Deadly Tide from Microsoft Corporation's game division is a massive, 4-CD, graphical, shoot'em up adventure game that will, in my opinion, advance the standards for this type of game.
The premise of the game is very simple, while explaining it will take a few lines or maybe a couple of paragraphs, so just follow along and trust me, okay. It is the far distant future, in the year 2500, and aliens have landed on the earth and are living at the bottom of the seas. After being here for 5 years, the amount of dry land has diminished from 25% of the planet to only 17% of it. It turns out that these aliens are here on a mission to eliminate the planet's population by submerging the Earth in its own seawater. Here the player enters the scene. By using underwater hydro-fighter pilots, it is the mission of the player, who becomes a member of the Earth Oceans Alliance (EOA) to eliminate the alien life forms. Easier said than done (trust me, I've tried it). Once the battle has begun, there are a series of missions and objectives to perform and you must stay alive long enough to do it. Among the missions there is one where the player must guide his craft to a shipwreck and recover an article from the captain's cabin, all the while getting shot at almost constantly.
The graphics and sound really make the game stand out. Microsoft brought in the company from Hollywood that created 3-D graphics for the television shows "SeaQuest" and "Star Trek: The Next Generation". They are stunning to look at, and along with a CD-quality sound track, really make the game enjoyable to both participate in and watch. I saw a demo station at one of our local (store name deleted- sorry, they aren't paying me to advertise for them) stores, and the customers were standing three deep around it, watching and waiting to get a turn. There are cinematic sequences that are interspersed within the action, both to advance the story, and allow for cramps to work themselves out of ones arms and legs. It is as close to watching an interactive movie as I have seen in a long time.
This program draws a lot on other games that have come before it. I see strong overtones of the LucasArts Star War games, as well as the influence of the Wing Commander series. But that should be looked at as a plus, since it gives the player a reference as to what type of game it will be. But this game also have some unique features, such as the aforementioned cinematic sequences in the middle of a shoot out. The game can be played with either a mouse or joystick. I tried both, and while both have their strong points, the joystick is the pointing device of choice. Players that are familiar with this genre of game will most likely know which controller works best for them. They will also find other features in the game to enjoy as well. But for all the positive sides to this game, there are some serious drawbacks I found also.
Number one is the display. During the game play, and the cinematic sequences, the video displays are very blocky, and small items and features are hard to distinguish. It seems that these are being run at full screen with a 320x200 resolution. No wonder it is difficult to make things out. The sequences have a habit of interrupting the flow of the game. For example, in the sequence where you are attempting to recover the item from the Captain's safe, it isn't unusual to have the shooting mode interrupt unannounced to show the player running along the hallway, then just as unannounced go back into a shooting mode. My rhythm was most definitely interrupted.
Along with this is the lighting of the screens. Granted everything is taking place underwater and shouldn't be as bright as if it was in the sun. But the scenery was so dark it was difficult to distinguish doors and openings from the surrounding wall. This made getting around very tedious and repetitious at times, especially when trying to get out of an abandoned shipwreck. I'm not saying it has to be as light as day, but brighter would be better.
This is a very good product. It is an excellent program to get involved in and lose track of time while one is playing it. The actual arcade sequences where all the shooting takes place are fun, and give one the feeling that they are floating in the water while shooting back. The soundtrack is awesome, and enhances the flow of the game, rather than becoming tiresome after awhile. The quality in this game is its use of the cinematic sequences. This concept will definitely challenge other companies to improve on the quality of their products. This game shows that Microsoft has a lot to learn to become a top rate game company, but this game also shows that they are on the right track.
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