Echelon

a game by Bethesda Softworks
Platforms: PC
Editor Rating: 7/10, based on 2 reviews
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Echelon
Echelon
Echelon
Echelon

Overview

As a new cadet within the Federation’s elite combat unit you begin to explore your skill as a hotshot pilot. Thrust onto the front lines of a brutal war in a desperate mission to save the known galaxy, you find yourself pitted against overwhelming odds as you face a race of aliens known only as the Velians. Sitting in the cockpit of your high tech fighter, you rocket through the skies towards your first battle, anticipating the opportunity to crush the advancing alien fleet. All the hopes of the Federation go with you as you rush to the din of battle.

Gameplay, Controls, Interface

Echelon is an in-your-face air combat game set during a futuristic war over rolling alien landscapes and towering cities. As the pilot, you are subjected to numerous branching campaigns and learn more of the overall storyline, advancing in rank and gaining a greater control over the squadron. As the squad leader you’ll fly a variety of unique flight models to challenge yourself during tactical simulated combats in single-player and multi-player games. You’ll be on the edge of your seat attempting to out maneuver the cunning and ruthless enemy fighters over a multitude of vast breath taking terrain.

Once you hop into the vectored thrust fighter you will start to understand the complications of becoming a hotshot pilot. You must be eternally vigilant during each overwhelming mission to soak in all the data. While piloting the fighter, familiarity of the basic functions and visual displays will become second nature to you during training simulations. Continual advancement from superior opposition in actual real-time combat situations must be dealt with using finesse and composure at all times while in the field. Once you have mastered the techniques necessary to control your fighter with confidence only then will you be able to call yourself a hotshot pilot.

Typically in a combat flight simulation, there is always the debate on how the controls of the game may detract from the enjoyment of the overall gameplay. In the case of Echelon it must be noted that without a joystick to simulate the actual controls in the cockpit you will be subjected to inadequate control over the fighter. While I used the computer's mouse, the sensitivity was so extreme that it would hurtle my fighter in whatever direction I was attempting to move in. For this reason I insist that if you haven’t invested in a adequate joystick for gameplay then you should hurry to acquire one before attempting to pilot your aircraft.

Echelon attempts to dazzle the viewers with the experience of piloting an advanced fighter straight into enemy territory. Other than multiple missions that advance the status of your pilot within the ranks of the Federation, there are a couple of cut-scenes that are less than adequate at satisfying your hunger to continue to the next mission objective. Even though your character is thrown into battles with little hope of survival, that appears to be the only point of the scenario. At the end you find yourself within another typical flight simulation where the graphics are the only saving grace.

Multiplayer

Echelon has a multiplayer support for up to sixteen players over the Internet, including co-op and death match. For those of you who enjoy tactical warfare in weapons of mass destruction I suggest that you play with multiple players. Since gameplay is lacking in visual stimulation on single-player mode, perhaps with a few extra distractions thrown onto the battlefield it may spark the warrior spirit within to advance and seize victory.

Graphics

The graphic details of the multiple fighters are a spectacular sight to behold. Every possible detail is accounted for, ranging from the vectored thrust propulsion to even being able to view inside your own cockpit. In addition to the realism of the exterior terrain, which includes weather patterns that change gradually and even actual glare from the twin suns, the quality of the control console will make you believe that you are really piloting a high tech fighter. If there were a singular graphical element that I would have changed to increase the realism of the overall interaction, it would be having more debris when units are destroyed. Overall, the graphics enhance the enjoyment of the game, showing how superior firepower can lighten up your day.

Audio

With a small variety of trivial sound effects, there really isn’t anything worth mentioning through most of the gameplay. Occasionally during various mission objectives you’ll pick up feedback on your radio of enemy threats or pilots from your squadron feeding you necessary data to move on further in the mission. I was amused that even though the game may have you piloting such a high tech fighter, it only seems to come equipped with an out-of-date communication system. If you have a hard time imagining such a terrible radio then just put a coffee can over your head and start banging it with an iron pan. I suggest that as you progress through the game you leave the audio on mute and instead listen to some appropriate music to help you get in the mood.

System Requirements

Intel P2 266mhz+ or Celeron 300mhz, AMD Athlon or Duron 300mhz, Windows 95/98/98SE/ME/2000/2000 Professional, 64 MB RAM, 650MB HD Space, DirectX 7.0 16MB 3D Accelerator, Windows Sound Card, and an 8X CD-ROM.

Reviewed on: AMD Athlon 1000mhz, 512MB RAM, 44X CD-ROM, ASUS V7100 Geforce 2 MX 32MB Video, and a Soundblaster Live! Sound Card.

Bottom Line

Even though Echelon excels in bringing you a high-powered futuristic flight simulation, that’s where the excitement stops. There is absolutely no progression of personal growth nor will the fundamental storyline leave you wanting more. If there was anything that saves it from the trash it would be its thrilling graphics that go beyond normal second rate flight simulations. I would suggest that you save your cash until one of the hotter releases comes out later this season.

Game Reviews

The packaging describes Echelon as a "3-D space flight simulator" — and it's a darn good one. But this remarkable game is much more than that. While it's splendid fun to master the C-104 star fighter and take it for joyrides over the vast, mysterious planet of Isis, that's only the first level of the game.

Isis, it turns out, was once the home of an impressive ancient civilization, now represented only by colossal ruins and scattered, enigmatic artifacts. Your primary task is to explore the unmapped regions of Isis, chart newly discovered ruins, and retrieve artifacts for close inspection. While amassing this data, you begin to uncover clues not only to the ancient hieroglyphic writing, but also to the location of a secret base of menacing space pirates. Periodically, the pirates emerge from nowhere to launch raids against the International Space Federation.

Typical of Echelon's thoughtful features is the option that lets you select the amount of combat you want: none, light, or heavy. Until you become really comfortable flying the C-104, you can explore Isis and fill in the blank spaces on your map without any interference. Later, when you feel ready for some action, you can add just the right amount of combat to season the game to your personal taste.

The graphics in Echelon are outstanding, but the real surprise is how good the game sounds. The annoying beeps we've come to expect from PC games have been replaced with remarkably lifelike music, sound effects, and even human speech. The secret is that Echelon uses RealSound, a new technique that works entirely in software — no special sound board is required. Within the unavoidable limitations of the tiny speakers found in PC compatibles, RealSound does an amazing job. The talking data bank in your C-104 fighter is a delightful extra that definitely adds to the fun.

Echelon is a thoroughly engrossing game as well as a splendid (and easy-to-learn) space flight simulator. With its depth of play and numerous special features, it's a winner.

Snapshots and Media

Screenshots

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