In this sequel to Microsoft Fury, you must once again stop the Bion threat against the Coalition of Independent Planets. After the Bion fortress was defeated on planet Fury, the resulting explosion brought about new opportunities throughout the galaxy. Wormholes were created that bridged the gap between planets and allowed for greater commerce and economic prosperity.
Not all planets flourished, however. Terran paid the bitter price for waging war against the Bions, one that meant poverty for its citizens. Now in a state of civil unrest and utter despair, Terran is ripe for the picking. Yes, it seems a group of Bion warriors are alive and well and have infiltrated at least six planets in their search for dominance. Is there no one left who can stop them?
Fortunately for the Terrans, there is. You are the only hope against impending doom, so you'll have to strap inside a spaceship armed to the teeth with the latest technology available -- the Hellbender. For veterans of Furył, the Hellbender features a similar compass and navigation system to target objectives, enemies and weapon crates. Three instrument panel and three pilot views are also included, and a total of eleven weapons are at your disposal, ranging from missiles and laser cannons to mines and rockets.
The Hellbender also features functional headlights, beacons, and cloaking power that can be replenished by finding energy capsules. Damage reports are received through the ship's onboard computer system (known as E.V.E.) , and each voice clip is performed by Gillian Anderson of X-Files fame. Repair droids also exist that can help fix any substantial problems with your vessel.
Your goal is to traverse six planets in an effort to destroy the last remaining Bion threat. Fly through underground caverns, above clouds and more as you take out enemies in the air and on the ground. Hellbender supports 3D graphic cards via Direct3D and features a storyline created by Hollywood script writer Geof Miller. Want to take on a friend or two? Multiplayer games are supported via LAN (up to eight people), Internet (up to four people) or modem (two people).
Hellbender is an arcade action-style 'shoot-em-up' and despite the fact that this reviewer normally steers clear of such things in favor of more detailed flight simulator or strategy programs, he is always open to any new, flashy action experience. This program seemed to promise just that experience.
The plot of this game, as narrated by the opening video sequence, is to lead a one man crusade against an evil, interstellar robotic army intent upon conquest of Earth and its allied planets. The game takes place on the surfaces of several texture-mapped worlds, where the player flits around, breaking every speed limit, towards various navpoints. Targets are radar installations, bunkers, power stations, and supply depots. These can be destroyed by approaching from a distance, lining up the target in the crosshairs, and firing the onboard laser cannons until everything goes up in a fiery explosion. Other fighters will attempt to destroy you, but these can be easily terminated. One of the better features in this game is the ability to be able to punch the afterburners, accelerate into the atmosphere, and dogfight these pesky rogues above the clouds.
Backing up the game itself is a raucous, heavy-metal soundtrack interspersed every so often with warnings and advice from your E.V.E. onboard computer, voice courtesy of the X-Files' Gillian Anderson. On the plus side, this game can be a visual and sound experience, capable of completely overwhelming the senses. Unfortunately, you need some massive hardware to find this out.
Let's venture backwards about a year and a half.... Turn back the clock to the summer of 1995 and check out a hot new game called Terminal Velocity. This was a great game, with hot graphics, ear-piercing sound, and chaotic action. The plot was to lead a one man crusade against an evil, interstellar robotic army intent upon the conquest of Earth and its allied planets. The player would fly around several texture-mapped planets, moving towards various waypoints and targeting power stations, radar installations, and supply depots. Every once in a while, the player would see attacking fighters, which he or she could afterburner up into the clouds to dogfight. Oh yes, and targets would vanish in fiery explosions, from being destroyed either by lasers, missiles, or collision.
Sound familiar? It should. Terminal Velocity enjoyed some brief success, until the engine and the game was bought from former Microsoft programmer/renegade Bruce Artwick by his old employers. A few tweaks, some new packaging, and suddenly by Christmas, the renamed Microsoft Fury appeared on store shelves. A year later, the sequel to this game, Hellbender, appeared.
So what we have here is an original great game, repackaged and re-sold, sequeled, and sold again to the exact same customers who may have bought Terminal Velocity a year earlier. However, Microsoft did more than simply change the name. Gone is the 'death by collision' factor, as well as the sheer carnage that characterized its predecessor. Also gone is some of the playability.
Justice must be given to the original graphics engine as well as to the original plot of the game. Terminal Velocity was an exceptional program, Hellbender is just a pretty, but mediocre sequel.
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