Last year, Rage Software released a game called "Incoming". It was extremely simplistic in that you had to shoot all Alien Craft and that was it really, but it was all done with beautiful graphics and it actually turned out to be a great game. Rage then decided to continue this trend with "Hostile Waters" (still in development) and "Expendable". Both push your graphics card to the extreme.
The story is virtually nonexistent, as the introduction shows, you are a newly created marine dropped onto an alien world, and you have to kill everything. That?s basically it for the storyline.
No matter, because all you need to do is start playing the game and you will instantly forget everything about the storyline as your eyes linger over the beautiful environment you get dropped into the first mission. The graphics are just absolutely gorgeous. Since Incoming, Rage must have happily been beavering away at all the new features they could possible cram into Expendable, to make the most tasty combination of bright sparkly colours, big guns and baddies. On my 333Mhz Celeron, 64MB RAM and TNT Creative Blaster 16MB, I could run it well at 1024x768, obtaining smooth frames even when explosions are about everywhere and 3D Lighting effects are doing their job.
The basic objective then, in all 20 missions, is to walk around and shoot all and sunder. As you walk around and blast things you will start noticing how the power-ups work. You pick up different types of weapons, picking up multiple weapons of the same type just gives you more ammo, and the more ammo you got, the more powerful that weapon is, simple as that! You also get a few different types of grenades though, but I find them relatively useless as they don't seem to do much damage and their blast radius couldn't cover more than a one-inch radius. There is another bad thing to point out here though, for some reason you are limited to being able to carry only three weapons at a time. It will replace your weapon if the new one is more powerful than the current one, but it does not count any power-ups your current weapon has. This means that your current almighty upgraded yellow laser weapon might be replaced by some new weapon that is "basically" more powerful, but without upgrades is relatively useless. This is another niggle in Expendable, it means you have to be careful about what you pick up and what you are armed with, or risk loosing your best gun. As you walk around blasting alien scum away, you will notice many times that there are fancy effects like Pillars falling over the road or some power lines falling over and exploding. In the very beginning there is an excellent scene where you walk into a small canyon, "Incoming!" prints at the top of the screen, and your stare in awe as a huge Chassis of a tank hurls through the canyon and comes to a stop right before you (provided you decided to move out of its hurling path), then a Pillar of some sort topples over onto it and everything blows up. There are also some small in-game cutscenes sprinkled throughout some levels. In one level for example, you see this huge plane getting shot out of the sky, and it crashes right beside you in a big explosion. So the game has absolutely gorgeous graphics, and you walk around and shoot things, it might sound a tad boring you might think, but I can safely assure you that if you have "any" sort of liking for blowing things up, you will love this game. It has somehow struck this almost perfect balance of weapons, bad guys and ammo that just makes this game so much fun. It?s a classic arcade design of blasting things away, and then at the end of each level you have to fight a boss character, which is usually extremely hard to beat. There are 20 levels, which might perhaps not sound like an awful lot, but the difficulty curve and the sizes of the levels easily make up for this. As I progressed through, I started finding it rather hard to pass even Level 6 without using a rather large number of lives. This doesn't actually cause much frustration though, as I just decided to replay Level 1 again and calm myself by happily blowing everything away without a scratch to myself, then having another go at the current level I was stuck on.
Expendable's sound is nicely done, with explosion, gun noises and alien grunts all contributing to the generally, very noisy environment with a fitting techno soundtrack blasting away in the background to recreate that real arcade machine feel. No complaints here.
The controls in Expendable are very basic, a Gamepad would be recommended for this type of game, but I myself, being deprived of such a luxury, made do with just the keyboard, or a keyboard + Mouse combo, there is no real difference in accuracy between the two at all though. There is one really irritating niggle with Expendable, the moving about part. As you turn your character left and right, initially your character won't budge for a split second, then he swerves about 90 degrees or more to what-ever direction your were pointing. At times you will find that pointing your gun where you want it to is virtually impossible, and at hectic times, you will have to revert to madly doing 360-degree circles and firing away. The tactic I reverted to in the end is just doing minuscule movements of the mouse, and then when I need to sweep fire from left to right, just fire straight forward and strafe from left to right. It still makes it very irritating sometimes though when you need that one power-up quickly whilst your character madly swerves around in circles and refuses to instantly respond to your strafe commands. Apart from this irritating fault though, the controls are great for this sort of game, with a minimum amount of keys so as not to confuse you (as some simple arcade games try to do).
Expendable also offers the option of having two players on screen at once. Its very simple, you and your buddy just press Fire and you're in, happily blasting away together. There is nothing much to say about this, except that it?s a whole lot of fun, and it can make those later levels easier to pass if you and your buddy are both relatively good.
Expendable feels sort of like your own shiny arcade machine at home, much better than all those other shoot 'em up machines you will find at the arcades and it doesn't cost you any money either (except the initial cost). Meaning you and your buddy can rattle away on your machine for as long as you want, shooting away, yelling for your buddy to keep his dirty hands off *your* power-ups and yelling out at those big end bosses to get stuffed and die already. I do hope they make an Arcade Machine out of this game somehow, it should be a smashing success compared to the current shoot 'em ups out there.
People who downloaded Expendable (a.k.a. Millennium Soldier: Expendable) have also downloaded:
Flying Heroes, Extreme Assault, Evolva, Final Impact, First Battalion, Evil Twin: Cyprien's Chronicles, Enclave, Fighting Force
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