Nope, you havent stumbled into the kick-off installment of an EGM anime section, although Vicious Cycle President Eric Peterson wont mind if you think you did. We all agreed right from the start that our game had to look like youre playing in the show, says Peterson, whose company is crafting Robotech, a spectacularlooking Xbox/PlayStation 2/GameCube game based on the late-8os cult-hit cartoon that meshed mech action with sappy drama (check the sidebars for a crash course if youre in proto-culture shock). Most games make mecha look all mechanical and shiny, but that doesnt look like Robotech." So, to achieve as-seen-on-after- school-TV visuals, the team resorted to the cartoony rendering style of cel-shading and pulled off a few other nifty tricks. Even the skies look hand-painted, just like you would see in the real series, says Lead Designer Adam Cogan.
But if you dont know Lynn Minmei from Liza Minnelli or are just too young to remember the show we figure these spectacular world- exclusive Xbox screens have locked your interest on this game anyway. Robotech is a mech-combat title that puts you in the cockpit of a transformable Veritech fighter (see the sidebar on page 85 for info on each mode) and sends you on missions against the Zentraedi, a race of warriors four stories tall. While you do mix it up in space battles, expect to log the majority of your fight time on Earth. We felt that keeping the game in space would have done a disservice to the license, Cogan elaborates. Youre able to change into a big robot, but theres not much difference between being a robot in space and being a jet in space. Youre still just sort of floating there.
Its a point we grasped as soon as we grabbed the Xbox controller at Vicious Raleigh, N.C., studio. Your three Veritech configurations Fighter jet, Guardian and Battloid robot come with their own unique gameplay quirks that are best appreciated when you battle in gravity. Switching between any of the three forms is a snap; you just jab the digital pad in one of three directions and imitate a transformation sound effect with your mouth here. We debated a tot about letting the players transform whenever they wanted to, says Peterson. In the end we decided it was a must to give them that freedom. If you lock gamers into Battloid for certain missions and Guardian for others, they just get all pissed off. If you cant transform, the games not worth owning. Even niftier is that just about everything in the game world can be demolished.
Picture patrolling the streets of a city on Earth and being set upon by five or six Zentraedi Battlesuits. You switch to Battloid robot mode and strafe left, firing your gun. As you pass in front of a building, all the windows on the fifth floor shatter from your barrage of gunfire. Sensing that youre being flanked, you transform to Guardian, levitate above the rooftops, then blast the Battlesuits with a streaming volley of missiles. But as the smoke clears, you see nothing but a pile of rubble where that city block used to be. Being the battle-hardened flyboy you are, you convert to Fighter mode and jet skyward, eagle eyes scanning for the next skirmish. While none of Robotechs missions have been finalized yet, expect to do everything from search-and-rescue to escorting recon planes to good-ol dogfighting. And Vicious Cycle guarantees some major bosses. Still, from what weve experienced during our early test drive of the game, we have to say that Peterson is delivering on the promise he made at the start of this preview: While playing, you really do feel like youre in an episode of the classic cartoon. Much of that feeling comes from whats whizzing through the air: hundreds of missiles, fired by both you and the enemies, tracing the sky with spaghetti-strand contrails. Its a visual effect that defined the animated series battles. The missiles are a huge part of the game, says Cogan. So we worked hard on getting the volleys to act just right.
Die-hard details applied to all the mecha models up the authenticity. Youre not stuck piloting a single type ofVeritech against a ho- hum armada of cloned Battlepods. Vicious Cycle is made up of raging Robotech fans, and Peterson assures us that we built everything that was ever in any Robotech show or book. All the models are done. That means youll see Officer Battlepods, Destroids, armored and super Veritechs and Dropships. (But you wont see Hovertanks, Cyclone Ccycles or any other stuff from the second or third Robotech series; TDK has yet to talk plans for games based on those sagas.)
Of course, the real danger when working with a niche license like Robotech is trying too hard to please the die-hard fans the guys who, say, can spout the Robotech Role-Playing Game specs of the mecha models we just told you about. When you design with only the hardcore fans in mind, youre only going to sell to hardcore fans in the end, says Peterson. So while Vicious Cycle is doing everything possible to please the Robo-heads with the look and sounds of this title, theyre aiming squarely at the mainstream player when it comes to gameplay. Thats not to say the series story wont work its way into the game (exact details such as who you play as have yet to be settled). The nefarious Khyron is likely to cause some big problems for our hero. And the SDF-1 the humans capital ship and the focus of the Zentraedis constant invasions is in here, too. In the version we played, it was possible to fly circles around the huge ship in space, and it looked great. The guys at Vicious, however, havent finalized the exact role of the battle fortress yet. Very large objects in the ground-based levels make it tough, Cogan says. If you want a size comparison, the SDF-1 is roughly six times bigger than the grounded Star Destroyer in Rogue Leader GC. Its an issue were still dealing with.
Robotech might seem an odd license to base a game on now, 15 years after the show first aired. Games tied to the Japanese version of the series have been plentiful in Japan, although none have been stellar. And a once-planned Nintendo 64 Robotech title from GameTek died in development. (Vicious Cycles game is unrelated.) But its these very issues that have Peterson optimistic. I dont think anyones ever done the series justice, he says. Everybodys been waiting forever for this...so the sooner this gets to market, the better. Bottom line: Regardless of how niche the license, Robotech looks well on its way to becoming a standout title. Point your browser to egm.gamers.com on April 5 to download game footage and see for yourself.
Download Robotech Invasion
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Robotech Invasion takes us back to the Robotech universe and this time the earth has been overrun with an alien known as the Invid. Basically your goal is to rid the planet of this menace with the help of other survivors and the cyclone battle armor. Robotech Invasion is really a marginal first/third person shooter where you're wearing this battle armor that doubles as a decked out motorcycle. As you fight your way to the main Invid hive, you'll find the need to switch between the cycle and foot mode and defend yourself from the Invid, other violent refugees, and even your own team.
That's easier said then done however as the control system leaves something to be desired. Although the foot mode is acceptable with a nice lock on function to help with aiming, the cycle (third person) controls are loose and really more trouble then they're worth. Getting comfortable with the cycle controls will take some time and I actually found it easier to go on foot whenever possible then mess around with the cycle mode.
The graphics are also not up to par and could best be described as bland. The environments do offer a good perspective on what the earth might look like overrun with aliens but there isn't enough detail for me and many of the effects are under-whelming. The audio is better however with music appropriate for Robotech and reasonable sound effects.
Although this game does have its problems, the basics of the game are sound enough to keep fans of first/third person shooters from feeling overly frustrated. However, there are also a large number of high quality games in this genre coming out this season such as Halo 2 that will make Robotech Invasion difficult to justify. Robotech fans will probably be satisfied but others may want to use it as a rainy day rental.