The Gladiators just makes it into the "recommend for fans" category because it just manages to be what it sets out to be'a fairly simple futuristic, squad-level shoot-em-up' and little more.
Actually set in the past, the initial campaign depicts of a rough-looking character yanked from an army stockade in 1978 to fly a dangerous mission, launched from ol' Area 51, into a black hole. Once out there the crew finds itself in the middle of a galactic struggle which everyone will recognize owes a debt to the Star Wars saga. The cut scenes are lively comic bookish stills, with a touch of animation in the manner of those old Clutch Cargo and Space Angel TV series. The comics style is a refreshing approach, used also by Microsoft in its Combat Flight Simulator 2 product. Save the 3D programming for the game itself, not the linking stories.
Things get a little confused story-wise but suffice to say that our hero finds himself in a huge stadium participating in increasing challenges across vast areas of terrain to please a crowd of wildly screaming alien fans.
We tested the gold master version so there was no documentation except for a help file with some tips and a command summary. It appears, from the looks of the mission selection screen, that once you complete your first hero's missions you can move on to other characters, including an evil-looking guy who may be the initial hero's arch nemesis. Multiplayer is available on the main screen and looks like it will accommodate both LAN and internet play. Neither was tested but the document lists Deathmatch, Capture the flag, Assault and Co-operative as potential modes for multiplayer games.
There is no random map game or character generator and the campaigns were linked and linear. The version tested had no mission builder.
You control a main hero and supplemental "fodder" troops supplied at a start and gained during a mission. The missions also sprinkle medic packs and "power ups" along the way, which usually indicates a group of monster guards nearby. There are height and cover terrain advantages but the missions amount to shooting up hordes of buggy "dorkins" and other creatures indebted to Aliens or Starship Troopers for their DNA. Once you figure their locations the first or second time through you should be able to solve the levels with some minimum application of brain power. In that respect, except that you move your pieces in a simplified Real Time Strategy style, what you have is little more than a Duke Nukem action game.
Views are zoomable but at times you want to get closer or farther away than you're able. Controls are slightly tricky. Normally right click to move to a location, but left click if you've clicked the formation button (only one formation, line abreast). Right click to move a group and the group moves in a mass, not a formation. There's also an attack-move button which will get heavy use.
The sound is well thought out, with the blood-thirsty crowd cheering at appropriate times in the action. There is no wound model. It's hit points, as usual.
The Gladiators is redeemed by its setting and style but in many other respects is a run-of-the-mill graphics-heavy 3D product that game companies can churn out in their sleep. Some moderately strong language was encountered but the violence was all virtual.
Download The Gladiators
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP