"Invading aliens attempt to destroy the human race" usually makes for a pretty good entertainment premise, particularly when those aliens inspire a lone hero to save the earth. Sure enough, in Advent Rising, aliens invade, which requires a lot of shooting on the part of player POV character Gideon Wyeth. The problem is that Advent Rising is flawed in almost every particular, which turns what should be a fairly standard but enjoyable run-and-gun into a jerky, confusing mess.
Once the alien-shooting begins, the flaws pop up. The first time you start fighting, the game's much-hyped "flick targeting"—in which the right stick is flicked toward the enemy you wish to target—comes into play. It's pretty clear that this was a failed experiment that should've been scrapped. It's not exactly intuitive, and worse yet, as the game progresses, it locks on to things you're trying to run from, repositions the camera, and overrides your intentions. That's bad, but at least it's an ambitious failure. But the people who decided the "pick up weapon" button and the "dodge" button should be the same should be forced to port text-adventure games to cell phones for the rest of their careers; Gideon looks like he's going through painful aversion therapy as he runs up to a vital hunk of military hardware, then violently throws himself aside at the last minute.
Gideon actually looks like an idiot a lot in this game. He walks as if he's loaded up his space-pants, he spouts bad one-liners, and he's often made to just stand around while the overambitious sound design makes it seem like there's an opera being performed in the next room. But just when it seems like the designers have let him down, he gets powerful psychic abilities and the game suddenly becomes a cakewalk through exploding scenery and bad exposition. At least, at roughly 10 hours, Advent Rising doesn't take long to play.
Beyond the gameplay: Science-fiction author Orson Scott Card wrote the script. That might be why the dialogue tends to resemble this: Other character: You're crazy… But that's why you're so cool! We love you! Gideon: Yes, I know… BUT LOOK OUT!
Worth playing for: About eight hours in, the game seems to smooth out a little, the combat gets a lot more fluid, and Gideon becomes somewhat fun to control. However, at this point, you have only two hours of game left.
Frustration sets in when: The camera swings around for no reason, the music swells majestically for no reason, and the vehicle you're driving swerves for no reason, all as the game stutters and hangs for the 10,000th time for no reason.
Final judgment: "To Be Continued" isn't just a frustrating way to end a $50 game, it's also a pretty damned optimistic prediction on the developers' part.