developed by Radical Entertainment, published by Viacom
1 Player / 1 CD-ROM / PlayStation / 1996
A hunted race of advanced A.I. beings leaves Earth in search of a new home in The Divide: Enemies Within. After your mothership releases probes on an alien world, the local wildlife goes berserk and you and your partner are attacked. After thawing from a deep freeze you awaken to find your partner is gone, and you set out in your Terragator mech to find what out what happened. Released almost 20 years ago, The Divide has remained almost completely unknown, despite the fact it is one of the earliest (if not the first) 3D games to adopt the “Metroidvania” design.
Made well before the PlayStation controller got its dual analog joysticks, you are limited to using just the directional pad to control your character. This makes navigating the 3D world slightly stiff, but the designers have taken that into account when building the levels. Early on the platforms are placed in such a way to make jumping from one to the other fairly easy, while tricky diagonal challenges appear later on.
Thankfully the game bypasses many of the issues found in early 3D games by employing a simple camera with just two options: a side view and a top-down view. You are always looking at the game from a set angle (as if it were a diorama) but if you stand still and hold the Select button you can also rotate your view, which can help pinpoint a floating platform.
There are seven main areas in the game (surface, forest, jungle, ice chasm, desert, lava cavern, and floating city), each with its own unique look and properties. For example, the ice area features slippery footing (until you find an upgrade), and the desert area is too hot to stay in without the cooling equipment. It’s possible to play through the game in a fairly linear fashion, but you’ll also gain the option of teleporting between warp rooms as you discover them.
At first your mech is damaged, so you’ll only be able to walk and shoot with your basic weapon. There’s no lock-on, so shooting flying enemies can prove rather difficult. All you can do is adjust your mech’s aim several degrees up and down using the L1 and L2 buttons, and try to line yourself up for a shot. As you make your way through the game you’ll collect parts for your mech that will allow it to run, strafe, jump, and double jump which are necessary for reaching new areas.
You’ll also find upgrades such as energy tanks, armor, and a variety of weapons, bombs, and ammo magazines scattered througout each area. While your main weapon has infinite ammo, the rest do not and must be collected from enemies or recharged in special rooms. And, like Super Metroid, you’ll have to find a save room to save your game.
The Divide: Enemies Within was developed early in the 32-bit generation, and it shows in the sub 30 fps frame rate. The graphics are very basic with simple cubes used to make up the environment, and very low polygon models for the main character, enemies, and bosses. It does, however, contain opening and ending CG movie sequences, and a few nice touches such as a 3D map system, particle effects for rain, and the option to turn off the HUD. By the far the best aspect of its presentation is a moody atmospheric soundtrack that evokes a mysterious alien world.
The Divide isn’t much of a looker, and the controls are a bit stiff. This results in a few rather frustrating platforming sections where a single misplaced jump will send you all the way to the bottom floor, forcing you to start from scratch. However if you give it a chance the game may surprise you with its depth and engrossing atmosphere.
Despite its problems I found the game to be quite fun, mainly due to its Metroid-inspired game design. And it doesn’t overstay its welcome, clocking in at about 5 hours for a first run, with the choice between one of two endings. It’s certainly not for everyone, but because we never got to see what a 3D Metroid would have looked like during the PlayStation / N64 era of gaming, The Divide may be worth checking out if you’re into retro games.
Quick Run Down
- An early example of a 3D Metroidvania style game
- Atmospheric soundtrack
- Crude graphics
- Stiff controls (no analog joystick support)
One Sentence Review: If Metroid had been made during the 32-bit era, it might play like this.
One Word Review: Intriguing.