Review by tafffer
Fairly inauspicious first 3D tour of duty for every ones favourite clone, which began life on the consoles.
ROGUE TROOPER (PC DVD-ROM)
When I first found out a new Rogue Trooper game was on the horizon, I couldnt help but be a bit excited about it, and its something I had personally been expecting for some time, because Ive always thought a great 3D game universe could be forged from the rich source material.
This challenge has been taken up by Rebellion, whom also brought Judge Dredd to modern formats a few years back. As for the aforementioned character, Rogue made his first appearance in the pages of British comic book 2000AD.
I always thought the story had a great premise; A fictitious planet called Nu-Earth has been devastated by chemical and biological warfare from two opposing factions, the Norts and the Southers. The war rages on even after the planet has become a toxic wasteland, and both sides have to wear protective suits and breathing apparatus to survive the deadly atmosphere.
The Southers set about creating a new breed of soldier through genetic cloning, one that was completely immune to all known poisons and toxins, able too freely breath the air, and hence is the most effective means of tipping the scales for the Southers.
An airborne assault is put into action employing the new genetic infantrymen, but a traitor among the Souther ranks has leaked the news of the plans to the Norts, who were subsequently ready for the attack, and massacre the G.I.s during the drop off.
Upon death, a G.Is personality is downloaded onto a bio-chip that can be retrieved and reactivated later. Rogue, the sole survivor of the massacre, collects his slain comrades bio-chips and integrates them to his own accessories. Helm, (the scientific mind), is mounted to his helmet, Bagman, (the supplies expert) to his backpack, and Gunnar (gun nut loony) is attached to your primary firearm. Together reunited as a team again, you must fight your way through Nu-Earth, taking revenge against the Norts and track down the traitor who instigated the massacre.
Rebellion has decided here to take the third-person approach for the action to take place, and you view Rogue from a pushed back camera, where as your body is almost always entirely visible. Fortunately here, the camera does manage to behave itself, and you do feel in control of your view point.
As for most games that originate on the consoles, a checkpoint system is used here to keep your progress. You can leave the game at any time, by saving and quitting, and the game will resume from the last checkpoint next time you play.
The story at the beginning and throughout the game is fleshed out through Bink movie cut-scenes, which have been composed using the in-game models and environments. These cinematic sequences carry the narrative along in between the levels to develop the ongoing story line.
The default controls that are covered during the introductory tutorial section are easy enough to pick up, with the standard WASD combination for movement and the mouse is used to freely look around. Of course the controls are customizable, but I largely stuck with the defaults, and only made the odd minor personal change to the layout.
The game-play is driven by objectives, which are accessed through a management screen, called Digipad, that effectively pauses the entire game when in use. Here you receive three tabs, the first reveals your current goals, coupled with a map of your current location, marking yourself and one or more target locations to reach in order to carry out your objective. More on the Digipad later.
The bulk of the game-play consists of making your way through the wasteland, and laying waste to the droves of Norts that get in your way. This is Gunnars chance to shine, he has two firing modes, the primary is a powerful machine-gun, and the secondary is a sniper mode with variable zoom capabilities, and hence very effective at all ranges. The best all rounder.
Other standard weapons include a basic pistol, with a twelve-clip magazine, and unlimited rounds. This is more effective at a shorter range, and works better than you may initially guess coupled with a good aim.
For me, the gun play was quite reminiscent of Rockstar games such as Red-Dead Revolver and Manhunt. You can lean against various surfaces for cover, and pop up to shoot. The Nort AI isnt too fantastic, even though they do tend to stay behind objects sometimes, their heads are usually exposed for a quick take down. When they are being defensive, they will try to lob grenades at you. Other times they will simply attack out in the open, and it like shooting fish in a barrel.
You also have a handful of various grenades at your disposal, including the standard frag, to others like incendiary, EMP, and sticky. You can quickly throw them straight, or bring up an aiming arc that you can manipulate to precisely lob, whilst Rogue remains stationary. I found the latter a little cumbersome in practise, but it isnt often required.
To mix things up, Rebellion has also added some stealth elements that are not so dissimilar to Manhunt again, but probably relates more closely to Cores Tomb Raider Angel of darkness in execution. What Im now inkling at is you can sneak up on the enemies and preform various kill moves, e.g. pulling out a Norts oxygen line, slitting their throats, breaking their necks using Gunnar etc. You simply have to be in crouch mode to sneak, get behind a Nort and when close enough, hit the use button to snuff them out.
While Im on stealth, I mention an interesting feature, which is how you can access the biochips. First I mention the Holodecoy provided by Helm. Anybody who has played Duke Nukem 3D will remember how you could distract the enemies with a hologram of Duke. Well here, you can for a limited amount time, control a fully guidable hologram of Rogue, that you can move around in the same way as normal, and even fire a weapon in this mode to get the Norts attention.
