Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri

a game by Looking Glass Studios, Inc.
Platform: PC
Editor Rating: 7/10, based on 2 reviews, 3 reviews are shown
User Rating: 8.0/10 - 1 vote
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See also: Mechs Games

It's The Future Again. I Say This because unless my memory deceives me, it was the future last month, too. You are Nikola ap Io (distant cousin to famous space frontiersman E.I. ap Io). and you're one of the finest chaps in the galaxy - a bit of a whiz with a grenade launcher, expert mixer of complicated cocktails and world Scrabble champion: in short, an allround good egg. You've just been transferred to Strike Force Centauri as a squad leader, a position of some responsibility for one so young. But then you did sleep with the boss.

Inside Soap

Strike Force Centauri was set up by colonists to combat the threat of space pirates, who keep raiding their planets, drinking rum and singing bawdy songs until all hours of the day and night. The constant squawking of parrots and clanking of heavy earrings is getting on everyone's nerves, and so the aforementioned elite force has been set up to see them off. Like all futuristic games involving the use of armour-plated bodysuits, there are Clans involved, which always helps to introduce a bit of a soap-opera element and provides loads of tedious background reading: the history of the clans; the principles of the various political movements in operation around the galaxy; how to make a meringue rise properly in a high-gravity situation; and so on. (The foremost political movement is Publicanism, which you might think would be dedicated to the idea of giving everyone a pub to run, but is actually communism without the economic restrictions.) I've no idea why we always get this sort of stuff. Presumably, programmers and designers are convinced that, while the average punter will happily fire pulse-weapons at donkeys, they'll feel a lot better if they know the donkeys' personal history, where it went to school and who its best friend is. I can't stand it myself, but someone must like it or they wouldn't do it... unless they all harbour a secret urge to create "lidderachure". Perish the thought.

Take a Break

Anyway, this Strike Force is supposed to be above all that; unfortunately, you find out pretty darned quick that not only do Clan politics still have a big influence on everyday life, but the pirates are not what they seem, either. They get a lot more heavily-armoured, and rather more skilled, very quickly. It soon becomes apparent that they're being funded by Hegemony, an evil organisation that runs good old planet Earth and wants to run everyone else's planet, too. And so the plots and subplots develop, and the cut-scenes load, and the background is filled out for you by actors... and I suppose, if we have to have all this stuff, it's not too badly done, and does give a context to the missions. (One conversation puzzled me: a female Strike Force member revealed that her ship got lost on a mission and she was in suspended animation for 200 years. And Nikola promised to help her find her children... surely they'd scarcely be in the first flush of youth any more? Shouldn't the search start at the death records office? Maybe I wasn't paying attention...)

I admit to being a bit disappointed when I first started playing the game -the graphics could be better, the lasers could sound more like a weapon and less like a something a dermatologist would use to remove a wart... that sort of thing. But as I played it, I grew more fond of it. There are a wealth of movement and control buttons to get used to, and sometimes in the middle of a scrap you'll find yourself wishing for a few extra limbs to control things. There's an in-game tuition section, but you still need to work out what to do when it tells you. Also, I can't imagine ever bothering to learn all the quick key-presses used to order my squad members around. But the commands do work - tell them to keep to cover, for example, and you'll see them following you on the overhead map, darting from rocky outcrop to bush. Their caution makes you feel quite protective toward them.

The landscape isn't that wonderful, but it looks better at the higher detail setting, and can be used to advantage on missions. You can sneak through canyons, struggle up and over mountains and thanks to the independent head controls, look down at the scary drop and wet yourself (and the people below, I suppose) and... well, generally have fun with mounds and crevices.

TV Quick

The equipment side of things is better - there are loads of weapons and specialised dooberries to stick on your utility belt, and even some fast-moving, remote-controlled hovering cameras that you can use to scout the land (until they get shot down by pirates). Another handy helpmate is the navigation marker, which you can stick down anywhere you want on a map quickly and easily, and which will then appear on the landscape itself as a kind of 3D projected pyramid, and on your hud as a waypoint.

There are three types of suit, and three planets which have different gravities, so that projectile weapons will have to have their shot-trajectories adjusted to account for the differing pull on the bullet (or grenade, or custard pie, or whatever). There's also a snazzy full 360 degree viewing mode and infra-red vision, which is useful not only at night, but during bad weather.

(By the way, try not to laugh at the snow... they're doing their best.) Don't be surprised if you start hearing voices in your head, either... they're your chums, who have different personalities. (You'll hate the slightly sarcastic one immediately, but try to resist sending him to his death... he has his uses.) One of the voices sounds like Shep from ER, and another like Christopher Walken. But it's not them. I checked.

