Starship Troopers Hands-On - Single-Player

Set several years after the events in the 1997 movie, Starship Troopers lets you take up your assault rifle to battle the dreaded bugs.

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Starship Troopers is a first-person shooter that's based on Robert A. Heinlein's classic 1959 sci-fi novel about humanity at war with a race of insect-like aliens. However, since much of the novel involves political introspection on Heinlein's part, Empire Interactive and developer Strangelite base most the game on the 1997 cult movie adaptation by director Paul Verhoeven. With Starship Troopers due out in November, we got our hands on the latest version to see how the game is shaping up.

Starship Troopers offers bugs, bugs, and even more bugs for you to battle.
Starship Troopers offers bugs, bugs, and even more bugs for you to battle.

The game is set five years after the events of the first movie. (There was a direct-to-video sequel released in 2004). After the initial setbacks in the war against the bugs, humanity has begun to turn the tide by developing new weapons and tactics, and now it's time to go on the offensive. You play as a marauder, an elite special forces warrior trained to take on the toughest missions. Equipped with the latest arms and armor, you've got a legendary reputation among the regular Terran Mobile Infantry, and you hear the grunts talking about you behind your back.

Not surprisingly, the opening missions in the game should feel familiar to fans of the movies--the ones we've seen thus far are clearly inspired by what Verhoeven depicted on screen. For example, after you've walked through the in-game tutorial aboard a space station, you're dropped into the first mission, which is a nighttime invasion of a planet crawling with bugs. The imagery is reminiscent of the opening invasion of Klendathu in the movie, only this time, humanity wins with your help. The second mission, on the other hand, is similar to the "last stand" seen in the movie, as you have to defend a remote outpost from waves of bugs. This makes for a tense and desperate battle, as the bugs are relentless and throw endless numbers at you, just like in the movie.

The game actually incorporates some of the concepts that appeared in the book but never made it into the movie. Perhaps the biggest new addition is the drop suit. Instead of descending from orbit aboard a troop carrier (as shown in the movies), you actually climb into a special suit and are dropped from orbit. When you approach the ground, the suit flies apart and you're good to go. And though you're alone for most of the time, you've got several things going for you. First, there's your armor, which features regenerating shields, much like the armor suit in Halo. If your shields take damage, just find a quiet corner for a few seconds and they'll regenerate in a jiffy. Once your armor is down, you start taking direct damage to your health, but you can restore your health bar by picking up health packs on the ground.

Your most basic weapon is your light machine gun, which doesn't do a lot of damage, but it's got the plus of never running out of ammunition. This gun will overheat if you hold down the fire button for too long, though. It can generally take care of the most basic warrior bugs. However, you're in trouble when you get to the more colorful bugs, because, like poisonous snakes, the brighter the bug, the more dangerous it is. To take care of those bugs, you can get the assault rifle, which eats up ammo but packs a heavier punch. You also have other weapons at your disposal, including shotguns, grenades, and more. You can also man weapon stations, such as an antiaircraft gun that's useful for taking down the hopper bugs, which are like giant flies. (It's also useful for mowing down tons of warriors on the ground).

Get ready, because Starship Troopers arrives next month.
Get ready, because Starship Troopers arrives next month.

The most impressive feature of Starship Troopers is the ability to render onscreen hundreds of bugs at a time. Firefights are extremely chaotic, mainly because you're swarmed with endless swarms of bugs. There are so many, in fact, that they're hard to miss; all you have to do is simply fire into the swarm. Still, the action can become harrowing and desperate at times, because you're always on the verge of running out of ammo, overheating your weapons, or both. In addition to mowing down bugs, you'll have plenty of mission objectives in the game. In one, you have to venture out to a crash site to recover equipment that you need. In another, you must escort an engineer as he sets up an energy fence to keep the bugs out.

By putting you in the shoes of a trooper facing down hundreds of bugs, Starship Troopers will certainly appeal to the many fans of the 1997 movie, as well as the short-lived computer-generated animated series. Starship Troopers is currently in the final stages of development, and it's scheduled to ship next month.

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