Michael E. Ryan
EDITOR'S RATINGS: * Poor ** Fair *** Good **** Excellent
Looking Glass Technologies; 617-441-6333; http://www.lglass.com.
****, CD, DOS, Resource-Intensive, Adult Content, Price $59.99
You may have proven your close-quarters fighting skill in DOOM. You might even have shown your tactical prowess in X-COM or Jagged Alliance. But in Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri, you have to do both--at the same time.
Terra Nova is a DOS-based game from the developers of Flight Unlimited, System Shock, and Ultima Underworld. The game requires a Pentium, but it runs well even on low-end Pentium systems.
You play Nikola ap Io, a hotshot foot soldier representing the Centauri colonies in the 23rd century. The decadent Earth Hegemony is always causing trouble, and tensions are high. As the game begins, you're brought on-board a new strike force to help combat increased pirate activity in your sector. But as you make your way through Terra Nova, you'll soon discover that pirates are the least of your worries.
Over the course of 37 ground-pounding missions, you will lead a squad of soldiers against enemy forces. As squad leader, you start by assembling your team, taking care to include any specialists you might need, such as a reconnaissance or electronics expert. Most missions will require a team of four, but some are solo jobs. You get the outline of each mission during an excellent briefing session, complete with animation, maps, and spoken instructions.
Once your team is assembled, you arm it with a variety of powerful weapons, then head out in your Powered Battle Armor (PBA).
All of the missions take place outdoors on one of four worlds, at various times of day and under varying weather conditions. In bad weather in particular, you'll come to rely on your PBA for its infrared imaging and its drones, which can scout out the bad guys for you.
You can issue a variety of commands, and your squad will execute them to the letter. On one mission, we encountered a flaw in the game's artificial intelligence that caused our troops to run into canyon walls when their goal was on the other side (the idea of going around the obstacle did not occur to them). But for the most part, your troops are smart. That's important, because once the shooting starts, things get hectic in a hurry.
Many of the missions end up in confusing, explosive firefights, so you may want to take toys like the SIR Mark IV and the Universal Backup along with you.
Controlling your movements can be awkward, because you have to use the s key and the eight keys surrounding it. Weapons control is easier: You aim and fire with the mouse.
Even though the game's "hi-res" mode is only 320-by-400, the image quality, especially of the varied terrain, is spectacular. The music and Q-Sound 3-D audio are impressive, to say the least.
Terra Nova is an exceptional game that combines frenetic, fast-paced action with real-time squad-level tactics. It doesn't get much better than this.
Copyright (c) 1997 Ziff-Davis Inc.