dropped by killed enemies recharge your overall energy and help you recover your attributes faster. Sliders for each of your three attributes let you allot energy to all three on a scale of 100%. In theory it would be a great system that would let players alter the game depending on their current needs. But it’s a broken system. Regardless of how much energy you try to give to your artifacts they never recharge after their first use. The same goes for weapons. With the exception of the pistol, none of your other guns recharge their ammunition, leaving you fairly weakened when the infinite-spawning security guards start swarming you.Other bugs include an annoying graphical quirk that resets the resolution of your desktop to the size of the screen you played the game in. There’s also a repetitious bug that causes the game to freeze, go to a black screen for about 10 seconds, and then dump you back into the middle of the game. On a few rare occasions Utopia City actually necessitated a restart by causing “serious errors” to Windows XP.On the graphics front, Utopia City’s engine rivals that of Half-Life 1. It’s hard to think of anything since the turn of the millennia that looks this bad. Not only are the textures bland and hazy but several levels suffer from what can only be described as “big room syndrome.” Large hallways and walls will be monochromatic and feature single furnishings like a lamp, door or sign. On the flipside of the presentation, the audio is a jumbled collaboration of midi-inspired techno-pop songs that demand to be muted. All the spoken dialogue has been localized to English but it all comes with a heavy Russian accent. You will come to learn the each and every line programmed into the NPCs as they are repeat them over and over again.Simply put, there is no reason to be playing Utopia City. Not only is it a bland shooter to begin with but anything that would have made it unique was apparently not play-tested enough to get it working. You would be better off trolling the budget game rack and spending your hard-earned money on a decent shooter from a one or two years back.
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.