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Video Game / Boiling Point: Road to Hell

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Xenus: Boiling Point (known as Boiling Point: Road to Hell outside of Russia) is an Open-ended First-Person Shooter developed by the Ukrainian game studio Deep Shadows and published by Atari. It was perhaps the first of its genre, predating both Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl and Far Cry 2. In fact Deep Shadows was comprised of defectors from GSC Gameworld (the developers of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.) who were disillusioned with that game as it was in Development Hell at that point. It's a rather polarizing game, mostly because the game was released with literally hundreds of bugs, though almost all of them were eventually fixed by patches.

The game plays like Deus Ex as a Wide-Open Sandbox, having a skill system, a stealth system, and a lot of time spent talking to people.

The plot follows one Saul Myers (whose character model is based on Arnold Vosloo, though the resemblance in actual game graphics is... somewhat questionable), a veteran of the French Foreign Legion living abroad in Paris. Myers' daughter, Lisa, is a globetrotting journalist. Lisa runs afoul of and is kidnapped by persons unknown while working in the fictional, troubled South American nation of Realia. News of this is quickly relayed to Myers, who hastily departs for Realia, where he must tangle with local politics and the criminal underworld while trying to track down his missing daughter.

The game has two spiritual successors, White Gold: War in Paradise and The Precursors. White Gold was released on Steam as Xenus II: White Gold in December 2016. Boiling Point: Road to Hell was republished on digital platforms (Steam and Gog) by Ziggurat Interactive in November 2023.

This game provides examples of:

