There is no life on Mars.
Just when you were beginning to wonder when the next forgettable, mediocre action game would emerge from the shadows, RTX Red Rock ambles along to prove itself as just that.
In this run-of-the-mill offering from LucasArts, you play as E.Z. Wheeler, a Radical Tactics Expert with an electronic eye, mechanical arm, a head like a Q-Tip and a body about as imposing as Gumby after three weeks on an all-grapefruit diet. You have been commissioned to venture to Mars to save a few colonists, eradicate an invading alien force of L.E.D.s (Light Emitting Demons) and return to your homeworld unscathed. Maintaining stride with the game itself, the story is your standard sci-fi fare and provides little impetus to actually go and do.
E.Z. Wheeler (not to be confused with Easy Rider or Easy Reader) comes equipped for this mission with a 4mm handgun possessing an unlimited amount of ammunition and which is about as effective as a pellet-shooting air pistol. His mechanical arm is a bit more promising and contains a torque wrench, grappling hook, taser weapon, a plasma cutter and a catapult (which serves as a kind of makeshift grenade launcher).
His one electronic eye has four different vision modes: a Thermoscan for peering into dark places and scoping out otherwise invisible enemies, a Naviscan which serves as a map, and an Electroscan and Bioscan for dealing with electrical equipment and detecting "forensic residues and foreign life forms," respectively. Combine these things with a standard inventory and you're left with an awkward assortment of items and options to scroll through.
Scrolling, however, is something you can only do while remaining stationary, a flaw sure to be abhorred by players and revered by your on-screen enemies who are free to pelt you with everything but the kitchen sink while you fiddle with your Tranquilizer Gas.
The analog control is fairly decent, at least. E.Z. can walk, trot or run and the game gives a bit of love to jumping and pulling up during the platform sequences. However, if you're expecting the lock-on to actually work for your weapons, you're in for a rude awakening. The lock-on was designed by someone with the visual acuity of Stevie Wonder and explains why they opted for unlimited ammo.
The combatants du jour, the L.E.D.s, resemble typical anime-style biomechanicals. They come in several different varieties and are apparently not plagued with a nonfunctioning lock-on or cumbersome inventory system and are actually free to strafe around and take evasive action. They are also equipped with a more impressive array of weaponry than yours and one of your main tasks will be attempting to get your hands on their equipment so you can add it to your already overburdened selection.
There are some platform elements in RTX Red Rock, but in general you will be running and gunning while solving a few basic puzzles. Along the way you will occasionally encounter taciturn and motivationally challenged colonial survivors. In such an instance, you simply plunk down a tin pie plate for them to step onto. This digitizes them and rolls them into a ball, which you can then drop into your pocket as you continue on your merry way. As convenient as this may be for everyone involved, it's certainly nowhere near as challenging or interesting as, say, escorting these hapless individuals to waiting escape pods, and it reduces the survivors to mere collectable, like the rings in Sonic the Hedgehog.
E.Z. has opted to bring along a computer cartridge of sorts called I.R.I.S. which can be dropped into various terminals throughout the game and inserted into a variety of mechanoids. Her chief functions are to inform or remind you of mission objectives, download maps into your Naviscan and give you a bit of attitude. She can also be used to take control of certain mechs, which then fall under your control. This is useful for getting to otherwise unreachable places, etc.
Thankfully, the game is relatively easy and straightforward. At times you might believe yourself stuck or lost in redundant, industrial environments or Martian dunes, but invariably the solution will present itself to you as something fairly obvious. For example, E.Z. will need to use airducts for passage and, if they are located in the ceiling, he will indicate their location himself by reaching upwards as you pass them. This is a good thing. Getting stuck in a less than interesting game is never pleasant.
Unfortunately, making the game simple doesn't necessarily make it better. A stronger storyline, more complexity in combat, open environments and objectives that are actually challenging would inspire a player to persevere. Instead, this game funnels you into a linear environment with only the simplest of objectives dangling before you and provides little incentive to explore, as the majority of locations look generically similar. Even a little twist in the so-called plot is fairly predictable and not worth the price of admission.
RTX Red Rock is a thoroughly substandard game, the kind generally engineered for resale at your local video game store and only worth a few hours of play on a rainy day while awaiting the arrival of something better. In this case, that could mean just about any other game.