“It’s the end of the world. Wow.”
There once was a time when movie-to-game conversions were the taboo of all educated gamers. Stinkers such as The Crow,Jurassic Park, and Space Jam show how poorly these translations can be done. Thanks to the miracle of modern technology, however, this epidemic of non-quality gaming was clearing up nicely with such goodies as Aliens vs. Predator and Die Hard Trilogy. Unfortunately, this trend is short-lived. Independence Day isn’t a horrible game, but it hasn’t met up to the standards of late.
To start, the graphics are just bad. I’d expect maybe a little blockiness from a high speed polygonal game, but this is worse than the rehashed FMV from the late Sega CD. It is very noticeable at first, and makes it hard to judge the depth of the surrounding buildings and mountains when flying, especially when trying to get powerups. The colors are very dark and grainy, particularly in comparison to the bright and solid coloring of Die Hard Trilogy. There is a large variety of camera angles, but only 3 playable ones, and 2 that are almost impossible to use. The missile cam actually follows the missile, which is cool the first couple of times you see it, but gets annoying quickly and leaves you vulnerable and reluctant to use your missiles. The cockpit camera is just plain too compact, subtracting a large amount of your viewing space.
The sound is sadly worse than the graphics. The movie theme track doesn’t seem to play or get you motivated when it counts (like against the bosses), and the sound effects are poor. Explosions are less than spectacular, and at times (especially in two player mode) you can’t tell when you’ve really been hit. They disgraced my boy Will Smith (your wingman, Steve Hiller–star of the movie, and should’ve been the star of the game), with the grainy whining of, “Please help, I can’t shake them!” and other euphemisms. The most annoying thing about it is how he never seems to help you.
The plot of the game is somewhat deep, following the storyline of the movie pretty closely. The levels are sometimes frustrating. In level 2, they ask you to defend a plane, which translates to “Stay alive for 10 minutes.” Of course, this is real-time ‘3-D’ so there’s no getting out of it. Increasing swarms of planes attack, and with only Superman Steve on your side, you must hold off what can be literally hundreds of aircraft within a very limited space. This is due to a silly surrounding forcefield that gives the game an unrealistic, boxed in feel (of course, the aliens can enter and leave the forcefield at will).
The control of the game really needs some tweaking. The plane moves up and down much too quickly to control given the small amount of space. Also, the plane never returns to neutral after turning it, so you end up flying in one direction quite accidentally. You get accustomed to it, but shouldn’t have to. The option to use an airbrake is OK, but usually is used to keep from slamming nose first into the forcefield (although I love the way the plane just bounces off the walls, mountains, and buildings, like a headbanger at a rap concert). The plane also has very few maneuvers to use to evade being chased by small squadrons of about 4-8 planes, aside from a 360 motion that doesn’t seem to really work. The addition of some form of “evasive action” certainly couldn’t have hurt.
On the plus side, I do like the straight forward missions on the other levels, and the weapons system is pretty accurate, with an easy to use radar. The bullets are even actually effective in helping you save your missiles.
All in all, ID4is an arcade game trapped inside a flight simulator, and the cover does not seem to fit. If you are really into this kind of thing, then I’d suggest renting it, but don’t even think about buying something like this unless you see it as a promotional item or door prize at a liquor store near you.