Review by ClessAlvein05
No, silly, not the movie
I remember first hearing about this game from a mailing list from Apogee/3d Realms since I was a sort of "preferred customer" having bought many of their titles; in the pamphlet they described it as "part Star Wars and part Descent," and being familiar with the games/movies I guess it filled that description. They also showed some visuals that were amazing for the time. The game turned out to be an audiovisual tour de force, if a little hollow on actual gameplay.
The graphics were phenomenal for the time, even a step ahead of contemporaries like Descent, Doom and Rise of the Triad. Like Descent, there is full 360 degree rotation, even higher polygonal detail, and much higher texture detail--you can select two texture detail levels depending on system settings, and neither of them appears blocky until you get very close. It expands on Descent by having most regions outdoors and including a plane of clouds (albeit paper-thin.) In addition to polygonal ships, lasers, and bases, there are some good-quality sprite powerups and shots. Most of the hills and outposts on the ground are drawn in great detail, and there are varying atmospheric shades at distances. In spite of all these bells and whistles, there is generally high framerate and very little skip for even the typical high-486, low-Pentium of the time. There are also reasonably high-quality full-motion videos in the CD version.
The sounds are excellent. You can render them in as high as 16-bit CD quality, a feature not afforded to even DOOMs or Descents 1 and 2. Most of the explosions, gunfire, and powerup sounds are strong. The music is, for the most part, even better; it uses a .MOD format, meaning that there are recorded digitized instruments rather than the .MIDI format still prevalent at the time, or redbook CD audio which takes away a lot of space that can be used for gameplay and is harder to repeat. While there are a few tracks that sound repetitive and have poorly chosen instruments, most are really a cut above the rest, and capture the burning environments of the levels (the track
for that area is even titled HELL.MOD,) the self-explanatory Desert song, the high-powered Alien song, and the chilling Fear song with what appears to have monster breathing in the secret area battle. Amusingly, the title screen music is titled SEX.MOD for no particular reason, a feature also inserted into Terminal Reality's similar Fury3, although 3d Realms whitewashed this to simply TVMenu.mod; it sounds a little like the first level music, too.
The only real weaknesses of the game? It is insultingly easy in terms of fundamentals, even in the highest difficulty. The radar at the top of the screen holds your hand the whole way through, whether you like it or not. Not only can you just rotate and fly towards the next base, you can also quickly rotate to the surrounding robots, usually be able to track them down with any weapon, and usually get plenty of powerups if you get hit along the way from both the robots and the bases. You may run out of shields at the higher difficulties, but you can save and restore your way around this. You can also afterburner away from almost anything, although you'd better be careful not to crash into everything inside a tunnel. The controls are a little awkward; you are always moving, however slowly, and the rotation can be a little stiff. While many games were doing away with scoring, TV kept score based on kills when you died, even subtracting points for "green" kills like trees and putting these in--you guessed it--green letters. Terminal Velocity's presentation as more of a glorified flight simulator than a first-person shooter is what keeps it from the ranks of elite games. However, it is worth getting in some way if you like old-school shooters.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
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