Forgive me in advance if I gush a bit over Scorched Planet, but it's rare that a game actually delivers on all the promises plastered on its box. Criterion Studios claimed its first title would be an exciting action game set in beautifully rendered, panoramic 3-D environments with cool weapons and full 360-degree movement. And that's exactly what it created. For once, the box was right.
Set in the future, Scorched Planet is a heart-thumping 19 mission, first-person flying and driving game where action is king but strategy is still key. Using a vehicle that morphs between a flying craft and a tank-buggy, you must rescue colonists under attack by the Voraxians, an alien race destroying everything in their path. While you could tackle this problem like a maniac and simply start blasting - and this is extremely tempting - you won't get very far if you do. This game is a test to see if you can think as well as you shoot.
Each mission involves saving a certain number of humans. Unfortunately, while you're trying to gather your quota of colonists, the Voraxians are trying to turn them into zombies, kill them, or carry them off to their ship, all while launching attacks on your ship. (Hmmm Defender, anyone?) The only way to complete each mission is to keep casualties to a minimum by launching the appropriate countermeasures - using weapons, inventory and power-ups. The colonists are also part of your arsenal as they can gather items and fend off the aliens. This added human element combines with the smooth controls and a plethora of powerful goodies to make Scorched Planet a surprisingly exciting experience.
In addition to the well-designed gameplay, Scorched Planet looks and sounds fantastic. Graphically it's a visual symphony of real-time 3-D graphics combined with highly detailed terrain and true 3-D monsters. If you're fortunate enough to own one of the 3-D cards supported by the game, you'll see the full value of your investment as you blaze through the first level. If you don't have a card, don't panic - the graphics are still spectacular. Add in thumping music, fantastic full directional 3-D sound, and "danger music" that warns you of an approaching invasion, and Scorched Planet begins to show just how aesthetically pleasing a game can be.
Criterion deserves lots of kudos for Scorched Planet. It delivered on its promises and gave players more to accomplish in an action game than simply racking up the body count. This game is a must for anyone looking for a diversion from those carnage-fest action games. Better yet, it supports up to 8 players in two different types of match play - both of which are a blast. Even without this feature, Scorched Planet emerges as a mighty fine action game that is well worth a look.