Some of you may remember a quirky little PS2 title released back in 2003 known as Disaster Report. Now towards the end of the system’s lifecycle developer Irem has returned for what can only be described as a spiritual successor to its innovative survival horror title from a few years back. Raw Danger shares quite a bit in common with the company’s previous effort including low-budget visuals, cheesy voice acting and even horrific box art for the domestic release. Surprisingly though even with this day and age of fantastic visuals this game still presents an intriguing story that manages to captivate the player well enough to look past its technical flaws.
The way the story breaks down is actually the most captivating aspect of the game. Instead of simply following the path of one main character Raw Danger segregates the story into seven separate parts that all intertwine at one point or another. The main story takes place on Christmas Even during an earth-shattering flood that is destroying the island of Geo City and Del Ray. The game begins by giving you control of Joshua Harwell, a college student working as a waiter, as the flood begins wreaking terror on the city.
The best part of this narrative is the way each story affects all of the ones to follow it. As you continue to switch between characters decisions that you made in previous arcs will, in turn, affect the subsequent storylines. For instance when playing as Joshua some minute decisions you made can actually change dialogue later in the second story with Amber Brazil. These of course are small, cosmetic changes, but there are some pivotal decisions that can actually decide if a character lives or dies, which is really an interesting design choice that gives players a sense of control over the narrative.
The range of playable characters is very colorful consisting of an average Joe, an insecure schoolgirl, a tightwad cab driver, someone with amnesia (of course) and if you are luck you will even be able to reprise your role as Keith Helm from the original Disaster Report, which is a nice touch for fans of the original. As you continue to unravel the mystery behind what is going on you will quickly appreciate how the game feels more like an episodic TV show as opposed to a traditional game, which can be both a good and bad thing depending on how much you enjoy narrative over actual solid gameplay, as the latter is certainly lacking with Raw Danger.
Just like the storyline playing as each character is also unique depending on which one you are currently in control of. For instance playing as Josh feels more like a strict action title as you will be able to run fast, jump long distances and even carry survivors on your back. This is certainly not the case for every type though as others feel more constrained due to their storyline. For example playing as the cab driver mostly involves avoiding things via your trusty vehicle which makes this particular section feel more like a driving game. Then of course you have the stealth aspect when playing as the escaped prisoner and so on and so forth. With this many different types of action you can probably imagine that it doesn’t predominantly excel at any one of them.
The vast amount of variety does keep the game fresh throughout though and actually keeps any one section from becoming too mundane. It is just disappointing that not one of the sections stands out as particularly exceptional. There are however, moments of brilliance in each section that will keep the player interested enough to keep playing. Couple this with the truly engaging storyline and you have yourself a solid, albeit predictably average experience.
Visually is where Raw Danger really takes a hit. Granted this is running on the PS2 hardware, but even for its standards this game is substandard. Character models are very insipid with robot-like animation that really detracts from the visual appeal. The environments are also lacking featuring some of the worst texture work I have seen in quite a while, although the architecture does fit the mood of the game well.
Overall the game looks and feels like a first generation PS2 game which is not exactly a compliment considering that we are in fact at the end of the console’s lifecycle. The sound is equally disappointing with some of the worst voice acting I have heard since the first Resident Evil game. Characters sound more like they are reading directly from cue cards on the spot as opposed to lines of dialogue and the effects and music also leave much to be desired.
Raw Danger is one of those games that will find a small audience that will love it. Despite its technical issues the game offers a solid narrative that is interesting enough to keep players hooked until the end. The variety of gameplay mechanics is also appreciated even if they are a bit flawed. With the PS2 slowly dissipating it is nice to see that developers are still pumping unique titles to add to the already massive library. If you are a fan of the original or simply looking for a distinct experience look no further than Raw Danger; just be prepared to live with its technical flaws.