In BANG! Gunship Elite players take control of the Wolverine class starfighter as a member of the Arikhan's wet-behind-the-ears fighting force, facing overwhelming odds from the powerful Sektar.
The different missions in BANG! Gunship Elite range from protection objectives, where you must keep a friendly craft from being swarmed by the enemy, to assault missions, where you and your wing-mates will attack an enemy position and try to do to them what you won't let them do to you.
There are 19 different missions in the game, but players can only advance to a new mission once the previous one is finished. With each subsequent mission, the enemy AI is designed to more difficult to beat in their effort to turn you into space dust.
War is brewing in the deep reaches of space, as is usually the case when a race becomes technologically advanced enough to build heavily armed and highly maneuverable spacecraft. This time, the war in question exists between a peaceful collection of three races (the Arikhans, the Dagons, and the Numidians), and a forth race called the Sektar.
The source of conflict revolves around the ownership of Kha, a powerful mineral used as an energy source, which the Sektar plans on taking. As a young Arikhanian, you will be swept up in the rising tide of battle, learning the ropes by being thrust into the war to either sink or swim in the cold, empty infinity of space.
One of the chief goals as you progress through BANG! Gunship Elite is the acquisition of new weapons. While you begin with a solitary beam weapon in the first mission, as you progress, your Wolverine will acquire ten new instruments of destruction, from the hellfire cannon to Titan's Hammer. In addition, the universe you battle in offers obstacles such as random debris, asteroids, and both friendly and enemy ships of different sizes.
Being an arcade shooter, storylines aren't usually present or likely to have an effect on the outcome of the game. Bang! Gunship Elite doesn't wander away from the pack in this sense, but I'll pass along what little story elements there are. In Bang! Gunship Elite, you play the role of Xaha, a young talented Arikhan fighterpilot. Many moons ago, the evil race Sektar was excluded from the Alliance of the 3 Races. Since then, conflict has resulted as the Sektar have constantly launched treacherous attacks on unprotected outposts of the Alliance. While large-scale conflict has been avoided for many years, the Sektar have recruited the infamous Morgoths with the intent of cleaning up the universe of any Alliance. Your job, protect the Alliance from the Sektar onslaught and save the universe.
Ok, so that isn't prize-winning material. It's your typical, "save the universe from the bad guys' plot that we've seen hundreds of times before it. As I've already said though, arcade shooters aren't meant to be thick on plot, they're meant to be action-packed and adrenaline-pumping experiences. Bang! Gunship does well in that respect.
There are 19 missions featured in Bang! Gunship Elite, many of which are solo campaigns that pit you against an un-ending number of enemy ships. There are a couple of campaigns where wingmen will accompany and aid you in the struggle, but don't count on the help too much, you have no control over these ships, no communication with them, and you'll quickly find you've forgotten they even exist. Missions vary from protecting convoys to shooting down special enemy units, but many of the campaigns are repetitive in nature. The object of each and every mission, minus the main goal, is to shoot down anything in sight and making sure you're not destroyed in the process.
Considering Bang! Gunship Elite is an arcade shooter, I suppose there's really nothing wrong or unexpected when it comes to mission design. Those gamers looking for a fresh new jolt to the genre will certainly be disappointed, but those searching for a mind-numbing arcade experience are likely to be satisfied with the results here. Controlling your ship is a relatively easy task considering you only have to worry about a few keys. The default mouse/keyboard combination works extremely well but there's also support for gamepads and joysticks including those with force feedback.
Easily the most satisfying part of Bang! Gunship Elite are the visuals. The screen is forever busy, basking in psychedelic colors, incredible special effects and massive numbers of enemy ships. At a maximum resolution of 1600x1200, the action is nothing less than eye-popping and the added sound effects do nothing but intensify the experience. In between the mind-numbing action are cut scenes that attempt to forge a reason behind all the carnage, but once again folks, this is an arcade shooter. Leave common sense behind and just enjoy the ride.
What keeps the missions fresh, to an extent, is the large variety of enemy ships that come racing your way. There are 5 different alien races represented in Bang! Gunship Elite and each are unique and colourful species. There is also an arsenal of nine different weapons ranging from a plasma cannon to the all-powerful Titan's Hammer which is basically the be all, end all weapon. The campaigns in Bang! Gunship Elite range in length, some taking well over half an hour to complete. As you blow away the baddies, you'll gain experience, which is than used by the AI to adapt to your level of skill. Basically, as you progress through each level, the difficulty level increases with it. Such features do bring a few downfalls though, so let's take a look at those.
As mentioned earlier, the mission design offers little to be desired. There's not much reason to complete many missions if not just to see if there's a new weapon or baddie you haven't killed before. On top of that, you can't save during a mission, only between missions. This can cause problems on some of the longer missions if you have difficulty getting past certain portions of the campaign. It becomes an even bigger pain when you get near the end, only to perish and lose your spot. Bang! also offers little in terms of replayability. Once you've seen the arsenal of weapons and baddies, there's little here to bring you back into your seat for another contest. Last, but not least, the multiplayer consists of dog fighting with up to 8 players with IPX or TCP/IP. While as intense as the single player campaigns, the multiplayer aspect of Bang! Gunship Elite has little lasting appeal. There's no new concepts introduced in play and the weapons remain the same. If you play through the single player mode, there's nothing in multiplayer that you haven't seen before to pull you in.
When it comes down to it, Bang! Gunship Elite is a battle of flash vs. substance. It follows the arcade shooter formula to a tee really and if you look close enough, you can see there's not a great deal under all that eye candy. There's nothing unique about Bang! Gunship Elite, so fans of the genre hoping to find something new in this title will walk away unsatisfied. On the other hand, if what you're after is an action-packed, no-brain shooter than Bang! Gunship Elite's gorgeous, high-speed, intense battles will surely do the trick.
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