Futuristic Shooters – Blade Force & Shockwave

The future is bleak. If video games have taught us anything beyond improved hand-eye coordination while jumping on top of your foes is an effective means for eradication, it was that our future as a human race is filled with war, destruction & alien invasions. The two 3DO games in this post take place in the not too distant future (Shockwave takes place in 2019) and both involve plots that indicate we’re in for a shit show.

Blade Force is a 3D first person airborne shooter where you control a weaponized, armor clad vigilante with a helicopter jetpack strapped to his back. You have been recruited by a disabled scientist whose body has been too broken to fight crime by himself but has the knowledge and tools to assist a strong willed vigilante. The game clearly has been influenced by Batman and Robocop in its backstory and nihilistic future that has been created. In the distant year of 2110, the city of Los Angeles no longer exists as we know it and is now called Meggagrid. A corrupt government and crime of all types had taken over the city and your job is to take the city back from the evil Pitt Family and return peace. After the initial tutorial level, which was very helpful in establishing your characters movements, each subsequent level provides you with a goal that typically involves the total destruction of the enemy structures and weapons. You’re given several lives, a variety of weapons with health and fuel refilling blocks to accomplish these goals. If you happen to run out of health or fuel, you are treated to a death scene of you falling from the sky in a smoking heap. You can also collect green blocks that continually strengthen your existing weapons, in addition to other blocks that will either weaken or slow down the enemy. The levels themselves are big, impressively detailed and require quite a bit of destruction, fun times all around! Blade Force also provides a map which gives you the ability to see where you’ve been and what areas you have yet to visit.

Blade Forces excels in the graphics & sound departments. Considering the age of the game, it’s a wonder to see and hear what the 3DO could do when really pushed to its limits. The controls are good, if not great. They seem to be a bit jumpy and erratic at first but it’s something you can get used to with practice. You also have to get used to the fact that even though you can’t see your character, being in a first person perspective and all, you have to be able to sense how big you are relative to your surroundings. You’ll hear that tell-tale thud of metal on metal if you fly too close to a building or platform and you’ll quickly realize that you can’t bang into inanimate objects at will without taking damage. This forces you to master or at least become proficient at the art of perspective.

Blade Force is a game filled with personality, interesting enemies and storylines, good in game music, amusing cut scenes with well-designed levels and solid gameplay. Of course, a common complaint I have with 1990s first person shooters is how they have a tendency to make me nauseous if I play too long. Unfortunately Blade Force is no exception. The frame rate of Blade Force is about as good as the 3DO could do but considering the herky-jerky nature of maneuvering a man-helicopter hybrid, it’s expected that you’ll be spinning around in circles to attack enemies in a 360 degree environment. I wanted to play Blade Force longer as I was having a lot of fun but my stomach had other ideas.

Shockwave is another futuristic shooter where you are a pilot chosen to take on alien invaders over various Earthly locations. The game mixes elements of FMV with early 3D polygonal graphics and what appears to be some digitized explosions. The look of Shockwave is very reminiscent to a number of early 3D games with live action FMV that were available at the time, but I have to say that the production quality is high with this particular title. You are treated with an opening FMV scene that in spite of some minor over-acting, isn’t nearly as cringe worthy as some of Shockwave’s counterparts. Once the first mission starts, over the Egyptian desert, the graphics may seem sparse at first glance but this is to the game’s benefit. It keeps the frame rate solid as you approach enemies, pyramids, buildings and other structures in the foreground. You’re given a mission objective, which is reiterated by both audio coming from base as well as live action video that shows up on your cockpit monitor. The level missions are pretty linear and while the game isn’t “on rails” as some shooters are, there are non-physical boundaries that keep your ship on the right path. I like the addition of these boundaries as it’s easy to sometimes get turned around or face the wrong direction and the buzzing sounds coming through the cockpit indicate you’re headed off path. You have a small variety of aliens to kill using either your laser gun or guided missiles. Destroying all of the alien invaders is the goal of each level and you’re given progress updates as you go. At the end of each level, there is a boss fight and you’re also provided several recharge points for your health and weapons. Just don’t die during the boss fights if you can avoid it because there aren’t any level checkpoints. You’ll have to repeat the entire stage over from the beginning, which is a drag.

Shockwave’s graphics aren’t going to win any awards, especially when the 3D environment is expected to be something much more detailed and complicated than simply barren deserts or bodies of water. For example, the city of Cairo is pretty pathetic and you’d have really no idea what you were flying over if you hadn’t been told. The Las Vegas level also underwhelms but in general, these graphical limitations do not prevent the game from being enjoyable overall. The live action FMV scenes certainly aren’t much of a distraction but they don’t add much either and I could do without the in between death scenes. With each of your character’s deaths, you’re treated to a live action scene with a doctor explaining if you’re going to make it or not and how close you came to expiring. Your Commander isn’t very sympathetic to your near death experiences and she forces you back into battle in spite of the doctor’s recommendations. She unnecessarily reminds you that “This isn’t a game!” Umm, ok, if you say so. When you’ve lost all your lives, you are given a space funeral complete with casket being ejected back out into space.

The first Shockwave (there was a sequel) also had additional missions that could be found on a separate disc titled, Shockwave: Operation Jumpgate. These missions take place after you’ve successfully defended Earth but not happy to leave well enough alone, you chase the aliens to the planet Mars.

Currently in my collection:

Blade Force – game, manual, jewel case, long box A-

Shockwave – game, manual, long box B

Shockwave: Operation Jumpgate – game, manual, long box

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