Mobile Forces is a first-person shooter intended for online play. Though players will have the option of competing offline against computer-controlled 'bots, the game concentrates on team-based attacks and multiplayer use of vehicles. Epic's Unreal Engine technology, from the popular Unreal Tournament, allows high-polygon count graphics and static meshes to produce complex terrain environments. Eleven different environments, including ice bases and shopping malls, and eight different game modes offer diversity.
Players are allowed to switch between classes during play, instead of waiting to die and re-spawn, allowing strategies to be changed on the fly. The vehicle physics engine realistically models handling and accurately captures damage. When the tires are shot out, the vehicle handles sluggishly; if the gas tank is successfully targeted and hit, the vehicle explodes. Players can drive vehicles, or they can choose to ride "shotgun" while a teammate pilots. Online play is split between two teams, red and blue, with players allowed to choose and switch sides (though not in the middle of battles).
Here's what's odd about Mobile Forces, Rage's team-based, online-centric first-person shooter with jeeps and peeps: It's the company's first effort at the FPS genre, and it shows. Despite all the shooting, the action, the platforming, and the so forth that the company has developed in its illustrious history, the game is as unpolished and unrefined a title as a first effort could ever be. It's a lot of neat ideas, but with little balance. It's like a pile of a cool with no Fonzarelli attached to it -- no perfected instrument that carries this cool around and lets other people enjoy it. Is the essence of cool without the vessel still good?
The modes are pretty awesome, and are what you would expect to find in most games, but do not. Unfortunately, matches are still solo or team-based. That's not a problem, but what I don't like is that there are only two allowable teams per match, which means it's you vs. them, red vs. blue. Why more people don't pick up on some of the goodness that was found in UT (specifically domination) and create multiple team scenarios is beyond me.
Even without more than two teams ever being able to battle, taking on capture the flag, trailer (where commandeering a vehicle with an attached trailer and then dragging it into an enemy base is necessary) and others like captains (where killing the commanding fools of other teams is objective) and holdout (domination) is pretty cool. The problem is that even though the modes are sweet, other things about the game are not (namely weapons, graphics, networking, and community). If networking, weapons, graphics, and community are important those things are important to you, then perhaps you had better look someplace else, but if you relish vehicles and only vehicles, then here you can stay.
So there's a lack of character models (two that come in two colors), it doesn't matter, you can make up for a lack of individuality by cramming in a ton of levels, weapons, and vehicles. Whee...! No. There are only eleven maps, but each is compatible with every game mode, so that's at the very least an acceptable amount of configurations (even though most are typical FPS locales -- the classic warehouse with enormous boxes being my most cherished). But, there are only four vehicles and a scant few weapons. Out of the lot of pistols and projectile throwers, a weak three are useful.
The assault rifle is the all purpose gun and is also the one I regularly equip. This thing can obliterate enemies and flatten the tires of vehicles in no time (though it does little to no damage to cars themselves). I've found that I can jump out of a jeep after I've crushed a hundred people and use it to kill a hundred more with little effort at close to medium ranges. Then there is the rocket launcher, which essentially makes vehicles useless if you know how to the use the mouse and hit stuff on occasion. Finally, there are the devastating detonator packs that kill everything easily if armed and thrown in a defensive posture, (to destroy an incoming vehicle, as an example).
Other than that, everything else is completely useless. And by everything else, I mean all five of the other weapons (shotgun, pistol, sniper rifle, knife, grenades). There is the stationary machine gun, which serves a specific purpose in specific situations, like a holdout match, or when you feel like being a jerk and camping near an enemy spawn or choke point.
Assault rifle and rocket launcher it is. And you can combine the two to be completely lethal. The game comes with an inventory and not a class system, so you can hold whatever you can hold. The rocket launcher and assault rifle fit perfectly together, but it means you'll also be neglecting other necessities like armor or health. Nevertheless, it is always possible to make it back to your base at anytime and use the ammo crates to switch to another weapon or inventory setup. A kind of Global Ops inspired monetary system could have infinitely benefited Mobile Forces by adding importance to wins, losses, and the careful selection of equipment. But as is, the title usually quickly devolves into a race for the first vehicle so that everyone else can be crushed beneath it.
And this is where Mobile Forces shines. Even though the levels are atypical of the genre, they are large and suited perfectly for some keen driving only driving (no air or sea vessels here).
The cool thing is that unlike Battlefield, you can ride shotgun and fire with your own weapon instead of having to rely on the mounted weapons of the vehicle at hand. Sitting shotgun and throwing lead through the window is a lot of fun, especially when you can aim your weapon at your buddy in case he screws up and hits that ramp the wrong way.
But it's the physics that bring it all together. Some vehicles have a tremendous sense of speed, while others are a bit more lumbering, but all bounce, bound, flip, and fly in an arcadey and pleasing manner. Blowing tires can hamper performance and single lucky rounds to gas tanks can send your little buggy straight to a fiery grave.
Moving on to...horrific weapon models! Yeah, these graphics are bad, really bad (not even as good as UT). The levels are big, bland, flat, and dreary. The character models (all two of 'em) are standard, uninspiring, and ordinary. Effects are weak, except for vehicular explosions which cause all kinds of chunkiness to occur. Indeed, the vehicles are a bit better than the rest, but remain decidedly sub par, especially considering what we've seen in other games of late. Then there are the weapon models that I touched on earlier. Sweet horror, these are perhaps the ugliest weapon models I've seen in years. It'd be better to not even have them. The blockiness, blandness, and awkwardness is truly quite awful. And it doesn't even run that well!
Turn off the voice comments and the game sounds fine. Surround sound (positional audio) is solid, if for a few strange anomalies on Audigy and SB Live cards that cause vehicle emissions to stutter and skip from back to back or back to front.
Terrible bot AI rounds out the game, which is strange given Rage's commitment to deliver what they were boasting would be the solid multi and singleplayer experience to beat.
Characters stand around and wait to be crushed by your many vehicles. They spawn and run in random lines, get easily mixed up, clump together, blow up their own vehicles all the time, choose improper weapons, and generally poorly recognize and counter what you're doing. My favorite instance was when a jeep fell into the water of Sawmill and six, yes six of my cohorts jumped in after it, vainly trying to enter and use the vehicle even though it couldn't move at all. At least buddies on your team, as well as those on the opposing, will hop in and ride shotgun from time to time, but that doesn't make up for the grievances. And yes, I did play on the easiest and hardest modes.
It doesn't have the scope of Battlefield, the precision and demanding nature of America's Army, nor the graphics of Unreal Tournament 2003. In fact, it doesn't have any of the above from any of the above in any combination you can make from any of the above. Ha, it's a competitor that doesn't compete. But, Mobile Forces does have very small amounts from each game -- small amounts that combine to form a decent, if frustrating, incomplete, and lacking title.
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