AquaNox 2: Revelation
A standalone game but not exactly a true sequel. Revelation is the successor to the beautiful but disappointing underwater shooter that took Germany by storm. "In Germany we have great success, only Max Payne sold more than Aquanox." So says Ingo Frick, technical director on the project, as we resist the temptation to tell him that in England that’s not a selling point. Instead we relaxed into the aquamarine ambience of Aquanox's visuals, disturbed only by the "music in the style of Nu Metal like Limp Bizkit and Slipknot." Sick. So why should Revelation be any better? Basically the designers read all their bad press and went back to fix their errors, which is how things should be. Like the first game the action sequences play like a first-person shooter, but there’s been a shift from spamming the player with lots of enemy grunts to having fewer, more intelligent enemies. Likewise, the game has gone from offering 80 characters and lots of stupid dialogue to 12 characters (and much better voiceacting). Hopefully this will make for a more compact, well-paced playing experience.
Download AquaNox 2: Revelation
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
It's not surprising we pump so much sewage and radioactive waste into the sea since it's never really given us anything half-decent apart from fish - Ed. For proof we only have to look as far as Seaquest DSV, Flipper. Stingray and The Little Mermaid - all of which were complete plankton-poo. And last-year's underwater-shooter Aquanox continued this trend. Badly translated, badly acted, badly made and stupidly green, the only people that liked it were the Germans.
A year and a bit later we have Aquanox 2: Revelation, and a distinct improvement it is too. The game takes place in the far future where human life exists only in the deep ocean and your character, William Drake, is the last of a great merchant-shipping dynasty searching for adventure beneath the seven seas. Straight from the off, a bunch of gruff pirate types take over your ship and force you into working for them. Gradually you become part of the gang, running missions both for them and for various sailor types you meet hanging around the sub-aquatic city's docks.
Not That Sort Of Mission
The missions themselves are what sell the game. You can opt for a smooth FPS-based control system or, if you're a purist or entirely mad, you can switch realistic physics on that severely limit your craft's manoeuvrability and turning circle. You'll soon find yourself taking on basic assassination missions, protecting your freighter in swirling dogfights, clearing mines and incapacitating passing ships with EMP before nicking their goodies. Once you've worked out the weapon system and how to upgrade your ship -which takes a fair old while - the game really takes off. Weapons are satisfying, baddies aren't too stupid and occasionally it becomes a truly exhilarating experience fighting alongside your shipmates against a common foe.
There's A'but' Coming
Aquanox 2 is a good game with a good engine marred by presentation from the seventh circle of hell. Nothing can prepare you for the vast array of laughable characters waiting to harangue you with a deluge of bizarre inter-mission warblings.
After blasting some pirate scum you expect a reward, not a basic map of your ship and countless hours of rambling conversation with cheesy characters. On average there are seven or eight mindless cretins that want to drone on and on at you after every mission, whining about destiny, philosophy and madness in a badly translated monotone. The chief offender in this stunning display of mediocrity is your character William Drake himself, a man whose groin you'd gladly introduce to your boot if you met him at a social gathering.
There is a storyline that lurks somewhere in all this, but quite frankly you won't care as long as it allows you to carry on shooting things. It's a shame that the action takes place entirely at deep-sea level, and that there isn't any marine life for you to slaughter, but beneath the surface of leaden conversations and the deathly menu systems, a decent game lurks.
For Those, like me, who saw Jaws at too young an age, the sea will always be a place of great fear. Man-eating sharks, Portuguese men-of-war, discarded condoms - the list of hostile entities goes on and on. But as terrifying a catalogue as that is, it pales into significance next to the roving attack subs, hunter killer craft and impregnable guard towers that populate the oceans in AquaNox 2: Revelation.
