Reviewed: January 31, 2005
Reviewed by: Mark Smith
Released: October 5, 2005
I have to admit that when I heard that Vicious Cycle was doing another Robotech game I started having flashbacks to their fabulous cel-shaded shooter back in 2002. I was in for quite a shock the first time I fired up Robotech: Invasion and found a colorful first-person shooter looking back at me.
Invasion takes place during the third Robotech series known as New Generation for those of you that follow the cartoon series. Rather than recreate the stories weíve already seen or deal with established characters, Invasion focuses on a new cast of characters putting you in the role of Locke, a mysterious warrior who joins resistance fighters in an epic struggle against Invid Invaders.
While primarily a first-person shooter, Invasion allows for some third-person action as well as some motorcycle modes that keep things fresh and exciting. This is normally the point in my review where I bash FPS games on the console but not this time. Invasion has the best FPS control scheme of any FPS game I have played on PC or console ever, yes, even better than TimeSplitters 2.
Movement is assigned to the left stick and camera look to the right, pretty standard stuff, but when you get an enemy in your sight the camera will start to auto-track the target and now you can use that right stick for precision targeting. Since taking down an enemy requires a critical hit to the eye, this is a most beneficial feature. And even when you are attacking humans and the lock isnít available, the control system is still amazing. Other games need to take notice of this system and adopt it immediately.
The excellent controls of the on-foot portions of the game are severely contrasted by a loose and awkward motorcycle component that is neither fun nor that beneficial to gameplay. You can move around faster but the transition to the bike is slow and awkward and the missiles that you can fire from the bike may be more powerful than your handheld weapons but they are also far less accurate.
Enemy AI is pretty poor and most of Invasion becomes a turkey shoot where the turkeys are crippled and stupid. I never really felt threatened, even in the later levels, and most battles could be easily won with strafing and repetitive fire.
Invasion is colorful with vivid and often over saturated colors, blinding special effects, and a pretty cool HUD display. I was disappointed in the low-poly architecture of both the landscape and the buildings in the game. The enemies and human characters offer a bit more detail in construction and texturing and the game engine is quite capable of putting a lot of action on the screen with no slowdown.
To their credit, the designers have created a game that has no obvious load screens. Everything seems to stream from the hard drive as you transition from level to level. Only when something major changes is there a noticeable hiccup. The amount of detail ranges from some wide and rather empty outdoor locales to some highly detailed interiors full of challenges.
Jesper Kyd creates a stunning soundtrack worthy of the Robotech name. There is some classic old-school Robotech tracks here for those that recognize them as well as some killer original tunes. All of the music complements the gameplay flawlessly.
Sound effects are also excellent with plenty of explosions and original weapons sounds that come at you from all directions thanks to a Dolby Digital mix. The speech is plentiful and rather poor, but considering this game is a $20 budget title we canít expect A-list Hollywood talent.
You can probably finish Robotech: Invasion in 8-10 hours and while there is a decent multiplayer component here for both system link and Xbox Live there isnít anything remotely original that will make you want to play this game over any of the dozens of other (and better) online FPS titles. Judging from the lack of anyone playing online, either everyone is sticking to the solo campaign or not that many people are getting this game.
One nice touch is the ability to play as a second character with a fresh storyline and perspective on the action. Itís an addition that is worthy of a second pass through the game.
I guess my biggest problem with Robotech: Invasion is that it wasnít Battlecry. Once youíve had a taste of sweet cel-shaded transformer action Invasion simply smacks of a tired FPS game that has been done to death. The motorcycle portion of the game, admittedly the ďhookĒ of the title fails miserably and the lackluster AI eliminates any potential for a challenging experience.
The light at the end of the tunnel is certainly the fantastic control scheme that could reinvent the FPS genre on the console. I can only dream of the day when this control scheme is adapted to a game worthy of its genius. Meanwhile, Robotech: Invasion is a game that is best left to hardcore fans of the series or FPS gamers who have played everything else available.