Maybe I'm too much into mainstream games lately, but when someone says "tank game," I get scared. It's not that I don't like that type of game, but the words make me picture a dull simulation with overcomplicated controls and too little action. With first-person 3-D graphics and an open battlefield, I normally expect a lot, and most games in this genre have disappointed me in the past. Therefore it was with great hesitation that I popped Steel Reign into my PlayStation.
Steel Reign gives you a good vibe almost immediately with its opening full-motion video sequence, which is highly reminiscent of an HBO World Premiere Movie. Footage of tanks gathering fills the screen, while the game's main character, in a serious-as-death tone, speaks about how a madman and his militia are out to take over the world. Using your own prototypes of advanced combat tanks, it's up to you to stop him. (Those of you who have HBO will be amazed how much this game looks like one of those movies - in fact, all that's missing is Don "The Dragon" Wilson.)
Steel Reign contains ten missions that must be completed to take down the evil General Storm and his army. At the beginning of the game, you have 3 tanks to choose from - and in Arcade mode, you can increase this number to 12 (by finding them throughout your missions). These vehicles vary in speed, shields, and firepower, and each tank has its strengths and weaknesses. In Arcade mode you can switch tanks between missions, but in Quest mode you must stick with one tank throughout the entire game. Each tank has its own weapons, and you can acquire weapons by finding scattered power-ups throughout each level. The firepower in Steel Reign is more than adequate - from chain guns to lasers to plasma cannons to missiles, there plenty of ways to destroy the enemy (and enjoy the awesome explosions that occur).
And speaking of explosions, there are plenty of them. What is best about Steel Reign is that it provides way more action than you would expect. You see, it's not really a simulation - the game instead plays like a first-person shooter mixed with a driving game. The play control lets you spin the turret, change your weapons, switch between two views, and fire your weapons - that is as complex as it gets. For the majority of the game you are maneuvering around, blowing stuff up, and trying to complete the mission objective, which is usually destroying something. Best of all, almost anything you can see (hostile or not) can be blasted, so there are plenty of opportunities to test out your arsenal. In between missions there are fairly entertaining full-motion video sequences that move the story along, and you get a chance to save your game. It's highly recommended that you do save your game, because the game is rather hard, and it is very frustrating to navigate your way through a level, complete two out of three objectives, then get blasted - at least with a saved game you can start at the beginning of that mission.
Steel Reign also contains a two-player split-screen mode. In this mode you can take on a friend in one of the game's sprawling battlefields. It's like playing Hide and Seek with guns - and the landscapes offer a lot of places to hide and get the jump on your buddy. If this game utilized the link cable it would be even cooler, but it is still a lot of fun.
Most things in Steel Reign work well. The graphics are good, and while they could use a bit of polish, each level is well laid out and contains vast landscapes to explore. The sound effects are also good and the explosions boom, and the music, albeit repetitive, makes for one of the better soundtracks in gaming today, reminiscent of NIN or the Smashing Pumpkins. Steel Reign isn't the best game on the PlayStation, but it definitely ranks in the top 10 percent of what is currently out there. The constant action and challenging gameplay make it a great game that you surely will not complete within a day's time.