There’s something to be said for movie hacking. I don’t mean hacking cinema, I mean the sort of computer magic that’s done in film, games and television. It’s exciting. It’s got obvious visual feedback. There are usually big, obvious progress bars that have things like HACKING THE WHITE HOUSE written over them, or sometimes they take place in a wireframe cyberspace world.
ROOT, today’s subject, is in the latter camp; you take control of hacker Edward as he infiltrates the System, a labyrinthine network ruled by the mysterious Sysadmin.
ROOT is, at its core, a game about stealth. You’ve got a blackjack and several varieties of firearm available, but these largely aren’t the correct answer to your problems. Slow, methodical play will get you further than running and gunning…except for those times when running and gunning works. A non-perfect playthrough of a Metal Gear Solid game springs to mind: sneak when you can, shoot when you can’t. You can dodge a bit, but the enemies appear to use hit-scan weaponry so it doesn’t work so well.
This is a difficult game, as you’d expect from something that focuses so heavily on stealth. There are a few different foes and they all want you dead; naturally they’re all entirely capable of making this happen as well. The battles against the more powerful enemies in particular are nasty, especially if you’re focused more on stealth than combat. That’s not to say you won’t get plenty of practice shooting, though, as enemy patrols will hunt you down unmercifully if you set them off. Expect to restart often, particularly since any lost health is gone and can’t be healed for the rest of the stage. This is agonizing when you’ve spent most of a level inching forward one tiny step at a time, but it makes victory all the more satisfying.
The game’s visuals are probably its most obvious selling point. It’s a very pretty game in a certain sense of the term; everything’s comprised of line art of varying colors. This makes it easy to pick out red enemies against blue scenery and green throwables, but it also makes the game a bit tiring on the eyes after awhile. Enemy designs are interesting as well, ranging from your usual rent-a-cops to floating swordsmen; they’re really the highlight of the game.
Technically, ROOT isn’t the longest game out there, but it’s hard enough that you’ll spend twice the usual runtime of a game like this just restarting and replaying sections. Hardcore stealth fans who might be looking for some unforgiving challenge should enjoy this one. Players looking for something more casual, meanwhile, should probably steer clear.