For the better part of the 1990s, Electronic Arts has been pumping out games in its "Strike" series almost as frequently as its sports titles. Is there that big of a demand? Do the people just like overhead-perspective helicopter games? Do the developers have executives' children hostage? I mean, sheesh, how in God's name has this mediocre series endured such a long run? This isn't to say there haven't been one or two good entries in the series, but for the most part, the Strike series has had a lot of forgettable installments (I challenge you to try and name more than two off the top of your head - just try). Now Electronic Arts is releasing Nuclear Strike for the PlayStation, a follow-up to last year's sorry Soviet Strike. Surprisingly, the game is the best Strike title yet, but that isn't really saying much.
The premise of Nuclear Strike (like all other Strike games) is simple; you fly around a variety of terrains looking to blow stuff up. That's it. Also, you actually get to pilot a few vehicles that aren't helicopters. Along with the array of choppers that this version has, you also get to take control of some harriers, tanks, and hovercrafts. It's still the same premise (search, shoot, and rescue), but at least there is a little variety to Nuclear Strike's levels, which take you through a variety of lovely locales.
Nuclear Strike plays well, but then again, you don't really do much except explore a broad area looking for stuff to shoot. Getting the hang of your vehicle is simple enough, once you figure out which buttons go with which weapons, but you will definitely find yourself consulting the map every few minutes. With so much terrain to explore the game would be much easier if the radar screen were widened. As it is in the finished game, you can't actually tell where you are going at any given time; instead you can only see hostages, enemies, and power-ups in the immediate area. The onscreen targeting, something that was supposed to be improved in this version, is also quite flawed, and it is likely that you will be aiming at something and miss it a good 20 percent of the time.
The things lacking the most (and that feel quite dated) are the game's graphics and sound, which still haven't changed much from the game's 16-bit incarnations. Everything is 3D, but the overhead perspective makes everything - from your vehicle, to the enemies, to the explosions - look a bit flat. The sound is pretty forgettable as well, with a droning soundtrack and lifeless sound effects. What saves the game presentationwise are the between-level full motion video sequences. Edited together in a unique way, they tell the game's cliched story quite effectively. The acting is a bit on the "direct to video" side, but you will get a kick out of the delivery - trust me. And if you get really bored searching around a level to complete your mission objective, your desire to see the next video just might keep you from turning off the PlayStation and throwing your controller in a fit of rage.
If you liked the previous entries in this series, Nuclear Strike is a game that you will probably enjoy. As far as shoot-'em-ups go, it's fun, but it lacks anything in the way of innovation. The simple approach suits the game well enough, but you'll definitely feel empty afterwards (and a tad motion sick). In short: Rent, don't buy. You can bet though that Electronic Arts will have another Strike game ready next year (Future Strike), and hopefully it will reinvent the series, rather than just rehash it.