|You find yourself living on Earth’s first colony world, Syren, outside our solar system when you are cutoff from Earth by the sudden collapse of the wormhole that enabled travel from Earth in the first place. The wormhole collapse has also caused the orbit of Syren to begin to decay. Now you’re in the fight of your life to save Syren by constructing a super-secret antenna that will allow your scientists to preserve Syren’s atmosphere and restore it’s orbit. You’re opposed by a band of religious zealots who see the recent events a sign of the apocalypse and all your efforts are in violation of the will of the divine. They’ll stop at nothing to prevent you from saving Syren. Sure, it will mean the death of the entire planet, but hey, they’re zealots. You, the rookie Terran Alliance (or Disciples of Apocalypse) pilot are at the command of your trusty two-legged, ‘mech-like cyberpod. Originally not designed for combat, the cyberpods are your only means of combating enemy forces. You have heavy tank support and supply drop ships occasionally at your aid, but mostly it’s you and the cyberpod. Each ‘pod is customizable by adding over 60 different add-ons ranging from simple lasers and point-and-shoot rockets all the way up to lethal Gauss cannons and particle weapons. |
Driving the ‘pod is a pretty cumbersome at first, but you get used to it with time. Movement is limited to forwards and backwards with appropriate turns -- no sidestepping/strafing going on here. The upper-half of the ‘pod does rotate independently of the main chassis allowing the ‘pod to continue forward while you aim at your target up to 90 degrees from you axis, much the same way a tank turret can turn and pinpoint targets while the tank still moves forward. The HUD display does a good job of identifying your current orientation, but early on I often found myself wanting to turn just a bit more with the mouse and forgetting to steer my chassis. Pure keyboard control is available as is mouse/keyboard but I whole-heartedly recommend a joystick. Combat can be intense and challenging. I suggest learning the game in easy mode since even seasoned gamers will find it tough to target the swift-moving enemy. That said, one of the oddest weaknesses to the game is its sense of motion. You never really feel your trucking along at max speed or actually jumping high in the air, even with the add-on jumpjet.
The single player game is pretty standard fare. Each path (Alliance or Disciples) consists of 25 individual missions of increasing difficulty and responsibility. As you advance, you are also promoted in the ranks and eventually need to arm and lead your squad of ‘pods. The Disciples campaign is a good bit tougher, so do all your learning in the Alliance campaign.
Enough for the linear, CD-based game -- gamers today want to fight and destroy their fellow bitheads on the Net. Cyberstrike 2 was clearly designed from the ground-up as an innovative and exciting multiplayer platform and it’s online that Cyberstrike 2 really begins to flex its muscles. Unfortunately, there’s a bit of bad news about the multiplayer game to deal with first. For the most part, you have to pay to play. I know, I know. The Book of Quake says that anyone should be able to host a multiplayer game and that the only tariff is the price of your Internet connection. Well, that’s all and good for the game player, but many game companies don’t have a whole lot of incentive to spend many, many man years developing a online game when they can’t somehow make a buck off of it. The challenge is for the companies to design a system that teases gamers enough that they’re willing to take on the extra charge to play online. The folks at Simutronics have made a pretty good example of what it should take to attract gamers online. The Cyber Strike 2 servers are enable with some of the neatest gadgetry found in online games. The servers offer built-in support for establishing and maintaining clans, running tournaments, Cyberwars, and general BBS matchmaking. Best of all, however, is the ability to maintain persistent records of kills and various combat statistics. Successful warriors are also awarded with service and combat ribbons that are proudly displayed on your user profile. But remember you have to pay for this. A shareware account allows you to fight around in the new player areans on one of four teams with a limited set of weaponry at your disposal, but you never get to really scratch the surface of what’s available. [An aside for Simutronics: the shareware account doesn’t allow the user to even observe or explore the information available in most arenas. It would be a huge lure for players to be able to look in and see all the fun (earth-shaking weaponry, fierce combat, etc.) that they’re missing.] The servers manage to belie some darn good coding. There’s almost no lag and I was never accidentally dropped from a server.
The 3D engine is simply state of the art. All the great bells and whistles enabled by the latest 3D cards are there -- colored lighting, fog, etc. Additionally, many of the maps encountered in the game offer twists and turns never seen before. There’s a jungle-based map that includes monstrous trees and a canopy overhead that you can barely see light filter through. The mountain maps offer deep canyons, underground passages and natural bridges. The city/industrial maps rival any other game in their complexity and beauty combining tight indoor spaces and large outdoor structures including overhead roadways, pipes, and functional smoke stacks. The vehicle design is pretty straightforward and probably the least imaginative portion of the whole game. There’s no real variety to the three classes of cyberpod available and the base one really isn’t much to look at. The HUD and onscreen menus are clean but also a little primitive. Weapon and combat animations though are again first-rate, though still below the level of Shogo. Laser rounds striking the ‘pod’s shields cause it to reveal itself in a nice team oriented color sphere. Explosions offer a delightful bit of flash and carnage.
The music is pretty good stuff. Not overbearing and not obnoxious, it really seems to set the mood right. On the downside, audio effects in combat and noises emanating from your ‘pod are downright dull. The worst sound you can imagine is the plinking of your laser against the enemy shield. Guess what, you get to hear that the entire game.
This is a good, fun game and a worthy entry into the small but competitive universe of battling mechanized armor. The game designers delivered a number of innovative features from the maps to the online gadgetry that will soon be copied by their competitors. Kudos to them also for daring to create an engaging multiplayer arena that just might be worth paying a subscription fee. If Simutronics Corporation can move quickly enough to develop a strong online following they’ll find they have winner on their hands.