I was excited about this game when it came out and I've had it for quite some time, yet for some reason never got to finish it until today. I usually enjoy Crystal Dynamics' games, as they have a special flair to them (being US made) and Soul Reaver is no exception. I played the Dreamcast version, though I'd assume that the PlayStation version is exactly the same except for cinematic and graphical quality. Anyways, here we go...
In Soul Reaver you play the part of Raziel, a lieutenant in Kain's vampire army, who is killed for surpassing his master in evolutionary power. Raziel is then resurrected by the Elder God and instructed to destroy Kain and his minions in order to exact his revenge on Kain.
Graphics: The graphics in Soul Reaver are pretty impressive for a first or second generation Dreamcast title. The colors are fairly sharp and there are decent lighting effects. There are many instances where the polygonal graphics do look a bit dated however (some character models are very N64ish with the square hands and flat faces). This game is also extremely dark, both in theme and color scheme. I found it very hard at times to see exactly what you are supposed to be doing because of the black tones in the background, so I'd recommend turning up the brightness on your TV to full to correct this problem. Overall, I was fairly impressed with the graphics granted the game is almost 5 years old now.
Sound: The sound for this game is filled with ambient beats and spacey overtones. Nothing to really get excited about as I wasn't too impressed with the music. The sound effects are decent, though a bit repetitive at times. Now, the voice acting is top notch in this game, some of the best I've heard in quite some time. Overall, the sound is disappointing, yet I am glad they spent the time they did on the voice acting.
Gameplay: The gameplay consists of your basic "Super Mario 64" type 3D adventure. You can interact with your environment (pull switches, push blocks, etc), pick up weapons, attack enemies, and the like. Combat with enemies is fairly basic with very few moves and only two or three ways to kill enemies. The boss battles are fairly basic where you have to figure out how to use the environment to kill each one, and after you kill them you acquire a newfound power (a la Mega Man ).
My favorite part of this game however is the switching between the spectral and the physical world. This concept added a whole new dimension to 3D adventure games that I have never seen before.
Controls: In one word: TERRIBLE! It's not so much the controls, but the camera angles. Through the whole game I had to fight with the camera over which way I wanted to be looking and it didn't cooperate very well. Add in the fact that you have to jump around A LOT in the game without falling and you get one very frustrating game.
Unresponsive button presses as well as getting caught up in the backgrounds amounts to a very poorly done control/camera scheme which had me wanting to quit playing more than once.
Fun Factor: I can't really say I actually had too much fun playing Soul Reaver. I was hoping for much more than what I got, and the only reason I kept playing was because I wanted to see what happened since the storyline was the only really interesting point in the game. The repetitive objectives consisting of pushing blocks around and screwing with the stubborn camera didn't help with the fun level much either. So overall, it really wasn't too fun to play; kinda like torture only more painful.
Overall: Soul Reaver is a game that should have waited for the "newer" next gen systems to come out (PS2, Xbox, GameCube) and needed a bit more development time to smooth over the MANY rough spots. The voice acting was really the only enjoyable aspect of the game along with some of the interesting special abilities you acquire.
At times this game can get very frustrating as you aren't told where to go very well (they tell you compass directions, yet there is no compass ). Some of the puzzles had me so pissed off that I had to use a walkthrough (and I don't use walkthroughs). This game just doesn't seem finished and probably should have been scrapped for PSone and DC and just combined with Soul Reaver 2 which, in essence, is basically just a sequel anyways. But I guess you can't have everything.