Review by Dogg
Reviewed: 08/16/02 | Updated: 09/03/02
Universal Soldier for the Sega Genesis is what we video game fans call as a blatant movie cash-in to a once successful movie. As this it picks up the huge success of the flick it is based on, and then it makes a mockery to it in almost every way possible. And so the same is shown here. Universal Soldier was a movie released in 1992 that starred Jean Claude Van Damme as Uni-Sol Luc Deveraux. A Uni-Sol (a.k.a. Universal Soldier) is a military-made war robot that is programmed by computer and is very powerful, untouchable to say the least. Well… at least for now.
Universal Soldier for the Sega Genesis casts you as a Uni-Sol (the name from what I’ve seen is not even given in this game) on a killing spree that mostly resembles on what was seen in the fire-hit series, Contra. This meaning that all you do is move around and shoot everything that comes in sight—from robotic bees, to enemy Uni-Sols. A reason as to why you are shooting all these people is surely not given, though given the frame of mind that this game is in; I don’t exactly think one is entirely needed.
So, as a Universal Soldier for hire you are equipped with just a gun; and in your mind this gun is your tool to a total enemy ass whipping. The gun fires simple spread shots one by one, and if you search closely through levels you can use your down-to-earth gun to unravel mysterious rocks, that once shot on will unveil a plethora of upgrades for your gun. All the upgrades are somewhat different in both look and the way they are used. One of the upgrades, for example, has a lightning insignia on it and once acquired you can fire 3 spread shots, instead of just firing one. You even have an upgrade that turns you invincible for one minute, and in this period of time anything you touch will be destroyed upon impact; sort of like how if someone touched the gold from Midas, the person who touched it will be turned to emaciated, stony gold. The rest of the upgrades don’t need too much of a mention—one, once acquired will release a powerful blast that will destroy all the enemies on screen, while another has you firing a huge, arcane spread shot, while finally one has your health refilled; very powerful and much useful in this game.
Along with the many upgrades for your gun, and your gun’s firing itself, you have the power to use lines. While most notably referring to grenades, these lines come in limited supply, and once used will cause a huge explosion on-screen that will destroy all enemies and will open up the hidden items tangled invincibly inside of this game. Outside of your power to fire lines, you got the power to roll down very diminutive and idyllic in small platforms that weren’t available for use when on foot. While rolling you will go in the form of a spike; very reminiscent to how Sonic does his little spin maneuver. A copyright issue—yes it is, too bad Sega never picked up on it (things like this would’ve called a full cancellation to this game, seeing as how just having hedgehogs with attitudes was already fierce, and bad enough back then).
While Universal Soldier sounds like its got all the elements of a successful shooter that will gracefully take upon games like Contra: Hard Corps with ease, it really is not. Accolade (the makers) had already had somewhat of a successful, though rather bad, shooter before Universal Soldier even say the light of day. Its name: Turrican. And to my surprise Universal Soldier is a complete—read it, complete—copy of Turrican (with rather darker graphics and some few changes to the character sprites). Everything in Turrican—the lines, the levels, and even the bosses—was all copied to Universal Soldier. And this fellow readers and true believers, drops this game to a simple crappy copy, that unsuitably carries the name of a successful early 90s movie of the same name.
And like Turrican, Universal Soldier carries out many of the game’s faults, one being the incredibly appalling level designs and enemies. Enemies are a huge joke. As to when in a game did over 20 robotic bees attack you at once? Never. Other enemies have also been brought over to the mix—many being very uninvolved with the original Universal Soldier movie. In fact, the only enemies that appear in this game, in which appeared in the movie, are the evil Uni-Sols themselves. Other enemies even include dragon-like ones that breathe fire smack-dab on your genitals (these actually look like the bone dragons that appeared in Castlevania titles), to little alien-pod-looking ones that fire lasers that try to sheath through your skin like paper.
