Coder David Braben describes V2000 as a measured blend of action, strategy, shoot 'em up and adventure. He goes on: It has hidden depths and immense playability. It's genre-less, but sits very comfortably on its own. In keeping with Virus, the prequel, Braben has created another 3D world and given you complete freedom to roam through it. Your task is simple: use the supplied craft to rid each world of a deadly virus which is being insidiously spread by the swarming alien hoards. Destroying the enemy hives which spawn their offspring is the only way to save the planet.
You all want to know about the controls though, so let's bite the bullet: anyone can tell you that the original Virus was a complete bitch to control - just keeping the craft airborne was nigh on impossible. Braben concedes: Most people flew, flipped upside down, died and gave up. I wanted to avoid that this time. He has. In V2000 you control an updated version of the Virus craft, which can now transform between a hovercraft and an airborne vehicle. While the hovercraft is a cinch to control and requires no fuel, it's cumbersome on undulating land and therefore vulnerable to attack. The flying craft is faster, but less easy to manoeuvre and also requires regular refuelling.
The perspective is akin to the original game, with the action viewed from above and behind your craft. However, this time the Cgame camera' proves both intelligent and responsive, keeping you right at the heart of the action. The control method is similar too, but Braben has added the magic ingredients of two spoonfuls of sanity and a pinch of common sense. Salvation comes in the form of two diverse control methods, which are as equally suited to joystick input as they are to a mouse. Most people will prefer the Relative flight mode, where pushing down lowers your craft's nose, alters its pitch and enables you to thrust forward, while pushing back has the reverse effect. Wrosjunkies, however, will favour Absolute mode, which turns the whole craft, rather than just the nose, in response to movements. It's the less intuitive of the two but, as if to compensate, it benefits from adjustable sensitivity which enables you to either keep the craft's pitch constant or responsive to your movements. Regardless of which method you favour, there's an added Cget out of jail free' card in the form of the Cself-righting' option which levels your craft if you relinquish control.
So, there you have it. You can rest assured that this time round the subtlety of the controls enhances the gameplay rather than detracts from it.
A Question Of Balance
The clever thing about 112000 is that it works on two levels: shoot 'em up fans will get short-term satisfaction from the blasting action, while strategists will enjoy exercising their grey matter. To make any significant progress, however, you need to use a delicate mixture of both. Taking one of the 30 single-player levels as an example: you decide to confront the enemy by slaughtering some isolated arachnids and attacking their hive. However, your abandonment of the natives leads to their extinction. Hell descends upon the landscape and the mood darkens as the massed legions of scum attack in a furious onslaught. They may retreat eventually, but their inevitable return forces you to contemplate a more strategic approach.
Those of a more cerebral disposition will rescue the natives (Star Trek-fashion - you just beam them up) and put them to work in the disused factories. These grateful refugees will then build weapons and accessories for you. It's therefore possible to survive by constantly dashing between the factories and the battle, but you have to balance the need to rescue natives (by returning them to safety) and picking up weapons as they're produced and trying to halt the spread of the virus.
It's those game mechanics that make this a compulsory purchase. Braben clearly believes playability and fun are a large part of the gaming equation, and it's apparent that he's done the maths. The difficulty curve is pitched just right too, with onscreen prompts guiding you through your first missions. It may even prove too easy, especially if the over-friendly Csave game' option is abused. But anyone rushing through the worlds will miss out on numerous secrets (including a level which pays homage to the original Virus), the secondary missions, and the fun to be had on the six dedicated multiplayer levels, accessible via network or Internet play.
The graphics really are incidental to the gameplay, but are functional nonetheless. Unfortunately, we do witness the unwelcome return of Mist-O-Vision, which envelops the playing area and restricts the forward view somewhat. On the upside, the claustrophobia it creates adds to the Armageddon-like atmosphere and serves to eliminate unwanted Cpop up'. There's the mandatory 3D accelerator support, but the software-driven code presents a perfectly smooth and playable game in its own right (in low-res at least). Aurally, things are impressive. There's no in-game music, but the ambient spot effects are appropriate to the action, and play out the feeling of imminent doom superbly.
There are a few frustrations, such as your craft disappearing briefly behind larger objects before the perspective adjusts. Also, it can be hard to pick out the natives in the heat of battle, and it's all too easy to kill them with stray shots. You need to be a bit cautious with new weapons too - a badly aimed grenade is a messy and suicidal way to end a level. But these really are minor blemishes in what is an otherwise fine game.
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP