Next time you're having a bad day, spare a thought for Raymond Bryce. He's already miffed at having lost his best buddy Steve a year ago to a hungry volcano, and then he's called into action when a rogue marine squad, SURGE, hijacks some nuclear warheads and kidnaps a seismology professor and his assistant. Who, by remarkable coincidence, is Steve's sister Lisa. All in a day's work for a crisis management professional, you might think, but then Ray has to kill all the bad guys and save the day while surviving an earthquake, a tsunami, another volcano and finally a flood. And then there's the small matter of a nuke that's about to go off. Welcome to Disaster: Day of Crisis - twenty-four hours of action that makes Jack Bauer's life look positively dull.
Realism Is Over-rated
If all that suggests that the game is a little far-fetched, then you'd be right. The plot itself is absolutely mad. Think the one-man-against-insurmountable-odds heroism of Die Hard mixed with Dante's Peak and The Day After Tomorrow, and you're almost close to the quatro-formaggi-with-stuffed-crust level of cheesiness here.
It's the kind of story where everything that can go wrong does, and the above comparison with 24 is pretty appropriate given how often Bryce utters Jack Bauer's favourite expression: "dammit!" And that's before we get to the giant cans and watermelon slices, Bryce's hilarious tai chi deep breathing to clear his lungs of smoke, and the section where you run towards an incoming tidal wave to save a perilously positioned dog.
So Day of Crisis isn't a game to be taken seriously. Indeed, it's probably not the kind of game you're expecting. While Disaster has plenty of third-person exploration, it mixes in plenty of other gameplay strands to keep things interesting as well.
The most prominent of these are the on-rails shooting interludes. You'll often be wandering around looking for survivors when you make contact with SURGE troops, whereupon the action goes into first-person and you use the Remote pointer to take down all the enemies before you can continue your search for survivors.
These play out similarly to Sega's Ghost Squad. Though the enemy AI isn't up to much there are a few quirks which keep things interesting. You have a concentration meter, which lasts for a few seconds, and with a press of the C button, you can zoom in, allowing you to pinpoint distant foes and execute headshots. Boxes and crates can be destroyed for additional health and ammo, and you can hit certain items - usually exploding barrels - for 'clever shots' which give you extra points, used for upgrading weapons.
Once you've moved on, it pays to do your job and look for survivors, as they offer experience points to improve Ray's abilities. Press the Z button and Ray yells out, asking if anyone's in trouble. He'll automatically swivel to face the direction of the nearest survivor, meaning you shouldn't have too much trouble locating everyone. When you reach them, you'll engage in a brief mini-game - ranging from lifting rubble from trapped survivors or reaching out to grab the hand of those clinging desperately to ledges, to pumping the chest of collapsed victims to keep them alive. The controls required in these sections vary, but generally the Remote movements mimic the physical nature of the actions very well.
'Disaster action' sequences offer some waggle-based fun - usually legging it away from falling rocks, flood waters or rapidly-approaching lava - and the few brief driving sections scattered throughout are genuinely exciting. One has you tailing a SURGE van in torrential rain (which looks brilliant) while another has you fleeing an eruption as huge chunks of molten rock fly down, crumbling sections of the road away as you swerve from side to side. The steering controls work really well, especially if you use the Wii Wheel. The woeful AI and a few clumsy sections detract from what's otherwise a really enjoyable arcade-style experience. But it looks and sounds great and there are enough unlockables to warrant a second and third playthrough. Given its slightly troubled production history, seeing the final game in such good shape comes as a very welcome surprise