Starship Troopers First Impressions

It's time to join the terrain mobile infantry again and battle those vicious alien bugs in this shooter based on the <i>Starship Troopers</i> book and film franchise.

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Amazingly, it's been eight years since director Paul Verhoeven's movie Starship Troopers, which itself was based on Robert A. Heinlein's classic cult 1959 sci-fi novel of a very dystopian future where humanity is engaged in an interstellar war against an alien race of insects. Since then, we've seen one real-time strategy adaptation (published by Hasbro Interactive) of Starship Troopers way back in 2000. However, Empire Interactive is looking to revisit the universe of Starship Troopers with a first-person shooter due out later this year. This is a game that has been quietly in development for a very long time now, and we finally got a look at its progress.

If all you remember is the 1997 movie, then it may seem odd that someone is making a Starship Troopers game now. However, Empire has the complete license for the franchise, meaning that it can draw upon Heinlein's novel, the animated cartoon series, as well as both Starship Troopers movies. (In case you missed it, Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation was released straight to video last year.) With that said, this feels like a game that's heavily influenced by Verhoeven's interpretation. This new Starship Troopers is set five years after the events of the 1997 movie. You'll play as a member of the mobile infantry (the grunts from the movie) under General Johnny Rico's (the hero) command in the ongoing war against the insects. Empire is in discussions to have one of the actors from the movie reprise his role and provide his voice for the game. Starship Troopers will ship with 15 single-player levels and a single-player campaign that should last between 15 and 20 hours.

Join the mobile infantry and save the galaxy. Service guarantees citizenship. Would you like to know more?
Join the mobile infantry and save the galaxy. Service guarantees citizenship. Would you like to know more?

We got to see one of the levels in action, and it looks a lot like one of the dry, desertlike planets from the movie. There will be some variety in the game, as it takes place on different worlds, including Klendathu (the bugs' homeworld), as well as on board human military ships. There will be indoor and outdoor levels that will vary the pace of the game. For instance, exploring an alien hive is expected to provide a tense, Aliens-like experience, while the outdoor levels should show large-scale battles. The rendering engine, which is capable of putting more than 300 alien insects on the screen at the same time, was perfect for the demonstration level, which basically re-creates the scene in the 1997 movie where human infantry desperately try to hold a fort against thousands of swarming insects. We watched as the demonstrator climbed up a tower to man one of the antiaircraft guns (useful for taking out the flying insects, known as hoppers, as well as mowing down hordes of warrior bugs below) and then jumped down to help man the walls. You will have computer-controlled teammates to assist you, and the game is scripted so that when one of them incurs enough damage to die, it will trigger one of many types of animations to show a grisly end. In this case, the poor sap got speared by an insect leg and was tossed into the swarm.

There are upward of 20 different bugs in the game, though some of them are variations of one another. For instance, the warrior bugs come in about four different varieties, and the general rule of thumb is the more colorful a warrior is the more dangerous it is. So the dark-colored bugs are the basic foe, while the tiger-striped bugs are going to be a lot tougher. They're also going to be smarter too, as the more-challenging bugs will try to dance around and hit you from the side, while the dumber bugs will charge you head on. Then there are the huge tanker bugs, which are the gigantic, beetlelike bugs seen in the first movie. We saw a tanker in action, and it is capable of spitting out a flamethrower-like stream of fire and absorbing a ton of damage. In its case, aim for its head, and ideally toss a grenade into its maw. In addition to grenades, you'll have a slew of weapons at your disposal, including some that should be familiar from the movie, such as the standard assault rifle.

You're some sort of big, fat, smart bug, aren't you?
You're some sort of big, fat, smart bug, aren't you?

We don't know a lot about multiplayer at this point, but we do know that the game will support up to eight players in deathmatch-style games, though there may be more modes we don't know about. The game itself looks pretty good, especially considering how long it's been in the works. The rendering of the insects is particularly impressive, and they look almost as good as the movie versions did eight years ago, which is saying quite a bit. The graphics will scale, of course, so you won't need a high-end machine to run it. It sounds as though the recommended specs will fall somewhere around a 2GHz CPU and a relatively decent video card. Starship Troopers seems like it will capture the look and feel of the 1997 movie quite well. We'll see just how well when it ships sometime this October.

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