Sunday, July 30, 2006

DevastationZone Troopers Review

DevastationZone Troopers, developed and published by CGS Software.
The Good: Interesting two-mode gameplay, weapon upgrades, weapon effects are nice, good soundtrack
The Not So Good: Weak and simplistic AI, totally bland level design
What say you? An action game that just doesn’t provide enough variety or challenge to maintain interest: 5/8

Independent games are one of the reasons I love PC gaming. You’ll never see a title developed by a small team released on a console because the cost is so high. With the advent of the Internet, regular programmers can now crank out their original titles without worrying about bribing stores to carry their product or pressure from large publishing houses. These independent games can be the source of some really interesting concepts. Of course, they can also be the source of some really bad games, and that’s why I’m here, I suppose (that, and to consume Cheez-Its). Today we’re going to take a look at DevastationZone Troopers, a third person action game from CGS Software. Let’s shoot stuff!

The graphics in DevastationZone Troopers are generally a mixed bag. Overall, the game looks pretty good: good models, good enemies, and really cool glowing weapon effects. The levels, however, are a quite boring mix of trees and canyon walls, devoid of any real variety that would separate each level from the next. Also, the game features a really short draw distance: this could be caused by the limitations of the game engine or to impose more difficulty on the player (especially in the dropship mode), but either way, you should be able to see further than you can in DevastationZone Troopers. The game does feature a good soundtrack by real recording artists that I’ve never heard of, but it fits the action pace of the game well. The licensed music is better than the generic background music present in most games, although if you don’t have a taste in this particular genre of music you might not like it. Overall, DevastationZone Troopers drops in directly in the middle of the pack of 3-D action games: not especially overwhelming, but not disappointing either.

DevastationZone Troopers is a single player only game that’s divided into two phases: landing your dropship and engaging enemies. Between missions you can select your next tour of duty (from a list of three or so at a time) and spend earned credits to upgrade your weapons. Adding a little RPG flavor into the mix is something we’ve seen a lot of recently in games, and it’s still a nice addition to the action genre. When you enter a mission, you’ll first need to land your ship from orbit. You’ll navigate your dropship (I use the mouse) like a flight simulator, avoiding obstacles and collecting landing path markers. You need to collect a certain number of markers before landing in the mission area. You can also collect bonus credits you can use later on to upgrade your weapons. The dropship sequence offers a nice change of pace in the game, but each mission’s sequence is essentially the same and indistinguishable from each other. The dropship sequences can be a little difficult due to the short draw distances (objects come in fast and quick), but you’ll never have a real problem with them. Once you enter the mission area, DevastationZone Troopers becomes a fairly standard action shooter. You’ll navigate around the maps, which are a collection of maze-like walls, searching for objective locations and shooting bad guys along the way. You have limited ammunition and health, but since all enemies drop additional amount of both, you’ll rarely run out. Plus, your energy weapons recharge slowly over time anyway. You also have a radar in the game; you can typically spot enemies on the radar before you can see them on the screen (again, short draw distance). The AI of DevastationZone Troopers is disappointing to say the least. There are two types of enemies: those that will stand still and shoot, and those that will come straight towards you and shoot. Because of this, strafing from side to side is all you really need to do to beat the game. Actually, because of all the health available on the maps, you really just need to shoot them semi-accurately. The only time DevastationZone Troopers becomes difficult is when lots of enemies are present in a single area, a tactic the game employs a lot to compensate for the poor AI.

DevastationZone Troopers has a couple of good ideas, but it ends up being a quite boring affair. I really like the combination of the dropship landing and ground assault, but each level uses the same indistinguishable tactics, so it all tends to run together. Add in easy AI and DevastationZone Troopers is simply too repetitive for its own good. The lack of multiplayer or anything other than the single player campaign doesn’t help things either. The weapon upgrades are a good idea, but you’ll end up doing the same upgrades each time you play the game, so there goes any real replay value. The biggest flaw with DevastationZone Troopers is that each level feels the same as the last level, and nobody wants to play the same exact game 50 times, especially if it’s not especially challenging due to lackluster AI. I did have some fun initially with the game, so it does have some potential, but the overall repetitive nature of the levels grinds away at you too much to keep playing.