What a great idea. The fight to take back control of the earth from an enslaving alien force should not be constrained solely to either dogfights in deep space or on the battlefields of Earth itself. So I was naturally excited to install this epic onto my hard drive and begin my insurgent mission in the cockpit of several different flight vehicles, a mech and in the gunners turret of a low flying attack craft. Too bad that three of the four combat styles look and play like an afterthought and the story is moved along by intolerably bad acting. Otherwise The Raven Project might have combined two of my all time favorites on the PC (Mechwarior 2 and Tie Fighter) to become an all-in-one unbeatable mainstay in my games directory. Instead it comes off as a mockery of those two games and is sure to placed on top of my "forgettable" games pile. Too bad, I hate to see good concepts squandered away as if they were as expendable as the cellophane that encased the box.
Let me start off by saying this in Raven's favor. The pre-rendered turret gunner sequences are nothing short of excellent. Although these sequences are cursor based track shooters (a genre I've never been a big fan of, with the marvelous exception of Panzer Dragoon) the art work and seamless action is without a doubt some of the best that I've seen. The initial reconaissance sortie through the streets of San Fransisco and Alcatraz are gorgeous. From what I've seen of Angel Devoid for the Mac, rendered environments are the definitive strength in Mindscape's gaming arsenal. They should have stuck with it. Had Raven consisted solely of this kind of gameplay I would have considered it a decent purchase. It doesn't though, and as a result I don't. I can't help but think that the team at Cryo spent so much time on the rendered sequences that they forgot about the rest until a month before the release schedule. That may or may not be the case but it sure seems like it.
The land based mech and combat aircraft missions are an intolerable mess. The landscape is devoid of any landmarks or detail and the enemies, when you happen to find them, are only recognizable because their grey color is so different from the earth toned hues of the scorched ground. That's about it; if a wireframe model of your target didn't pop up on your HUD for a few seconds after you toggled it you wouldn't know what the hell it was when you fired upon it. Then there is the sloppy way of finding your targets. You can toggle for either short or long range radar in which case there is a small red indicator in the middle of your HUD to help you along. In many ways, finding your enemies is a lot like trying to find water with a divining rod. If you're getting close the red indicator tuggs to one side. From there on you follow in that direction until you see it tugged once again. My initial try at the game was a fruitless waste of time for ten minutes as I circled about in my Lancer firing at the empty air in search of some amusement. The second time around was a bit better and then I was ultimately disappointed to find out that the mission combat was only about two minutes long. I mentioned "afterthought" earlier, didn't I?
Mech warfare proved to be no different. Not in any way. I got no sense that I was in some hulking machine with two legs. No; it all felt exactly the same as if I were in my aircraft. My traversal over the brown earth was as smooth as if I were flying, and it didn't appear to me that I was any closer to the ground. They put some fantastic suspension in those things, those rebels did. The only way I knew I was piloting an earthbound mech was because they told me I was. OK, if you say so.
I had hoped that things would be different when I found myself in space. Nope. All I found was a hastily put together nebula backdrop to tell me that I was immersed in interstellar battle. Same weapons, same enemies. By this time, reviewing The Raven Project became a chore made even worse by the FMV cutscenes. Cheesy, poorly acted and incompetently paced, it astounds me that no one ever bothers to actually put any effort into FMV sequences. There are rare examples here and there such as Ghen War and Wing Commander IV, but sadly they are the exception rather than the rule. Be warned: Raven has almost 45 minutes worth of FMV tripe to wade through should you decide to give this game fare a try.
The Raven Project is game development by the numbers, when balanced out between the uniformly excellent rendered shooter sequences and... well the rest. It is a good concept made irrelevant by poor execution.
Sci-fi shooter with gameplay similar to the Rebel Assault series. Divided into missions, you get to play in ship-to-ship combat, mechanised warrior battles, surface-planetary warfare and tail-gunning, according to the developers. The game also features a complex story with live-action video sequences.
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