Wednesday, May 6, 2009

3DO look: Rebel Assault and BladeForce

Star Wars: Rebel Assault is very much a product of its time. When 3D hardware was still in its infancy some developers chose to create games that relied heavily on full-motion-video. While it can produce some impressive graphics it's also limited by the terrible video quality that must be used in order to guarantee that the entire game could fit on a disc. Worse still was the limited and frustrating gameplay that came about due to a reliance on FMV. If you're trapped in the middle of a video you very well can't stop or look around, let alone go backwards or off the path set out for you. Games that relied almost entirely on FMV tended to be little more than shooting galleries as you took out clearly marked enemies while everything went on around you.

This game takes place during the events of A New Hope(the IV movie in the series) and you play as a rookie pilot(whose face you never really see but you can determine their gender at any time via an option menu) who goes through training, tangles with Tie-fighters, escapes from Hoth(taking down an imperial walker and some AT-ATs in the process), and destroys the Death Star. Despite all that happens the game is still relatively short and I estimate it takes less than an hour to finish(though their are multiple difficulties). The 15 levels can be summed up pretty easily, you move a cursor around and shoot the bad guys before they shoot you. The game mixes it up at times by having you pilot a ship as well, which tends to be frustrating as the ship moves in whichever the direction the cursor does, making it hard to hit particular enemies.

For such a simple game there are still a number of faults that could have been easily fixed. To start with in one stage you have to escape the Hoth rebel base on foot and engage with stormtroopers. This is for the most part a very dull stage because the enemy spawn patterns are fixed so you'll always get bad guys appearing in the same spots. At this point it's not badly designed it's simply dull, though the mechanics also suffer a bit as you have to wait for the foe to reach the point where they start firing at you before you can kill them(you can't shoot them while they're running to their "firing point"). However the stage also has multiple paths and if you take the first left you end up surrounded by troopers and instantly lose a life. There was no warning that troops were going to be at that particular spot. Later on in the same stage there's a section where the cursor doesn't go all the way to the left of the screen. A stormtrooper appears around that very spot and gets quite a few free hits on you as there's nothing you can do about it. Also if you take the wrong path right after this particular section you get to do the entire stage over again...again no indication.

Another stage has you flying through a cave to take out droids. The annoying aspect of this cave is again..multiple paths...and without an indicator of where to go you'll find yourself running in circles. It doesn't help matters that due to the poor FMV quality you'll have a difficult time keeping yourself from hitting walls. The only way to know you're going the wrong way is if the game pauses for a fraction of a second to re-load the same bit of footage. Near the end there's a stage on the Death Star's surface and while you can take out a number of targets I find it's all too easy to be randomly killed instantly. I'm not sure how this happens but all the same I was close to the end and just hung out at the bottom of the screen until the level ended. My score suffered sure but at least I held onto my sanity.

Granted there's only so much one can do with an FMV-shooter but at the very least they could make sure what they have to work with is well-designed. If you buy a 3DO and this game happens to come with it(this is how I got a hold of it) it may be good for a laugh thanks to some pretty awful FMVs and dialogue but I wouldn't make any effort towards obtaining it otherwise. 

Blade Force - In a future where evil psychopaths rule the mega-grid a guy with a helicopter strapped to his back has to collect a lot of crap and destroy things to possibly do something about it. Well aside from the opening FMV which is kind of entertaining(could always youtube it) there's really not much positive I can say about this game. 

You play as this heli-man and in order to take down these criminals you explore these rather large 3D stages filled with powerups and enemy cannons. The controls are fairly sound but it feels like you can only hit enemies when you're targeting them. Sure you're likely to see lots of your bullets hit a enemy but unless you see a crosshair appear over them they're most likely not going to do any damage. 

Another badly designed aspect is the levels themselves. They're large certainly but they're also confusing and don't seem to have any sense of progression or pacing to them. You're supposed to cover the entire area and take out various structures to collect items that weaken the overall strength of the eventual bossfight but there just isn't any form to these levels. Things are just sort of spliced together without any care or effort into producing something that feels sensible.

At least Bladeforce is very cheap, though I still wouldn't recommend it even for less than five dollars. There's simply nothing really going for it and though it controls decently it suffers from a lack of direction and nonsensical mechanics. I'm also really not sure what to make of the levels themselves. I assume the heli-man is the size of an average person yet he looks like a giant among the buildings in this game. Then again maybe they're not buildings? I really don't understand it at all.

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