Review by KasketDarkfyre

"Much like Jedi Starfighter...but with robots..."

In an attempt to keep up with the slew of robot games that appears to be streaming into the market, you have stragglers from time to time that make you pause and look. Battle Engine Aquila is one of those games that features plenty of action and plenty of missions to complete, but seems to fall short of being anything special. While the game itself is one that should be commended based on the overall premise, it is a game that borrows from several different games that are already out there. If you’re willing to slip into the drivers seat and take this robot battleship for a ride, then you might be in for a long and somewhat enjoyable night.

The story that you find here is about what you would find in any other action game that features a future plot and space ships. While it seems that the story is ripped out of some other game from some other time, it has the premise to introduce you to a new form of defense in the way of Battle Engines. These strange machines allow you to either take to the sky and rain down death on your enemies, or stick to the land in a huge and somewhat powerful robot. The overall story itself is nothing that will stick in your head and revolves around little more than an enemy alien race and your duty to annihilate them at each and every turn.

What this game lacks in originality, it makes up for in mechanics. You’ll find that there are several different Engines that you can take control of and there are several different ways that you can go about fulfilling your missions. There are some problems that I found with the difficulty in some of the seemingly endless stages with the way that your Engine moves throughout. The enemies themselves are easy enough to blast out of the sky, but from time to time, it looks like you got a hit on something, only to have it fly away and swoop around for a cheap shot to the read. Other various issues in the way that the game plays comes with the inherit ability to crash your ship and die at a moments notice.

Where the game does have some interesting ideas is in the way that you can play with your Engine. There are two different modes that you can use throughout the missions, and you’ll find that the fight is either in the sky, or down on the land depending on what mode that you use. For most of your missions, you’re better off sticking to the sky, because it’s easier to move around and pilot rather than taking the slow way along the ground. From that vantage point, you can pinpoint your firefight with little more than a couple of swoops and a recon pass. If you’re into walking around on the ground, then the challenge of certain missions goes from hard to nearly impossible because you can’t escape as quickly.

When you’re in the mood to change out of your ship mode and into walker mode, you might want to consult just where it is on the map that you are. Many times, I blinked at the screen because I changed to the wrong mode and crashed into the ground without realizing that I made a mistake. While I blame part of this on myself, I found that the control scheme isn’t exactly user friendly and there are several options that you have at your disposal on the fly depending on what mode you’re in. What I would have liked was a single, solid control scheme that didn’t require me sacrificing myself to the seas because I hit the button on accident and couldn’t transform back.

The presentation of the game isn’t that bad when you first get into the game, but after a couple of missions, you might find that the display is harder to really get into. As the battlefields become clustered with enemy ships and even your own people, there is the chance that you’re going to hit one of your own men because you can’t tell what it is that you’re shooting at from a distance. The siren that goes off in your ears when you do this is something that allows you option to cease fire and pick a different target, making it well worth paying attention to just what it is that you’re doing. The combination of the visuals and the audio allows you to have a better idea on what it is that you’re hitting, though it seems a little rushed when you get into later stages.

Music and other various sound effects have a futuristic sound to them and match the ever-present future landscapes that are littered with robots and other enemy designs. While I struggled to find something on the landscapes that resembled a boss character or otherwise, I found myself staring blankly and shooting anything that looked menacing from a close range. The music never changes in this respect, so even if you’re going up against something that isn’t your standard enemy, there is no indication of it anywhere. Another interesting feature to the sound presentation is that you have a computer yakking in your ear at every given opportunity to either tell you of incoming fire, or that you’re taking too much damage. Interesting, but it makes you look at the screen and say something rude when you have to listen to it forty times in a single mission.

Battle Engine Aquila isn’t a bad game, but it isn’t the shining point of any battle simulator that I’ve played on the Play Station 2. While there are some intriguing differences in the game play with the way that you can switch your fighter mode, it almost plays like Robo Tech but without all of the cell shaded anime style visuals and over the top audio. The control takes a little bit of time to get used to, but ultimately it isn’t anything that you can’t figure out and conquer in just under an hour. For those looking for something new to try out, you’ve found your target, but don’t be surprised if you’re finding yourself in a game that you’ve played before under a different guise.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 03/19/03, Updated 03/19/03

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