Don't expect revolutionary gameplay when you load up Sega's Virtua Squad 2. With the exception of Direct3D support and a series of new levels, this fast-paced shoot-'em-up arcade title is nearly identical to its predecessor, Virtua Squad. Fortunately, that's a good thing for anyone interested in pumping a boatload of lead into a host of gun-toting polygonal thugs.
In Virtua Squad 2 - the PC version of the popular coin-op Virtua Cop 2 - you play a cop in the futuristic metropolis of Virtua City. Packing a gun and an endless supply of bullets, you must eliminate as many villainous gangsters as possible over the course of three basic levels. The plot (according to the manual) is that you and your partners have uncovered a possible connection between the Virtua City Bank and the EVL Inc. crime syndicate. What that has to do with what happens in the game is not readily apparent. But who cares? Once the game gets going, all that matters is that you shoot fast and reload faster. Gameplay is simple. The viewpoint is first-person as you move around the game on a predetermined path - you control nothing but your aim and your ammo supply. As the bad guys pop up, jump out, and sneak up behind you, you line up your crosshairs on them with the mouse and shoot. When you run out of ammo, hit the right mouse button for a fresh supply. You'll get bonus points for hitting targets quickly and also for hitting them three times before they hit the ground. Civilians pop up from time to time, yelling "Don't shoot!" and "Somebody help me!" and generally getting in the way.
A targeting reticle homes in on the villain who poses the most immediate threat, and offers you a visual cue as to how long it will take the guy to get a bead on you. As the reticle changes from green to yellow to red, you know that he's about to shoot. Each time a bad guy hits you, you lose one life point. If you hit a civilian, you also lose a life point. When you lose all your life points, your game is over, unless you choose to use one of your continues (you can have as many as five).
Each of the game's three primary levels concludes with a boss sequence. A final uberboss will challenge you if you manage to complete the first three levels in one sitting. The first level takes you through a jewelry heist and a high-speed chase, where you'll get the chance to take out gangsters leaning out of moving cars, standing on 18-wheelers, and riding motorcycles. This scene climaxes with a boss who throws a van at you (ouch). The rest of the game includes shoot-outs in a blimp hangar, on a cruise ship, and in a moving subway. Each of the environments presents a unique set of challenges. For example, the subway cars are constantly moving around, which can throw off your aim.
Thanks to Direct3D support, the game looks good and runs smoothly. The graphic detail is good and the animations are excellent. It is especially impressive to hit a guy three times, causing him to spin in the air before thumping to the floor. The environments are dynamic, and you can shoot most of the objects you can see (some hide power-ups and weapon enhancements).
Like any good arcade game, this one offers some special hidden features. Among these is the option to randomize the villains, which helps bolster the game's somewhat limited replay value. Also, Virtua Squad 2 includes the seemingly ubiquitous "big head" mode. Why? I have no idea, but I'm hoping it's because younger players find it amusing.
Two players can play side-by-side in the basic game, or head-to-head in a confusing shoot-out mode. This latter option is one of the game's only real lackluster points, as it simply isn't much fun at all. Still, Virtua Squad 2 is a great game for players with an itchy trigger finger. If you're looking for a simple, fun, and fast-moving action arcade game, this may be the perfect choice.