Tech News on G4
Prognosis not good for 'Trauma Team'
July 5, 2010
By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada
The critically-lauded 'Trauma Center' series is four games young with the release of 'Trauma Team'. With it borrowing heavily off of popular hospital-based TV dramas like House, ER, and Grey's Anatomy, one could be forgiven for thinking the franchise is already jumping the shark.
Oddly enough, if any series could hope to get away with the over-the-top plot and melodrama that Trauma Team is based around, this one is it. Developed by Japanese developer Atlus, the dialogue is so over-the-top and plot twists so overdramatic that it's actually laughable.
Gameplay-wise, the Trauma Center games are some of the most interesting to be released in the last few years. The games rely so heavily on Nintendo's unique control setups - the DS and its touch screen and the Wii's remote pointer - that all the titles in the series have been released exclusively on Nintendo's systems. With Microsoft and Sony releasing their own motion-based controllers though, that could easily change.
Trauma Team, released exclusively for Wii, is no different. Players can expect to be doing everything from tilting the Nunchuk in every possible direction, to putting the Wii Remote up to their ear to listen to its speaker, and everything in between.
Sadly, though, the overlapping stories of the six characters are constantly trying to take center stage, and become much too boring, much too quickly. The endless dialogue constantly serves only to sap the energy from Trauma Team. Past games in the series have all been endlessly gripping, with one white-knuckle experience after another. Trauma Team certainly has tense moments, but they're too few and far between to forgive the plodding storylines.
The game takes in Portland, Oregon - an interesting choice of U.S. cities to say the least - and revolves around three men and three women. Four characters are practicing physicians, while the other two once worked as doctors. Though talking about the plot too much will give away spoilers, gamers will find out soon enough that several disturbing events throughout the city are all linked together. Something big - and scary - is happening, and the doctors at Resurgam hospital are tasked with figuring out what is going wrong and how to stop it.
The doctors themselves aren't all surgeons like in past games in the series. Though you'll have a chance to do some slicing, injecting and suturing, there's a lot more to do in the 20+ hours it takes to complete Trauma Team. You'll diagnose patients in an office as a diagnostician, carve synthetic bone for injured patients, and even send an endescope down the throat of a cat to figure out a mystery illness.
There are some definite hits and misses with this structure. While working as an emergency medical technician at the site where a bomb has gone off for instance, you'll have to set up a makeshift triage station, dealing with multiple patients at a time. It's 'Trauma' gaming at its best - there's a constant sense of urgency, and more often than not, at least one patient will die on you.
On the other side of the coin, working as a diagnostician can be dreadfully boring. You'll have to plod through endless conversations, paying careful attention to what patients are saying. You'll have to compare X-rays, looking at two seemingly identical pictures in the hopes of identifying a miniscule abnormality in order to narrow down what problem a patient is suffering from.
These sections have a few neat gimmicks, such as comparing a healthy heartbeat to that of a sick patient using the Wii Remote speaker, but it quickly loses its appeal.
Another problem is, as touched upon above, the difficulty and urgency - or lack thereof - in the game. This series has always been known as being quite tough. In Trauma Team, it's not until very late in the game (after being forced to unlock several later stages by completing levels from all six characters) that there's any sort of advanced difficulty to contend with. In a game where peoples' lives are in your hands, it's a shame that things have been toned down.
There is an advanced difficulty as well as medals that are unlocked once you complete the game, but why force the player to wait that long? Achievements and trophies are required on all games on competing consoles - why is it almost an afterthought in Trauma Team? If Atlus was worried about replayability, there's already plenty of that, as scores and grades are given after each successful procedure. Those who want to replay the game will do so simply to try and best their previous scores and earn top ranks.
For those wannabe surgeons who just can't bear to work alone, there is co-operative gameplay. It's more or less the same stages, only with two players splitting up controls of the instruments at hand, but it works surprisingly well. But just like the single player, it works best during the more intense levels like the ones involving the skilled surgeon and triage.
Like an experimental new treatment, Trauma Team takes a risk, adding something controversial to a proven formula. At times it comes close to flatlining, though things are saved when it returns to what has made the series so refreshing in the first place.
It's truly difficult to say who this game would appeal to most - the hardcore fans of the series or newcomers. Regretfully, it may be neither.
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G4 Canada (formerly TechTV Canada) launched in September 2001. G4 is the one and only television station that is plugged into every dimension of games, gear, gadgets and gigabytes. Owned Rogers Media Inc., the channel airs more than 24 original series. G4 is available on digital cable and satellite. For more information, see www.g4tv.ca.