Chaser is a 2003 sci-fi First-Person Shooter for the PC (now available on Steam and GOG) developed by Cauldron, an Eastern European developer known for making "budget" first-person shooters such as Soldier of Fortune: Payback, The History Channel: A Nation Divided and Battle in the Pacific, and Jurassic: The Hunted.
The game takes place in the year 2044, and follows the adventures of John Chaser, an amnesiac soldier with a price on his head who stumbles from one location to another on dystopian Earth as he gets drawn into the conflict between the tyrannical MARSCORP Mega-Corp and the martian resistance. The game's plot is transparently a Whole-Plot Reference to Total Recall (1990).
The game's most notable features are its rendering of a few dozen different real-world firearms (with a surprising absence of any sci-fi "space guns" despite the sci-fi setting), its huge levels, and a Bullet Time mechanic known as adrenaline mode (although it's much less of a core gameplay element than in F.E.A.R. or Max Payne).
This game provides examples of:
- A.K.A.-47: Averted. All weapons are listed by their real names. And there are a lot of them.
- Artificial Stupidity: The enemy A.I. is very simple, especially compared to modern shooters. Enemies mostly just run towards your location, then stand still and fire at you once they enter your line-of-sight (although they do occasionally run behind cover for a couple seconds). They're also prone to waltzing right up to a door that will kill them thanks to physics bugs the moment it opens.
- "Blind Idiot" Translation: Mostly averted; the dialogue is pretty decent, but it does have an overall "weird" vibe from odd word usage and sentence structure which makes it clear the original script was not in English.
- Body Armor as Hit Points: Averted. Body armor semi-realistically absorbs a percentage of damage based on its current condition. At full armor, your armor absorbs all of a bullet's damage, while at partial armor it will only absorb a percentage of the damage (with the rest directly damaging your health).
- Bullet Time: The game has Adrenaline Mode, which slows down time giving you more time to react. Unlike most other Bullet Time mechanics in other games, it does not increase your movement or shooting speed, leaving you just as vulnerable to damage. It also regenerates extremely slowly, so you can't rely on it for every firefight. On the plus side, you have a lot of it (a full meter lasts almost 30 continuous seconds, but it takes about 5 minutes to regenerate). Thankfully, your meter gets restored to full at the start of each level.
- Cyber Punk Is Techno: The (surprisingly good) soundtrack for the game is very techno.
- Damage-Sponge Boss: Tommy is repeatedly referred to as Dumb Muscle both by his own boss and by Chaser, but when he confronts you just before you escape to Russia in the submarine, he turns out to be the toughest human opponent in the game, capable of soaking a good 11 grenades or 50+ assault rifle rounds before dropping, compared to just a few bullets to kill regular Mooks and a little over a dozen bullets to kill Big Dragon+Ogawa or Kabir. And headshots don't noticeably kill him faster at all.
- The Dragon: Frequent references are made throughout the game to Scott Stone, Marcorps' deadliest warrior and The Dragon to Big Bad Samuel Longwood, who was apparently the one responsible for initially capturing and gravely wounding Chaser before the start of the game, resulting in his amnesia. There's something of a buildup to a big final showdown between Chaser and Stone. As it turns out, "Chaser" is Scott Stone. See Tomato in the Mirror below.
- Downer Ending: Seemingly pretty standard for an Eastern European developed game (although, given their history, it's kinda understandable). Pretty much The Bad Guy Wins. MARSCORP President Samuel Longwood destroys the Resistance's main base and breaks the leader of the Resistance, and "Chaser" is captured and/or killed. The only upside is that Chaser kills the Resistance Leader, preventing the Big Bad from scanning his brain for the location and identity of any remaining Resistance cells. Pretty much the same ending as if Total Recall (1990) had ended with Cohagen capturing Quaid and strapping him into the brainwashing/unbrainwashing machine.
- Elite Mooks: In the last few levels you primarily fight MARSCORP heavy soldiers wearing Powered Armor that can soak almost a full mag of gunfire, and equipped with OCIWs, the best assault rifles in the game (which are also equipped with undermounted rocket launchers).
