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The Best Games You Never Played
Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri
Excluding its first-person perspective, Terra Nova bears little or no similarity to any other game developed by Looking Glass Studios, whose lineup includes Ultima Underworld, System Shock, and Flight Unlimited. Instead, Terra Nova, which was released shortly after Activision's 1995 hit MechWarrior 2, seemed like yet another giant robot simulation. But any such similarities were only skin deep. And even though Terra Nova did not enjoy MechWarrior 2's popularity then or its fame now, Looking Glass' action-simulation is nevertheless at least as good as Activision's opus.
The fact is, Terra Nova was one of the most visually impressive and fast-paced action games ever. Like in the critically acclaimed 1999 simulation Heavy Gear 2, in Terra Nova you didn't control some 50-ton walking tank, but rather a powered combat suit designed to augment your military skills. These suits let you run really fast, jump really high, and absorb damage while returning fire with everything from laser cannons to grenade launchers. You could also toggle enhanced vision modes, zoom your view to better survey your surroundings, and communicate with your squadmates to coordinate devastating tactical strikes. Meanwhile, Terra Nova's 3D graphics engine rendered realistic rolling hills practically as far as the eye could see, while a pulsing soundtrack made the game feel even more dynamic.
Full-motion-video cinematics on par with Origin's Wing Commander games depicted Terra Nova's cohesive story, which made its every mission seem significant. Although the actors from the video sequences weren't exactly Academy Award caliber, Terra Nova's high production values were obvious.
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Terra Nova received unanimous critical acclaim for all these reasons. However, it never enjoyed mainstream popularity, perhaps because it was optimized for DOS at a time when Windows 95 games were becoming more popular, or perhaps because it seemed so derivative on the surface. Whatever the reason for its commercial underachievement, it wouldn't change the fact that Terra Nova remains an outstanding game.