Time flies when you’re having fun.
The world fades back into focus
around you. Ahhh… a Roman bath. Beautiful marble columns gracefully support
the high arched ceilings that shade you as you rise off the intricately tiled
floor. Perhaps you will have a chance to rest and soak in the water. You certainly
deserve it after your run-in with those angry cave-men and that close call with
a prehistoric bear.
A beautiful woman in a toga approaches you, a Roman slave girl no doubt. She smiles as she reaches gently towards you and suddenly stabs you with the dagger she was concealing behind her back! Your name is Stanley Opar, and this sort of thing keeps happening to you recently. Probably because you are a Time Commando.
The latest game from Activision and the producer of Alone in the Dark pits you against a computer virus that has infected various historical periods. This virus was planted by an agent into the ‘Federation of Europe’ Historical Tactical Center computer (The purpose of this center is left to the imagination). The virus causes a giant time void into which the whole center, the saboteur, and you, are sucked. There’s never any explanation as to his motive. For some reason the only way to destroy the virus is to travel through time fighting anything that moves, picking up computer chips and feeding them into glowing igloos.
Okay, so the plot is a little
weak, but the game makes up for it. Like Alone in the Dark or Resident
Evil you control a 3D polygonal character superimposed on a pre-rendered
background. The graphics are terrific. Combatants are well drawn and move smoothly.
They move like a real person would either when swinging a weapon or receiving
The revolutionary aspect of the graphics is the way that the backgrounds move. Unlike Alone in the Dark or Resident Evil instead of simple cuts from one ‘camera angle’ to another, the camera pans nicely and zooms in and out. Part of the reason it is able to do the is because the game is strictly linear, with a pre-defined path you must follow (you can’t even go backwards). The moving camera effect is astonishing, though, giving the game a very cinematic feel.
Because the game is linear, the emphasis in Time Commando is on combat. There are 45 different weapons you can pick up and use to hurt your opponents. You may start out with primitive rocks and clubs (or your fists), but in the course of your game you will learn to fight with spears, swords, throwing stars, maces, axes, crossbows, magical fireballs, rapiers, blowguns, flintlocks, pistols, rifles, shotguns, grenades, machine guns, rocket launchers, plasma guns, and the ever-popular Mono-Molecular Yo-yo!
While all of the weapons are
fun, the best part of the combat is the enemies. There have got to be well over
100 different kinds of enemies to fight against. Each one is beautifully designed
and animated, from saber toothed tigers and cavemen to robots and alien cyborgs.
In this respect, Time Commando is the opposite of a game like Loaded
where you endlessly kill thousands and thousands of enemies that look exactly
the same. Most of the opponents you will face in Time Commando are totally
unique! I can’t begin to tell you how refreshing this was.
The game is quite long and will take you several hours just to battle all the way through it, even if you don’t get killed once. There are 20 different levels with beautiful settings from different time periods. In vaguely chronological order, you will travel through prehistoric jungle, ancient Rome, feudal Japan, a medieval castle, a Spanish galleon, Aztec temples, a wild-west town, WWI, WWII, modern urban warfare, a futuristic battlezone, and an alien vessel. Then you must fight the virus on its home turf, mano a mano (It looks like an electric shark). Yow!
Despite the obvious care taken
with this game, there are still a few minor problems. First, your character’s
movement can be a little awkward at times, and the controls are difficult to
master. There is no joystick or game-pad support at all. Second, it sometimes
becomes very difficult to tell where to go next in the game. Since it is linear,
there is only one way to go, but the game requires you to move in an unlikely
direction or manipulate a certain object before you can continue. This can be
infuriating because there is a virus countdown timer at the top of the screen
that will kill you if time runs out. Third, despite the beautiful ‘moving camera’,
your character just doesn’t merge as seamlessly with the background as in some
other games; sometimes getting hung-up on invisible barriers.
‘Inna final analysis’ Time Commando is a new star in the PC-action
constellation. The graphics are beautiful and the variety of weaponry, backgrounds,
settings, and the wonderful enemies will draw you deeply into the game. The
game could have probably used another month or so of work to fix some little
problems, a little ‘minor tweaking’ and the addition of gamepad support. Even
so, I found myself playing it ‘just one more time’ late into the night. The
revolutionary ‘moving camera’ works wonders on the feel and appearance of the
game and I hope to see it again in the future.