Bosses, like enemies don’t impress either. These guys either fire at you for a steady thirty second period, or they just sit there waiting to get shot by your spread shots till they finally fall down to their shallow unpromising demises. The first boss, a huge Universal Soldier who fires at you with his gun and then jumps around—and with his force rocks start falling down from above the cave in which you are in—follows this rule the best. This guy just lopes around getting shot at and then fires once or twice (jumps around a little as well) and then you are given another chance to shoot at him. This guy, along with the other bosses, are too easy and he, like the rest of them, drags this game down incredibly (I found that the bosses are easier then the actual game itself).
Now back to the level designs, which were mentioned. Every level in this game takes place in different areas; areas that you will never see a Jean Claude Van Damme even dare of going to—this being as each one doesn’t deserve to even to be noticed, nor mentioned, though I’ll continue. Each area was designed for another game (Turrican), so it’s hard to even imagine what the hell a person of your caliber would even dare of being in them. Each area is designed as somewhat to be more challenging then the last, though they are all challenging if you think about it, and the design for each of them is pretty bad. The first level for example starts out in a forest-like level taking you against many of the enemies that come on-screen and after that you then advance to the next one; a bright area with waters that lead to underground caves, that continue to lead to underground caves, and so on and so forth. One part of a level even has you going on stones where wind blows just so you can go up the much higher ones. Pathetic? Yes.
The control is nothing to be proud of either. It is very unforgiving, and there’s somewhat of a lag when one presses a button to do a move only to have it be done seconds later. Adding insult to injury, your character moves and jumps around like Molasses; and we all know that this is pretty damn bad. To add to that there are no multi-player modes of any kind to get you help in areas you are stuck or can’t seem to get out of. This game is screaming for a Co-Op mode, though erratically it is absent with no damn excuse as to why it is even not present in the first place (no multi-player modes alost kill this game instantly).
To further add to that, Universal Soldier is challenging. Saying that this game is hard is a huge understatement, as this game is really, really hard (harder then Contra: Hard Corps even). Though it doesn’t suffer from the one-hit kill syndrome that plagues the Contra games (thank God), this game offers up a meter, that, once you hit an enemy 2/4 of it is already used up. The meter also goes down really fast and chances are that you will probably never even notice you died in the first place (you even get damaged by just touching machines that contain upgrades). Bizarre? Yes. Hard? Hell yes. I’m guessing the only uprising part here is that the game somewhat takes you farther sometimes after you die—a la Zero Wing.
Graphically, this game in a way makes up for it’s mediocre gameplay. While character sprites are nothing to be impressed about, as they are very small, and backgrounds are nothing to pee your pants with, as they all look very NES-like, the part that does impress me though is the fact that this game can hold over 20 things on screen at once, with almost no hint of slowdown (that’s pretty damn good for a game of its time, though other games like Gunstar Heroes and Contra: Hard Corps can maintain something like this, with better backgrounds and effects to go along with it). Aurally, this impressed me far more then the rather passive, subdued graphics. Some of the tracks in this game are very well composed, though some I just don’t feel belong here. For example track five sounds very RPG-ish, while track seven sounds like something ripped apart from an action/adventure title. Whether they were stolen, I don’t care, though, as they all still impress. The sound effects are pretty bad, though, but the fact remains that some good ballads at least exist in this game.
There’s very little replay value to be had here as the high difficulty will guarantee you that you would not get as far as you possibly wished on going. There are difficulty selections in the Options Menu (Easy and Hard), but whichever preference you pick won’t do you much good as the easy selection is really hard, and the hard selection is really extreme. Serious…
Finally, it is very hard to recommend Accolade’s Universal Soldier to anyone; even diehard shooter aficionados, or the people who showed and still show high enthusiasm to the Universal Soldier movie (or even the sequel which appeared in 99 starring yet again Jean Claude Van Damme and co-starred WCW wrestler Bill Goldberg). Universal Soldier truly isn’t even a game to begin with; the only thing that this game is different from the shooter Turrican is the fact that enemy sprites are entitled as enemy Uni-Sols. Universal Soldier is recommended for only special purposes (such as if you’re a hardcore fan of the Universal Soldier movies and are dying to get everything from this movie in your merchandising collector’s shelf). Otherwise one will do best to get far away from this game as humanly possible.
Final Score- 4+
Rating: 2.0 - Poor
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