XBOX REVIEW: THE DA VINCI CODE

Much like the movie, the game based on the red hot book is just okay. by Cole Smith

May 24, 2006 - Not even Dan Brown is more of an authority on The Da Vinci Code than I am. For one thing, I'm not biased. Not only have I done a lot of research on conspiracy theories, the supernatural, theology and secret societies, but I've read The Da Vinci Code book, have seen the movie, a number of expose documentaries on it and now I've played the videogame. So does that make me an expert? Maybe only in my mind, but that's good enough for me.

So what do I think of all this? To be honest, I enjoyed the documentaries more than anything. I would highly recommend The Real Da Vinci Code starring Tony Robinson which was produced in England and broadcast on the Discovery Channel. It really puts things into perspective by separating fact from fiction. Then if you're at all interesting in this "phenomenon" after that read the book to gleam the details. My advice is to avoid the movie and play the game if you're fan of adventure games, not because you're a Da Vinci Code fan.

The game is fun but it's not a significant addition to the Code phenomenon, it's just an adventure game based on it. There are clues to uncover and examine, codes to crack, puzzles to solve and even some fisticuffs. If you're looking for any meaningful relation between the game and mysteries of the ancient world, like the book, you're going to have to swallow a lot of bull just to get a few morsels of steak.

Taken as pure entertainment, The Da Vinci Code game is a darn good adventure game. Like the book it's a murder mystery, and the various clues, puzzles and conspiracies lend themselves perfectly to such an adventure game. Too perfectly, in fact, that the game just doesn't live up to expectations. At least it's not a scene-by-scene re-creation of the movie. You won't see Tom Hank's likeness or hear his voice but the character of Robert Langdon is still the main protagonist. The clues and puzzles utilize many of the same techniques for uncovering, investigating and solving them but they all feature new elements so that you won't have any advantage if you've seen the movie or read the book. You will ultimately know in which direction the clues are heading, but you won't necessarily know how they will lead you there.

If this is your first experience with The Da Vinci Code, then by all means get your hands on this game just to enjoy the ride. The less you know about it the better. I would have enjoyed this game tremendously had I no prior knowledge of the information in the book. However, the mechanics of the game in terms of presentation and production values would still cast a shadow over the entire experience. The graphics are dated, the animation is clunky, there is clipping and the voiceovers are dull and lack expression. The other playable character, Sophie Neveu has an annoying fake accent that makes it difficult to listen to her. Considering that there is an awful lot of dialog, this can make one rather wearisome. There is a lot of detail to pay attention to and the chemistry between Robert and Sophie could be likened to that of a dictionary and an encyclopedia brought to life.

You can actually overlook the poor production values if you're engrossed in the gameplay, which will occur naturally if you're the inquisitive type that enjoys adventure games. The controls are easy to learn which makes this game accessible to anyone that has a pulse, but that doesn't mean that all will enjoy it. It can be dry and even though there is some action in the form of combat, it's not even in the same league as Dragon Ball Z.

The combat is kind of strange. It doesn't seem congruent given the subject matter. It's like adding a new book to the Bible called, Popeye.

Robert is capable of dishing out quite a beating to some of the overzealous monks he encounters that are intent on keeping the big secret, a secret. Whenever he gets into a confrontational situation, a button combination will appear onscreen. After pressing the buttons in the right combination you will activate a pre-rendered fight scene in which Robert will punch the Hell out of these devious Catholics. I'm sure this added feature will stir up its share of controversy even though it's just something that was added to pad the gameplay and allow us to blow off a little steam after sitting through the long-winded soliloquies. Some elements of the combat are in real-time such as the initial punches or swings from a club. But once you start to tango, the button combos show up. Failure to push the buttons at the right time in the right order will put you on the receiving end of the beating where you will have to follow a new series of button sequences to dodge and block the attacks. The novelty of combat is short lived since there is little variation in the animations or variety in the attacks.

It's all about the puzzles. Using your detective and cryptologist skills you will decipher symbols, solve riddles, untangle anagrams and use the latest in technologies to uncover clues on ancient paintings. The puzzles are varied and while it's clear as to what you're supposed to do, some of them are quite difficult. There were a couple of puzzles that I couldn't figure out on my own. I had to call in for backup. Sometimes you just need a different perspective to put you on the right path - or a walkthrough.

Even if you're a fantastic puzzle solver, the game can take you a couple of days to complete. If you're not in a rush, the game can take a lot longer depending if you want to unlock everything in it which includes new artwork and bonus missions. It doesn't add up to much replay value overall and that's a consideration since the game is unusually long for an adventure game which means you may not complete it within a weekend rental period.

Unlike the novel or the movie, or anything that Oprah has to say about it, The Da Vinci Code, the game, will definitely give you something to think about.

Features:

  • Guide Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu on their quest to solve a bizarre murder-mystery and uncover the ultimate treasure protected by an ancient secret society.
  • Expands upon The Da Vinci Code universe by giving the player new experiences and locations not visited in the book or the film.
  • Combines a unique blend of adrenaline-pumping stealth, frantic chases and combat, diversely cryptic puzzles, and exciting exploration.
  • Explore detailed environments and discover hidden clues in world famous locations such as The Louvre, Westminster Abbey, St. Sulpice and more.
  • Players must solve a wide variety of challenging physical and intellectual puzzles that will ultimately lead them to the resting ground of the Holy Grail.

By Cole Smith
CCC Senior Writer

Rating out of 5
The Da Vinci Code (Xbox)
2.4
Graphics
Dated. This game has nothing in common, visually speaking, with the movie.
4.1
Control
Anyone with a pulse can pick-up-and-play this game but you've got to have a brain to complete it.
1.8
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The voiceovers are awful. I would have preferred to just read the text myself.
2.1
Play Value
There are some unlockables but they don't constitute enough replay value to recommend a purchase.
3.0
Overall Rating - Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: PS2 (shown), X, PC
Dev: The Collective
Pub: 2K Games
Release: May 2006
Players: 1
Review by Cole

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best