No Arguments now, Starship Troopers is a good film. Through a sheen of exaggerated violence and bad acting it manages to thoroughly ridicule America and its warmongering ways, and have a damn good time about it in the process. In many ways, it's a companion piece to Robocop, arguably Verhoeven's masterpiece.
But then again, who cares? This is a game, a first-person shooter at that, which means incisive social commentary is out and frenetic bloody violence is in. Whether you liked or disliked the film is by the wayside - it's just a convenient setting to hang a game on. Indeed, having played the latest preview build of Starship Troopers -including a previously unseen level called Stronghold - we can assure you that a much bigger factor in your enjoyment will be how much you liked Halo. For as much as Verhoeven's blockbuster provides the background and look for the game, the actual gameplay owes much more to the work of Bungie Studios.
In some ways this is no surprise. Both games deal with a group of space marines invading an alien-infested landscape. Both take place in large outdoor environments, interspersed with a few dark alien interiors. However, there's a lot more to it than that, and it starts from the first moment you step foot on Hesperus, the overrun mining planet on which the action takes place.
Dropping into a chaotic battle zone, your first task is to secure a supply compound, dodging alien artillery and beating off a handful of warrior bugs along the way. You play an elite soldier known as a marauder and, just like Master Chief, your arrival is met with a mixture of awe and respect from the troops. As in Halo, you fight alongside a number of friendly soldiers without actually commanding them, though your role as a badass means it's up to you to lead the way.
Having taken the compound (coating the ground liberally with bug guts in the process), your next task is to pick up some power cells, located in a needlessly deep storage tunnel nearby, and bring them to the surface. By the time you get back, the next wave of bugs has arrived, and it's up to you to defend an engineer against an alien counterattack as he struggles to get some laser walls online. It's a frantic business, with the alien swarm getting thicker and less manageable with every second. Controlled fire and well-timed reloads pave the only road to survival.
Having seen off the verminous menace in the compound, we skip promptly to the all-new Stronghold level, which tasks you with raiding an abandoned fuel dump deep in bug country. Like the Outpost 29 level described in our last preview Stronghold depicts a desperate stand against hundreds, maybe thousands of alien attackers (we lost count).
When you arrive, it's all about to kick off. A handful of hoppers are buzzing around, threatening to impale unwary soldiers on their stingers. Soon after, a wave of roach-like limpet bugs appears, F rolling across the rocky tundra to clear any hidden landmines. It's at about this point that you're ordered into no man's land - apparently an engineer has overshot the landing zone and needs rescuing. Moments later, the horizon darkens with invertebrate bodies, all heading your way.
Once again, it's your job to escort the engineer as he runs around fixing stuff, meanwhile fighting off a never-ending horde of critters. There's a bit of running back and forth to defend the building on several fronts, and a lot of panicking in the face of a vastly superior force.
Six Legs Bad
Undoubtedly, there's something unique and appealing in all this. The massed battles against thousands of foes are the game's key strength - the mere sight of them rolling across the terrain towards you is enough to impress. But saying that, the Stronghold level also raises one or two red flags. For a start, we've only played three finished levels and already they're starting to feel quite samey. Devices such as defending NPCs and holding off waves of attackers have already been repeated, raising questions about the amount ef-variety built into the level design.
And as impressive and frantic as the massed battles are, they're not particularly skilful - you basically just spray indiscriminately at the moving wall of spines and legs coming towards you and toss the odd grenade.
Admittedly, we haven't seen any of the solo infiltration' missions yet, which promise to be far more measured and challenging affairs. Moreover, we've only faced a handful of the 19 different bug types promised, and the Al is apparently some way from being on a par with the brain bug's. Hopefully these additional elements will round the game out to some extent - after all, we don't want something as bad as Starship Troopers 2...
The Film Doesn't Have All The Answers
On the official game website, the developer proudly declares that the Starship Troopers movie was born to be an FPS, but somehow we can't help but feel that the source material is holding the game back. Going back to Halo, you can see how limited Starship Troopers is by comparison. You can't, for example, pick up any alien weaponry, because there isn't any. You can't drive any vehicles, because there aren't any (to speak of). You can't have smart enemies, again because there aren't any, apart from sluggish brain bugs.
As such, we feel Strangelite needs to bend the rules a bit, go beyond the licence and forge into new realms. Following Halo's lead, the developer could introduce a second alien race or perhaps design some vehicles. Taking a lead from Half-Life 2, it could provide a way of controlling the bugs and using them as your own private killing machines. Something must be done in any case, because the film quite clearly was not born to be an FPS.
Download Starship Troopers
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Starship troopers is a game that I really feel I should like. It's made by a plucky British outfit, it's based on a film that's not only brilliantly satirical but also full of nasty violence and wazzo pairs of jugs, and it involves shooting lots and lots of gooey aliens.
So let's start off nice. First, Starship Troopers manages to get an impressive amount of bugs and blokes on-screen at any one time - the hustle, bustle and background banter of the first training/ spaceship level is really quite atmospheric, and later insect assaults certainly provide a sense of attacks that come from every which way but loose. Second, the game begins with the intimation that you've just had some pretty powerful sex with your pilot (female). Third, some of the enemies are really, really big and make the screen go blue when you kill them.
You may have noticed that I'm struggling for good points, and this is because they're well and truly outnumbered by the inconsistency ' of the game proper - which at its best is average and at its worst as much fun as eating a packet of wire-wool. The graphics for example, for use of an easy target, may be able ocreatea lot of fuzzy, jagged-looking bugs, but certainly don't go as far as having allies who look like they're in a game from any point within the last three years.
Reach For The Raid
What's more, developer Strangelite may have fixed the balancing issues so glaringly obvious in the demo level, but the game forever teeters on a precipice between deadening ease and an endless, unfair parade of quickloads brought on by fuzzy objectives and Al that I simply fail to understand. As a human being, I'm probably not expected to understand the motivation of an alien insect commanded by a psychic bag of goo - but the motions of the enemy are so haphazard that they quickly stop being fun, and get even less fun as you trudge through similar arrays of claws and spikes level after level. What's more, the handling of your character is sluggish, the guns patchy and the jump so redundantly useless that your spacebar will weep.
When the game uses its source material well (the opening, the excellent smiley grenades that sweetly count down the seconds left until their destruction, a few of the bigger boss creatures), then this is a passable game, and one that people who were stupid enough to buy the film's rubbish DVD spin-off sequels might be interested to play. There are redeeming features, a few nice touches of scripting here and a cool boss there, but generally the fabled shitty-stick of non-touching is going to have to make another one of his increasingly common appearances. If you buy this game, then I'm sorry to say you'll be disappointed. Do you want to know more?