on Sunday, January 04, 2009
Most outdoor 3-D action games have a problem with their horizons. Traditionally, terrain is rendered with polygons, and the farther you can see, the more polygons your woefully under-powered Pentium will have to render. Some games, like Magic Carpet, get around this by hazing—after a certain distance, terrain is obscured by a thick fog effect. Other games, like MechWarrior 2, just refuse to render things beyond a certain distance, which leads to noticeable effects that destroy your suspension of disbelief, like huge mountains that appear polygon by polygon when you get within a click-and-a-half or so. Leave it to Looking Glass Technologies to change the 3-D rules. LGT produced the first true 3-D, first-person perspective game in Ultima Underworld, in addition to creating a cyberpunk masterpiece in System Shock and using fluid dynamics, physics, and photo-realistic terrain in Flight Unlimited. Terra Nova, LGT's entry into the world of outdoor sci-fi combat sims, puts you in the shoes of a squad leader in command of up to three other specialists, and missions range from recon and repair to all-out assault. The game plays like a first person, 3-D real-time version of Syndicate. Encased in powered battle armor, you and your squad stomp across distant planetscapes while fighting a covert war with a fascist imperialist government. The terrain is simply spectacular—snowy peaks, distant mountain ranges and reflecting lakes as far as you can see provide a convincing backdrop to the mayhem and warfare—that you won't even notice the absence of an SVGA mode (you can choose between 320x200 or 320x400 video resolution modes). A breakthrough in outdoor 3-D action sims, Terra Nova gives mech games and flight sims something to aspire to. Advanced technology supplies beautiful graphics and excellent play dynamics, and great mission-building provides challenging and entertaining situations.