Expert (エキスパート) - PlayStation, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation Vita (1996)

Expert (エキスパート)
Developer: Nichibutsu
Release Date: 1996
Platforms: PlayStation

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Although the 90s saw plenty of Japanese developed first-person shooters, only a few of them reached the PlayStation. Among these was Expert, a Wolfenstein 3D-like shooter where you play as a member of EXPERT, a SWAT team that must ascend and clear out a government building occupied by terrorists.

Each level has you navigating corridors, shooting a variety of enemies, finding key cards to open special doors, and making your way to an elevator to access the next stage. Some levels will require you to do special tasks like rescuing hostages, defusing bombs or taking on an elite terrorist, which keeps things interesting despite the flat and sometimes repetitive stage designs. 

Before you start, you choose from a handful of loadouts that provide different main weapons, such as a shotgun, a machine pistol and a grenade launcher, in addition to a pistol, grenades and a knife. These allow you to tackle situations in different ways since enemies have unique attacks, and you’ll need to be careful since there’s no auto-aim and ammo doesn’t replenish between stages.

Most enemies die in one shot and will drop health pick-ups or ammo, though frequently for weapons you don’t have, so the gameplay carries a nice bit of tension that demands focused play. That said, the lack of checkpoints means you’ll have to start over if you die, which can make the later stages full of enemies and deadly mines frustrating. One level is particularly annoying if you can’t read Japanese, since you must defuse four bombs using hints provided by your commander and can easily blow yourself up. 

While the story isn’t special, there’s a decent amount of cutscenes that play between and sometimes during levels accompanied by well-drawn artwork and fitting music. The graphics have well animated enemy sprites, but the flickering room graphics and slow framerate make the game look worse than it is. That’s also true for the very short draw distance, though that enhances the tension when you can’t see what’s lurking down the hall. 

Expert had an interesting life in the bootleg market, where it was sold in various countries under the name of Counter-Strike Ver. Expert. The game was the exact same, only that its cover and disc art claimed it to be an entry in the popular Counter-Strike series, enough that it’s likely better known by that name.

One of the covers for “Counter-Strike Ver. Expert”

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