Colony Wars Red Sun
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|Old School Games, Cult Classic Games
Colony Wars: Red Sun is not the so-frustrating-you'll-bust-your-joypad experience that was Colony Wars: Vengeance. Designed by a new team at Psygnosis' Leeds studio, Red Sun lets you save your game after every mission instead of after every three or so as in the previous games. And the missions themselves unwind in a more gamer-friendly structure. Instead of the branching mission tree of the past two games, Red Sun doles out a handful of sorties at a time. You, playing as a mercenary pilot, may opt to fly only the missions that tickle your fancy and avoid the rest. Every once in a while you come across missions you must play to advance the story, but none of them is exceedingly tough or frustrating. (In fact, most enemies are fairly stupid and easy to blast.) The only downside to the new free-form mission structure is that Red Sun has lost a bit of the epic feel of the past. But the story that's buried beneath all the unrelated missions here is still clever and gripping. Mission variety is once again the strong point of this series. The game thankfully stays away from many annoying escort missions and has you doing everything from capturing protected space blobs for profit to entering Thunderbowl, a lethal flight-combat game show of the future. You get more fighters and weapons to choose from this time, too.
By far a better game than the fatally frustrating Colony Wars: Vengeance, Red Sun delivers well-designed missions, an excellent story and more than enough ways to customize your ship. You eventually access a vast arsenal of specialized guns, missiles and performance-boosting gadgets. A few Bosses may be tough to topple, but most missions are more fun than frustrating. At least you can finally save after every mission. It's about time!
A new development team for CW: Red Sun has done wonders for the game's demeanor. After all, while Vengeance looked great (as does Red Sun) and played like a champ, several of the missions were next to impossible. Red Sun's difficulty level is very reasonable. In addition, the music and sound effects are awesome. They recorded a live orchestra for the soundtrack. Loads of ship upgrades, interesting missions and a good story lock this one up.
While not boasting as coherent a story as the previous games, Red Sun is certainly extremely playable. The ground-based missions are a big improvement over Vengeance's and the space battles are much 'tighter' and action-packed. There's no racing around trying to find a fight. The trademark gorgeous graphics are still here, but now they're supplemented by some wonderful orchestral music that really sets a movie-like tone.
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Don't feel like a wuss if you thought Colony Wars: Vengeance was a little too hard and a lot too frustrating. Even the Psygnosis team working on its sequel, Colony Wars: Red Sun, found the game a tad trying. Good news, though: They're fixing the one thing that made the first two games such a pain in the pants. "A lot of people complained that you couldn't save after every mission in Vengeance," Psygnosis game designer Mark Green told us. "So we've changed that in Red Sun. And if you fail a mission now, no problem, because most missions are just contracts you choose, and failing them has no effect on the overall story line. You just don't get paid."
But we're getting ahead of ourselves here. Red Sun is set during the same war-torn time frame as Vengeance. You play a pilot named Valdemar, who lives on the ass-end of the galaxy, far from the fracas between the Navy and the League. Valdemar is a mercenary and scoundrel; he'd probably make a good bowling buddy for Han Solo. But ominous dreams plague your character. He feels driven to investigate a silverfish-shaped ship called the Red Sun--a craft somehow tied to the fate of the galaxy. Psygnosis, wanting to give the series a fresh spin, assigned development of the game to a new team at its Leeds Studio. Now, Red Sun features an impressive score performed by a live orchestra. The developers have also taken Vengeance's code and tweaked it--especially the ground-based missions, which look better despite some choppiness. Overall, Red Sun still pretty much looks the same as Vengeance, but that's OK, because it's the gameplay that's been overhauled. "This game maintains the same speed and frame-rate as Vengeance," Green said, "but the ships are slightly slower, so you get more shots on enemies and feel more like you're in a dogfight. Plus we've added more turrets on the big ships and they all animate and track you rather quickly, so you have to make proper strafing runs now." Many weapons now damage both the shields and hull of enemy ships, so you're not forced to switch between guns if you've equipped the right hardware.
The big improvement to Red Sun is its new mission structure. Instead of dumping you down a branching path of missions like in the previous games, Red Sun lets you choose your sorties (see sidebar). And mission variety looks once again to be the best thing here. One level has you blasting weaponry off dinosaurs (although you can't shoot the creatures themselves, since they're a protected species). You'll even go on missions through subspace, a region similar to hyperspace in Babylon 5. Sounds to us like a wild ride.
If you've ever wanted to play as a Han Solo-type of character who looks out for no one but himself, then Red Sun from Psygnosis-Leeds is your game. That's right, you don't have to pick sides in this Colony Wars--although you may end up teaming up with somebody depending on what missions you complete. Psygnosis promises enhanced graphics, more cinematics and a revised mission structure. Look for it spring 2000.