Basically, Terra Nova is a good, fast-moving and atmospheric game - which is probably no surprise as it comes from the people who brought you System Shock. My only problem is that, despite the supposed pan-galactic nature of the thing, it's very American - the actors, the accents, even the fact that you get a medal just for being crap enough to get shot (which is very American). Still, you can't have everything.

Download Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri

PC

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

Game Reviews

Terra Nova's sci-fi shoot-em-up action sends you into more than 30 challenging first-person 3D combat missions. Armed with Powered Battle Armor and a mind-boggling array of weaponry, you must defend your space colony. This game's A.I. enables you to send your team members off to complete independent tasks, while your enemies have the ability to adapt to your various strategies. You battle on one of four unique interactive worlds, and more than 30 minutes of full-motion video help outline the plot.

Overview

As the newest member of Strike Force Centauri (SFC), your mission is to protect the Terran populace from bands of armed pirates and terrorists. You are dropped from the sky onto a hostile plain, armed only with your powered battle armor. It will take every ounce of skill and strategic planning for you to succeed and live to see another dawn.

Yet another challenger to MechWarrior 2's throne in the popular new genre of first-person, mechanized warfare games, Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri strides out to meet the challenge with both barrels loaded. Will its claims of superiority net it a secure place in combat history, or will it stumble and be crushed under the weight of its own ambition?

Gameplay / Interface

While playing Terra Nova, I quickly discovered something which I had been fearing for some time: I suck at this type of game. There's something about mechanized warfare and the numerous control options that disagrees with my system. Still, the learning curve on Terra Nova was relatively short. Both keyboard and mouse are needed to play effectively, and each has many possibilities. I'm sure that many accomplished players could romp and stomp in their PBAs in no time, but I still prefer games that use four or five keys or the mouse for control. Call me old-fashioned.

One interesting feature of the gameplay is the interaction with other members of Strike Force Centauri. You can not only talk to them during the missions, you can view the battlefield through their eyes and even give them commands ... wait a minute ... why is the rookie on the strike force giving orders? Oh well, a small lapse in logic to allow an added dimension to gameplay is, I suppose, acceptable.

Graphics

In Terra Nova, you play your missions from a head-on perspective, looking through the visor of your powered battle armor (PBA). The terrain is designed and represented well, although sometimes distant objects (like your enemies) can be a little distorted or hard to see. This frustrated me at first, when I kept getting blown up by unseen pirates on my first mission. But then, you must use a little tact in your approach to the enemy camp, and once you learn to scan the landscape using your drones or laser crosshairs, fighting becomes more like fighting and less like trying to shoot frantic pigeons with a slingshot in a pitch black room.

Audio

The sound effects were well-chosen and well-recorded. The music was typical for this genre, being fast-paced and repetitive. Sometimes I wonder why game developers don't spend as much time implementing new audio technologies as they do video or graphics technologies. If I was in a mech battle in the distant future, would I be reduced to listening to cheesy synthesizer music? But on the whole, the audio for Terra Nova was slightly better than average.

Documentation

There is a welcome trend in the industry toward entertaining and interactive setup programs. Remember the C&C setup, with its flashing screens and official sounding voice-over? The installation procedure for Terra Nova was very similar, even down to the digitized female voice. These added touches allow the installation to become part of the game, rather than just a chore one must complete before playing it.

The documentation included with Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri was beyond adequate, with thorough explanations of the game's features and controls, and well-planned illustrations (although I would have preferred more screenshots). I quickly found, however, that reading the manual was a luxury -- not a necessity -- due to the fact that you must complete "training missions" and read background material in the game itself before the SFC will drop you to start your first mission. I could see how some players might become annoyed at having to read or with the delay of bloodshed, but personally, I felt that the 20 minutes or so of time invested in "training" was time well spent.

System Requirements

Pentium 60, 8 MB RAM, 30-45 MB hard drive space, 2X CD-ROM drive, sound card

Note: I played Terra Nova on a 486 DX4-100 with 16 MB RAM and had no problems.

Bottom Line

Probably the most unfortunate and even shocking aspect of this game is the complete lack of modem or network support. Looking Glass stated a while ago that a multiplayer add-on would appear soon, but has anybody seen it? As a single-player action game, I found Terra Nova: SFC to be well-designed and good for several hours of gaming, but the lack of multiplayer support is a glaring flaw. How popular would MechWarrior 2 have been without at least modem play capabilities? If you are looking for a solid single-player action title, Terra Nova is worth checking out. If going toe-to-toe in a little mechanized slaughterfest with your best friend is more your style, you may want to borrow this one, but not buy it. Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri receives a respectable, but "room-for-improvement" score of 71.

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PC Screenshots

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