Geograph Seal

released on Mar 12, 1994
by Exact

Exact's Geograph Seal, released for the Sharp X68000 computer in 1994, is a precursor to Jumping Flash! Rendered in 3D polygons, it was the earliest first-person shooter with platforming mechanics. It also allowed the player to aim the weapon, and took place in free-roaming outdoor environments rather than the corridor labyrinths of contemporary FPS games like Doom.


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Excruciatingly rough-hewn, unrelentingly insistent that the player abide by its demands, frictive enough to give new meaning to "NOW IS TIME TO THE 68000 HEART ON FIRE." Geograph Seal refuses to be anything except what it is, a labourious exercise in survival and traversal in the face of overwhelming odds. From the second gameplay begins the player is surrounded and confused, contending with a (then) novel means of moving in three-dimensional space, those oft-dreaded tank controls and an inability to aim independent of movement. No tutorial, no on-screen controls, just a crowded HUD labelling everything in view yet telling you nothing. A trial by fire. If Jumping Flash! is a playground littered with toys and freedom to do whatever the player wants, Geograph Seal is rush-hour traffic. The selfsame engine which shocked and awed investors, journalists, and gamers when demonstrating the capabilities of the Sony PlayStation absolutely chugs on the X68000. Geograph Seal rarely breaks double-digit framerates whereas Jumping Flash! frequently ascends to 60. Despite its belaboured rendering, Geograph Seal punishes the slightest hesitation with a cascade of enemy gunfire and lasers which can hardly be reacted to if they're even seen by the player. Geograph Seal crumbles under the weight of its own ambition and it is incredible. Every victory is hard-won. Each continue used is soul-crushing. Any shield recovery drop is manna from heaven, providing sustenance enough for the oppression to continue unabated. Doomed to start over from the beginning over and over, the player carves out a modicum of understanding how to progress. Boss fights are a blistering battle against time as your shield dwindles. The rail shooter segments are a maddeningly brutal cacophony of polygons and missiles. The maze stage is a claustrophobic lesson on Geograph Seal's combat essentials as you lose the one true advantage you had over your enemies, that taken for granted triple jump. Geograph Seal is a 3D game with no concessions made for the sake of access, it provides a Z-axis and shows what a proverbial game of the future might be like, no stepping stones to cross the torrential waters of 3D gaming. Exact Co. shrieks that there is no time to dawdle, we have the technology and holy shit let's just use it and let people figure out how to play it on their own.
Geograph Seal is a monolith -- imposing and unwavering. A precursor of exceptional things to come. A testament to phenomenology in gaming, one must be subsumed by it to understand that it is a delight. The béton brut of 3D polygonal gaming.