Review by asherdeus
"You can trust my review because I know nothing about the Robotech franchise."
Throughout history, exploration has led to conflict, and if you disagree with that, just ask the South Africans, the Native Americans, the South Americans, or, if you're really feeling daring, any animal. When humans go somewhere they've never been, they encounter cultures they've never experienced before and customs they're not used to. While I think we've advanced to the point in our societies that we can tolerate most differences, there are still some that cause issues, like the ones causing all the turmoil in the Middle East. So, when aliens (the Invid) invade, there's never a single second where the humans decide if they're going to fight back. Man is attacked, and man goes to war.
Of course, if aliens have the power to come to Earth and attack it, unlike most Hollywood movies, I for one would assume they would win. I mean, they traveled all the way from where ever to come and conquer our little speck, odds are they're going to have the firepower to conquer us. After all, it's not like human beings are really designed to be intimidating creatures, especially in our modern age where even men are getting pedicures and hunting for sport is all but outlawed. Inevitably, we're conquered, humankind is scattered about vast wastelands, and a parasitic force is slowly draining the planet of its resources (and I mean the Invid, not big business). What's mankind going to do?
Design motorcycles that fold up and can be carried on your back obviously.
In many ways, Robotech: Invasion (a third or first person shooter from our buddies at Global Star) reminds me of the classic film Starship Troopers. While that movie had mankind invading a distant enemy planet inhabited with bugs, the similarities are still there. From the implausible storyline to the campy voice acting, it's all there. Robotech: Invasion sees you, the player, starting off as an unnamed soldier in the beginning of a great strike against the Invid. A remaining fleet of space-faring humans has traveled back to earth, armed and ready to mount a counter-offensive against the conquering species. You touch down on the ground, and from the get-go, you're firing away at Invid defenders.
It's quite obvious that you don't stand a chance, but you keep trudging on. Other characters come over the radio, with messages like if we've got to give our lives, let's make them pay dearly for them. Actually, that's not an actual quote, but it's close enough to one I heard and didn't memorize, so it will have to do. As you run around like a chicken with your head cut off, blasting away at foe after foe after foe, you're quickly cornered in the incredibly linear environment and are knocked out.
Some years pass, and you fall out of the sky and some people find you. They rescue you and you sit on the back of their truck while you try to get a sense of what the hell is going on. Seems like the Invid succeeded, their ambitions for colonizing the planet have been realized, and they're now only facing sparse resistance from small factions. Randomly, the truck is attacked by Invid and a man dies in front of you. As you would expect, the other soldiers decide to give you the man's armor and his name since you don't seem to have one.
After that, you're at the mercy of your saviors. Everyone has cool names, like Guppy and Arturo, and they're all fighting the good fight. You're told to go to random places, help them out and provide manpower, and it's pretty apparent you're an adept fighter so you're tossed into the fold as a foot soldier in the Robotech Expeditionary Force. You're given a Cyclone vehicle (the previously discussed motorcycle), some guns, and now you're saving the world.
It's too bad that the world isn't a very fun place to save. The war raging around you isn't very impressive or awe inspiring, and at times it's boring. Most of the time, nothing is happening. You're just walking along. Sometimes enemies will pop up in front of you, but strafing and jumping will avoid most of their shots and if you hit them in the glowing spot on their body, they go down real fast. Why no one realized this glaring weakness before is beyond me, lots of lives probably could have been spared and earth probably wouldn't be in the state it's in.
Robotech: Invasion only lets you carry two weapons at a time, one of which is a mandatory Gallant weapon, which upgrades throughout the game to a rifle and finally a sniper rifle. The weapon is a valuable all-purpose weapon for which ammo is readily available, but there are other weapons, such as a pulse rifle, mortar launcher, shotguns the basics mostly. For the most part, I found myself relying on the Gallant, especially after my first upgrade. It deals considerable damage out at low-cost, so this weapon is a good one to carry. The other weapons all work well, with the exception of the grenades which I thought were a little challenging to use. The Cyclone has homing missiles for defense, but for the most part I found these to be widely unusable because they never seemed to hit their target if I was moving at all.
The Cyclone provides you with a faster means of getting around the world, as well as providing you with a double jump to get over walls and to climb up continently place blocks with. As cool as that sounds, in execution, it's pretty much the opposite. While riding the Cyclone, your armor drops off, so any damage you take comes directly out of your limited health. Worse, running into a curb or even seemingly insignificant rocks causes the Cyclone to come to a complete stop and damages you. This turns into a bigger issue when you couple it with unresponsive controls that don't feel like they were tinkered at all with by play testers.
The games action takes place in either first or third person perspective, which depends entirely on which mode you decide upon. I found the first person perspective was most helpful during actual fighting, while the third person perspective worked best when exploring areas. Most of the areas in the game are linear and pretty bland, but occasionally exploration can lead to some unlockables, like multiplayer skins, which provides an incentive to keep looking around. Sadly, most of the environments are very bland, which can sometimes make for some pretty boring searches.
One of my main problems with Robotech: Invasion is the aiming system. Aiming the weapons just never felt right to me, even while tinkering with the sliders for horizontal and vertical turn speed. Maybe it comes down to personal preference and mine just wasn't satisfied. With the use of the left trigger, you can lock onto enemies, which doesn't require you to aim anymore, but once you start doing that, the game just becomes strafe back and forth, clicking the right trigger while holding down the left for every one of the fifteen missions, which makes for some boring gameplay.
And it's just that: boring. Robotech: Invasion just feels completely unoriginal and uninspired, yet it draws on a franchise nearly twenty years in the running. Yet nearly every single mission feels exactly the same and there are very few surprises. I kept expecting something to happen, like some cool plot twists or some badass enemy, and while there were a few plot twists and there were some cool enemies, none of them struck me as awesome, and I think it's because there are practically no new or innovative ideas incorporated, leaving the game feeling empty.
Thankfully, some decent multiplayer is included in the form of System Link for eight players, or multiplayer through Xbox Live. At a friend's house, we logged onto the service with the game and spent some time finding a game to get into. Once we did, though there were only six other players, we still had a good time playing against them. The main problems with the AI are alleviated during online play, and the game actually becomes a lot more interesting.
Even the graphics are pretty uninspiring. One of the screens that really caught my eye was one with the night sky, and when I finally saw it in-game, it was one of the few that actually still managed to make me say wow, that's pretty sweet. Outside of the sky, many of the environments are bland with very few textures, explosions seem lacking oomph and in general the character models are pretty bland. The main score was composed by Jesper Kyd, who apparently is an award-winning video game producer, but he has the mistake of creating the music for SubTerrania on his record, which is a Genesis game that I absolutely hated. Ignoring that, the main score to the game actually is a stand-out, though not necessarily the selling point it's cracked up to be. Sound effects and voice acting, like much of the game, is generic and lackluster.
Overall, this game could have been a bigger contender. As it stands, it's an average shooter that does a few things right but unfortunately stumbles a little bit, but one that I did play through the entire way, so that has to mean something. It's saved primarily by Xbox Live multiplayer that works well when you can find a server worth accessing and some worthwhile unlockables. Overall, if you're a fan of the Robotech series you'll probably enjoy playing this one, but for everyone else, you might end up disappointed.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 10/15/04, Updated 02/28/05
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