by Ripcord Games Reviewed by: Timothy Krupinski
In the not-so-crowded genre of space combat games, only a few shining jewels stand out. Most notable is the Wing Commander series and X-Wing and TIE Fighter games. But then again, as in any genre of computer gaming, there are the bad eggs. Unfortunately, this is one of them.
After reading the 14-page story (which, by the way, is more of a prologue), it appears that you are a kid on earth wanting adventure. You decide to sign up with SACS and become a space cadet. After your registry, you start the game on a battlestation, beginning your training exercises. Instead of this game having a huge back story, you only know why you are where you are and nothing else.
Forced Alliance's gameplay is nothing to get overly excited about. You fly a little ship around, pull the joystick trigger to fire, press button 2 to launch missiles and so forth. You also have a few keyboard commands for communicating with your fleet, switching guns and increasing throttle, but that's about it.
The mood and feel of the game doesn't help either. Does it keep my sweaty hand glued to the joystick, anxiously waiting to blow anything up? No. Does it make me feel like I'm doing something out of this world? Nope. Then what kind of mood does this game set? When I play this game, I feel like I'm just pressing keys and steering a little. I don't feel like I'm really interacting with the environment.
Simply put, it feels like I'm flying a box around a very linear world. And what I'm flying my little space ship around in isn't too gratifying either. I'm talking about the missions that make up Forced Alliance's plot. Some are patrol missions that make you fly to 3 checkpoints and return home. Most of these missions have no enemies to kill; just fly around and hope you don't run into an asteroid or nav buoy. Sure, these missions are probably a lot like what most combat pilots endure, but they are no fun, and games are supposed to be fun.
The graphics in Forced Alliance are very outdated. I don't know what program the artists used to make this game, but the in-game graphics look like they were made with Truspace. They have little texture mapping, and what texture mapping they do have are mostly colored dots that simulate lights on the spaceships, or some colored waves that make up the camouflage on a fighter.
"How can this be?" you might ask, "I thought this game used 3Dfx." It does. But even if you are lucky enough to get it working (I had troubles with my Monster3D) you can hardly tell it's there. The only noticeable effects that take advantage of 3Dfx capabilities is the alpha-blending that makes the ships seem smoother, and some transparencies on the explosions (which look very nice -- if you can catch the split-second flicker).
The audio in this game, as well as the graphics, is also outdated. For music the designers decided to use MIDI, and bad MIDI at that. To give you an idea, the music in this game makes Doom sound like a fully-orchestrated concert recorded on DVD.
And the bad sound doesn't stop there. The designers managed to get in crummy sound effects as well. Instead of getting some cool laser discharging sounds when I fire them, I get a choppy "Ping!" sound. My missiles sound like my cat when it hisses. But the worst part of all is that the volume control in the game doesn't work. This isn't so bad, but some mission orders are given in-flight and you can't understand what they are saying. This can sometimes lead to mission failure, or flying endlessly about space as you try to find some enemy ships when your leader really said "Return to the Lafayette."
Required: 486DX-100, 16 MB RAM, SoundBlaster compatible
sound card, 20 MB free hard drive space
I really don't like to criticize games this much, because I know how much work and devotion goes into a game, no matter how bad it may be. Sadly enough, Forced Alliance is merely just another "me too" game. It offers nothing new to the genre, and its fun factor is near zero. If for some reason you really feel you need this game, wait for it to hit the bargain bin, or tell the software store manager you're doing him a favor by relieving his shelves of this title. In the end, you'd be better off sticking with one of the Wing Commander or Privateer games. And then there is Balance of Power or Wing Commander: Prophecy to look forward to ...
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