Looking Glass's Terra Nova manages to blend ideas from a number of games into one unified whole. It uses an interesting keyboard/mouse control scheme like Doom, draws heavily on the clan-based settlements of MechWarrior, and puts you in the sort of powered body armor Heinlein dreamt of in Starship Troopers.
The game takes place in the late 23rd Century. Colonists have been sent to the worlds of Alpha Centauri by the Earth Hegemony. The distance between the Hegemony and the colonies have allowed for a clan-based culture to flourish in the reaches of space. Unfortunately, the Hegemony is now moving in on the Centaurian area, bringing with it an oppressive system of government. The colonies are also plagued by pirates, rumored to be in the pay of the Hegemony. To fight the pirates, Strike Force Centauri (SFC) has been created. You take the role of Nikola (Nik) ap Io, from clan Io, and leader of the SFC.
Terra Nova contains a total of 39 missions, starting with simple solo missions and eventually involving a full squad of four soldiers. You also have complete control over the weapons loadout of everyone in the squad, even the type of PBA (personal battle armor) each person wears. Between missions, non-interactive video sequences establish some of the characters and advance the plot of the battle with the pirates and the Earth Hegemony.
Each of the different members of the SFC has particular strengths on the battlefield, and not everyone is available for every mission. Should a team member come back from a mission wounded, he or she won't be available for a mission or two, and anyone not considered important to the has a chance of coming back dead. Additionally, the back story of the game is well created. There is an extensive in-game library on the history of the Hegemony and the colonies and the various clans. While interesting, this is poorly indexed and takes a long time to scroll through.
But it is the action that makes Terra Nova worth playing. Once you get used to the control scheme, it plays like a dream. The story is fun, the setting entertaining and the characters engaging and believable. It's a shame to see it end.
There are a few disappointments here and there. You can get a number of medals in combat, but there is no list of the medals available, or how to achieve them. Several plot points are built up over the course of multiple missions, and then glossed over or dropped without much resolution. Most serious is that the game feels too short. With gameplay like this, you could wish for another dozen missions or so.
Graphics: The full-motion video is pretty good, and the in-game graphics are decent, if a little blotchy at times.
Sound: Good digitized voice, and great sounds on incoming weapons fire.
Enjoyment: The mix of difficult and easy missions is interesting and believable, and the PBA handles like a dream. The plot's pretty good, too, but some things are just left hanging without much resolution.
Replay Value: The mission series is the same every time, and when you already know the plot, some things just aren't as much fun. The random mission generator is really nothing more than a combat sim, albeit a fun one.
Strike Force Centauri, the premier Strike Team on Alpha Centauri, was founded to combat pirates. As Nikola ap Io, you'll be leading them into combat. But the pirates are, too, well-armed, and the Terra Hegemony may be involved. When the covert action turns overt and a full-out assault is mounted by the Hegemony upon Alpha Centauri. All that stands in the way is SFC.
Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri is a first-person sci-fi combat sim featuring realistic sci-fi weapons with true 3D terrain. You control a power-suit with arm-mounted weapons: just aim (with mouse) and shoot, while move completely independently (using keyboard).
You can choose from multiple types of suits (scout, regular, heavy), multiple types of weapons (everything from simple lasers to railguns to missile launchers), multiple assistance modules (from mine layer to auto-doc), and up to three squadmates that'll follow your orders. You are pitted against enemies from pirates to tanks and mechs, even psycho clones and armed drones. Missions vary from attack and recon to rescue and defend, across three different planets in a variety of weather and terrain.
Similarly to Wing Commander 3, the game features full-motion video sequences.
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