Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri
Terra Nova really had me in awe when it first came out. The graphics were great at that time, as pixelated as it may seem now. But with a little imagination, it is still possible - as it was then - to imagine yourself in the fray. Dropping into the vast landscape from far above. Battling it out with the pirates and the Hegemony. Running for the pickup point. That was the attraction for me at the time; it pulled me into the world.
I've mentioned the graphics and the vast landscapes already. The music is acceptable enough, the sound effects servicable, and the speech is — rather amazingly — not that bad.
With all the presentation out of the way, it's time to simmer down and reduce the gameplay into a concentrated form. So, the plot is basically that you are part of Strike Force Centauri, a force made from the other Strike Forces to battle with the pirates and be a nice elite strike force. A bit cliche already, but not too bad. You're in these suits, calld PBAs, which probably stands for Personal Battle Armour or something but I can't be arsed to check. Strangely, though mechs and other such things have been done quite extensively in games, power armours have seen less action, especially with the player actually being in one. So as much as I'd like to say it's a big cliche, it isn't that much, in the gaming world at least. And you have lots of fun battles and stuff
But before we get to the fun battles, we watch the lovely cut-scene. There are plenty, and fairly well acted consider it's a computer game, and before the era of big budget "let's get Patrick Stewart to voice someone" games. They aren't that bad, and they progress the B-movie style plot nicely. Although the characters are pretty... typical, the acting is decent enough that the whole thing doesn't seem totally fake.
Then you hear your briefing. The missions are fairly varied, but even so, every mission seems the same. Generally, you kill stuff. Sometimes you blow stuff up. Occasionally, there may be something else interesting to do. After this, you set your squad up, choosing who to take with you, and which weapons and equipment to take.
Then the mission proper begins. Now, since I've already divulged how missions go, I will take some time to say that the interface is really, really good, although movement is a bit awkward. at first it seems like WASD, but A and D turn rather than strafe, and S walks forwards (W is for running), which makes going backwards a bit of a pain, as you have to stretch your finger down to X, same for strafing (Z and C). R and V change your view up and down and F recenters it, which is a bit awkward again, but you don't need to do this much. You aim with the mouse, right click to select targets which makes the autoaim kick in. That's the basics.
The beauty of the interface, however, lies with how few keypresses you need to really do things. Pretty much everything you can do other than simple movement is mouse controlled. Want to get your demolitions expert to plant some charges? just click through the menus, then click where you want the charges set. Same works for moving your team about, and most other things. It is very intuitive, and means you can jump into a game if you haven't been playing it for a while and know pretty much what you're doing within a few minutes.
One of the major downsides I've already hinted on is that the missions are not very varied. I would have liked more scouting missions, more missions that don't just involve killing things and defending things and blowing stuff up. Missions that required thought and tactics, as tactics aren't usually required to blow stuff up. Which brings me neatly to the other bad thing.
Some missions are just plain hard, especially if you want to complete them all as well as possible. And towards the end, just survivng a mission is trcky. The fact that no real tactics are involved can make this annoying, as winning can be seemingly down to luck.
Oh, and there's no multiplayer, that would have been cool. I guess the reason there isn't any is mostly the balancing that would have been needed for it to work like that. But it would have been cool, especially team based stuff.
Because I love you all so much, I'm offering the full CD. All the FMVs are there, and I think the game isn't worth having without them. This is one of my favourite games, and for good reason, it's bloody good.
- Terra Nova (PC CD) (498.0 MB)