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X-Com: Enforcer

Score: 80%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Infogrames
Developer: Microprose
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 16
Genre: Action/ Shooter

Graphics & Sound:

X-Com: Enforcer uses the Unreal Tournament engine, and it does some things with it that I've never seen before. Besides using the UT engine for a third-person shooter instead of the normal first-person style, the developers of Enforcer manage to coax the engine into showing metric tons of units on the screen at once, plus a bazillion bullets, without any noticable slowdown. Now, I'm sure on slower systems it'd chug a bit, but I had the resolution jacked up to 1024x768 and didn't encounter noticable slowdown once in the game. Of course, large portions of the game are spent in a polychromatic blur, as shots blaze around the robot and you dodge for dear life around the enemies, so it could have been running at ten frames per second and I wouldn't have noticed. I don't think it does, though--I've purposefully gotten tons of enemies on the screen, and still didn't see it chug. The game has the same strengths and limitations of the UT engine: gorgeous lighting, somewhat jagged geometry. The beast models are definitely not overly complex, but they get the job done, and they're certainly not the caricatures in the eerily similar Kiss: Psycho Circus.

As for sound, you'll probably want to turn the voice acting off within a few minutes of starting the game. The lispy doctor is absolutely obnoxious from an aureal standpoint, and he constantly whines about what's going on. Argh. The music is pretty thumping techno, keeping you going throughout the game without being particularly memorable. There are a lot of sound effects, and while they may not be the strongest in the world--I do like the glass-shattering one--they come so fast and furious out of your soundcard that you don't have time to judge their quality. This game is all about immersing the senses, visually and aureally, and it manages it well.


Gameplay:

And while X-Com: Enforcer isn't the deepest game ever made, it's an absolute blast for the time it takes you to beat it. The ability to play multiplayer is mildly entertaing, but the main draw of the game is the entertaining single-player campaign. Most expert gamers will blow through it in a matter of a day, but it's fun while it lasts, and unlike many games nowadays X-Com: Enforcer is fun to pick back up and blaze through again--the bite-sized segments it's broken into keep it all fresh.

The basic plot is straight out of the campy version of the X-Com universe. One of the scientists creates a super-robot, the Enforcer, and before he can put the finishing touches on it, the aliens invade (again). It's up to the Enforcer to blaze through all of the levels, stopping the alien menace, picking up chips to give you new abilities and weapons to tear through the game with. Sometimes you have to rescue citizens; you almost always have to destroy 'teleporters', which are dangerously similar to the Spawners in Kiss: Psycho Circus and Gauntlet.

Fortunately, unlike Psycho Circus, Enforcer makes it worth your while to blow all of the enemies and generators up. Most aliens drop numbered chips, and these chips can be used between levels to unlock new weapons and upgrade existing ones. This sort of progression helps keep the game intriguing, as it's always cool to see what new weapon you'll get and what the next power-up level does to the game.

The game itself is strictly fast-paced shooter fare. You have either your basic weapon or one of the additional ones, and you hold down the left mouse button to send out waves of death. The mouse is used to turn around; the keyboard is used for strafing. Blow everything up, pick up the weapons and power-ups you like, and save the good guys. Weapons and power-ups spawn randomly into the maps, instead of having specific locations to pick them up in, and they all have limited ammo. You can only carry one at a time as well, forcing you to choose the one you want.

There are a few twists in the gameplay--there's one level that you have to keep some humans from being killed, and there are a few 'survive the timer' levels that send wave after wave of beasties at you and force you to stay alive for the entire time. But for the most part you run through a large series of maps, wiping out all the enemies that you can. Most of the levels have the letters in BONUS hidden in them; collect all five in a given level and you get to go to a bonus level, which is often reminiscent of classic video games--Pac Man and Frogger being two of the games cloned. It helps break up the other levels.

There's multiplayer support, but Enforcer isn't the sort of game that multiplayer works terribly well with--it's all about the single-player action, and while there are a ton of single-player levels, it's over soon enough. That's where the replay value kicks in. Each level takes a maximum of ten or so minutes to beat, and you can always play back through the game when you get bored.


Difficulty:

You can pick the difficulty level at the beginning of the game, but none of them are particularly challenging for gaming experts--I found Normal to be almost humourously simple, other than a few boss fights. However, for those who aren't skilled in Gauntlet-style running and gunning, X-Com: Enforcer may be somewhat more challenging. Management of ammo isn't as important as management of health; boosting the amount that the Health items gives you should be one of your first priorities.

Game Mechanics:

Use the mouse to rotate, and the keyboard to strafe and move forwards and backwards. You can jump, fire, and have the game show you your next objective's location for when you get lost. That's all there really is in terms of controls, and the simplicity definitely helps keep it from being bogged down. The between-level weapon upgrades are a very nice touch, keeping even the crappy old weapons from being useless, especially since you have no control over which ones show up in the levels. Load times are beyond minimal, lasting mere seconds between stages. Changing the settings is as easy as it always has been with the UT engine; be forewarned, however, that turning on mouselook will make the game much harder instead of easier.

Sure, it's not deep, and it's over a little too fast, but I have to admit that I had a lot of fun playing X-Com: Enforcer. The multitude of weapons, the numerous upgrades, the cool power-ups, and the fast action all combine to make a game full of mindless, beautiful fun. As long as you don't go into the game expecting something as deep as, say, X-Com: UFO Defense, chances are good that you'll have a great time playing Enforcer.


-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Minimum System Requirements:



Win9x/Me, P 233, 32MB RAM, 500MB HD Space, 8x CD-ROM, 4MB SVGA video card, soundcard
 

Test System:



Athlon 1.1GHz running Win98 SE, 512MB RAM, GeForce 2 GTS w/ 32MB RAM, SoundBlaster Live!, 8x DVD-ROM

Microsoft Xbox Star Wars: Starfighter - Special Edition Windows Aliens vs. Predator 2: Primal Hunt

 
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