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by 3DO

screen11-01.jpg (5419 bytes)If the gaming industry had an award for sheer lack of imagination, 3DO’s WarJetz would certainly be in contention. The sad thing is that for everything it’s missing, there is not a shred of evidence anywhere in the game that the programmers even intended to do better. Sony delivers a fine piece of next-generation hardware like the PS2, and for that 3DO gives us WarJetz, a game whose graphics, sound, control system, and overall sophistication would be substandard on the waning N64.

screen3-01.jpg (5659 bytes)The premise of the game is simple: in the post-apocalyptic landscape of the future, the World Destruction League Network has devised several televised sporting events showcasing vehicular mayhem. One such event is Wednesday Night WarJetz, where contestants take to the skies in a variety of aircraft in order to defeat rival gangs, complete game objectives, and win cash. This is a pretty snazzy set-up, carried over from WDL: Thundertanks, which gives this vehicle warfare series the atmosphere of a sports game, complete with cheering crowds and commentators.

screen12-01.jpg (6800 bytes)The game contains both single- and multi-player modes. In the single-player campaign there are 33 arenas, beginning with choices as disparate as a ravaged San Francisco and the barren wasteland of Antarctica. There are nine playable aircraft ranging from plausible jets and bombers to fanciful alien constructs. You choose two aircraft and an arena, then work your way through the arena killing everything in sight, completing objectives, and picking up cash. I enjoyed the fact that you bring two aircraft to each arena, and that you can switch aircraft at critical times, as when you are desperately low on health, by obtaining a switch-jet icon. I also liked that, instead of using continues, you must retain or collect enough cash to buy another aircraft. If you are out of cash, you are out of luck.

screen5-01.jpg (7364 bytes)The multi-player games are limited to only two players and consist of Ace, Flag Grab, Cash Frenzy, Bomb Fest, and Color modes. In Ace, players try to shoot down the most enemy jets. In Flag Grab and Cash Frenzy, the player who grabs the most flags or cash wins. In Bomb Fest, players try to get the most points by bombing everything is sight. And in Color, players choose a team color and work competitively or cooperatively to shoot down every other team in the arena. This can be done with or without computer opponents.

screen7-01.jpg (7482 bytes)To be honest, every game of this ilk has some prepackaged immediate gratification. It goes hand-in-hand with blowing stuff up real good. In WarJetz there are more than enough things to blow up, and most of them shoot back. Even in levels of easy and medium difficulty there is an insane amount of enemy fire through which you must negotiate. Enemy ships, trains, stationary and mobile cannons are everywhere. But this alone can only take you so far. In the case of WarJetz, it held me for exactly two levels. After that I started to get bored, and the game never recovered. Yes, there are plenty of options for gameplay, but none of them really offer any variety. The arenas are small, and despite their diverse settings, they all manage to feel the same. This is primarily due to the fact that every arena has an exceptionally low ceiling, in most cases only as high as the tallest ridge or building, making every level play like a canyon run or a claustrophobic free-for-all. The single-player campaign never transcends its "go here, get that," or "go there, kill that" objectives and the majority of your enemies are on the ground instead of in the air. Most of the multi-player games are lame. I really couldn’t care less about zooming around and gathering cash or flags. I want combat! But they have even crippled that by limiting it to only two players.

screen2-01.jpg (7954 bytes)The control system is about as generic and unrealistic as they come, and at no point does it take advantage of the finesse of which the dual-analog joysticks are capable. You use the right joystick to steer left and right, dive, and climb, which is fine. The left joystick, however, is treated as if it were just another combination of buttons. Press up and you loop—not a gradual, controlled loop, from which you may maneuver or fire, but an all-in-one, computer-guided trick over which you have no control. Press down and you make a 180-degree turn, right or left to bank right or left, again with no guidance on your part—just press the joystick in that direction and it happens. Aside from that there are all the usual functions: accelerate, decelerate, fire main weapon and special weapon, etc.

screen4-01.jpg (7552 bytes)To add insult to injury, the graphics and sound effects are phenomenally bad. The environments are rigid and angular, the textures and visual effects bland at best. For example, many arenas contain rivers that are nothing more than blue slabs with a few choppy, white motion lines moving in a pattern across the surface. And from a distance everything looks like a garbled mess. There is constant slow down and draw in. Sometimes entire buildings will drop out right before your eyes. Just try to navigate a cityscape when the building in front of you is there one second, then gone, then there, then gone again. All of this, of course, gets even worse in multi-player mode. And as for the sound, well, the most notable thing is the repetitive banter of the commentators, which I usually turned off in the options menu.

screen9-01.jpg (8708 bytes)If the release of Twisted Metal Black has proven that new life can be given to the seemingly dead genre of vehicle combat, then games like WarJetz are what killed it in the first place. The single-player arenas manage to be fun in a panic-stricken, caught in a hail of enemy fire kind of way, which is reminiscent of a top-down shooter. But this game has nothing to offer for the long haul. Not even the good multi-player games have lasting appeal. It is just too limited in depth, scope, and especially in imagination. Rent this one only if you must.

Jeremy Kauffman   (07/24/2001)

Snapshot

Ups: Lots of multiplayer modes; wacky airplanes.

Downs: Confined arenas; bad controls; repetitive gameplay; horrible draw-in.

Platform:
Sony PlayStation 2

 


1995-2001
GamesFirst! Magazine