Sunday, August 06, 2006

TerraWars: NY Invasion Review

TerraWars: NY Invasion, developed by Ladyluck Digital Media and published by Tri Synergy.
The Good: Fairly constant action, budget price
The Not So Good: Poor enemy AI that is only difficult through numbers, only cooperative multiplayer, horrible voice acting, generic weapons, weapon upgrade system is wasted potential, no manual, invincible allies, silly stamina model, very outdated graphics (especially for a first person shooter), excruciating five minute uninstall
What say you? Maybe this derivative shooter would have been decent ten years ago. Well, probably not: 3/8

Aliens invade Earth: it’s a scenario that’s been played time and time again in movies, television, and computer gaming. And it’s always up to you to single-handedly defeat the countless hordes of alien invaders. We’ve seen this in the PC realm in arcade games such as Titan Attacks and first person shooters like Prey. TerraWars: NY Invasion falls into the first person shooter classification, where you, as an intrepid everyman, must drive off the extraterrestrials through the use of excessive force.

Wow. TerraWars: NY Invasion certain looks and feels like a budget game, although more like a budget game that came out several years ago. The game looks a lot like a poor man’s version of the original Half-Life, and that game came out seven years ago. The environments don’t really look anything like New York. The buildings are square, featureless structures. The alien modes are absolutely horrible: undetailed, poorly animated generic creatures that come in four different colors. They don’t even have a cool death sequence, as they have a seizure vanishing into a cloud of green smoke. The weapon models are poor as well. Turning up the graphics detail didn’t seem to make anything look better, and the game doesn’t even support LCD monitor resolutions (1280x1024). The cut scenes are rendered using the game engine and can’t be skipped. Sure, it’s a budget game, but the game just looks completely out of date for a first person shooter. The sound is not much better. The weapons are a collection of grating, annoying, and piercing effects. The aliens speak some sort of looped gibberish. The voice acting is comically horrible from the first uttered word to the last. There is not one thing noteworthy or original about the graphics or the sound in TerraWars: NY Invasion.

TerraWars: NY Invasion features a single player campaign that takes supposedly takes place in New York, although for the most part it’s just generic warehouses and outdoor environments. There is only cooperative multiplayer on LAN. No internet. No deathmatch (or any other player vs. player modes). There are multiple difficulty levels that will alter the amount of damage you can take (and allegedly the accuracy of the AI, although they are deadly accurate at any difficulty level). The game doesn’t seem to autosave your progress, and there is a “quick load” feature, but because the game lacks a manual, I don’t know what key it is. This is a red flag for any game: TerraWars: NY Invasion lacks any sort of documentation (paper manual, digital manual, even just a readme file), so you can imagine the high quality that will propagate through the rest of the game.

Your character is rated in three areas: health, armor, and stamina. More health is gained through using collectable medical packs. Stamina is really pointless: you lose stamina by running and gain it by standing still. Curiously, jumping does not decrease your stamina. I guess your character can jump all he wants but can’t stand to jog a little? Stamina has absolutely no impact on the gameplay, so it’s a completely superfluous addition to the game. The weapons in TerraWars: NY Invasion are a generic collection of pistols, rifles, and rocket launchers. The ammunition of each kind of weapon seems to deliver the same amount of damage, so the best weapons are the ones that have the fastest rate of fire. Reload time of each of the weapons is extremely long; this may be realistic, but it’s not fun in a game with a frantic pace. Location damage also seems to be broken: you can score a direct hit on an enemy and it can cause no damage at all. Those wacky aliens!

TerraWars: NY Invasion is just not fun to play, and the AI doesn’t help. The AI is extremely poor and the game is only difficult through multiple enemies being present at one time. The AI is tremendously accurate, scoring direct hits on every shot that isn’t blocked by another object. The AI will use the time-honored tradition of side stepping (one step at a time) at random times, and won’t use cover at all, unless specifically placed there by the level designer. The AI will also ignore you if you’re shooting from behind their hard-coded detection level. I was able to easily pick off aliens from a distance and they just stood there in one place the whole time while they died. The AI also seems to spawn out in the open, although TerraWars: NY Invasion lacks the explanation for this event that Prey has. You’ll occasionally be paired up with some allies, which makes your job a whole lot easier. See, most of the friends you’ll encounter are invincible. This is probably because they are important to the overall story of the game, but in most games you’ll lose if they don’t survive. One of your earlier objectives is to “cover” someone as they move across the map. So, I just crouched behind a box and watched as they got hit 32 times by enemy fire and didn’t lose a single health point. Hooray! This also means you can cower away while the invincible allies take out all of the enemy forces, since your health level is the only thing that matters. The game also has linear level design devoid of many puzzles outside of some jumping. There aren’t any imaginative or memorable levels in the game, just a continual sequence of: meet aliens, kill aliens, move onto the next area.

It’s almost not fair to compare TerraWars: NY Invasion against modern first person shooters like Prey and Half-Life 2 because of the budget price, but there just isn’t anything good about this game. The graphics and sound are completely antiquated. There isn’t any online multiplayer outside of LAN-only cooperative play. There’s no documentation. The weapons are generic. There are a lot of aliens to shoot, but they are dumb and extremely accurate (a bad combination), and since you can only sustain a small number of hits, dying is a fairly frequent proposition in TerraWars: NY Invasion. Of course, that means all of your allies are invincible. Fancy that! There isn’t anything in this game that hasn’t been done much better in other first person shooters. Even if you accept the fact that TerraWars: NY Invasion is just $20, there are just better uses for your green portrait of Andrew Jackson.