- Giant Mook: The last few levels have several enemy exoskeletons which are basically the power loader from Aliens strapped with armor plating, a minigun, and a rocket launcher.
- Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Despite mankind having developed commercial space flight, terraforming, holograms, force-fields, and other sci-fi staples, it seems weapons technology hasn't progressed beyond what we have in the modern age, given that the only firearms in the game are all modern guns. The only concession to the "futuristic" setting is the presence of currently undeveloped prototype weapons such as the H&K G11 or OICW. Although the last couple of levels does have a minigun that fires grenades.
- The Mole: Chaser's ally Mike Gomez turns out to be secretly working for Samuel Longwood, and was only helping him succeed to reveal the location of the Resistance.
- Mooks, but no Bosses: The game actually has a handful of proper boss fights in the first two-thirds of the game, but there are absolutely no bosses in the final 3rd of the game once you get to Mars.
- Nintendo Hard: Extremely. This is an old-school, hardcore PC shooter. No regenerating health. Health and armor pickups are relatively uncommon. Enemies can kill you in just four or five assault rifle shots (seven or eight shots if you're fully armored). Snipers can kill you in one or two shots. Adrenaline Mode gives you a slight edge, but doesn't make you a God Among Men like in most other shooters that feature it. The game is also often rather unclear as to what you're supposed to do to progress in the level; this isn't a simple matter of no objective markers but a much more core problem of doors, vents, and other progression triggers not being clearly displayed by the level design.
- No Name Given: The bartender/resistance operative who secretly serves as Castor's contact on the outside is never given a name.
- "Shaggy Dog" Story: Almost everything Chaser gets involved in goes straight to hell, with very few positive outcomes and people dying all around him. This even culminates in the ending where The Bad Guy Wins, only slightly preventing Longwood from getting his hands on further Resistance information but otherwise all but captured or killed by the end himself. So the entire game was All for Nothing.
- Taste of Power: As you escape from the space station at the start of the game you get to use the G11 as your primary weapon, which is one of the best assault rifles in the entire game. You lose your inventory after being captured by the Mafia one level after crashing down on Earth, and that weapon only appears again much, much later.
- Tomato in the Mirror: It's revealed at the very end of the game that "Chaser" is really Scott Stone, The Dragon to Big Bad Samuel Longwood. Stone killed the original Chaser before he could be interrogated, so Longwood used experimental technology to download Chaser's memories into Stone (who also underwent plastic surgery to look like Chaser) in order to infiltrate the Resistance. However, the process was screwed up due to an attack by Resistance commandoes, resulting in Stone/Chaser having amnesia and only mixed-up partial memories from both of his identities.
- Too Awesome to Use: Bullet Time can be like this, given how incredibly slowly it regenerates after being used.
- Too Dumb to Live: Chaser gets told that the city he's in implants a metal spider into those that fall into the interest of the local mafia to keep them under their thumb, and that he should leave as soon as humanly possible. He tries to leave through the front door instead of trying to sneak out and easily gets caught on the way out.He almost seems to degrade in intelligence from there.
- Tricked to Death: How Chaser ultimately does away with Vallero. Having recently disposed of the Spider that was meant to kill him in the event of disobedience, Chaser covertly plants it in the trunk of Vallero's car. After Chaser and the rest of Vallero's men departed to deal with Yakuza at the Penthouse, Vallero learns that Chaser had snuck off to Little Tokyo and killed his men there. Believing that Chaser still has the Spider in him, the mobster decides to pull the kill-trigger, only to end up blowing himself up.
- Unexpected Gameplay Change: The underwater level comes to mind. You not only have to adjust to the different controls and enemies, but also have to deal with the poor visibility.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: That "man in black" who saved Chaser's life in Russia is never found. Or seen. Or even given a name. Or a reason to do what he did. Or... absolutely anything. Though that man might have been Gomez who was sent by Longwood, since he needed Chaser alive to proceed with his plan.
- Whole-Plot Reference: The entire game is essentially Total Recall (1990), right down to The Reveal at the end.