Based on Sega's hit arcade sequel, Virtua Cop 2, Virtua Squad 2 features on-rails shooting through a variety of 3D rendered environments. The game follows three tough cops as they struggle to take down a criminal syndicate working under the name of "EVL Inc." The PC edition of the game lacks the official support for light gun accessories, but has been re-tuned for mouse-cursor aiming. It features three of the stages found in other versions of the game: "Big Chase," "Save the Mayor," and "Rail Line Shootout." The path splits at three points, forcing players to choose. New weapons, including rifles, magnums, and machine guns, become available along the way. At the end of each stage, players face an enemy boss character with stronger armor, more powerful weapons, and other special powers. Two-player shooting is available, both in a same-screen option and through a local area network connection.
In Sega's growing collection of PC titles, Virtua Squad 2, the newest addition, is by far the best of what Sega has ever produced for this platform. Featuring fast and dazzling graphics, Virtua Squad 2 rocks the player into intense action and non-stop challenge against a cohort of criminals and terrorists. Based on the arcade hit Virtua Cop 2 developed by the same company, players endorse the role of one of the three police officers included in the game, Michael Hardy, James Cools, and new to this sequel, Janet Marshall.
Divided into three episodes of increasing difficulty, players will have to make their way up to the final boss of each level where they can expect serious trouble. But before that, players will encounter dozens, even hundreds of enemies that they will need to take care of, armored with only one weapon. Fortunately you can reload it at will should your weapon run out of bullets! If your shooting skills are good enough, additional weapons become available as you progress throughout the game, but they can only be used temporarily as the ammunition won't last for long. At most, players will only use them for a few seconds before returning to their first weapon.
For those who are not familiar with the arcade title Virtua Cop and its sequel, the game features a 3D first-person perspective and a total freedom of where you want to shoot. At least in the area that you can see on screen, because there are no other possibilities of movement in Virtua Squad 2 than to follow the predetermined path across the 3D environment. Virtua Squad 2 is essentially a 3D shooter where speed and aiming represent the two keys to success.
The big difference between the original game and its sequel clearly stands out in the graphics. Where 8-bit shaded polygons were used in the past, they are now replaced by rich 16-bit textures applied with perspective correct, bi-linear filtering and alpha-blending to render graphical effects such as semi-transparent textures and to improve the overall quality of the image. Virtua Squad 2 uses Direct3D which means that the game will work with most of the 3D cards. Several graphical modes are proposed and you can even select to play without 3D acceleration. Virtua Squad 2 also features shading to add depth to the characters and make them even more lifelike.
Virtua Squad 2 really gives the player the same dose of adrenalin than in the arcades. The big chase through the city in the first level, as well as the run in the subway train in the last, are sure to please die-hard action gamers who will find more action in Virtua Squad 2 than in any James Bond movie. Also new to Virtua Squad 2 is the branching path present in each level that allow players to choose which way they want to go. While there is only one choice per level, it adds to the replayability of the game, already present with the random order by which enemies appear on screen. Sound effects add the final touches of realism to the game, while the CD audio track runs in the background.
Plenty of options allow players to customize their game. First the difficulty level from normal to hard, second the number of lives, and third how many "continue"'s will be allowed. Then, you can modify the game's style whether you prefer to play as you do in Virtua Cop 1 or as in its sequel, the main visual difference being the way the lock-on sight appears on screen and the score displayed while playing. Besides a multi-player mode that works through a serial port, modem, LAN or even TCP/IP connection, Virtua Squad 2 can be used by two players at once on the same computer with a mouse, keyboard or joystick, each player having a different color for the lock-on sight. What the arcade game wasn't offering is the "Proving Ground" mode where you must eliminate your opponent before he does. After selecting one of the three fields and the entry point, the lock-on sight will automatically aim at your enemies. Then, you must shoot as fast as possible within a limited time and hope that you will be quicker than your adversary. If you are shot by an enemy, you will only hold your fire for a second, but if your opponent shots you, you will lose a life. The first to run out of lives will then lose the set, the game being played in three sets.
Players will be thrilled with the continuous flow of action, and the good combination between graphics and game play. With this excellent conversion of Virtua Cop 2, Sega demonstrates that consoles are not the only platforms for arcade games. Its sole weakness is to offer three levels, when five or six would have been a real plus.
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