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Continued from Part 18: Run Away and Join the Circus
Given the the company's current focus, the name Hyperion Entertainment seems an odd fit for the modern maintainer of AmigaOS, betraying its earlier status as an Amiga focused video game porting house. Attracted by the apparent success of Loki Software, Hyperion Entertainment also decided to expand into the Linux market, porting three games to the platform. One of their ports, that of SiN, to this day remains from them an elusive Linux exclusive.
Being given only a limited physical release in Europe, the Linux version of SiN is almost impossible to find today, so I would like to thank Nickolas Grigoriadis for supplying me with a copy. First developed by Ritual Entertainment for release in 1998 SiN is an ambitious if adolescent first person shooter with pretensions towards being an immersive sim, with level design that allows for a number of branching paths and a great degree of interactivity.
Adolescent applying to both the content of SiN, with its ridiculous comic book plot carried by the bosom of its femme fatale antagonist, and to how well baked the final product is. Notorious for its bugs SiN can also just feel a bit of a mess, being a headache for completionists with its multiple conflicting objectives. SiN plays more as an overwrought Duke Nukem 3D than something like Deus Ex, perhaps unsurprising given the input from the likes of Richard Grey and Charlie Wiederhold.
When the ingredients are fully cooked the game can be compelling, but you have to take the rough with the smooth. This also applies to the quality of the Linux port, with it being mercurial to get working. When I first installed the SiN demo on Red Hat Linux 7.3 it refused to recognize my libGL.so library, but in the year or so since it started working without a hitch. This carried over to when I installed the full version, but I still have no firm idea as to what changed.
SiN also has the most obnoxious retail key and disc checks of any Linux game I have encountered, with it just kicking you to the desktop with an stderr message when starting a new game if the CD-ROM is not mounted. Given how often the game crashed this did not fill me with confidence. In addition, I found that audio clips would cut each other off and would at times be distorted, with the worst offender for this being at the end of the optional "Missile Silo" level.
How much these problems had to do with the Linux port or the nature of SiN itself remains unclear, although I suspect it to be a combination of both. I found myself stuck for a time in that same level as it is the only instance in the whole campaign where the unadvertised inventory screen, accessible with the F11 key, is required in order to progress. SiN develops a habit of putting hurdles in your way, as an even more significant roadblock would arise from my going off the beaten path.
Since I had opted to destroy all the pumps in the optional "Geothermal Plant" level, this breaks the scripting when you are forced to go through the "Biomass Reclamation Center" later in the game, causing Darwin Chamber 3 in "Area 57" not to be accessible. Thankfully a fan patch exists to fix this specific issue, as otherwise I would have been forced to cheat, or load up a previous save and use the alternative path through the "Hidden Docks" instead.
This was followed by the next level "Xenomorphic Laboratory" producing broken save files, but once I got past this things proceeded fine up until the penultimate "Munt Phoenix" level. Here the scripting broke again, with the enemies standing stock still instead of attacking me, and mission critical items not spawning in. This I could resolve by just restarting the level, letting me go on to defeat the final boss, although the final MPEG cutscene aborted after a few seconds.
Performance wise Windows 98 averaged 40.7 FPS compared to 33.1 FPS under Linux using High settings, with both versions benefiting from turning Tessellation and Dynamic Lighting off. Doing so brought the Linux average up to 37.3 FPS, although this was still dwarfed by the 51.2 FPS seen on Windows 98 with the same settings. Windows benefits too by having access to the more polished Wages of Sin mission pack, which sadly was never ported over to Linux.
SiN would also later be adapted into an animated film, the inverse of what gave us the software I am to cover next. Plenty of games released for Linux could be considered adolescent or even childish, but software designed with actual children in mind can be few and far between, at least in the commercial or retail space. Time for some family friendly entertainment, even if I do come away from the experience questioning the sincerity of the publisher's intentions.
Carrying on in Part 20: The Antediluvian World
Return to Part 1: Dumpster Diving