Starship Troopers is similar to the controversial 1959 science-fiction novel by Robert Heinlein, in which troopers don powered armor and use advanced weapons to combat an evil, arachnid-like alien race commonly known as the "bugs." Nineteen types of creepy-crawlies show up in this first-person shooter, each with different strengths and weaknesses. Players battle through 12 indoor and outdoor levels, including a secret laboratory, bug nests, abandoned mines, and outposts, to relieve planet Hesperus from the insect invaders.
Blast up to 300 enemies at once with one of seven weapons, including a nuke launcher and intelligence grenades. Join the special forces of the mobile infantry as Marauder Zero Six in the single-player campaign mode, or start a bug-killing frenzy on the Internet. Up to eight people can team up online or by LAN and play through three deathmatch, co-op, or team deathmatch levels. After completing a single-player combat mission, the level may be re-played to generate a score and rank according to performance. Bonus items may be unlocked when certain conditions in the game are met.
The film adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein's novel Starship Troopers came out back in 1997. On one level, the movie was a wry send-up of gung-ho militarism and fascism. On another level, it was a kinetic, gleefully violent film about futuristic soldiers trying to eradicate an army of giant alien bugs. On both levels, it was a garish visual extravaganza. Even years after the movie's release, it's still perfect material for a PC shooter, right?
You play as a Marauder: an elite soldier called in to help the regular infantry when a vital Federation planet comes under bug attack. You're a sort of poor man's Master Chief, replete with snazzy armor akin to what you see the hero of Halo wearing. Not exactly an original premise, but it'll serve. The problem is that the twelve levels of Starship Troopers are mostly a snooze; a few fun moments are overwhelmed by endless repetition and tired design ideas.
It's as if the developers took their ideas from the first pages of First-Person Shooters For Dummies but missed the chapter where it warns, "Avoid hoary clichés at all costs." There's the bit where you need to pick up some futuristic doohickey from a crash site, and -- surprise -- bugs come out of nowhere when you grab it. There's the numbingly extended boss battle where you need to use a rocket launcher to bring the bug down -- and extra rockets magically keep appearing again and again in convenient crates that just happen to be there. And, of course, you'll need to escort anonymous squads A and B up generic hills X and Y.
There's also the obligatory "escort the moron" segment, where the guy you're supposed to protect repeatedly runs headlong into swarms of ravenous insects. Amazingly, this idea -- one of the most loathed clichés in shooterdom -- is repeated multiple times during the game. And then there's the old chestnut of forcing you to sit in one place and face swarms of bugs while data is transmitted or bombs are armed, which gets repeated on nearly every level.
The game's main catch is supposed to be that it throws dozens and dozens of bugs at you at once, yet Starship Troopers rarely manages to create even a modicum of excitement or terror from the huge hordes of foes it drops on you. It's all too predictable, too repetitive, too simplistic. Unlike, say, the Serious Sam games, Starship Troopers bores you into a stupor with battles and level designs that repeat themselves with military precision and last far longer than the material warrants. It's easy to switch over to mental autopilot as you strafe and shoot your unlimited ammo for what seems like an eternity. Starship Troopers is great if you have any urgent daydreaming to catch up on.
Graphically, Starship Troopers doesn't look too hot. The eponymous troopers look like identical, lumpy bits of clay that can walk and carry guns. The vast swarms of bugs in Starship Troopers cause not merely boredom, but major framerate drops. Happily, some of their flame and plasma attacks look cool as they light up the levels. Most of the environments look drab and monotonous, though. For cutscenes, the game uses footage from the film -- never mind that the plot and characters are different -- and these scenes only serve to remind you how much better the movie was than this game.
At least the audio captures a bit of the enjoyably cornball feel of the film. The bugs and guns don't make much of an impression, but troops utter intentionally cheesy lines like, "I'm so bad I scare myself!" Then again, multiple voiceovers and sound effects often overlap so badly as to make it impossible to figure out what anyone is saying. At least the game boasts a solid orchestral score.
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