Tuesday, December 20, 2005

DropTeam Preview

DropTeam (Preview), developed by TBG Software and published by Battlefront.com.
The Good: Assortment of vehicles, variable map characteristics, location-specific damage, has potential for interesting multiplayer
The Not So Good: Minimap less than clear about objective locations, weak AI

Blowing stuff up is cool. For the majority of us, unfortunately, blowing stuff up is extremely illegal, so computer games have to fill the void. Shooters are a very popular genre for the PC gamer, so each title must bring something new and exciting to the table in order to attract a new audience. Since Battlefield 1942 has come around, developers have discovered that warring infantry is not the only thing that can entertain the masses: tanks are good as well. We have rarely seen all-tank games come around, so this is a fairly new concept to have heavily armed and armored battle tanks dueling for supremacy. Today, we have a preview of DropTeam, a multiplayer shooter that involves all vehicles. Let’s take a look!

DropTeam has some run-of-the-mill graphics and sound that we’ve pretty much seen before. The map environments are generally spread out locations with very little in the way of buildings and other small details found in some other games. They seem more like a generic placeholder for the action to take place in, and don’t have the flair seen in other games. Of course, I don’t mind this at all as long as the combat is entertaining. The sound is much along the same lines, although I do like the main theme music a bit. You’ll find the usual assortment of explosions and weapon firing effects seen in most games. Nothing too spectacular, but it does an average enough job.

DropTeam is a multiplayer game of tank domination, but it has some additional nuances to the gameplay that could provide for some uniqueness. DropTeam has skirmish games against the AI, a campaign (which was not included in this preview build), and multiplayer, the primary emphasis of the game. Much like Battlefield 2, DropTeam has single player action as more of a practice mode to learn the game rather than a full-fledged skirmish mode, mainly because the AI is not the sharpest. This is fine, as long as you understand that DropTeam is a multiplayer game. There are three game types that are available: capture the flag, territory, and objective. One complaint about DropTeam is that the minimap is less than spectacular at showing objective locations, but hopefully this will be fixed before release. Each of the maps (there are 21) takes place on a number of different planets, which actually alters the gameplay: each planet has a different gravity and atmospheric density. These changes obviously modify the ballistics and actually bring different strategies into the mix depending on the map you have chosen. This is unlike most games where different maps are just superficially different and don’t drastically change the combat. The maps themselves are quite large; it can take a long time to traverse across the map, which is why it’s important to deploy your ships in a good location. DropTeam, not surprisingly, uses drop ships that bring your armor down from the heavens. This is an interesting and original procedure that prevents you from deploying deep behind enemy lines, as your rival can just shoot your drop ship down before it deploys your vessel. I like this method much better than arbitrarily preventing you from spawning in specific locations. There is a great variety of ships in DropTeam, and they work much like classes in other games. Each of the ships is rated in three areas: firepower, armor, and speed. As would expect, the most powerful tanks are also the slowest and make for easy targets if not guarded well enough. Vehicle types include fast recon, tanks (light, medium, and heavy), mortars, transport, anti-armor, command vehicles, engineering, and a number of stationary turrets. For each of the turrets (anti-air, anti-armor, mines, sensor jammers), you deploy them at your desired location and then can choose another turret or ship after a delay. Each of the vehicles in the game has location specific damage rather than a generic health bar. For example, you can get your tracks knocked out but still be able to fire until the enemy finished you off.

DropTeam definitely has potential to be a fun multiplayer game. There is a vast selection of vehicles that are available to use, and good teams will use a balance approach to engage the enemy. The different maps actually play different, with varying values of gravity and air density. Each of the vehicles do behave differently, and aren’t just different skins on the same gun. There are also three different game types and the ability to modify the game. The graphics, sound, and minimap aren’t something to write home about, but the core gameplay seems to be quite entertaining, and that’s really the whole point. We’ll see how this game shakes out as it approaches release.