The exploration of Mars yields more surprises than expected. A mysterious wormhole appears near the red planet around the time that mankind begins exploration in earnest. A probe reveals a beautiful planet, named "Syren" due to its attractive nature. Colonization begins. The planet is rich in the mineral that makes cold fusion possible. Corporations hurry to stake their claim in this futuristic version of the gold rush. Disagreements over mining rights turn into arguments. Arguments turn into fights. Soon, the planet is a battleground. As things heat up, all questions dealing with support from Earth are erased. The wormhole collapses, stranding the colonists too far from home for it to even matter anymore. Society on Syren changes rapidly, causing the colonists to form together in clans for survival. One such clan, led by the religious fanatic Jebediah Brightman, holds tremendous technological power in addition to his charismatic leadership. The clan wars have begun.
And so begins Cyberstrike 2, feeling much like other, established mech simulations in story, but much different than the rest in terms of action and gameplay. In this game, the cyberpods (mechs) are much faster and more maneuverable. On Syren, resources are more difficult to come by, meaning that you must conserve what you have, and letting your cyberpod be destroyed is a cardinal sin. While Cyberstrike 2 contains a single player game, concentration on multiplayer gaming is just as important, if not more important.
The graphics engine used to power Cyberstrike 2 is very nice, and requires the use of a 3D accelerator card. While it isn't quite as fancy as you'll find in some of today's more impressive first person shooters like Sin or Half-Life, it does an excellent job rendering the environment while keeping the game optimized for online play. The terrain is fairly spartan but pretty, and provides the option to use 16-bit textures. Weapon fire and explosions use all of the colorful lighting effects that only hardware acceleration can provide. Sound effects are standard, as is the music. Some tweaking needed to be done to the sound levels to keep them consistent without overpowering each other, but that is easily enough done.
Gameplay is an interesting mix of action and strategic leadership abilities. The single player game features two campaigns, the Terran clan and the Disciples of the Apocalypse - the religious cult clan. Missions are interesting and varied; you'll be defending as much as attacking. Team tactics are strongly encouraged, although the game's internal AI is only fair. You pilot your cyberpod on the battlefield, while simultaneously giving orders and bringing in supplies. Energy towers provide the necessary energy your cyberpod needs to remain charged, and powerups may also be requested from the dropship. Support from tanks and other vehicles is available as well. Winning battles and skirmishes gives you access to more and better equipment for future fights.
The multiplayer game is where the focus of this game really lies. 989 Studios (Sony Interactive) is no stranger to strong multiplayer gaming, including Tanarus, a similar battlefield-style online game, and Everquest, a massively multiplayer online role playing game. Simutronics, the developer, is also a veteran of online gaming. Their record includes the popular Gemstone III, as well as the original Cyberstrike. Online, you may join a clan and rush into battle with real people rather than computer AI.
Perhaps the game's weakest point lies in its interface. The control configurations are not programmable, you're stuck with what you get. The video card selection screen is also a royal pain, mostly because not all cards are listed. I discovered what was probably the worst-case scenario, as my Voodoo 2 card was not among the ones available. Selecting another brand with the same chipset did work, but not before seeing a cryptic error message on more than one occasion. There is a second accelerator function that must be selected - glide 2.0, Direct3D, or software. Glide does not work properly if at all. D3D did work with no problem, but finding the proper combination of card and API was a real pain in the neck. Why the game doesn't do an auto-detect on your system is beyond me, that works successfully for all the games I've seen that use it.
Cyberstrike 2 is an interesting game. It is pretty easy to learn and get started with once you get past the interface. It features a strong single player game with an even stronger multiplayer element. It's more action-oriented than comparable mech simulations, yet focuses on team cooperation as well.