First shown to the press back in July of 1994, G-NOME has finally made it to store shelves - and as with most games that are hyped early and often, the end result is a mixed bag. The good news is that G-NOME has several unique (and pretty cool) features that you won't find in any other mech game; the bad news is that muddy control, graphics glitches, and a sparse manual keep it from being the best it can be.
Let's start with the good stuff. The single-player game is well structured, taking you through four sets of missions in graphically distinct locales. Once you head out on missions with teammates, you have a nice degree of control over their actions - you can order them to attack or occupy enemy craft and buildings, come to your defense, and even jump inside your vehicle for a ride.
Because there are four races in the game, you get a good variety of HAWCs (Heavy Armor Weapons Chassis) and weapons, including tanks and a camera-mounted missile you guide with the joystick. Best of all, you can leave your own vehicle and jump into the enemy's abandoned mechs and laser turrets, take him out with his own weapons, then hop back in your own HAWC and use his IFF (Identify Friend or Foe) code to avoid detection. The title has a full complement of multiplayer options, including TCP/IP and IPX support - it should be an instant classic.
But G-NOME doesn't fully live up to its potential. Using a Microsoft Sidewinder 3D Pro (which a 7th Level tech support person said was a great choice for this game), the control was disappointingly sluggish and muddy. Tying to keep the HAWC's torso trained on the enemy while circling him - a basic maneuver - was nearly impossible, even when the graphics detail was reduced to zero to ensure the best possible frame rate.
There are other control problems, too. Whether using the keyboard or joystick, the Stop (zero throttle) command never seemed to work; the HAWC just kept moving along even though the computer said it was stopping. Once you do get stopped, the slightest left/right movement will kick the throttle on again. Other commands - such as Move Forward or Move Backward, which are supposed to set you at half throttle in the appropriate direction - also seemed to function inadequately. Of all the control issues, the most maddening was that when you leave your HAWC and head out on foot, you fire in the direction you're running instead of the one you're facing - even though the crosshair is always in the center of your field of vision. Are these weapons built into the belt buckle or something?
Then there are the graphics. While they're certainly more colorful and detailed than what you'll find in MechWarrior 2, that detail comes at a price: big pixels and warping terrain. Ground terrain is amazingly pixelated, looking like something from at least a year or two ago, and if you view HAWC from the outside you'll often see the earth and surrounding hills warp and bend. Fortunately, enemy vehicles fare better visually - and that's usually what your eyes will be focused on anyway.
G-NOME is more frustrating than fun, but "sluggish control" is a somewhat subjective gripe. Players with little tolerance for frustration will probably want to avoid G-NOME, but those who can master the controls will find the other problems easily overlooked.