Monday, June 07, 2010

Booster Trooper Review

Booster Trooper, developed and published by DnS Development.
The Good: Multiple weapons for varied tactics, jetpacks
The Not So Good: Generic frantic combat, terrible AI can't handle non-deathmatch modes, control scheme learning curve
What say you? A 2-D multiplayer platform shooter with vertical gameplay but nothing else of note: 5/8

In the future, everyone will be issued a jetpack. That is, of course, if computer games have taught us anything. We’ve seen these marvels of modern invention crop up in many PC titles, including (but not limited to) Section 8, All Aspect Warfare, Shattered Horizon, and Global Agenda. Of course, jetpacks are not meant for expedient travel. Rather, for a more efficient way of killing others. Taking full advantage of all three axes of movement makes for a sneakier way to shooting people in the face. Booster Trooper gives jetpacks to combatants in a 2-D platform warzone, taking a decidedly old-school approach to the action genre.

Despite being a 2-D game in terms of mechanics, Booster Trooper features 3-D graphics that work quite well. First off, the levels the game features are rendered in excellent detail with superb textures. Booster Trooper plays out in distinct environments that not only offer varied arrangements for tactical play but look good as well. The two soldier models aren’t exactly original in appearance but are fluidly animated. Copious amounts of blood are sprayed across the terrain, over the top and distracting. The weapon effects are the most disappointing aspect of the game: quite underwhelming and lacking the punch usually seen in the genre. Booster Trooper behaves nicely in a window, always a plus. The game’s sound effects are less impressive: just the basics with annoying, generic music I quickly turned off. Still, for a 2-D game with 3-D graphics, Booster Trooper delivers the goods and provides much more than $10 worth of visuals.

Booster Trooper is a throwback to a simpler time when processors were rated in the tens of megahertz: 2-D combat. Playing Booster Trooper for the single player game is a bad idea, as the AI is generally awful and not a challenge. Additionally, they can only play the deathmatch varieties of game modes. Indeed, Booster Trooper is meant for multiplayer mayhem, and the game is equipped with dedicated servers and an in-game browser. Sadly, I’ve never actually been able to play against anyone online as the servers have never been populated. The ten maps that ship with the game are nicely sized for the twelve player limit: small but not too small. They are not destructible (I’ve been playing too much Bad Company 2 and Frozen Synapse), but they maps offer lots of platforms and objects to use as cover and support the vertical movement prevalent in the game. In addition to the aforementioned deathmatch and team deathmatch modes, Booster Trooper offers capture the flag and destroy the beacon modes, typical but appreciated additions to increase variety. Games can be customized to alter the score and time limit, respawn time, friendly fire, or enable hardcore mode. For the price ($10), Booster Trooper features an acceptable amount of features.

You can outfit your booster trooper with a number of different weapons, freely available to all players. Each of the weapons are appropriate for a different range of engagement, from the short-range shotgun to the medium-range assault rifle. You can also opt for the minigun for maximum firepower or the rocket launcher for maximum explosiveness. Choosing the sniper rifle seems to be the most idiotic choice, as the fast pace and small levels Booster Trooper offers seem to contradict the appropriate stationary strategy for that particular weapon. Troopers are also equipped with a sidearm or melee weapon you’ll never use, and an explosive grenade or mine. There are no exotic weapons here, and the inclusion of a jetpack would seem to necessitate the use of futuristic guns of doom.

I’ll be honest (for once): I had a heck of a time becoming accustomed to the controls of Booster Trooper. The game uses the famed WASD keys for movement and jetpack use (“S” is for ducking) and the mouse for aiming independent of the current direction of movement. This was really disorienting, as I am used to the first person shooter approach where you aim where you are generally looking. If you are more talented than me (likely), you’ll scale the learning curve much more quickly. The most memorable aspect of Booster Trooper is the use of jetpacks to get around: you can fly for short periods of time to reach higher platforms, collect power-ups like better weapons or health, or evade the enemy. The gameplay is quite fast and chaotic, which makes my less-than-masterful handling of the controls even more detrimental to my overall performance. Death comes early and often and the best strategy appears to be to spray and pray, as stalking your enemies will usually get you killed early in the process.

Booster Trooper takes a unique (at least for today) approach to the action game and delivers a chaotic experience that is entertaining in very short bursts. The gameplay is very, very fast: since the maps are so small, you are almost constantly assaulted by your enemies. Since it took me a while to get used to the mouse-keyboard control scheme in this 2-D title, frequent deaths were an issue. Still, if you like fast-paced games and can handle the controls, then Booster Trooper can deliver $10 worth of entertainment. That is, as long as you can find an online game: the servers were never populated when I checked during my admittedly strange gaming hours, and the AI is terrible enough to ignore. The game does feature a decent number of maps in distinct locations and several game modes culled from standard FPS fare. And the game certainly looks nice as you are dispatching your enemies with high-powered weapons, flying through the air with your jetpack. While it lacks the nuance required for long-term enjoyment, Booster Trooper does offer some cheap thrills for fans of 2-D shooters.