El Matador is a third-person shooter, developed by Plastic Reality and published by 1C Company in 2006.
While playing games, I'm probably not the only one who can’t shake the feeling that I've already found myself in the situation I'm currently seeing on the screen. Yeah, copying is a problem. But even if some developers do it, they are at least embarrassed enough to include some of their ideas into the concept (although, copycats are most often those without ideas and experience). A good example is Matador, the third-person shooter from the well-known German studio Ascaron (Port Royale), which shamelessly relies on the verified design of old Max Pain. There isn’t much new in this game and you’ve done it a thousand times. But somehow… It’s fun.
It is sad that the scriptwriters failed to invent a better story than this: you are a generic DEA agent. His bosses send him to Colombia in order to offer help to the local anti-drug police department in the fight against a mafia organization. It’s also true that you could replace him with any other character and it wouldn’t make much of a difference. You’re there for the action and to blow things up.
The graphic engine gets the job done. The level of destruction of the environment is satisfactory, because chairs, tables, shelves and boxes look quite realistic and bullets bounce off the walls. But this is 2006. Even if the enemy’s hiding behind wooden object or a hanging carpet, you can’t shoot him. Games still didn’t know that you can shoot through materials. It’s also a pity that the stages, which include interior and limited exterior spaces, are nothing special. Together with character models and the amount of detail, overall design quality makes it feel like El Matador didn’t have a big budget or talented designers.
As I already said before, the game is a copy of Max Pain. You character can duck, jump, and throw himself in all directions. When things get tough, he has a special ability that enables him to slow down time so he can send a hail of bullets with even more precision. The designers have gone so far as to copy the entire system: you can jump to the side, which slows down time, or hold down the key until the ability gets depleted. The rest is pretty standard. Enemies attack in smaller groups and you shoot them with a variety of weapons typical for this kind of game (pistols, machine guns, snipers, grenades). You usually switch weapons only when it runs out of ammunition, not because you would actually feel the need to switch. However, the differences between weapons are still noticeable enough that when handling each one, you have to slightly change your style. It's cool and adds a limited, but essential element of tactics. If you played Max Pain, you know how satisfying it can be to duck behind furniture, jump out in slow-motion, guns blazing, and observe the spraying of body fluids.
But the action isn’t that great, especially because of unfairness. The problem is that otherwise solidly moving and firing enemies react too quickly and are too precise (you heal with health packs, but while some sections are filled, others have none). You constantly have the feeling that the game cheats; you can’t surprise enemies even if you approach from behind. That means you always fight the same way: jump from cover to cover, spot the enemy and wait for an opening. This leads to a repetitive action that doesn’t know much variation. Sometimes bosses spice things up, but they’re just same enemies with more health. You also have computer-controlled companions, but they constantly jump in front of you, shoot all over the place, and don’t move away when a grenade lands right in front of them.
Overall, a nice, but flawed copy of Max Payne.