Jeff Gerstmann, I am reading your reviews over a decade later for these old-butt games when looking around at rummages and such... Thank you for all your time at Gamespot... your reviews are just as great now as they were then. Loved the line "as loud as your neighbors will allow".
Consider it short-lived fun, at best.
Incoming is one of those games that was just in the right place at the right time. The PC version hit around the same time as 3dfx's second-generation accelerator board, the Voodoo2, and used the card very well, resulting in the type of astounding graphics that cause people to take a second look at an otherwise run-of-the-mill shooter. Then, Incoming sat as one of the first few Dreamcast games out in Japan. But it's a year later, and Incoming's main weapon, its graphical fireworks display, isn't nearly as impressive.
The storyline? About as generic as it gets. Aliens are invading Earth. It's on you to stop them from causing too much damage. You accomplish this in a variety of vehicles and defense mechanisms, including helicopters, turrets, jets, and tanks. Each alien attack takes up a complete level, which is broken into ten phases. Each phase plants you in a different vehicle, and some force you to defend various stations, while others force you to go out and pick up various items in the middle of a firefight. While the objective may change, the methods usually remain the same: Hold down the fire button and destroy anything that moves. Each level takes place on a different terrain. Level two, for instance, takes place in the snow, while the third level takes you out to sea to protect an oil rig and several tankers from alien attack. I guess the aliens are an interstellar offshoot of Greenpeace or something.
With the storyline as slim as it is, you'd expect the gameplay to be extremely engrossing to maybe try to make up for that, right? Well, it really doesn't hold up its end of the bargain, either. When you first pop Incoming into the Dreamcast, the game is extremely exciting. The pressure caused by wave after wave of alien fighters gives the game a very manic feel. But after about the fourth or fifth phase, you slowly realize exactly how simplistic the game really is. It still manages to be fun for a few more levels, but right around the middle of level three, it becomes more of a chore than anything else. The multiple-vehicle aspect of the game is incredibly cool - it's just that all the vehicles are still roughly the same from a control and gameplay standpoint. Also, the game takes a slightly more difficult turn in level three. Defending that oil rig and a collection of cruise ships can be pretty tough. A multiplayer mode is present and lets you pick any one of Incoming's various vehicles and play against another player, but it doesn't really add anything to the game.
The game depends too much on its graphics. A year ago Incoming was a really impressive game to watch. But when you put Incoming up against recent US Dreamcast titles, it just doesn't stand out. The game still looks pretty good, and the smoke trails and explosions look especially cool. There is a slight bit of pop-up (it's a bit more prevalent in the split-screen multiplayer mode), and slowdown occasionally occurs when something blows up directly in front of you, but neither of these possible shortcomings really affects the quality of the game's appearance.
The sound effects are another high point for Incoming. While they mostly consist of gunfire and explosions, they are nearly perfect, demanding that the game be played at a volume as high as your neighbors will allow. The music fits neatly into the puzzle but gets repetitive. It's also a little reminiscent of the X-Files theme, for whatever that's worth. Luckily, the music is tucked behind the rest of the action and doesn't get in the way.
While some may say the PC version's mouse control was superior, the Dreamcast's analog pad handles Incoming pretty nicely. It'll take some getting used to (I spent 15 minutes overshooting my targets), but it quickly becomes second nature.
With the graphics having lost a step, Incoming is forced to depend on the variety of its various vehicles. While this adds a bit to the gameplay, the fact that all the phases are roughly the same really hurts the game, no matter how many different vehicles are thrown at you. Consider it short-lived fun, at best.