I confess, the original game slipped under my radar. And although screen shots of the first game made me think, that looks pretty good, I didn't purchase it. So letting it slip by I moved on but then I got asked would I like to review the sequel? Well liking first person shooters and science fiction I thought, yeah why not!
So here we go...
You play as an armoured soldier who has the assignment, as part of a squad, to engage the enemy that has decided to invade a distant planet; However if it was as simple as all that, then life would be rather dull to say the least. Indeed it transpires that one of your senior officers has only gone and betrayed your men and the mission soon becomes a case of track down the traitor, capture him and find out what exactly was his plan. But as you catch up to the traitor, he is silenced and your problems begin in earnest. I'll let you, dear reader unearth the rest of the tale for yourselves.
Tools of the trade
At the top of the list comes your battle armour. OK so it's not as distinctive say as Master Chief's but it's a nice piece of gear that if you look after it, should serve you well. With a built in shield and jetpack, you can not only shoot from the ground but hover and fly, dispatching destruction and mayhem from the air. Rather like Iron Man but nowhere near as tedious as trying to fly Stark's armour. There's also a rather handy speed boost that can kick in whilst running. It can be used for covering the ground in quick bursts but it can also be used to bowl over enemy troops, stunning them, and allowing you to dispatch them with a knife, or just shoot at point blank range.
As for the weapons there are the standard issue rifles, machine guns & shotguns and for real oomph, rocket launchers. The fun starts however when you discover that they are upgradeable. This is done by a supply unit that is dropped in for you, but more on that later.
Like Halo, vehicles can also be obtained as well as automated gun units (in time that is, you'll have to earn those) one of which is a hovering jet powered air cycle. Like your suit it comes with a shield and has built in guns. Once on this beauty, it becomes great fun zipping around a battlefield dispensing hot lead to the enemy. There are tool kits as well that can be deployed for the hacking of enemy unit terminals and overriding machinery.
All of the gear is easy to use and won't prove to be a pain in the butt to get to grips with. The rifle and machine gun deal a healthy amount of damage and at considerable range. I actually think that the machine gun range shouldn't be as far reaching as it is but that's only a minor gripe. The sniper rifle has become one of my favourite tools very quickly. Great range on this weapon and it packs a meaty punch. The rocket launcher tends to forsake accuracy for fire power but it's an effective device for dealing with artillery and armoured units (especially in the multiplayer modes). But as in most shooters, aiming with a rocket launcher can leave you open to enemy fire so be careful. Your shield can absorb a fair amount of damage, and getting under cover means that the shield can recharge itself.
So there's nothing here that will throw you a curve ball and that's not a bad thing. If you have played Halo or Borderlands or a similar shooter, then you will soon feel as if you are exploring familiar territory here. With all firearms there comes a useful target lock. This can be deployed by pressing down on the right analogue stick. Look for a circular icon to appear around an enemy and then click. For a few seconds, that target is painted and you should be able to pick the guy off with little or no problem.
Unlike other shooters though, the dying enemy will not drop weapons or ammo, so be careful. There's nothing worse than going too far ahead of your companions and going all gung ho, only to find yourself stranded with no ammo! (Been there, done that!). However supplies are at hand with automated dispensers. Here you can change weapons and tweak the package that you are carrying or change the payload completely. Your choices will affect the outcome of the battles ahead so choose carefully. (We are not talking Fable style moral choices though)
OK let's be honest, don't expect them to be as sharp or as pleasing to the eye as Halo Reach or Bulletstorm but they are more than adequate for the job. Landscapes are nicely rendered, textures and shadows seem fine to me. There are some very nice battlefields here, and although on single player there is no open sandbox freedom to explore (in fact if you look at your mini map there's a red zone, stray into that and you have 5 seconds to vacate the area or your suit powers down. You have been warned!) There is still room to move and outflank enemies. (Face it they will be trying to do the exact same thing to you too!)
The music is suitably dramatic but I will admit that I find the sound effects for weapons pretty much the same. There is not much variation say, between the staccato gunfire effect for the machine gun and the assault rifle. The pistol sounds like a meaty weapon but the shotgun sounds similar too it. The explosions look pretty enough but lack audio oomph (If there is such a term!)
This tends to vary from having enemy units seeking cover to others charging in. Snipers are deployed at regular intervals so keeps your wits about you. But as said they will flank you if they can and the battleground allows it.
The physics are fine, nothing exceptional but more than adequate. You are not paying a premium price for this game, so it's not going to be of the same kind of quality of Halo Reach. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining or downgrading the game because of it. If this game came on a disc and boxed, etc then I would expect that, but it isn't, so I don't.
This is where the title offers the most entertainment I expect for a lot of folks, from the team deathmatch type skirmishes too the swarm mode. Swarm will feel familiar as you face hordes of incoming enemies in a 20 minute time limit. We have seen the same kind of thing say in Red Dead Redemption Undead Nightmare. Both modes can be played with friends or (and this makes a welcome change) bots. And there's that intriguing box at the top of the option screen that says extras. At this time that option isn't open but makes me wonder what's coming. Map Packs perhaps?
So what we have here is an overall decent sci-fi themed shooter that is reasonably priced and will provide some challenging moments. One that immediately springs to mind is having to negotiate enemy soldiers and some really big mining lasers. Timing is crucial; get it wrong, you get fried! And if you succeed, watch out for the incoming gunfire from the enemy! And when playing multiplayer, there is nothing more satisfying then dropping in from near orbit, right on top of an enemy soldier! But watch out for the ground to air missiles...ouch!
Admittedly this is no Gears of War or Halo, but it doesn't have to be. It's not a pretender too their thrones, but it is a decently priced, reasonably challenging game that has no desire to even try to threaten them in any way, shape or form. In my mind the producers of this game have decided to give the gamers on Xbox Live (and I believe it's coming to PSN network later) a budget priced alternative and that's no bad thing at all.
Right then, time for a quick cup of tea and after that, I think I'll be dusting down the armour again, adjusting settings on my weaponry and heading back out onto the frozen battlefields of an alien planet. See you out there!