Thursday, May 7, 2009

3DO look: Shockwave

Developed by EA, Shockwave your bog-standard "save the planet from aliens" game. In order to do this you go through 10 missions where you fly close to the ground and take out ground and air-based alien ships and complete mission objectives(which typically involving destroying particular objects).

The controls are simple enough. The game uses a first-person perspective and there's a cockpit that keeps track of all your vitals, a radar that monitors enemy ships, and the occasional commentary from your wing-mates(which annoyingly takes place of the radar when it comes up). Destroying aliens is a simple affair, you move your cursor over them and fire away. You have a limited amount of lasers and missiles to take them out with however(though luckily refuel stations are fairly abundant). Aside from buildings and vehicles you don't have to worry about crashing into anything, which makes focusing on the enemy fairly easy. You also have to stay inside a safe-zone throughout each mission(to avoid getting hit by friendly fire) but for the most part it's not something to worry about.

One thing I found that is pretty neat about this game is that before each mission central command will go over new enemy-types for your upcoming mission and your fellow pilots will give hints on how to deal with them. This is not anything new(probably not even for the time the game came out) but to see this sort of thing in an FMV is actually quite interesting...well at least I think so.

Unfortunately the biggest problem with this game is that your ship has a complete lack of strafing ability and you can't go in reverse or even stop. This makes dodging enemy fire an entirely too difficult affair. It'd be one thing if you could get to the aliens before they get you but by the time they come into view they've already started firing. This isn't too bad with one or two enemies as you still have a chance of turning out of the way but for the later encounters? Forget about it. You also have a barrel roll but it does little good aside from possibly making you sick as it doesn't seem to avoid enemy-fire. It's too easy to lose quite a bit of energy as your ship just doesn't have enough maneuverability to deal with enemy ships. The lack of stop & reverse is also a bad idea because there are enemies that should be taken out from a distance but since you're constantly moving forward you have to keep turning around after getting a few hits in for another pass. 

I imagine the developers purposely limited the controls to this game. While I applaud the idea since game design should never be about giving the player too much freedom the execution is unfortunately not all there. While a series like Resident Evil can get away with the lack of strafing by designing the game so it doesn't feel like it is needed, Shockwave doesn't pull it off. If the enemy had lower reaction time or the flying aliens had less maneuverability to balance things out maybe things would be different. Unfortunately as it stands even though Shockwave has mediocre gameplay it could still have been moderately decent if not for the design choices it made. 

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