Why is this game called Heavy Metal?
Nowadays, reviewing Dreamcast games is an emotional, tear-jerking experience. It's like visiting a close friend who is terminally ill. You want to be there, you know you should be there, but it's just so damn painful to see someone (or something) so close to you on their last legs. You hopelessly pray that a word from on high will take it all back and that the Dreamcast/friend will continue to be made/live and great games/good times will continue for a long time to come.
Unfortunately, we all know that this is not the case. The Dreamcast has been officially discontinued and apparently Capcom wants to hammer those final nails into the DC coffin with their lackluster, unexciting 3D fighting debacle, Heavy Metal: Geomatrix. While the characters are huge, the pyrotechnics are over-the-top (typical for Capcom fighters) and the weapons are massive, the game is devoid of any strategy, control is sluggish, levels are incredibly uninteresting and I have yet to find where they hid the fun. Maybe Capcom had a couple zombies stash it in a safe place like they do with all those keys in the Res. Evil Games.
For the Heavy Metal illiterate, the franchise is an anthology comic magazine that really took off in the late 70's and early 80's until it was bought by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle creator Kevin Eastman. Too bad for us, because the book has been raw poop since the great Eastman takeover. And sadly, for the thimble-full of remaining Heavy Metal fans, this game has absolutely nothing to do with Heavy Metal or any of the characters in it (where's Den!?). At least F.A.K.K.2 for the PC had to do with F.A.K.K. even if it was a loose relation. The gamers who remember the Heavy Metal movie know what I'm talking about, right? (the first movie, not that stupid Julie Strain crap).
Supposedly there is some nanotechnology that enables people to move and act in cyberspace the same as they would in the real world. A natural disaster strikes, continents are submerged and what little land is left is now owned by the military. This leads to homesteaders vying for virtual land and property in cyberspace. How? I have no idea, but that's what the instruction booklet says. And since there is never a reference within the game about this or nanotech or land or homesteaders, I guess we'll have to trust the booklet. Essentially, the other guy onscreen needs his butt kicked and you're just the man/woman for the job.
You fight in small 3D arenas. Each character starts with a signature weapon with more littered throughout the arena (swords, machine guns, rocket launchers, flamethrower, satellite missiles, grenade and a few others). Mash the buttons until you have pummeled your enemy dead or at least until his life bar has depleted. Proceed to the next arena and repeat.
The arenas leave much to be desired. They're very typical and non-interactive. A few stairs here and there or a puddle of water do not create a compelling environment. Plus, the selection is sparse and many are just repeats during different times of the day. Oooh, it was boring in sunlight...now it's boring at night!
The game at least looks decent. The textures are bright and colorful, characters are huge and the weapon particle effects are nice eye-candy. Still, other than a few bits breaking apart when hit by gunfire, the lack of interactive backgrounds takes a lot of potential oomph out of the look. It's missing the flavor.
Controlling your character is fairly easy. You have your melee attack button, ballistic attack, jump, and change target. There are no life-ups or defensive moves. There is no strafe, which would have helped greatly, and no dodging moves other than the ability to press the directional buttons away from oncoming fire. You are always facing your opponent no matter where he is, even above you. This makes watching for other weapons to pick up a bit difficult as you are not looking at them. You're looking at the bottom side of some fat green guy.
Apparently the characters can fly unaided for short distances. How? Or why? Who knows! It doesn't really matter, since you don't fly (or "dash," as they call it) any faster than you run. Still, leaving the ground does help when dodging enemy fire, and you can pick up a jetpack that allows you to stay aloft for a bit longer.
However, the gameplay depth is pretty weak. For the most part, this is a button-masher. Combos are very simple - just a repeated press of the melee attack button. Oddly, you have to press three buttons just to drop or pick up a weapon. Huh?
Multiplayer is mildly entertaining for maybe half an hour. The screen is split vertically, making it really hard to follow your enemy. You can also try Cooperative play, where you both take on the computer. But still, you're both on screen at the same time and again that awful split…
Heavy Metal Geomatrix is sort of like a dumbed-down Powerstone, but with fewer weapons. Honestly, this game does nothing new at all. And what it does do, we've seen done better in games like Virtual On, Outtrigger and even Ehrgeiz. At least the thing only costs 20 bucks.
If you're really itchin' for a Heavy Metal game and you have a computer, it would behoove you to check out Heavy Metal F.A.K.K. 2. As for Geomatrix, I wouldn't really waste the energy.