Saturday, July 31, 2010

Stargate Resistance Review

Stargate Resistance, developed by Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment and Dark Comet Games and published by FireSky.
The Good: Can be fun with an organized team, the maps look nice
The Not So Good: Many unappealing classes, wildly inaccurate weapons makes for frustrating combat, lacks single player content, no tutorial, only four maps
What say you? This class-based third-person shooter uses the license to unoriginal and dull effect: 4/8

I have completely no understanding of the Stargate world of science fiction. I think it involves MacGyver running around alien worlds searching for the fifth element. Anyway, now you know I am approaching Stargate Resistance purely from a PC gaming standpoint, as I have no nostalgia attached to the use of authentically fake weapons. This online-only shooter was originally developed by ill-fated Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment as a precursor to their ill-fated Stargate MMO. Now picked up by another developer, the game has been steadily patched from its initial state. How does it stack up in a crowded world of online shooters?

The strongest aspect of Stargate Resistance is the graphics. The four maps (yeah, four) all are very impressive, each with a distinctive setting (desert, arctic) and lots of attention to detail from the textures to the objects scattered around each arena. Now, one look doesn’t say “oh, that’s Stargate,” as the Stargate itself only appears in subtle locations. I never saw the shows or movie, so I can’t attest to the authentic nature of each planet’s design, but they don’t look “alien” in any way, just various places that could be found on Earth. The game is in third person (odd for a PC-only title), I suppose to show off the character models, which do look nice but a step below, say, Just Cause 2. The sound design is simply functional: the online-only title lacks voice acting (other than grunts for being shot) and the weapon effects are fine but not powerful. The music is relegated to the menus and serves minor dramatic effect. Overall, the graphics do impress and cover the $20 asking price for Stargate Resistance.

Stargate Resistance is an online-only struggle for controls of the universe, or at least the four maps that come with the game. The game has absolutely no single player content, either a campaign or bots for offline practice. There is also no tutorial or in-game instructions to familiarize yourself with the exotic alien classes the game contains. The least they could do is provide little messages while you play describing the use of each weapon, with the ability to turn the prompts off. There are five game modes: capture the tech (flag), team deathmatch, domination, king of the hill, and arena where each player is given one life. The in-game browser lists all games, sorted by popularity. You must choose your side before joining a match and you can’t switch in-game, leading to some very unbalanced affairs when people quit following a completed match. The four (yeah, four) maps look nice and feature some choke points, despite being low in quantity. Surprisingly, the Stargates do not play a role in the map design at all, as Stargate Resistance does not feature multi-part maps like Enemy Territory Quake Wars.

Stargate Resistance is a class-based shooter, and each side has three classes to choose from. You choose your equipment before joining a game, although there are no choices to be made as each class has fixed weaponry. None of the classes are fun to play, which is the primary reason why I dislike Stargate Resistance as a whole. The soldier is given some grenades and a submachine gun that is highly inaccurate and generally useless; I had a heck of a time hitting anything most of the time. The commando has a sniper rifle that is inappropriate for the popular indoor locations in each of the game’s maps. The scientist can deploy offensive and healing turrets as well as cure others, but can’t kill anything with her peashooter. As for the alien races, things are much weirder. The Goa’uld gets a completely useless “ribbon device” that is only partially effective on secondary fire (which knocks back enemies) and a personal shield that seems quite unfair. The Jaffa gets a staff that is horrible to use and rarely damages anything, offset by shock grenades that are very overpowered. And the Ashrak is the stealth class that benefits from invisibility and instant-kill stabs: fair, huh?

Most classes have significant amounts of health that extends combat to uncomfortable levels, leading to stalemates at the choke points on each map. Balancing such varied classes is tough, as Stargate Resistance shows by not doing it correctly. In Lead and Gold, the classes were different but all were effective enough at all distances (just more so at a specific range); not so in Stargate Resistance, where most players are severely handicapped and vulnerable almost all the time. I just did not like how any of the classes play, though things are better when people work together, with the support classes hanging back while the attackers take care of the enemies. Still, things don’t work in harmony very well, and the fast pace of the game coupled with the lack of weapon accuracy and damage makes for some strange combat.

With a solid IP like Stargate, you would think Resistance would be able to differentiate itself somewhat from the usual class-based shooters. It does with the asymmetric nature of the classes in the game, but unfortunately none of the classes are fun to play. The soldier’s weapon is too inaccurate, the commando’s sniper rifle is unsuitable for the usual enclosed spaces of the game, the scientists tools are limited, the Goa’uld’s offensive capabilities are restricted and the shield is unfair, the Jaffa’s staff is horrible to use, and the Ashrak is completely annoying and tough to counter as the stealth class. The developers tried to use some aspects of Stargate’s sci-fi technology and failed to find some balance that would make the game fun. The lack of any single player content and inadequate roster of four maps disappoint as well. Stargate Resistance does become more enjoyable when you work with others cooperatively as a team, but the game pace is too frantic and I feel too strangely balanced to make it a recommended title. A less satisfying descendent of Team Fortress 2, Stargate Resistance can be skipped by everyone except those who have an insatiable need to play anything “Stargate” branded.