NUON Game Review
Take on the PENTA forces
Worldwide industrialization has covered much of the earth's surface with large cities and wastelands. Global corporations, such as PENTA, are using military force to take over democratic governments in order to create a worldwide military dictatorship.
As small conflicts became increasingly common, a need arises for a new type of weapon - a 42 foot tall piloted robot, known as the Iron Soldier.
This powerful and flexible weapon system is used by the defense forces of the United Republic, one of the last independent states.
The Iron Soldier can carry a wide variety of weapons, negotiate rough, urban terrain, and engage in close combat within the confines of dense industrial complexes.
As part of the United Republic's elite defense force, your job is to pilot an IS and use it to stop PENTA Industries' terrorist activities and protect the UR from military harm.
Hopefully, if you’re reading this, you’ve at least heard of the Iron Soldier series of games before. Getting it’s start on the Atari Jaguar, the series has since moved to the Sony Playstation and now NUON for the third installment of this 42-foot tall, building-destroying, helicopter-shooting type of game. Let’s get down to the goods on this game, and see what it has in store for those lucky enough to snap this up for their NUON-enhanced DVD players.
From power-on, you’ll notice that this game is polished up to the max. The formerly static opening NUON logo has been replaced with a rendered animation (seen on the NUON demo disk) with an accompanying sound effect. Next you’ll be greeted by a few lengthy, crisp, and decidedly well-done full motion video sequences. As in FreeFall, the FMV is running at DVD resolution and shows little to no artifacting at all. The opening menu, credits, high scores, etc. all run on top of FMV backdrops for a very impressive visual effect. Static screens in the opening menus are all rendered in high-resolution and look great, which is a great change of pace from the lackluster menu screens seen in other NUON games (Ballistic anyone?).
But the quality doesn’t end at the menus, that’s for sure. While NUON may not be renowned for its polygon-pushing power, Iron Soldier 3 really gets down to the metal and shows what can be done when a developer is willing to put the time and effort into making their game look great. If you’ve played or even seen the PSX version of this game, you’ll notice right away that all the textures and graphics are much cleaner and don’t have the blocky-ness that plagues not only IS3, but most of the Playstation game library. Transparencies are much more believable, and the lighting effects are outstanding – just wait ‘till you’re standing at the corner of a skyscraper and an enemy shot makes it burst into flames.
There are a few noticeable flaws in the graphics, however – there is some jagginess to the edges of buildings, helicopter blades and such, most likely due to the resolution being under 640x480. Also, the snow and “desert haze” effects look great, but the rain is far from convincing, looking more like jagged little pixels than actual rain. However, the weather effects are definitely a welcome feature, since they make the environments more realistic and the world more believable.
As in the PSX version, the land now features height – hills and valleys to make navigating the different areas of the game more challenging. Now you’re forced to mentally map out a route before taking action, unless you want to be left staring off a cliff wondering how you’re going to get down to it. Again, the rolling landscape makes the world of Iron Soldier more lifelike, and even more fun, as you can hurl grenades over a hill and nail an unsuspecting tank on the other side.
The music and sound effects of Iron Soldier 3 really shine. As Eclipse is known to do, they’ve once again included a great Surround Sound option, which allows you to hear helicopters, tanks and planes coming up from behind you, and creates an overall ambiance that just can’t be beat. All of the audio is super-crisp and clear, and fits the game well. Numerous (and long) audio tracks mean you won’t get bored listening to the same looping music over and over.
As far as gameplay is concerned, you’ve got a few options for your city-destroying pleasure. There’s the standard Mission mode, where you make your way through the 25 missions by completing a variety of tasks. From collecting supply crates, to defending cities from incoming forces, and even to the dreaded “protect the truck convoy” missions, there is enough difference in the levels to keep you from feeling like you’re doing the same thing over and over.
Then you’ve got Arcade mode, in which your goal is to destroy the entire city as quickly as possible. This can be played either solo, or against a friend to see who is the ultimate in destruction. Also available is a two player cooperative mode, which puts you and a friend in the same mech, one controlling the legs and the other controlling the torso, to tackle the mission mode together. While a bit disorienting at first, if you can get a partner that is at least somewhat competent this mode can prove to be pretty enjoyable. Mission mode is still the most enjoyable part of the game, but the other set of modes are also a welcome addition to diversify the gaming experience a bit.
One glaring omission in IS3 is the lack of memory card support. Once again, NUON gamers are forced to keep a list of passwords to keep track of their progress in the game, rather than having the ease of saving the game completely. Thankfully the passwords are kept short (6 characters per code), but they don’t save stats and records, which played an important part in the replayability of the Playstation revision of this game. Gameplay and system settings can be saved with a similar 6-character code, so upon returning to the game you’re able to restore all your settings by entering the password. Close, but just not the same as having full memory card support. Hopefully this game will be the last on NUON that uses passwords.
The controls of the game take a bit of getting used to, especially if you’re familiar with the previous two I.S. games. Now, switching controls is accomplished by cycling through your arsenal using the B button rather than hitting a single key on the keypad. The dual-analog control of the Playstation version is missed as well – forward and reverse controls are no longer achieved by using the second analog stick, but rather by holding the C Down key and pushing up or down on the D-pad. Again, the HPI Stealth controller is not a good choice if you want to use the analog stick, since the Z trigger doesn’t map to the L button. Grab yourself a Logitech gamepad or wait for the Pro-Elite if you’re looking for analog control on this one, otherwise the D-pad on the Stealth is still preferred over the “clicky” Warrior controller.
But don’t let the game’s few shortcomings get you down, Iron Soldier 3 on NUON shines and is a blast to play. If blowing up buildings and stomping tanks in a huge robot sounds like fun, then you won't be disappointed with IS3. With great graphics, crisp, clear audio, and a completely polished presentation, you won’t believe this game is running on your DVD player.
Graphics - 9
Sound/Music – 9.5
Control – 8
Fun Factor – 8.5
Overall (not an average) – 90%
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