Reviewed: March 10, 2005
Released: December 14, 2004
Tecmo is one of those rare developers (and publishers) that isnít known for a ton of games. They sit quietly over in their studios in Japan and cook up one or two excellent titles each year and all is good with the gaming world. With that in mind, I guess I can forgive them for unleashing Gungriffon: Allied Strike upon an unsuspecting community.
You see, this latest mech simulator is designed by Game Arts and merely published by Tecmo. My first experience with Game Arts was back in the days of Sierra Online who published their space shooters, Silpheed and Thexder, on the PC in the mid to late 80ís. Silpheed has since seen variations on the SegaCD and more recently, the PS2, but this latest offering simply pales in comparison to anything in the competing genres.
If you could rate a game entirely on fun then Allied Strike might stand a fighting chance but there is no overlooking the dismal graphics, poor sound, and uninspired gameplay going on here. If you can manage to look beyond these shortcomings you might just uncover a few hours of fun but is it really worth the effort?
Jump into the cockpit of any of more than 12 mechs, or in this case AWGS (armored walking gun system), each with a design more original and crazy than the last. Unlike most games where you gradually earn the right to control more powerful units, Allied Strike gives you the entire arsenal up front and lets you figure out what to do with it.
Picking the proper AWGS for not only you but your wingmen becomes a very critical aspect of the game, even in the earlier levels. Youíll always want to pick something for yourself that is suited for the task at hand, but youíll also want a companion mech that complements your own abilities.
Each mech has very unique abilities, usually in movement and combat. Faster mechs are usually light in armor so you need to make quick strikes, while the slow plodding monsters can rumble into the mix and take a beating while delivering their own pain and destruction.
The first-person cockpit view definitely puts Gungriffon in the simulation category, especially when compared to the third-person action games like MechAssault 2. The claustrophobic HUD provides all the necessary information while constricting your view to keep you on the edge of your seat for most of the mission.
Missions range from search and destroy to escort and defense but you will almost always be required to kill everything that moves. Maintaining a certain level of ďrealismĒ there are no random power-ups scattered about the mission area. Instead, you have to rely on a supply chopper that will fly in at designated areas along your mission path two or three times each mission.
Youíll get a verbal alert when the chopper is heading in and you have only moments to reach the location and get the supplies since the chopper only sticks around for 20-30 seconds. The enemy is almost always aware of the chopperís presence and will be racing to that location to destroy it. Failure to rearm once is devastating to your mission; failure to rearm more than once and itís game over.
Enemy AI is uncanny and if left alone to ďthinkĒ for too long it will easily figure out your strategies. This is especially true in the defense missions where you must plan your strategy and act upon those plans almost immediately or the enemy will be upon you. If that happens you only have reflexes and luck to help you through.
Not only is the enemy AI extremely difficult, the overall game borders on the impossible, or at least it seems that way since there is no progression of difficulty. Youíll get your metallic ass handed to you on the second mission then skate through the next. The difficulty factor changes with each mission but never in the same direction.
Graphically, Allied Strike is a mess. The HUD is interesting but consumes a lot of screen real estate. You can opt for a shoulder-view but this actually decreases your effectiveness in combat not to mention showing off some poor mech animations.
Even HDTV progressive scan support canít save this presentation. Allied Strike could just as easily have been a PS2 game and many might think it is. Targets are depicted as boxes long before you see their blurry models. The color palette is washed out and consists of a lot of green and brown, basically a very dull environment. The menus are cumbersome and awkward to navigate and not that interesting.
The framerate is inexplicably choppy at random intervals but there is always some slowdown with every mission, and given the nature of the simplistic graphics, this is just poor programming. I supposed you could explain it away by saying the movement of the mechs is choppy.
The Dolby Digital mix favors the low frequencies in this game. Of the 200+ Xbox games I have played this is the first where I have physically had to adjust my subwoofer to keep the paint from vibrating off the walls. Maybe for some thatís a good thing but it just drowned out the entire sound package almost to the point of distortion.
Sound effects are adequate with plenty of rocket and missile fire, explosions, radio chatter, and plodding metallic footsteps. None of it is really great, but it gets the job done with minimal effort and is fairly forgettable.
Equally as forgettable, or at least youíll wish you could forget it is the musical score which is comprised of several track selections, all of which sound nearly identical. If any game screamed for custom soundtracks this is it. And itís not that the music is bad, but a dozen variations of the same militaristic music starts to wear thin after a few hours.
Most gamers can make their way through the single-player game in 8-12 hours. Some missions take a few minutes and others take a significant portion of an hour and insufferable patience. You can pick from Normal and Easy skill levels, each offering their own set of mechs and equally unbalanced levels and gameplay.
You can play Allied Strike online or with a system link with up to eight players in deathmatch and team deathmatch modes. You can also team up with a buddy for cooperative campaign play, which offers a cool new approach to the game but also increases the aforementioned problems with the framerate.
If you own an Xbox and want to get your mech on then by all means go get MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf. The fact these two games released within weeks of each other only serves to nail the coffin shut on Gungriffon: Allied Strike. With these two games sitting on stores shelves I canít think of a single reason to favor Tecmoís release, and again, I donít blame Tecmo, they didnít make this game, but they did have the poor judgment to tack their name to the project. Fortunately, their other games have given them enough street cred that they will survive.
Then again, if there is some nugget of old-school gamer lurking in your core being and you donít mind outdated graphics and unbalanced gameplay then give this game a shot. With any luck it will be in the bargain bins soon enough.