Advent Rising is the worst sort of videogame: One that's just good enough to make you wish it was a lot better. On the surface, Advent Rising really kicks some ass--the first part in a proposed trilogy, the game has an epic, cinematic feel (check how it's presented in widescreen), some smart ideas (the game's inventive control scheme is at first awkward, then indispensable), and a hell of a plot setup (anybody who can take the ultimate videogame clich--that of shooting aliens--and make it even somewhat interesting deserves some props).
But the biggest draw of the shooter is one of its creators: Noted sci-fi author Orson Scott Card (Ender's Game), who helped with the story and the script. With videogames no longer relegated to having their stories made up by the same guys who program the code, the games industry is nearing a time when plots are as important as gameplay--the maturation of the medium is inspiring more ambitious, interesting, and interactive storytelling experiences.
In fact, "ambitious," "interesting," and "interactive" is a list of adjectives that reads like a wish list for Advent Rising--but the game never really cashes in. Its story and scope are as ambitious as hell, sure--but what good is it if the plot turns monotonous and illogical halfway through, with major characters appearing and disappearing with seeming randomness? And doesn't interactivity only make sense if the game noticeably and meaningfully reacts to a player's choices?
Card's contributions are one of the bright spots in the game, though they're one of his lesser accomplishments as a writer. And even if the innovative idea of having a fancy-pants writer assist on a videogame had worked out better, Advent Rising's lyrical aspirations bite the big one thanks to its most damning attribute: A severely underpowered game engine. The framerate stutters, the gameplay chugs, and the game crashes and freezes to an inexcusable extent. Ultimately, Advent Rising is just one more game that teases about how great videogames could (and hopefully will) soon become--too bad it also demonstrates just how far away from that greatness most current games are.