Game Review - by James Allen
Gamers are always looking for something different. The most successful games are not usually very original creations, but make enough innovations to be reable. One genre of games that seem to be pretty well covered is real-time strategies. From Starcraft to Command and Conquer, we have a handle on the basics of this kind of game. The Outforce follows the tried and true ideals put forth by these games, but are enough changes and improvements made in this rendering to make it worth your while?
The features in The Outforce are the barest of the bare. Three different races are included, Humans, Gobins, and Crions. However, there are very few single player missions, which must the completed in order, cannot be accessed later, and are only played from one side. However, the skirmish mode does allow for taking the helm of the other combatants. All of the sides are too much alike. The only difference in the kind of units for each side is the name and representation on-screen. The descriptions in the manual for each unit are even cut-and-pasted for each side. How much more blatant can you get? There are 39 different units for each side (so 39 total), ranging from fighters to warships to defense systems to resource gatherers. The tutorials, while comprehensive, are too short, and you only need to complete one goal to pass the level. Build this and blow this up are common teaching methods. If you choose, you can try multiplayer over the Internet or a LAN. Still, the features in The Outforce are sad at best.
The sounds are pretty good, but nothing spectacular. Each unit has several different sayings while executing orders, but that's standard in RTS's. The voice acting is also competent, especially the constipated drill instructor from the tutorials. The soundtrack fits the game perfectly, creating a haunting and appropriate atmosphere. The sound in The Outforce enhances the game, while not becoming overbearing.
The gameplay has some high and low points. I'll mention the most memorable and coolest feature of The Outforce right off the bat: tow ships. In games such as C&C and Starcraft, once you place a building, it's stuck there forever. However, The Outforce lets you drag any object of yours anywhere in the arena, which makes for some interesting gameplay. Inertia comes into full play with towing (however, I have yet to find out how the objects slow down at all in space after towing is done). Towing five missile batteries into an enemy's base is an experience that frankly isn't found anywhere else, and I'd like to say, it's neat. Heck, the tow ships may well be worth the price of admission. Now for the rest of the game.
The Outforce plays like all the other real time strategy games: build, find resources, build, kill, find resources, build, kill. A very simplistic technology tree is used in The Outforce: you only need to build one key object to move up to the next tier (there are 7 in all). This does make it easy to understand, but very repetitious after playing a number of games. The most annoying thing in The Outforce is the poor implementation of space. I have no problems with rendering space in two dimensions (Starfleet Command 2 did it), but having strange quirks is not forgivable. Units can fly over one another, but if you encounter a pipe or a fence (yes, fences in space), you apparently can't fly over or under them. It's like the developers couldn't decide on whether to make the game 3D or 2D, and settled in the middle. Sadly, this doesn't work, and frustrates the player. The game could just as easily been played on solid ground (with possibly the exception of the towing) and turned out the same.
The graphics are the high point of The Outforce. All of the units are detailed, the interface is clean, and the backgrounds are the coolest looking things I've seen in a while. Since everything is presented in faux-3D, you mostly see the units top-down, or at slight angles while moving. A strange effect is when you scroll across your world; you view alters slightly, as if you are actually looking down on this part of the universe. This is a great look, and makes you feel like you are truly a part of the action. The time they spent on making the eye-catching graphics almost makes up for pitfalls in other areas. Almost.
As a budget title, people usually don't expect much from games like The Outforce. The Outforce lives up to most of those expectations: it's a real time strategy game that's been done better before. However, if you are a fan of the genre, or decide that seeing the cool backgrounds and playing with the tow ships is worth the price, I won't stop you. Now if you'll excuse me, some of my riot guards want to get closer with the enemy.