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Starsiege Review

Johnny_B By:
GENRE Action 
PLAYERS 99- 99 
T Contains Animated Violence

What do these ratings mean?

If you're going to be unpleasant, take it outside!

The problems began when a fully automated machine was created in order to transfer people's consciousness into immortal metal brains. This computer, Prometheus, became angry at humanity and went about trying to destroy it by building an army of sentient robots called Cybrids, which in the first two Earthsiege games nearly destroyed the world. After the second Earthsiege, the immortal human Emperor (who created Prometheus) issued a "Fortress Earth" proclamation, which called for a huge defense buildup (shades of Reagan, anyone?) on Earth. Of course, this came at the expense of the security of the colonies on Mars, Venus, and Mercury. A rebellion breaks out on Mars, and a high ranking Imperial Knight named Harabec (also an immortal) defects. This angers the Emperor into sending his entire fleet to Mars, giving Prometheus, who has been building up it's own army at the fringes of the solar system, the opportunity to strike.

Starsiege is the third game in Dyanmix's Earthsiege series, which for a long time has been seen as the only real competition to the vaunted Mechwarrior games. While it contains a few flaws, Starsiege is a commendable effort rife with addictive action, stellar graphics, and unforgettable atmosphere.

In Starsiege you may either play as a human pilot fighting on the side of Mars, or as an attacking Cybrid bent on carrying out the Cybrid core directive of hurt/maim/kill.

One of the best elements of Starsiege is the incredible detail and solid atmosphere of the background and the setting for the war. Told through both the game itself and the 150 page historical "compendium" that comes with, the detailed story provides a real unique feeling of atmosphere that serves well to draw the player in and keep interest clear through the final battle and beyond.

Combat in Starsiege is all done through the use of HERCS or Tanks. Short for "Herculeans," HERCS are essentially Dynamix's version of FASA's Mechs. HERCS are tall, large, heavily armored, walking platforms that can flatten cities, raise hell, and pad the carpet.

Controlling the HERCS is one of the few weak points in Starsiege. The game is set up to be played much like a first person shooter - mouse used for aiming and keyboard for movement. Although the options for reconfiguring the controls are quite possibly the most detailed and complex ever seen in a computer game, Starsiege is not meant to be played with a joystick. This detracts from the feeling of stomping around in a multi-megaton Mech. . .er. . . HERC. It also doesn't help matters much that no matter how logical the controls seem, they take a lot of getting used to.

Some of this undoubtedly has to do with the way that HERCS work. HERCS do not have torso turrets that twist. Instead, you move your view in a 180 degree arc horizontally and vertically while your guns track your perspective. This would make up for the lack of a twist-able torso if not for two things. First, most weapons only have about a 150 degree arc of fire horizontally and a 120 degree arc vertically, which makes most combat far more straightforward than the elegant strafing of Mechwarrior. Second, your view is sometimes obscured by the 3D virtual cockpit, which does not move with your perspective and effectively gives you a blind region. This problem doesn't exist in the tanks since their turrets turn a full 360 degrees, but handling this while actually driving the tank can end up being extremely disorienting.

Once you get used to the controls, though, Starsiege is a wildly entertaining game. The action is fierce, requiring precise targeting and energy management. It's full of the best elements of giant robot combat that gamers have come to know and love for a long time. The missions are challenging, the mood is desperate and hectic, and the graphics serve to bring you in and keep you happy as a junkie with his junk.

Starsiege is a beautiful game to behold. You'll marvel at the gently rolling terrain and the Technicolor explosions, the detailed textures on the HERCS and tanks and the flawless shadows they cast. Starsiege is very easy on the eyes. The price of admission however, is a 3DFX accelerator card. Although Starsiege can be played without one, the software mode is downright depressing and the Open GL support is horridly slow.

The one thing about the graphics that detracts from the combat experience is the cartoonish flavor of the HERC textures. Quite simply, this style makes the HERCS feel as though your weapons are bouncing right off them - until they explode, that is. This makes Starsiege lack some of the visceral punch of the Mechwarrior games.

The sound in Starsiege is sharp, believable, and tactile. The music is energetic/heavy metal/industrial mixed with a dash of atmospheric, sophisticated techno. The quality further carries over to the great voice acting. Marc Hammil (of Luke Skywalker and Christopher Blair fame) does a great job as the voice for both Harabec and his brother Cannon. Also, a talented young British kid narrates the tale in both the flashy opening and ending cutscenes and in-game rendered sequences, while a heavily computer altered voice supplies the menacing and mechanical Cybrid narration.

Multi-player is handled with aplomb. As the same engine was used for both Starsiege and its online-only multiplayer counterpart, Starsiege: Tribes, this is one of the few recent games I can remember that shipped with admirably bug-free, high-quality multiplayer. Lag is barely any problem, gameplay modes are aplenty, and the action is even more intense than in single player. The only real complaint is that more time should have been spent in balancing 'maneuverability vs. brute force,' as the best online strategy clearly is taking the biggest HERC and outfitting it with the toughest weapons.

In the end, Starsiege is a good game that is humbled by only a few flaws. At least until Heavy Gear 2 and Mechwarrior 3 come out, Starsiege is great fun and an easy recommendation for all fans of giant robot PC combat. Perhaps Starsiege 2 (which is apparently already in the works) will perfect the formula. There certainly is enough here to work with - great action, luscious graphics, and one of the most developed background stories outside of Wing Commander. If stomping around in oversized forklifts, kicking much ass, and boosting your ego through tonnage is your thing, purchase this puppy and give it your sweet lovin'.

B+ Revolution report card
  • Great graphics and sound
  • Fully developed story/atmosphere
  • Much fun
  • Control problems
  • Lacks a visceral punch
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