Over Land, Sea and the Bargain Bin...
During my tenure as a valiant video game reviewer, I have traveled to places high in the skies, over gritty terrain and even a few below sea-level. But never have I had the pleasure of piloting a craft with both aerial and aquatic capabilities. It's a marriage that comes together nicely in Simon & Schuster Interactive's 3D action shooter, Seablade.
Unfortunately, this game can't stand alone on its impressive flight engine, as we would be ignoring a whole host of other unsavory elements; namely, poor graphics, incessant deaths and a general lack of fun.
The story is told through a series of still shots of horribly modeled characters and scenes. These stills are amazingly bad. There is no animated CGI - it's just snapshots of CGI that may have been animated at one point. The result feels oddly incomplete.
Nevertheless, the ice caps have melted enough to submerge much of the world underwater. The affluent reside in the Southern Alliance, and populate, well, the South, which leaves the cruel dictators and despots to claim autonomy over the Northern hemisphere.
This is where you come in. Get briefed, hop into your Seablade ship and take to the skies and seas in 6 post-apocalyptic environments. Your mission objectives include search & rescue, basic resistance-suppression and collateral damage. Translation: destroy anyone and anything that opens fire on you.
Completing missions is highly contingent on learning where to find vital power-ups and health items. You get one basic weapon, the gattling gun, which is pretty damn weak. More can be found but only through locating power-ups, and each weapon can be boosted in potency by snatching up more of the corresponding power-up. Having to seek out a better weapon floating in a cave or under some structure somewhere in the middle of a heated battle is frustrating at best.
What makes it doubly aggravating is a targeting system that only targets flying bogeys. You have to deal with all sorts of turrets and cannons that you conveniently cannot lock onto unless you fly right up to them and receive their deadly payload personally.
Better graphics would have helped in spotting these pesky and elusive menaces. Instead, we are dealt a mixed bag of mediocrity. The textures are clean, yet not detailed. Particle effects are plentiful, but dull and 2-dimensional. The water and solar effects come off the best, and even still, they seem lacking.
The ship design fares much better. They're not over-the-top and seem rooted in some real-life aircraft and seafaring vessels. The big difference between ships is found in firepower and the number of hostages they can support on rescue missions.
Piloting the ships above and below the sea is handled surprisingly well. The physics and tight control make your five different Seablades slick and impressively cinematic in flight. You can even feel the shift in physics from smooth and speedy to sluggish and arduous once you dive below the sea.
This is made more enjoyable by the intuitive control. I was surprised to see an easy control toggle. With the press of a button any time during gameplay, you can switch the control from Left Analog Stick Targeting/Right Analog Stick Movement to the opposite. This is especially friendly for left-handed gamers who need added control options, and a bane for novices who don't know the controls.
However, the solid control is wasted on the flat gameplay. You never dive to deep depths like in Aquanox, so don't expect any cool nautical battles or the tension of drowning before you can make it back to the surface. There's also an invisible ceiling that is not very high at all, robbing the player of any grueling aerial escapes high in the sky.
Due to the lackluster gameplay, the multiplayer doesn't really hold up well. It's there, but it's not much fun.
When you hang up your piloting helmet and call it quits (it's only a matter of time), the biggest hole to the Seablade hull is its frustrating gameplay, coupled with the fact you can only save after each mission, which are not short by any stretch of the imagination. Though there are some rent-worthy moments here, this blade could use a good deal of sharpening.