The Blue Planet
It's the year 2666 on planet Earth - or Aqua as it has come to be known since it became completely submerged under water - and the submarine is practically the only form of transport left to mankind. You play William Drake, a young and impetuous pilot who gets press-ganged into hunting for an ancestral treasure. While some of the locations and one or two characters remain from the first game, most of what's to be seen is new. Which is a mighty good thing, as for all its breathtaking visuals, the first game had its fair share of faults. We asked Massive Development's Alexander Jorias about the changes.
Among the criticisms from fans and the media that we took on board were the Al and the plot development, he says. Revelation has much smaller battles and the Al is now more human-like to suit that. Special abilities such as sniping and guarding are accompanied by stupendous dogfighting skills. Stupendous', eh? So just how smart are they? Some of the NPCs are really mean: hiding in dark places with their engines off so that your systems can't detect them. Or they'll try to get behind you and stay there in a dogfight. Sounds reasonable, but what about all the long-winded plot bumph? The story interface has been redesigned totally.
We wanted to improve the feeling for the world of Aqua - its mood and look. We decided to pre-render animated backgrounds for each station and bring the habitats to life. When you're inside the buildings you can see the characters, bars, docks and offices - everything is much more real and believable.
The action is also far more intense than in the previous game. Sitting in a submersible at a depth of 20,000m makes you pretty familiar with pressure - after all, every inch of your craft has the equivalent of a herd of elephants pressing down on it - but the kind of sweat-inducing stress you get while tussling with hostile subs is impressive. Enemy craft launch co-ordinated waves of attacks: torpedoes make concussive thuds as they hammer into the reef inches behind you. It's a far cry from the sluggish manoeuvring of the first game.
Still, there are plenty of familiar elements. The weapon load-outs of plasma cannons, slug guns and a variety of torpedoes are similar to those of the first title, and the action supposedly takes place around the same time period. There are a few new weapons to play with," explains Alexander. But most of the changes are to do with balancing and secondary fire modes.
When talking about AquaNox 2 though, it's only a matter of time before you have to mention the staggering beauty of the game's environments. Yes, gameplay is king and all that, but if you're looking to show off your new graphics card, you could do a lot worse.
Shafts of light penetrate to the ocean floor, casting undulating shadows across the submerged dunes and blinding you when you peer directly into them. Torpedoes trail a wake of gently rising bubbles before the detonation sends out violent, concentric shock waves. Dust kicks up from the impact of your slugs as you pepper a fleeing fighter sub. In fact, it all looks so good that the game has been selected by NVIDIA as a showcase title for the powers of its latest graphics cards.
Courage Under Water
The game's default controls are laid out like an FPS, with the mouse pointing your ship in all directions, and the keyboard propelling you forwards, backwards or sideways. In feel, it's reminiscent of a space combat sim or Descent-style go-anywhere shooter, as you're fighting in three dimensions with enemies coming at you from behind, above and below. And as you're moving in water, your ship has a certain sluggish inertia. But as Alexander is at pains to point out, AquaNox 2 is an action game, not a sim.
Though the plot will be fairly linear, submissions with lucrative rewards will also be on offer. The main missions will include everything from open combat to one-on-one dogfights, through to stealth missions and even submarine races, Alexander explains: But there are detours the player can choose to take. And all the missions have bonus targets beside the main one, so there's a good bet that people returning home and seeing they only accomplished one of four bonus targets will return to check out the other three. Each target will be connected to different rewards, adding a tactical touch as to which you choose to undertake. Do you want to earn the new torpedoes or that cool gun?
Though we did play a level in which friendly craft were fighting alongside us, you won't be able to command squads of craft. Quite the reverse in fact. In some missions, other friendly ships will give orders to you. AquaNox2: Revelation is no sim. It's an action game and you don't have wingmen obeying your orders. You're the rookie - the other pilots are much more experienced than you, so why should they take orders?"
Point taken. But finally, the burning question has to be: are there any sharks? No, the oceans have been pretty much cleared of life by the catastrophe that wrecked the planet. Thank God for small mercies.