Shattered Steel Preview

Battling robots, blazing weaponry, and loads of violence fill Interplay's latest shoot-'em-up

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Every now and then it occurs to me: If any interested alien life-forms out there could see the subject matter in 90 percent of our computer games, they'd freak. Anyway - in Shattered Steel, the player takes the role of a freelance battle mech mercenary assigned to an outer-fringe mining colony some hundred years into the millennium. A breakdown in communications thought to be the result of raids by nasty old pirates turns out instead to be the result of raids by nasty old aliens. Not only are the aliens nasty, but they're also thorough; communications with the home world are jammed, and the player must face the alien force alone.

This is, as I may have mentioned, essentially another battle mech game. Despite a slight just-to-prove-we-could-do-it-too feel, Shattered Steel goes relatively whole hog; at last count, the game featured about 30 types of player-usable weapons - HV ammo, smart missiles, heat-seekers and the like, plus one or two I tried to use during the demo but couldn't tell you what they did - and something like 40 different types of enemies, from bouncy, no-sweat walkers to the somehow creepy chopper-with-sweeping-searchlight jobs. What else? A Redbook audio soundtrack, 16-bit stereo sound effects, and (Interplay is quick to remind us) a ‘voxel-generated textured environment,' which - while at this stage still looks much like a non-voxel-generated textured environment - does create a ravaged-but-somehow-polished look for the local terrain. The game is solid, high-action, and good looking to boot. I wouldn't expect less from Interplay...and that's part of the problem I'm having with Shattered Steel.

So far, there doesn't seem to be anything paralyzingly novel about this title, and that's strange because you would expect a great deal more from Interplay. About the only notable feature I can mention thus far is that some of the alien enemies in the game seem to know when you're hurt by the run-and-gun tactics you adopt after a few direct hits have left you feeling suddenly less than macho. If this is intentional on the part of the AI routines, it may be the saving quirk of an otherwise fairly normal game.

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