Robotech: Invasion Hands-On Impressions

We take on the role of a cyclone warrior in order to check out how this Robotech game is shaping up.

Robotech: Invasion is based on perhaps the second-most-popular part of the three-part Robotech television series, the Invid conquest of Earth and subsequent human guerrilla war. The Invid, a strange, insectlike alien species, is a popular foe, but the appeal of the Invid saga is the story of the small bands of human warriors traversing a postapocalyptic world, which happens to be at the heart of Invasion's story. We got our hands on Invasion recently to check out how this Robotech game is shaping up.

Invasion follows the Invid conquest of Earth that Robotech fans should be quite familiar with.

The plot of Robotech: Invasion runs concurrent to that of the Scott Bernard storyline of the television series. While you won't be able to play as Scott or any of his band, you may participate in shared events, such as the climactic battle at the main Invid hive of Reflex Point. In addition to the television series, Invasion also draws material from the Robotech role-playing books. One intriguing tidbit we learned is that Invasion ties in to an upcoming, new Robotech television series, called Robotech: Shadow Force. Shadow Force is set in the aftermath of the Invid saga of Robotech, and Invasion will feature allusions to the upcoming series, which is due out sometime next year.

In Invasion, you get to ride/wear the versatile cyclone mecha, which transforms from a combat motorcycle to powerful power armor. Many of the levels have been designed to accommodate both modes of the cyclone--you can zip around the big levels on the bike and then transform to the power armor for combat. There are some levels, though, where you'll be restricted to one mode. For example, when you enter an Invid hive, you'll be stuck in power armor mode, mainly because there's simply no room to ride the motorcycle. For game balance purposes, the designers have limited the armaments in each mode, so you'll be able to fire rockets only from the motorcycle mode, while you'll be limited to various rifles in power armor mode.

Though the cyclones in the television show featured powered flight capabilities, you won't be able to take to the air in Invasion, save for those moments when you hit a bump at high speeds. The game incorporates a physics engine so you can get that intense feeling of riding a motorcycle, but it's also pretty forgiving--slam into an object, like a tree, and you'll come to an instant stop. When in power armor mode, you have limited boost jumps, which help you get up an obstacle or leap over a gap in the trail.

The game is playable from both first-person and third-person perspectives, though we're told that Robotech fans will probably enjoy the game most from the latter, since you can see your mecha in action. The third-person mode also offers better peripheral vision. In addition to being able to switch perspectives, you do have a couple of enhanced vision options, including night vision (which turns the screen green but lets you see better in the dark) and thermal vision. While you won't be able to navigate around the level in thermal vision, Invid and other creatures show up in bright red, allowing you to identify them better. Plus, some enemies will have cloaking devices that will make them effectively invisible to the naked eye.

You'll have access to both the cycle and power armor forms of the cyclone mecha.

Invasion will have 15 levels in the single-player campaign, with three possible endings, which should definitely help replay value. As noted earlier, the missions are quite large, and they feature multiple objectives. In one, you may have to protect a vital bridge from Invid attack and then zip further down the road to engage more Invid. Enemies come in all shapes and sizes, from the traditional Invid Troopers and Shock Troopers, to the humanoid-size Invid Enforcers. Plus, expect some new enemies, including Invid-like spiders that attack Invid and humans alike.

Both the PS2 and Xbox versions will support online play with up to eight players. Modes will include deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag, and something that's called protocapture, which is a play on the term protoculture from the series. In protocapture, a team has to capture and hold three locations on the map to win, so it's similar to Battlefield 1942's conquest mode. From our time with the game, Invasion captures the look and feel of the TV series better than its predecessor, Robotech: Battlecry. Since developer Vicious Cycle worked on both games, it appears that it has taken the feedback from Battlecry to heart. Robotech: Invasion is in the final stages of development, and it should ship this autumn, at which point Robotech fans can wonder if a game based on the series' second saga, the Robotech Masters, is next.

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