CATECHUMENReviewed By: Rick Casteel
One of the neat things about reviewing PC games is you get to try out lots of new and interesting things. I have flown spacecraft, fought aliens, sent troops into battle, ran an amusement park and seen wondrous landscapes. One of the latest games I've gotten to play has given me another unique opportunity. “Catechumen” has allowed me to play a Christian-in-training and battle during the persecution of ancient Rome.
As the Lord said to Paul in Acts 23:11 "Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome." Not only do you get to witness but you get to show the bad guys a little heavenly swordplay too!
First off, you are not going to get a realistic view of being a persecuted Christian during the days of Rome (and I never really defeated them in “Age of Empires” either, darn it!). “Catechumen” is a fantasy FPS (first person shooter) just like "Half-Life", only the player is a Christian armed by an angel with Swords of the spirit for weapons. What's exciting in this for Christian gamers is the subject and context of the game. Parents will like its non-violent content and message. Secular, hardcore gamers will (and have) knock its gameplay and technical limitations. I think it's a great step forward for Christian-oriented gaming and is great fun!
In “Catechumen”, the player takes on the role of a student of The Word (known as a 'Catechumen' back in ancient Rome). Your tutor has been captured and imprisoned by Roman guards somewhere in the catacombs beneath Rome. Your job is to search him out and release him. Along the way, you are aided by a buff looking angel who provides you encouragement and increasingly powerful weapons (swords) along the way. The swords shoot your basic light beam of Holy Power of varying degrees ridding your human enemies of their demons and vaporizing your demon foes into smoke. As you pick up health and replenish your sword you are given scripture verse pop-ups on the screen. Hey it is a Sword of the Spirit, right? You need God's word to replenish it and you, just like in real life!
There are some issues with the gameplay that will drive you crazy or make you laugh. One is with the AI (artificial intelligence). The enemies in the game tend to be very bad at path finding and very frantic in their movements. The human enemies tend toward the former while the demons the latter. Soldiers can lose you as you go around a corner or up and down stairs while demons are frustratingly difficult to attack as they whisk around you at lightening speed. Another issue tends to be the weapon(s) themselves. Certainly the developers wanted to stay away from violent methods but the sword theme gets repetitive after a time. You find yourself wanting some angelic powers or lightening bolts or something, anything different really…
“Catechumen” is the most visually impressive game I've seen from a Christian developer yet. Players will need a 3D graphics card to take advantage of its engine and a fairly fast processor. There are lighting and water effects that you see in many top rated games of today. The visuals are comparable to “Half-Life” without all the bells and whistles of outdoor spaces, smoke and fog. Sound was another impressive element. There were some genuinely spooky moments wandering the narrow halls and dungeons of the demon-infested catacombs beneath Rome. There were times it was overdone with blaring hard rock and screeching demons but overall it added a nice touch.
“Catechumen” shows that Christian game developers can make a state-of-the-art product that is fun, interesting and geared to spreading The Word. Gamers: while there are lots of games out there competing for your time and money I encourage you to not overlook “Catechumen”!
Year of Release—2000
I'm 28 years old and this game scared me! The lower dungeons and the demons were a little too much. I definitely wouldn't let kids under 13 play for this reason. I think it could give them nightmares. (It did me!) Granted, I'm sure real demons are much worse, but at least if I had to confront one I'd have the authority of the name of Jesus and wouldn't have to rely on my swordsmanship. I gave the game a Christian rating of 3 for that reason. Also, I found the game to be a little 'cheesy' (for lack of a better word). The soldiers kneeling and bowing before me when defeated and the expressionless, yet booming voice of the angel were a bit ridiculous. I wouldn't recommend this game to anyone, Christian or non. My Ratings: [3/2]
—Annette, age 28
Well…it looks like bad reviews are out on this game. I for one support it and it's effort! I live in the same town as the company and know one of the programmers parents. For one, they did not steal anything from other game companies, 'doom' etc…secondly, they started from the ground up, bought a graphics engine, which is apparently what you are sensing with the similarities, and have re-engineered it from ground zero. They kept the good, dropped the bad/buggy. I'm sure that in the worldly eyes, this game as with all other Christian influence movies,music etc…will get a bad review because it does not
have the 'worldly presence', or blood and guts. But think of this…HOW
MANY GAMES HAVE THE SCHOOL SHOOTERS IDENTIFIED AS THEIR MODEL? How many
kids emulate the shooting and fighting that they see in games? For us Christians out there, you finally have a good game to play without having to listen to people cursing or see any gore. Sure, this is the real world, but hey…why can't a game be good without all the mess? I know that is what Mr. Bagley the ceo in charge of the software company thought when he devised the game! My Ratings: [5/5]
This comment is based on a limited look at Catechumen. I was finally able to see “Catechumen” in action on a decent 3-D card equipped machine. Wow! Very nice lighting effects. Interesting critters and weapons too. I definitely like getting a scripture when you pick up a health scroll. In general, I agree with some others that have commented on “violence”. And perhaps the review's violence rating should've been different. Sometimes the Bible talks about spiritual warfare but definitely about peace as well. The greatest thing we can show is Love, God's love. The game would not go over as well if you run up and “hug a demon” or "kiss a bat". So, if you try focusing on the spiritual battle aspects, the violence seems a little more appropriate. Discerning parents should preview this title before turning their kids loose with it. “Assistance” codes can be found at www.christiangaming.com. I'm looking forward to playing it as I finally have a machine that can handle the graphics processing. My Ratings: [3/4]
…When I play this game I can't see much difference between it and games where you shoot real bullets and the enemies fall on the ground dead! The amount of good gleamed from this game is barely present. Don't waste your time on it. It's just another DOOM but with blood and screaming removed. As for gameplay, it's horribly outdated. Running around catching keys and then finding another door to open then finding another key… keeps going forever. The graphics are fairly bad, and worse is that it takes FOREVER to load on even the newest computer systems. This game is certainly not a good product. The makers simply revamped a
typical 3D shooter and used bad technology to give us an equally bad (and sour) gaming experience. My Ratings: [1/2]
…Illegal/Harmful Behavior Christians are imprisoned for their faith but is it right to break them out by force?… Occult/Supernatural It is disturbing that a demon can overpower and kill a Christian. Conclusion …The problem we find is that the game majors on violence and minors on the Christian message. …You may be saving Christian brothers and beating Satan but it is with the use of violence. Another problem rests in the false impression the game espouses that believers should be in direct conflict with Satan and his demons and can defeat him under our own power… Finally, this game takes the early Christian church, which was known for its pacifism and non-violent stance on resistance, and puts a sword in their hand. …This game is exciting to play and technically well crafted but teaches a violent and ill focused theological message. The game earns a 70% (C-) for a good attempt but missing the mark.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Christian Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Films for Christ or the Christian Answers Network.