In the not-so-distant
future of Dropship: United Peace Force, terrorists are on the verge of global domination.
The very fate of the world rests on the shoulders of an elite army of freedom fighters
yadda, yadda, yadda. You know the drill. This is the standard good guy versus bad
guy story. Not so standard, however, is the variety of ways that this tactical vehicle
shooter allows you to engage your enemies. Whether you are in the air, on the ground, or
inside of a turret, whether you are shooting missiles, bullets, or photographs, this game
covers the spectrum.
The gameplay in Dropship spans a rigorous and demanding twenty
levels, with another five training missions to warm up on. You will pilot a variety of
land and air vehicles, including several VTOL dropships of varying size and mobility,
battle tanks, and armored assault vehicles. Most levels consist of rescue, escort, and
surveillance missions that are filled with plot twists and reversals of action.
instance, one of the best passages in the game begins with you piloting an armed dropship
into enemy territory in order to rescue a surveillance team that is under fire. The
mission seems simple: destroy all land and air targets that are after your guys. Then you
find out that a battle tank and its wounded crew were separated from the group and are
stranded in a hot zone. You must fly in, land, and carry them away to safety. But when you
get there, your plane is disabled and blows up. So, you must drive the battle tank, whose
guns are disabled, through the hot zone filled with landmines, enemy tanks, and choppers.
Then, about halfway through your tank run, the crew gets the gun running, and you hop in
the turret, finishing the escapade as a rail shooter, blowing away a bevy of choppers,
tanks, and ground forces while your crew drives.
of the best qualities of this game is the level of tension it is able to convey when it
really gets going. It is like one of those action movies where one dangerous situation
leads to another, problems compound, and occasionally, all hell breaks loose. The passage
described above entails only two levels of the game, which go quickly but accomplish a
All of thatthe different vehicles, the twists and reversals, the
occasional moment of butt-clenching terroris bound to keep you entertained for a
while. Unfortunately, Dropship is so mired in problems that the fun grinds to a halt
control system does a surprisingly good job of handling the intricacies of VTOL flight by
using the shoulder buttons in different combinations. Everything else, on the other hand,
is unnecessarily cumbersome. As nearly every button on the controller has multiple
functions, things become very complicated, creating a steep learning curve, especially
when piloting the aircraft. And even the simple things have hang-ups. For instance, in
order to switch from hover to flight mode, you press the accelerate button twice while
doing over 150kph. To go from flight to hover, press decelerate twice. But as your speed
is measured incrementally on the HUD, you will often find yourself pressing the accelerate
and decelerate buttons repeatedly to attain an optimal speed, rather than just holding
them down. This causes you to inadvertently switch from hover to flight, flight to hover,
sometimes causing you to stall and plummet to the ground. Also, the pitch and roll
functions are placed on the same analog stick, making smooth rolling and banking maneuvers
next to impossible. Much of this would have been easily remedied if you could change the
control configuration. I, for one, would place the pitch on the left stick, roll on the
right, and assign the flight/hover functions to the D-pad. No such luck.
The game presentation is all over the place. Graphically, the game runs at a
solid framerate, with little to no slowdown. The strong points here are the vehicle design
and nearly photo-realistic landscapes. However, there are very few flourishesthe
lighting and weather effects are average, explosions are lame, not all of the wing flaps
move on your aircraft, and so on. The vehicles do not kick up any dust or sand,
eithernot when you are landing your VTOL dropship, not when you are tearing across
the desert in a battle tank. The result is that your vehicles do not look like they are a
part of their surroundings, as if they have no weight. The sound, though presented in
Dolby Pro-Logic, is completely forgettable.
are the specifics. More nebulously, the game has a very inconsistent tone. The opening
movie contains a satirical recruitment video that would make Paul Verhoeven (director of
Robocop and Starship Troopers) proud. The movies between levels showcase rounded,
cartoon-like characters and a lot of one-liners and in-jokes. And yet, the actual game,
with its war maps, records, and photo-realistic terrain is completely devoid of this kind
of satire and humor. It makes the movies seem out of place, jarringly so.
Also, while I can never get enough of an intelligent and compelling storyline
(Deus Ex 2 cannot come fast enough), a little bit of stupidity can ruin what is otherwise
a decent experience. And there is no end to this games stupidity. Take, for example,
those two levels I described earlierthe ones I liked. The UPF sends a rookie pilot
into a hot zone to save personnel carrying crucial information. Not only that, but they
send her out there in a faulty dropship. Thats rightyou dont get shot
down; your aircraft malfunctions and explodes! Then, when you call for back up, you are
denied because now the area is too dangerous. Instead, they advise you to try and
make it on land, in a tank with disabled guns. Okaaay. But thats not all. They map
out an escape route for youdirectly into the oncoming enemy tanks and choppers,
through not one but two mine fields, and, get this, right through the center of the
enemys base! Sure, the levels are tense and exciting, but the whole time I was going
through them I couldnt help but think that the entire UPF consists of one rookie,
me, and about ten-thousand dancing monkeys.
Finally, when it all comes down to it, with all of the games varying ways
to shoot people, there is very little freedom in doing so. This is one of those tactical
games where the tactics are completely laid out for you. When you are flying, your targets
appear on the screen in the order that you are supposed to take them down. When you are
driving, your path is provided for you via checkpoints. Some people really enjoy a
straight forward shooter like that, and will probably dig this game, if they can get past
the controls and other issues. But most, I think, will tire of it rather quickly. Try it
before you buy it.