Independence Day Hands-On

The mobile White House isn't going to get blown to smithereens. Not on our watch.

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CANNES, France--3D mobile gaming is still in its infancy (outside of Japan, at least), but this particular baby's teeth are starting to come in. Verizon's V CAST made its debut earlier this month with a full slate of 3D games, and most of the mobile publishers at 3GSM were eager to show off their new 3D projects to passersby. UK-based Superscape, formerly a tech company specializing in software graphics rendering, is now making the transition to full-blown games developer and publisher. It's already put a few titles, like Evel Knievel 3D and AMF Xtreme Bowling, on the V CAST deck, and it's readying several more for prime time. The most impressive of these is Independence Day, a third-person aerial shooter that evokes games like Rebel Assault and Star Fox.

Independence Day, one of the greatest alien invasion-themed summer blockbusters (starring Will Smith, Bill Pullman, and Jeff Goldblum) ever filmed, sported a huge effects budget, a famous shot of the White House being turned into kindling by a giant pulse of energy, and a truly great cameo from Star Trek: The Next Generation's Brent Spiner. The mobile game picks up right after Goldblum's nerdy character has knocked out the alien-invasion fleet's invincible energy shields, thus leaving the extraterrestrials vulnerable to an old-fashioned ballistic shellacking. That's when your US Air Force fighter jet comes into play.

The game is set above a simple polygonal cityscape, with boxy ray-traced skyscrapers growing out of a checkerboard ground to provide some terrain hazards. The area is populated by a variety of hostile alien craft, including standard UFOs, insectoid turrets called "spiders," and the huge mothership. We started the level with only a handful of missiles, which we had to constantly replenish by blowing up spiders and grabbing the resulting power-ups. Independence Day's flight controls are excellent. Right and left on the navigational pad control your jet's roll angle, while up and down effect its pitch. Barrel rolls and flips are a cinch to pull off as well. You can also throttle your speed up or down to avoid collisions or pull off tight maneuvers.

Independence Day's graphical engine has apparently been repurposed from Superscape's existing Jet Fighter game, as well as optimized for greater performance. On Motorola's E680 multimedia handset, which is not yet available in the US, the game runs at a smooth 20 frames per second. There's no telling what sorts of speeds Superscape will be able to wring out of American handsets like the LG VX8000, but anything much lower than 15fps won't be much fun. We sincerely hope the company manages to preserve Independence Day's playability when the game hops the pond sometime in 2005, because this is an action title with a lot of potential.

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