In 1998's Incoming, players fought to save the Earth from invading forces. Now, in this follow up from Rage Software, humanity is on a crusade to cleanse the universe of alien races -- but you're not part of the armada. Instead, players must stop the human invasion of their home world Kaiyodo and repel the Earth Forces that are threatening its very existence. As in the original, gameplay centers on controlling multiple vehicles in the air and on the ground, with six possible viewpoints available during gameplay: cockpit (default), third-person view from behind the craft, nearest enemy, nearest ally, waypoint, or flyby.
With the ability to change vehicles on the fly, familiarization with the on-screen display is essential (though turrets don't have waypoint arrows or speed indicators due to their lack of movement). Aircraft can be repaired, reloaded, and refueled, and players can command wingmen with five specific orders (form, attack specific target, relocate, or attack all aircraft or ground units in an area). Missions are structured with "continue points," which allow continuation from a certain point if the player dies, though at the cost of points earned.
Multiplayer action is available (LAN and Internet) in all four of the huge world environments, with customization options for time limits per round and frag requirements for victory. Deathmatch mode is a free-for-all, with the person logging the most kills the victor, while Team Deathmatch splits players into two teams. Refit locations and production plants are not available in multiplayer, but pickups include shield and craft repair, weapon upgrades, ammunition, damage amplifiers, and transfers to heavy tanks and twin engine fighters.
When Incoming was released back in 1998, it was most recognized for its graphics, which were relatively amazing for the time. In fact, many companies used Incoming to showcase their latest 3D cards, which were still becoming mainstream back then. Four years later, the sequel -- Incoming Forces -- has finally surfaced, and while the price is right, there's arguably not much else to get excited about.
Set 20 years after the original, Incoming Forces is basically an action shooter in which you control a variety of vehicles, both airborne and ground-based. The twist: this time around, you're playing on the side of the aliens, defending against the humans, who have unlocked the secrets of interspace travel and are traveling the galaxy wiping out anyone they run into. Over the course of the game, you're given upgrades and a few new vehicles to pilot, one of the game's strong points.
To help you get started, there's a fairly lengthy tutorial that explains the heads-up display (HUD) and the basics of navigation and weaponry. It's not implemented very well. Since you play as the aliens, there's very little human speech; you're instead provided unintelligible grunts and moans (supposedly the language of the aliens) and forced to read all of the subtitles, which is a major pain in the heat of a real battle. Additionally, the training is filled with nuggets like "Press the key to transport." It doesn't tell you which key. A good tutorial essentially allows you to skip the manual, but I found myself constantly pausing, looking up the appropriate keys.
Each of Incoming Forces' sixteen missions starts with a relatively short cutscene, explaining the current circumstances and giving you the initial objectives. Throughout a mission, additional objectives are introduced, and the expectation is that you'll make the appropriate ship change when necessary and control your wingmen (if available). This is a nice bit of strategy, giving you the ability to choose the best course of action. Sometimes, switching ships is absolutely necessary; other times, however, it just makes the mission easier.
The vehicles are pretty well-varied, including ground-based tanks and hovercraft, as well as airborne fighters and transports. Each includes a unique type of weaponry and handles a little differently as well. Where other games have handled multiple modes of transportation with aplomb (Tribes 2, Battlefield 1942, etc.), the controls in Incoming Forces really take some practice. For example, I normally play with my mouse inverted on the Y-axis, which works great for the airborne vehicles. However, when I switch to a ground vehicle, the mouse is "re-inverted" and the keys actually control steering. (The mouse controls a turret instead.) Why the developers felt this was necessary, I don't know.
Switching between vehicles is very easy. You can do so at just about any time, taking control of practically any vehicle. If your repair facility has been destroyed, for example, you can simply ditch the heavily-damaged vehicle for a new one. This is usually easy as vehicles are typically located where they should be, but the difficulty level often swings from relatively easy to very difficult and back without notice.
Graphically, Incoming Forces is very hit or miss. Explosions and particle effects are very cool and well done, with bits and pieces of a destroyed enemy going all over the place. Most of the vehicles look decent, as does the sky and most of the ground. The buildings, though, are flat and look like they were added at the last second. Not only that, the only function they seem to serve is to be destroyed; you can't land in them and they practically have no interactivity. Instead, when you get close to, say, a repair facility, then the game switches to a quick cutscene showing you landing and then coming back out completely repaired. While I don't think the intricacies of something like the original Elite are necessary, a little more functionality would've gone a long way.
The sound, aside from the aforementioned grunts that pass as speech (which are just bad), is also hit or miss. Parts of the musical score are quite good ... and others are barely average. The same goes for the sounds of the weapons and other sonic flavorings. Sometimes, it sounds like you're really in the middle of a futuristic firefight, and other times it sounds like you're in an episode of The Jetsons.
As an action game, Incoming Forces doesn't have the same impact as the original. There are some very good gaming moments, but overall it's pretty average. The hint of a strategy element is nice, but combined with the zigzag pattern of the difficulty level and the sometimes off-kilter controls, it sometimes feels more like work rather than a game.
People who downloaded Incoming Forces have also downloaded:
Incoming, Combat Wings: Battle of Britain, Half-Life 2: Episode One, I.G.I.-2: Covert Strike, Halo Zero, Line of Sight: Vietnam, Heretic: Shadow of the Serpent Riders, Heretic
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