In Colony Wars: Vengeance, the sequel to Psygnosis' award-winning space shooter, Colony Wars, you assume the role of Mertens, an idealistic Navy pilot out to wreak revenge against the merciless League that defeated his people one hundred years earlier, imprisoning them in their home system and dooming them to a century of civil war. Lead by the messianic Kron, Mertens and the rest of the Navy plunge headlong into the heart of League territory, hoping to restore the Navy to its prior greatness... or die trying. But is the charismatic Navy leader all that he seems?
In response to player feedback, Psygnosis packed a number of improvements into Colony Wars: Vengeance. While the number of selectable ships has dropped from seven to five, a brand-new upgrade system now enables you to customize each craft to your liking. Devastating "sentinel" superweapons in addition to new air-to-ground combat infuse the game with some sorely needed variety. The game's collision detection and physics also have been improved thanks to a powerful new game engine. The one thing that hasn't changed, however, is the game's nearly impossible level of difficulty; Colony Wars: Vengeance is guaranteed to provide a formidable challenge for even the most battle-tested PlayStation pilots.
As in the original, failing a mission does not lead to instantaneous death, as it does in most games of Colony Wars' ilk; rather, a branching mission tree spins the story in new directions, ultimately leading to one of six unique endings. In all, Colony Wars: Vengeance spans over 40 missions, arranged into 19 different "acts." Unlocking the game's most desirable ending automatically rewards the player with the entire mission tree, which allows you to dish out some serious payback by replaying any of the previous missions - with the ship of your choice - infusing Colony Wars: Vengeance with an uncommon amount of replay value.
The real question, however, is whether or not the average player will possess the patience and persistence to make it that far. Severely unbalanced missions (the fifth Sentinel is a breeze compared with the second) and an almost insane level of difficulty undoubtedly will have many gamers, if not most, flinging their controllers in disgust long before the game's halfway point, which really is a pity; a more gradual "ramping" of the level of difficulty would have made the game more enjoyable and accessible to casual gamers while allowing them to experience more of the game's visual fireworks and story elements. By the time I reached the game's supposedly climactic plot twist, I was simply too beaten down to care much about Mertens anymore.
As for Colony Wars: Vengeance's cosmetic improvements, I gladly would have traded all of them for a two-player cooperative or head-to-head mode. A cooperative mode, in particular, would have killed two birds with one stone by making the game easier while allowing a friend to join in the fun.
Despite its flaws, the game's head-turning graphics, diversity, and uncommonly developed story propel Colony Wars: Vengeance light years ahead of the average space shooter. However, a bit more fine-tuning could have made it truly stellar.