|At first glance, CyberStrike2 seems a pretty plain game. The box depicts
two robots blasting it out, just like far too many other recent games. The back of the
packaging shows screenshots that are not overly impressive--just fine for an ordinary,
ho-hum game, maybe--but the box also proclaims that CyberStrike2 requires a 3D Accelerator
Card to play. To make matters worse, before even opening the package I had it in my head
that this was just the latest MechWarrior clone to be stamped off the assembly line. I was
sure I was in for some half finished, poorly done game of robots blandly beating each
other into the ground, just like a half-dozen other games. Even the installation boded
poorly. I was forced to choose between sacrificing 200, 400 or 800 megs of my precious
hard drive space to install the game; this is a game very presumptuous in its
requirements. All in all, not the best first impression.
However, once I got past all that and finally started the game for the first time, I could see I was in for an unexpected treat. The engaging intro movie lasted a good while, setting the stage for the rest of the game. The intro tells how mankind finds a wormhole leading to another planet inhabitable by man. For a time humans emigrate to this new planet, settling, mining, and making a new life for themselves. But the majestic wormhole closes without warning, leaving this new planet isolated. Not only are the colonists on their own, but wormholes collapse has also caused the planet to spin out of orbit, slowly hurtling towards the sun. The survivors do as you would expect, forming into groups for their own protection and in the process converting the once peaceful mining robots known as cyberpods into vicious war machines.
The single player game allows the player to choose one of two clans, the "Terran Alliance" or the "Disciples of Apocalypse". The Alliance are your basic good guys, out to save the planet from almost certain destruction. They save those in need, get in the way of the bad guys, and help old women across the street. On the other hand, The Disciples are your classic evil cult, bent on destroying the world. They follow Jebediah Brightman, a religious fanatic who has foretold the destruction of the planet. In order to secure their spots in the afterlife, the Disciples must ensure the planet is destroyed.
The screen shots on the back of the box do little justice to the game engine the folks at Simutronics have crafted. The explosions, weapon glows, cityscapes, and cyberpods all come alive in the game. The guns spew glowing masses of plasma, and cannons spit speeding laser glows across the battlefield. With a reasonable 3D card the effects are comparable to those of any of the cutting edge 3D shooters. While the screenshots on the packaging are accurate enough representations, the lack of motion and action seems to drain the splendor from them. While the cyberpods are really as clunky looking as they appear, all the other graphics are fantastic. The gameplay is fast and furious, and the cyberpods are small, maneuverable, and fast, setting themselves apart from the large lumbering Mechs from the Battletech universe that I expected to see.
As with most games of this genre, the real fun is choosing the equipment for your cyberpod. Depending on your style of play, you can equip yourself with defensive "pods," or you can get more aggressive and stick on plasma cannons, pulse lasers, and gauss cannons. Cyberpods also may equip themselves in the heat of battle. With your communicator you can, at any time, radio your support plane or raven and request additional pods. With over 40 different pods, ranging from stealth to jumpjets to mass driver cannons, the customizability of this game should make even the most fickle pilot happy.
Now Im sure all of you aspiring pilots will be tempted to put the biggest, baddest plasma cannon on your cyberpod, along with a smattering of amplifiers, shield penetrators, and so on. But before you get too carried away, there is one more consideration. Your cyberpod has a power generator that provides normal operating power. This is good. But this power supply was created with mining, walking, and carrying in mind--not combat. If you shoot, you rapidly deplete your power supply, which takes an eternity to replenish. This is bad. In order to offset the power drain of a battle you must place towers around you, which provide power to all cyberpods within a certain radius. And even with these towers, extended firefights can still exhaust your power supply, but at least they make battles a possibility.
Normally an opponent is at their weakest when away from their towers, having no way to replenish their power supplies, so popular strategy seems to be destroying an opponents tower, robbing them of their precious energy and leaving them vulnerable.
The single player game is fun and yet still somehow unfulfilling. The missions simply do not draw the player into them and on the whole seem like the same mission over and over. While the terrain may change, the basic missions are the same. Visit all the nav points. Destroy all enemies. These two missions repeat themselves over and over through the more than forty missions provided. Although somewhat repetitive, the missions are still interesting, and with four levels of difficulty provide hours upon hours of gameplay
Online play is where this game really shines. The developer, Simutronics, has created a number of previous online only games including Gemstone III, DragonRealms, and (surprise, surprise) CyberStrike. While the monthly cost may be a little daunting, the real fun of CyberStrike 2 is playing online with other living and breathing players.
The one thing that amazed me the most is the online games lack of lag. I played games with the number of players approaching 16 with no apparent slowdown. The networking for this game is definitely solid, and there seem to be plenty of new players at nearly all times. For a game with the immense and fantastical graphics of CyberStrike2 to have virtually no lag is quite impressive. The CyberStrike2 servers seem to work quickly and responsively, and the biggest factor to getting good game speed seems to be your Internet connection speed. While Simutronics recommends that you have a 28.8k connection, I played for some time on a 14.4k connection--and while the game seemed a little slow, it was certainly still playable.
Though most online games have some sort of team play, CyberStrike2 has it built in from the beginning. When joining an online game you must join one of 4 teams. Once joining a team, teamwork plays an important part, often deciding whether you die or survive. While good team players are hard to come by, there is a definite advantage to working together. In addition, there is something of an online ranking system. For certain accomplishments you may receive medals, and you can also join clans or just chat with other players.
CyberStrike2 is part of a new wave of games designed specifically with Internet play in mind. For those of you who dont mind monthly fees (about $9.95) in addition to the cost of purchasing a game and paying for an Internet service provider, I highly recommend CyberStrike2. Its full of action, team play, eye-popping graphics, and fun fun fun.
For those who loved Mechwarrior2 and cant wait for MechWarrior3 to come out, this game should appeal to you as well. Although the game is definitely different from the MechWarrior series, the same audience should enjoy it. Even without the multiplayer, a true Mech fan should have hours and hours of enjoyment in this one.
This game proves that just as you cant judge a book by its cover, you cant judge a game by its box. I encourage all of you to look past what you may think is contained inside the mild, unassuming box and give it a chance. Nearly any gamer should like this one, which might be a very welcome addition under your Christmas tree this season-- as it very well may for some of my closest friends and family.