This time WE get to fix the Bugs!
And it's about time, too. Why do gigantic bugs always decide to make Earth their next meal? From Starship Troopers to the classic Them!, bugs have always had it in for us humans.
Armorines drudges up this theme once again, this time as a first-person shooter. I enjoyed playing this game and it answered a few questions for me, but in the end doesn't really do anything new.
Let's talk about those questions. One question I've been asking myself for a long time is this: When rapacious aliens invade the planet, why is it that they choose to sneak around in dark, creepy places, avoiding the light of day? If all they wanted was a dark hole, why not just grab an unpopulated rock somewhere? They couldn't possibly have run out of those.
The answer, of course, is that game designers seem to think their games are creepier if you can't see what the heck you're doing. They're wrong, of course. I think that statement is borne out by the fact that when I went looking for screenshots, all of them were from Armorines' fourth level, which takes place in the desert. Deserts are notoriously bright and shiny, and yet even in such a setting the giant space bugs are pretty darn gruesome. Especially when you get up close and personal with them.
There are actually a couple of other attempts in this game to get around the "Dammit, I can't see anything!" phenomenon. First off, you can find a pair of IR Goggles. Everything you see is bluish (hey... there's a thought... anybody tried to license a "Yellow Submarine" game yet?) except for the aliens, and your weapon no longer target locks, but at least you can see what's going on. This is actually a really important feature in a few areas.
Theres another visual trick as well: at the end of the first level, you are given a couple of cheat codes, one of which, called "Pen and Ink Mode," allows you to play the game without the graphic overlays. I find it kind of amusing to play as a line drawing - plus, it's definitely a good way to see everything that's going on.
This brings me to another question. Is it really a cheat code if the game GIVES it to you and there's a special menu for turning it on and off? I suppose it's probably some twisted form of reverse psychology. I mean, how many people would actually go out and buy a game that you were SUPPOSED to play without high-rez textured graphics. (Well, okay, I remember lots of them, but the industry has evolved.)
The sound is pretty decent. Good ambient noises, a soundtrack that I haven't yet disabled (rare, believe me), and I really appreciate the fact that the mercilessly rampaging aliens can't sneak up on you (even the invisible ones are audible). If you hear a rustling sound, check your radar - you're about to be lunch.
Hey, there's even a viable story line. And, for added kicks, if you find a dead body lying around, you can shoot it and watch the limbs go flying...
Of course, it's not all guts and glory. The humans you encounter are either scared out of their wits and running for cover (which isn't all bad, come to think of it) or they follow you around like a puppy dog and get in your way. Too many times I've wound up blowing away troopers who walked across my line of fire. Haven't these yahoos ever heard of firing from cover? Their shots wouldn't even put a dent in my metal-clad butt. Oh well.
The control system is fine. However, the weapon selection set-up could have used a little more thought. I'd have been happier with just using one button to flip through available choices.
One other thing I don't care for is the level exit mechanism. You can use the exit to a level as soon as you find it (and you frequently won't actually KNOW it's the exit until you step into it). Of course, if you get there before you've completed your objectives for the level, you must re-do the whole area. This is particularly annoying in the longer segments.
The multi-player is similar to that 'other' Acclaim shooter, Turok. You've got Co-op mode and Deathmatch levels for up to 4 players. One of the Deathmatch options is called "Brood Wars" and lets you play as the bugs. This isn't as fun as it sounds. For some bizarre reason, when you're a human controlled bug, you can't climb walls anymore. What you actually get is just a different graphics set (which only your opponents can see, anyway). Oh well.
Like I said at the beginning, I had fun playing Armorines. The graphics and sound are good, and the plausible plot is refreshing. Not an epic, to be sure, but fun anyway. Anybody want to tell me if it was worth turning into a comic book? I just couldn't bring myself to pick it up.