AquaNox 2: Revelation returns players to the undersea AquaNox universe. Young William Drake, heir to a ramshackle merchant dynasty, transports goods from Galapagos to the northern stretches of the Tornado Zone. However, this bores him, and he longs to be a mercenary, a Ronin, a hired-gun. Then a distress call from a mysterious ship changes everything, and Drake finds himself enmeshed in a search for a cursed treasure trove. Drake owns a fast and highly maneuverable submarine, the Salty Dog. Though not the most imposing craft, the Salty Dog can hold its own in a fight if the captain is clever.
If you remember the release of the first GeForce3 card, then you'll probably remember the original AquaNox. It was one of the first games to truly take advantage of all the card's newfangled abilities, but unfortunately, it was more of a technical demonstration than a fun game. Its sequel, AquaNox 2: Revelation, fixes a few of those gameplay problems, but it's still just about the same game with a different storyline.
We're guessing Massive Development is a long-time fan of space sims, because AquaNox 2 plays a lot like Wing Commander, Freespace, Starlancer, and most other games of that ilk. The obvious difference is the underwater setting, which is also the major drawback. Except for a select few areas, everything is too dark and murky. Although you get ship and weapons upgrades as you progress, control remains sluggish and battles get boring. Mix in some convoluted dialogue and a drag-the-game-to-a-halt "hotspot" click-fest between missions, and you've got the idea.
Remember that scene in Final Fantasy VII where Aries dies? It was touching and sad, and it made you really despise the main antagonist, Sephiroth. A few other games (such as Max Payne and Mafia) also had good stories, and the reason is that you were allowed to live them instead of being told about them. In AquaNox 2, on the other hand, you're told that your mother's been killed, you dad has ditched without a reason, and your grandmother raised you while maintaining the family business. While that's potentially interesting, you never experience this. It's all told in herky-jerky dialogue and never really hits home. The voice acting is decent, but so much of the dialogue is tripe that you'll never really care about the characters. Most will probably find themselves clicking through it rapidly in order to activate the next mission.
The missions have the potential to be interesting, but you've done most of this before: Escort this, destroy that, disable the other thing, and make sure you follow every navigation point. Ostensibly, the most exciting part of the game, the action sequences boil down to slumberous ship movements and simple strafing.
While the graphics are certainly decent, they are not nearly as cutting-edge as the original's were back in 2001. The explosions are particularly impressive, and most of the weapon effects are believable. The problem is that most of your upgrades do about the same thing, just with more oomph, and none of the battles take advantage of the water physics to bump up the intensity. The opening battles in the aforementioned space sims are far more intense and enjoyable than even the later battles in AquaNox 2.
After each mission, it's back to the graphic of whatever location you're at, be it your current ship, a city, or what have you. Each of these static images has hotspots in the form of text, and those containing something important are in bold. This may have worked a few years ago, but now it's pass and yawn-inducing. Although the graphic presentation is good here, the dialogue often becomes a diatribe, and while it's not Kingpin-bad with foul language, there's plenty of swearing for those of you that giggle at such things. (In other words, it's not really necessary.) There's also plenty of sexual innuendo, and every now and then, there's a halfway funny bit thrown in.
While it's fine to hit the "briefing room" between actually interacting with the game, these intermissions often drag on far too long. There are so many characters that you end caring for very few, if any. Additionally, you have no control over what your character (William Drake) says, and in the majority of the conversations, you're more nave than Dan Quayle at a foreign policy meeting. Since these things often drag on for ten or more minutes before you get another mission, it gets pretty old pretty fast.
To be fair, AquaNox 2 is rather polished. The voice acting and music are appropriate (for the most part), the graphics are good (although not jaw-dropping amazing like so many games releasing in the next few months), and the game is exactly what it says it is. The problem is that after the initial unique feeling of intrigue you may get by playing a game that takes place entirely underwater, it's just not very fun. There are some fun moments and it improves somewhat as you go, but it never gets to the boiling point. Instead, it remains lukewarm throughout, and while that's fine for leftovers, it's not very satisfying as a main course.
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