Shockwave: review by Wayne Magor

Review by Wayne Magor <>


Pop this title in and WOW! The intro to this game looks almost like a good movie. The FMV in Shockwave is the best that has been done for any game to date. It is professionally choreographed and the acting is well done. The FMV in this game brings you into the spirit of the game.

The scene opens to an interruption in your normally scheduled broadcast for a Special News Report. The news caster reports that unexpected meteor showers have disrupted communications world-wide. All of a sudden, wham, the news studio is hit by an explosion and confusion...

Scene changes to an orbital command ship where the action is intensifying but still in a state of confusion and chaos. Sensors are tracking thousands of inbound UFO's. Communications with ground stations has been disrupted.

Available pilot portfolios are examined to put together an attack squadron. No picture is available for the rookie out of Mirimar, an ace on the sim- ulator, but no combat experience. It may be a mistake, but you are being sent in with the first squadron. Your first mission ... prevent an alien takeover of the middle east.

You have an on-board computer called ICE (Intelligent Combat Engine). This is done in a pleasing female voice. You see a sound waveform when video messages come in or when ICE is communicating with you. The video messages from the command ship or from pilots in your squadron replace the radar screen. This video is excellent! You can switch off the video if you need the radar by hitting the STOP button.


After seeing the intro, you are psyched to get in there and fight those bastards. The heat shield on your fighter opens up to reveal you flying over the Mediteranean Sea towards Egypt. You fly over detailed sailboats near the shore. You have to destroy three-legged walkers and alien fighters. The object of this first mission is to eliminate the alien presence and to destroy the command ship. The command ship will annihilate your ship if you stray too close. You must use hit and run tactics (run like hell) in order to accomplish your goal.

You are given a wide flight path that clips pretty far behind you. You can fly around in this area, but if you stray off course you are given a visual an auditory warning "OFF-PATH" after which if you continue you start taking hits from "friendly-fire". Every game has a limited world and I think this works pretty well. I would like this flight area to be a bit larger though. You do have complete 360 degree freedom of navigation within this area and you can (and must) go back and shoot enemies behind you. The horizon clip- ping is well done with distant objects becoming difficult to see, like looking through a fog.

I was not at all impressed with the terrain after flying the first mission. I thought this was no big deal since the game is a blast to play. As I got to the subsequent missions I was surprised to see that it is MUCH better. It is great to fly close to the ground through the mountains in Peru. The cities, however, look pretty dumb, like a drawing of a city on a quilt. They also have office buildings that do look good. Also the enemy ships are fully texture-mapped polygons and look great no matter how close you get.

I measured the frame rate of Shockwave with a VCR. The FMV is MUCH better looking than any software compression video I have seen. They must be using that new Cinepak algorithm. The frame rate of the cinemas is 15 fps. The game rocks along at 20 fps until you are engaged in combat and then is about 15 fps. It is not noticable when the frame rate changes (there is no slow- down).

This game is difficult on the default setting of WINGMAN. There is an easier one, CADET, and a harder one, ACE. You get better pretty fast. I thought the first level was hard the first couple of times, but after the second day I had it, I pretty much just breezed right through it. It gets even harder on the subsequent missions. There are 10 missions total, each of which takes 15-20 minutes. I've almost gotten all the way through mission #2.


I had a good impression of this game from the start because there is no need to read the manual before playing. The controls are intuitive and simple. Your weapons are lasers and 10 missles. You recharge and refuel by docking with a refueling drone (just fly under it). There are few of these drones, so you can't simply hold the fire button down all the time as in Total Eclipse. The NEW GAME/RESTORE GAME feature was not as obvious to use, but does allow games to be saved with any name you choose. There are 10 save game slots. It automatically saves the games.

Flying the ship was easy. It is not a true flight simulator, but it is fun and much faster paced than a flight simulator. The altitude controls are extremely limited. You are not allowed to go very high and (thankfully) you are not allowed to crash into the ground. This also means, though, that you cannot fly over tall objects (such as the pyramids). This is annoying. You can do barrel rolls by holding the Left-Shift and using the joypad (this is not documented).


The sound effects in this game are very well done. There is no music, but this wouldn't really work well in this game. The engine sounds are the best I've heard; actually pleasing. The use of Dolby Surround Sound en- grosses you into the action. The engine noise changes among the speakers as you bank, giving you more of a feeling of swooping in on your target. Explosions sound great. In fact, I liked all the sound effects.


I was quite impressed with the graphics in Shockwave as a whole, but there are some problems. There is the familiar collision detection problem where you hit a building when you think you shouldn't (this is to prevent dis- tortion in the polygons if you get too close). The polygons sometimes disappear when you get close and so you see through when you shouldn't.

On the upside, the cockpit of your ship looks great with several displays most of which are actually functional. The windshield uses 3DO's trans- parency to give it the look of three panels (front and two angled sides). The displays show the status of your shields, lasers, fuel, and missiles. There is an odometer (haven't figured out why yet) and an altimeter (as if you really needed that). The terrain in missions after the first one looks fairly realistic (much better than Total Eclipse). I was particularly impressed with the ocean shore and the mountains.

The best part of this game (as everyone will tell you) is the FMV clips. When you die you wake up in the hospital with a doctor and nurse with masks on staring down at you as the picture clears from a fog. This is followed by a scene of the controller requesting your status from the doctor and arguing that you must be sent back out if you can fly. There are a few of these "after crash" scenes given randomly. After playing this game for some time I still want to watch these scenes because of the variety provided.


Besides the minor problems mentioned so far, I find some of the video mes- sages sent to your ship to be annoying because of the lack of a context. The messages are things like "ENGAGE THOSE BASTARDS WILDCARD" from the mission commander when you are in the thick of battle. Every time you pass a certain point in the beginning of the first mission you get from the controller on the mother ship the message "This is not a GAME lieutenant". I feel like saying, "that's exactly what it is commander". If these mes- sages had some randomness and were more context sensitive it would be pleasant. There are some messages that are context sensitive. I got one from ICE when I was just messing around with crashing into buildings saying, "got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning?".

There is a bug that occurred once after I purposely crashed into a building where the display was no longer facing forward. I could still turn, but sometimes I was looking out the back of the ship watching the terrain fall away from me. Perhaps this was intentional to simulate a wierd kind of damage, but I don't think so.

The packaging of this game is the typical 3DO style (no jewel case). In other words, not what I would prefer. My preference is for the packaging in Super Wing Commander.


Shockwave represents the most professionally looking title to appear for the 3DO to date (the best for any machine for that matter). This is the kind of game that I bought a 3DO player for. The cinematic productions bring you into the spirit of the game setting just as a good movie does. Its use of FMV in the cockpit adds to an already attractive and action packed title. Shockwave is definitely on the "must-have" list.