Another biochip function is using Gunnar as a sentry. Here you can set-up Gunnar on a tripod and when activated, he will shoot anything that moves. The other more minor functions relating to Gunnar are an attract mode, where he will whistle or taunt the enemies, which incidently I never found to work. Lastly, a silencer can be added to Gunnar.
Most objectives are simply moving from one point to another, or blowing something up in some way. For example, a drop-ship of Norts will continuously land on a pad until you place a mine on a gas valve near by, which will have a flamethrower effect to stop any more drop-ships from landing.
Other times you will have to take control of a Hell-Cannon, a big mounted rocket launcher, and shoot down drop-ships, or enemy submarines.
Often, to progress to a new area, you will have to place Helm on a control panel, and he will hack into it to open a door. Normally when this is going on, the Norts will try to ambush you.
Okay, so these are a few examples of the things you do during play, but it is really this formulaic. Go there, place micro-mine on that, place Helm to hack that, kill more Norts, and it goes on.
In order to break up the standard play, there are a few levels that are on rails. For example, Helm will take control of a drop-ship, and you will control the onboard cannon to shoot down other ships and other enemies attacking from every which way. Theses sections are quite forgiving, and give you checkpoints at various intervals. Upon a retry, you will be granted half your original health to try again.
Because of the Norts disposition with their oxygen tanks, you can shoot the tanks and the target will dart about while on fire until the tanks explode, then be thrown like a rag-doll to a (usually) inelegant final rest.
Whats interesting here is that you can recycle the enemies. Instead of collecting medical kits and munitions like in every other game, you press the use button whilst standing on a corpse, and you convert it into salvage points that Bagman can use to make ammo, health-boosters, new weaponry, and more. The greater amount of salvage you collect, the more insurance you have. Also, Norts arent the only source of salvage, there are other scarce materials that payoff much more points, but you have to keep your ears and eyes open to find it.
New weapons appear under the Upgrades tab on the Digipad screen I mentioned earlier. Bagman will notify you when new upgrades are available, and if you have enough salvage points, he can create it for you. Extra weapons include a shotgun, beam rifle (short range continuous fire), mortar launcher, and Sammy Launcher (homing missile).
Upgrades also come in the form of power-ups for the crop of weapons and biochips, and you can choose depending on what weapons/abilities you lean on. For example, if you prefer sniping, you can upgrade the scope to get even more precise shots. Also, if you like using incendiary grenades, you can increase the spread and damage they cause on impact, and so on. Of course, if you have enough salvage, you can upgrade everything.
Sound is a definite high point here. The voice acting is very good throughout, and all your biochip buddies have distinctive voices that perfectly suit their individual personalities, and will inform you of important information, and also chatter among themselves during play.
The Norts will taunt you during battle and prove to be quite comical. Their speech does get repetitive after a while like most other games of this nature.
All of the explosions and other spot effects work fine and there arent any dramas here. Some good upbeat music plays during firefights, and other incidental music compliments the game well.
Im not sure if its directly related to using a Soundblaster card, but very occasionally, I think only twice, the game seemed to have some trouble with the positional audio where the sound would turn into piercing white noise. This was a very minor niggle for me, but I thought I would mention it anyway.
Well, what can I say, this is a port from the consoles and visually the game looks like an older Direct X 8 type fair, barring some minor bells and whistles added for measure to warrant the DX 9c inclusion. With higher resolutions and cleaner textures, this is as good as it gets.
What the upside to all of this is, that you dont need a bleeding edge rig in order to run the game at a respectable pace. I can vouch for this, since my base system is going on four years now.
Overall the visuals are decent and functional. There are a lot of big out door areas full of ruins and partially destroyed structures, and swirling toxic gasses filling the atmosphere.
The indoor parts sport some more metallic enclosed city type sections with neon signs and other propaganda.
The various characters that appear in the game have a decent likeness to their comic book counterparts, and should be instantly recognisable to fans.
There is unlock-able content, such as encyclopaedia entries that include original comic artwork and other extra information pertaining to Rogues universe. You unlock these by collecting a certain quota of salvage per level. Also, some fun cheats, and extra difficulty levels can be gained.
This is a fairly functional effort from Rebellion, but most will find the single player campaign is a bit too short and easy, even on the hard difficulty, and overall it feels like a bread and butter outing. The game doesnt grab you by the throat and draw you in like you want it to.
The game-play is just so formulaic, and its easy to put it down after an hour or so of play. In other words, Rebellion didnt take any risks to give the game the extra punch it needs.
The game does have some well implemented ideas, but there is still an overall feeling that youve done it all before. It seems like Alien Vs. Predator for Atari Jaguar will continue to be Rebellions finest game to date. Maybe the blue clone will get another chance . . .
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
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