by BeefMan (Chad Tindle)
I've eagerly awaited the release of the third installment of the IS series ever since rumors surfaced about it being developed for project X. The first two installments were among the best games created for the ill-fated Atari Jaguar and I knew Eclipse wouldnít let us down with the NUON version. For those of you who are unfortunately still waiting, trust me; this game is worth it, but there are some flaws.
IS3 has by far the smoothest presentation of any of the current NUON titles. Instead of the static NUON logo present at the beginning of other games IS3 has a fully animated NUON logo with an accompanying sound effect. Although for some reason the logo looks a little jagged compared to the one on the spring 2000 demo disc it is still a nice touch. There are several intro FMV sequences done up in full mpeg2 (DVD quality) and the story sequence has some very nice cell shading (similar to Jet Set Radio for DC) in the human characters towards the end. The game-type/mech selection menu is a tad confusing at first. Most people I have witnessed using the menu keep trying to press over to the right to choose ďstart gameĒ but actually end up changing an option. But once you figure out you must press up or down to move through each selection it is really not a problem. Almost all of the menus have some high quality FMV rendered sequences playing in the background, which really makes for a nice touch. Although on the weapons select screen it is a little annoying at first because you have to wait for each video of the weapon to load, which creates a slight pause unless you go through the list quickly. But overall a very slick presentation.
I've read many reviews of the Iron Soldier series and it seems there is a general agreement among mainstream game mags that Iron Soldier is a no brainer smash and bash that can be completed in an hour. But if you have ever played through a complete game of Iron Soldier you would know this just isnít the case. Yes your mech does have the ability, if you have chosen the I.S. unit, to walk up to anything and smash it down with your fist. And if you were to play one mission you might assume this is all that you do. But that is the point of having missions, you do have a specified goal to complete. Whether it be salvaging stolen weapons or escorting valuable property safely to a specified location you have a mission to complete and they can be very difficult to orchestrate. Yes I did say orchestrate, you must choose the correct weapons and learn the layout of the maps and know from which direction the enemies will be coming. You must also know where to locate the buildings that harbor much needed supplies such as energy and ammo to keep your mech going.
This version of IS adds a few new elements to gameplay such as rolling terrain. You will not be able to simply stomp a somewhat straight course through the environments because there are hills, mountains and even a volcano all of which you will have to navigate your way around and on to complete a mission. Also new in IS3 is the ability to choose 3 different mech types, each with its own strengths and weaknesses that are balanced out with a special feature to each mech. The original IS unit is an all around player with balanced speed and armor but it has the special ability to hover above the ground for as long as you have fuel. This feature enables you to get from point A to point B much faster or to make a clean getaway from a tight situation. The CE-Tech is the slowest of the group but it has the strongest armor plus the special feature of a force-field which can be used to instantly destroy buildings and tanks by simply walking up to them as well as the ability to reduce damage from enemy fire. The Satyr Walker is the quickest of them all but has weaker armor but with the ability of invisibility, damage cannot be done if your enemies cannot see you. The use of the Satyr Walker during multiplayer arcade can make for some very interesting battles. Each of these special abilities can also be obtained for a short period by any of the other mech types through power-ups.
I do have a complaint with the analog control. I've spent a few minutes with the dual shock controller and IS3 for PSX and the analog control seemed perfect. But the analog implementation for the NUON version of IS3 is slow to respond making minute adjustments impossible for aiming and diagonal movement is very slow further hampering its use. But it is quite effective with the cruise missile. Trying to use the digital pad to maneuver the cruise missile can prove it to be an unwieldy beast.
Overall IS3 is a blast to play with all the different weapon types and variations in missions it will keep you stomping around late into the night. And with the escort missions you will have sweat dripping from your brow.
IS3 uses a 3D-polygon engine built for the NUON from the ground up by Eclipse Software design. IS3 is the first NUON title to really push its polygonal capabilities. Rolling terrain with dozens of buildings and enemies fully texture mapped and perspective corrected all moving at what I perceive to be a smooth 30fps with minimal slow down. When firing upon buildings; bullet holes make themselves present with realistic looking flames spewing forth. Actually IS3 has some of the best renditions of fire Iíve seen in a game even though the flames are 2D. IS fans will be familiar with the manner of which buildings explode but with more varied and realistic chunks as well as shrapnel all blowing away with some nice real- time lighting effects. When firing upon enemies; chunks of shrapnel fly off which really helps to indicate you are nailing your target. Helicopters can be wounded and they spin towards the ground destroying anything underneath of them such as buildings or tanks, which can be used to your advantage.
I do have a couple of gripes about the graphics engine though. When walking forward it almost appears that buildings and certain elements of the landscape are crawling or wiggling towards you, very subtle but annoying nonetheless. I think this effect might have something to do with the advanced polygon subdivision system, which I think is making objects further away less complicated geometrically for better performance. Or it might have something to do with the low resolution IS3 appears to be running in, I donít think it is the normal 360x240 that most NUON games use but I might be wrong. The low resolution really creates a lot of jaggies especially on the blades of the helicopters. It is really too bad that IS3 couldnít have been in a tad higher resolution or maybe have implemented some edge Anti-Aliasing. I would have sacrificed a few FPS for one if not both of these options. Or perhaps Anti-Aliasing could have been available as an option.
Another new graphical enhancement is weather effects like rain, snow, and dust storms that really add to the overall ambience and realism. I tend to think the graphics look better during the weather effects as it seems to hide the jaggies somehow. Also the instrument panel now houses a zoomed view of your target which is somewhat useful but I find myself using the small instrumental panel which shows only the necessities like ammo and radar.
Overall the graphics are quite impressive with the shear number of polygons on-screen compared to any other NUON title and at such a high framerate, very nice indeed.
Music/Sound FX: 8.5
Like previous installments of the series, IS3 has a blend of techno and rock tracks that really seem to propel the action forward. I particularly like the intro sequence music; it has a real movie kind of quality. The sound effects all sound particularly nice and are done up in full surround sound if you have a receiver capable of Dolby Surround. The surround effects really add an extra element of gameplay as you can track your enemiesí movement from behind.
Overall: 8.75(Not an average)
IS3 is a slick package of gaming goodness for all of you NUON fans out there and it wonít disappoint. Had the jaggies been eliminated and the analog control improved I would have easily given IS3 a 9.5. Despite theses flaws IS3 is an excellent game that I have thoroughly enjoyed, hell I didnít even get to the multi-player aspect, which is quite fun. I strongly recommend this title to anyone. Everyone needs to pick this title up once it becomes available again.
Questions, Comments? email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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