  • Alliance Meter: While the game has seven factions, the three key ones are the Government, the Rebels, and the Mafia, with the Government controlling one city, the Rebels controlling the other, and the Mafia controlling large swaths of farmland in between. All three are hostile towards each other, and attacking one faction will improve your reputation with the other two. What this means is that you'll usually end up picking one faction to be your primary enemy for the game, and juggling missions to keep the other two factions on your good side.
  • Anyone Can Die: Almost every character in the game world can be killed at any time, for any reason. Collateral casualties are frequently common in faction fights, and there's nothing stopping the player from walking up to civilians, shopkeepers, or quest givers and shooting them in the face.
  • Artificial Stupidity: The game's AI wasn't bad by 2005 standards, especially considering the size and complexity of the game world it had to navigate, but it's still nothing special, and has occasional moments of true stupidity (faction battles will occasionally consist of two groups of guys standing in a line three feet away from each other and shooting randomly until everyone dies, for example).
  • A-Team Firing: Most NPCs are hilariously poor shots, especially low-level cartel grunts and bandits. It's perfectly possible to win a fight by standing perfectly still in the middle of an open field picking people off while everyone sprays inaccurate machine gun fire in your direction for five straight minutes. Enemies are much more dangerous at closer range, though, especially since you can't take very many shots before dying. On the whole, enemies are a threat at typical First-Person Shooter ranges (i.e. across a room), but are much less dangerous at "realistic" ranges (i.e. 100 meters) which a lot of the combat takes place in.
  • Banana Republic: Realia. The game is a pretty good walkthrough of this trope.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: In the bar near the very beginning of the game, you can have an extended conversation with a wealthy philosopher. He has unique dialogue and more lines than the usual NPC, but there's otherwise nothing to suggest he's related to the main plot. It turns out he's the Big Bad. Indeed, it's very easy to miss speaking to him entirely since he's surrounded by non-important signpost-dialogue NPCs, which makes The Reveal much less dramatic.
  • The Don: Don Pedro, and all the mission givers for the Mafia faction.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Snakes, killer insect swarms, super-persistent jaguars, the locals, traffic, even factions duking it out between themselves are no strangers to putting a few bullet holes into your car if you drive down the wrong road.
  • Fake Longevity: The main plot is actually rather straightforward, but with one crucial roadblock: Money. The people Myers needs to talk to find information or gain support from want a lot of cash for their services, which is what facilities the driving need to perform side-quests, build relationships with the various factions to potentially open cheaper alternatives, and loot every corpse and sell off the gear.
  • Friendly Fireproof: Large firefights are doubly dangerous — not only will your enemies try to kill you, you can also take damage from your allies' stray shots. There's nothing quite like accidentally getting shot in the head by one of your squadmates, or getting pureed by a poorly-aimed gunship cannon burst.
  • Gatling Good: The only gatling guns in this game are static AA guns and the front cannons of gunships.
  • Genre Shift: Most of the game is set in a Troperiffic Wide-Open Sandbox Banana Republic. You deal with the drug lords, the rebels, the army and the CIA. The final act: Stop the Big Bad in his volcano lair from using his giant mind control device.
  • Global Currency: While almost all the towns and merchants in the game use Realian pesos as currency, the native tribes pay you in jewelry and idols instead of money. It's totally worthless outside of the native villages unless you take it to an antiques dealer who will buy it from you.
  • G-Rated Drug: Cocaine plays a relatively large role in the story of Realia; the Mafia grow huge amounts of it across the map, and one of the Big Bad's complaints is that the children of South America are killing each other to fulfill America's demand for cocaine. However, the cocaine was changed to "adrenaline plants" relatively late in development in order to get the game past various rating boards (probably because you can take some as a power up that gives you increased speed and reaction times, at the cost of punishing withdrawal symptoms).
  • Grey-and-Grey Morality: There are no good guys in this game, although the Mafia and Bandit factions are somewhat more dickish than the Well-Intentioned Extremist Government or Rebel factions. The Native American faction is interesting in that while it's considered a single faction, the faction missions are provided by three different groups: two are fairly peaceful "we just want to be left alone" groups whose missions are either peaceful or self-defensive in nature, while the other is led by a crazed, murderous "kill the White Man" cannibal who sends you out to massacre pretty much anyone he doesn't like (including tourists and fruit merchants).
  • Hard-Coded Hostility: Enemies in main quest missions typically aren't aligned with any faction and will always be hostile towards you.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight:
    • The rebel agent spying on Realia's CIA station chief has a massive tricked-out listening post set up in the apartment directly underneath the station chief's apartment, so close together that they can probably hear each other talking.
    • The CIA contact in the rebel capitol is "hiding" in plain view in a house with a big, prominently-displayed American flag, and thinks he's concealed his identity quite well, but asking around reveals that everyone in the town knows he's a CIA agent. They let him continue to think he's fooling everyone because they don't want to hurt his feelings.
  • Hyperactive Metabolism: As an alternative to meds, you can also heal by eating food (donuts are particularly effective as you can buy them in bulk at a reasonable price from the donut seller by the motel). Food isn't as effective as stronger meds and is also slightly less weight-efficient, but has the benefit of having no usage drawbacks, as opposed to meds which you build an increasing resistance to with each usage.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Lisa, though it doesn't prevent her from being kidnapped.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: The native questline starts by helping them to kill a jaguar, then some bandits, then some armed rebels, then a busload of tourists. Granted, the "massacre the tourists" mission is given to you by a different, noticeably crazier chieftain than the previous missions.
  • Karma Meter: Your "Reputation with Civilians" stat is basically this.
  • Killer Rabbit: Those helpless old grannies sitting by the side of the road will often pull out frag grenades and start tossing them at you if you start mowing down civilians in the middle of town.
  • Market-Based Title: In its motherland, the game is known as Xenus: The Boiling Point.
  • Money Spider: The animals can be picked up and sold for meat or hides.
  • Noble Savage: The Realian native tribes. They're also ridiculously, offensively stereotypical caricatures of generic Native Americans in appearance, behavior, and manner of speaking, to a degree that's either incredibly racist or incredibly hilarious depending on your point of view.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: In the game's English dub, most of the characters are voiced by American voice actors who make absolutely no attempt at all to fake a Spanish/Latin American accent. It's really quite jarring, since they all address you as "gringo" despite otherwise speaking perfect English with a US accent.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: The Government-run town is pretty much a typical South American town. The Rebel-run town is a slightly more run down typical South American town with a big pile of bodies behind the town hall, presumably where the counter-revolutionaries got tossed after being lined up and shot in the head.
  • Scenery Porn: Even taking into consideration the game's age, the jungle environments look very good.
  • Shout-Out: Quite a few.
  • Sliding Scale of Silliness vs. Seriousness: Silliness, the game would be quite depressing and grim otherwise.
  • Stat Grinding: Your stats level up with usage; selling items increases your trading skill, carrying a lot of weight increases your max carry weight, using weapons increases your skill with that weapon category, etc.
  • Stealth-Based Game: Alternative to doing missions guns-blazing.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: The jaguars and snakes seem to go out of their way to try and kill you. The bees won't but they'll still try to kill you.
  • Take Over the World: The goal of the Big Bad, using Mind Control.
  • Talking Down the Suicidal: One of the Random Encounters is a man about to jump off a high bridge to kill himself. You can talk him down by telling him that you're planning on committing suicide, which results in a heated argument over who gets the right to kill themselves first, at which point you both say "to hell with it" and go get smashed at the local bar by way of apology.
  • Treacherous Quest Giver: Don Pedro is your first suspect in your daughter's kidnapping but makes a convincing argument that he's innocent and becomes your ally for the rest of the game, even serving as an alternative quest option to advance each main quest mission (for a very large bribe) if you're hostile towards the faction that could complete that mission for cheaper. That is until the very end of the game, where it turns out he was responsible for Lisa's kidnapping after all and is The Dragon to the Big Bad.
  • Unnecessary Combat Roll: Enemies roll fairly frequently in combat. Given how the RPG elements make the gunplay a bit clunkier than a straight FPS, it actually can be somewhat effective at times at dodging your gunfire.
  • Unusable Enemy Equipment: Everything an enemy is carrying can be picked up and used, but their guns are almost always in ridiculously poor condition (though it is possible to get a completely undamaged gun if you're extremely lucky.) and will jam or misfire constantly after a few initial shots. Depending on your weapon preferences, you'll probably at most just keep the ammo and sell the guns for much-needed cash.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: If you're really evil, your reputation with the civilians will drop. They will be upset, they will show you, and little old ladies will start throwing hand grenades at you.
  • Wide-Open Sandbox: A completely seamless, big world (625 square kilometers).
  • Wild Card: Saul can easily end up like this depending on what sidequests he does for the seven factions, and it's completely possible and likely common he'll end up raiding one faction's base one mission after performing a task for that same faction, and the next mission he'll be back to doing tasks for that very same faction like nothing happened. Justified in-story in that the factions' struggles are second-hand to him as long as he rescues his daughter, and he'll side with whoever's most convenient (or gives him the most money) to get her back.