Shockwave: review by David Liu
Review by David R. Liu <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- TITLE: Shockwave
- DEVELOPER: Electronic Arts
- RELEASE DATE: 6/23/94
- PRICE: $70 retail, $60 or so by mail order or reasonable stores
- CATEGORY: shooter/flight sim
Shockwave represents the best effort to date on any system to
integrate a movie-like plot, complexity, and total experience with intense
and challenging gameplay. A must buy.
I hate hype. In fact, if it weren't for hype, think how much better
this world would be. 3DO would be well-received by the media instead of
stepped on; its stock value would be steadily and slowly climbing instead
of warp-nining to almost $50 then plummeting to $9 then rocketing to
$16 leaving investors feeling like Duncan Imperials.
Shockwave has had its share of hype. "A Sci-Fi Movie Experience"
proclaims the 3do Software Catalog. EA pronouced the game a "revolutionary
space fighter epic." Interneters have heralded the game as possibly
one of the best video games EVER. I was pretty skeptical, and when I
first saw Shockwave at CES in the worst light possible (no cinemas, just
flying around a relatively plain-looking desert) I rolled my eyeballs
and thought "Oh great, more hype terminating in a disappointing reality..."
I was wrong.
Of course I still bought the game as soon as I returned (after
all, isn't the point of life to buy and review 3DO games for Internet?).
The first thing I noticed (besides the lofty price) is that the box
advertised that all sounds were encoded with Dolby Surround Sound.
Putting the disk in to my 3DO (attached by S-VIDEO to a 34" picture tube
Sony XBR and Dolby Pro Logic receiver linked to 7 speakers and a
subwoofer, NONE of which is mine), I was immediately grabbed by the
cinematic introduction. These cinemas DO live up to the hype.
Amazing NASA photos composited with rendered 3D graphics and not-too-bad
acting. Just eye-candy? Hardly. Even more than Wing Commander, these
lengthy cinemas (which can be skipped by pressing stop on the controller)
create a very engrossing and admittedly realistic feeling of actually
being involved in the scenario.
And the scenario is intriguing, if a little far-fetched:
the year is 2019, and the US has just launched the OMAHA,
an orbital spacecraft carrier complete with a squadron of F-177
fighters, which look like the love children of the stealth fighter and
stealth bomber. Lo and behold, a vast alien armada descends on the
earth, rendering its ground-based forces totally useless and placing
all the major areas of the world at their mercy. You play the
role of a rookie lieutenant pilot and member of the Omaha F-177
squadron. Your mission (surprise surprise) is to rid the earth
(and later the moon) of all alien forces.
A HYBRID ANIMAL
The actual gameplay of Shockwave is a mixed beast. While you can
roam around freely on the surface of the planet, turning freely, barrel
rolling, and making any number of passes at targets which you missed the
first time around, it is certainly NOT a hard core flight simulator.
For one, you have only a small window of altitude in which you can rise or
fall. You only have three weapons, your laser guns, your missiles, and
your ship (which you can use to ram the enemy if you feel so arrogant).
Yet the result is a very nice balance between arcade game shooter and
realistic flight. True, you cannot go to any arbitrary point on the
earth, leave orbit, or visit the moons of Jupiter. But you wont want
to since the action is much more intense than most flight simulators,
with an average of say 3 or 4 enemies in your immediate vicinity at once.
The action is fast and furious and VERY challenging; fortunately for
many there are 3 difficulty settings.
Shockwave consists of 10 missions, each of which takes 10-20 minutes
to finish if you play perfectly. Of course the actual number of hours
it will take to finish these missions is probably 30-100 for the average
gamer; they are for the most part very challenging. These missions
are sequential and integrated well into the story. Shockwave
automatically saves up to 10 games into nvRAM, including your
name, mission number, score, and ranking (difficulty level).
A HANDSOME GAME
Graphically, Shockwave as a whole is probably the finest 3DO effort
to date. The cinematic sequences are better than Cinepak quality though
not MPEG quality; the computer graphics are stunning, and all
terrain and ENEMIES (unlike SWC) are texture-mapped polygons. The
variety of enemies is large, with more and more unique looking and
behaving aliens introduced with each successive level.
Your cockpit shows a dazzling array of instruments, most of which
actually function. Your shields, laser ammo, and fuel are prominently
displayed on bars of red, green, and blue; your finite missles are also
shown as purple LED-looking lights. There is also an altimenter, an
attitude indicator for those who can't tell ground from sky, and
an odometer for computing gas mileage. Or something like that.
The most impressive aspect of Shockwave, however, is its vast
attention to details. The cinemas actually reveal VERY important
information about your missions and about the vulnerable points
of your alien enemies, as well as telling a unified story about our
desperate efforts to defend the earth. When your ship loses all shields,
one of many things happens to you; you can wake up on an operating table,
die from heart failure, be ejected in a space coffin, etc. If you
totally lose and are killed, I believe your game gets erased from nvRAM.
The cinema if you lose the game is truly movie quality in graphics and
especially in sound and music.
SOMETHING TO LISTEN TO
And speaking of audio (no pun intended), the Dolby Surround Sound
sound effects and music during the cinemas is truly remarkable.
The sound during the actual missions is somewhat less impressive,
however. There is no in flight music soundtrack (I guess you'll
have to put on a walkman like "real" fighter pilots in the movies
are supposed to), although there is a well-done computerized female
voice which briefs you regularly as well as transmissions from your
carrier, fellow pilots, and news anchors across the globe. All
cinemas in flight can be terminated with the stop button.
Overall, Shockwave is truly the first game to successfully in my
opinion integrate an intense action game with a cinematic storyline
and FMV which contributes rather than detracts from the game. As
developers continue to find the elusive recipe which results in a
successful marriage of film and game, these titles will undoubtedly
get even better. Shockwave is a groundbreaker in this respect, and
those who play it through the first few levels will not be disappointed
with their $60+ investment-- and with their $500+ leap of faith into
an entertainment platform which is just recently beginning to reveal
its true potential.