Rebel Moon Rising
Windows - 1997
Description of Rebel Moon Rising
Is it me, or is the gaming community strongly dominated by action gamers? I mean, wherever you look, there are more action oriented games than anything else. Successful games in other genres also have action elements thrown in- XWvTF, F-22... Quake generated, in itself, a number of lookalikes which is about as big as the whole adventure genre during the last year.
Yeah, OK. I'm exaggerating. A bit. Rebel Moon Rising, a new title coming from Fenris Wolf, seems to be yet another Quake wannabe. Not a simple one, either; its one of those offsprings that actually try to improve on the original, by adding all sorts of features designed to hide the fact that, when you look right down to it, it is still a Quake wannabe. Oh well. Since it seems that the public hunger for 3D first person shooters is never quite satisfied, the burning question remains: is RMR good enough to stay?
MMX has never been so much fun
One thing you will notice early on is that RMR is specifically written for MMX. It wont run on a non-MMX CPU, nor will it benefit from a 3D accelerator. Although MMX has been with us for quite some time now, it seems that most games are still not specifically written to use it- most companies, it seems, prefer to release 3dfx versions instead. As a result, RMR is a strange beast- it feels quite ordinary, until you start noticing all kinds of stuff that shouldn't really be there, like its neat light sourcing effects. Compared to other games, like Tigershark, who tried adding MMX support, RMR gives a much better show. Fenris claim a 300% increase in performance- correct or not, the game certainly runs better than expected.
Installing RMR is as easy as could be. It requires DirectX3, which is supplied on the CD. I encountered no crashes or serious bugs while playing.
Normally, this is where I would stop talking about installation and go on to describe the game, but this time, you will have to bear with me for a little while more. You see, one of RMR 's interesting features is voice control. Yep, that's right, you connect a mike to your sound card, and are then able to actually talk to your teammates in multiplayer games. With talking I mean giving commands and the like. It also works on a very limited basis with in single-player mode, allowing what the game terms "suit commands", with things like changing weapons, toggling the map, etc. For this to work you need to install the IBM voicetypesystem, also provided on the CD.
Sadly, I did not test this feature, so I can't comment on it any more. One thing is certain- if it works as promised, and I see no reason why it shouldn't, it would make the game a much better experience, with most of the keyboard buttons replaced by voice commands. It will simplify the interface considerably. And anything that goes towards simplifying an interface ought to be commended.
How far did they really go?
So I already told you that RMR has some interesting ideas. As you may read at the end of the manual, the game actually tries to be a descendant of Wolfenstein 3D, rather than a brother to Quake. Whatever. It has a sprite based engine, and not a polygon one, so think more in terms of Duke Nukem 3D. The mission base, over 20 missions long, is actually quite interesting- yes, there are the customary "kill everyone" missions, but you will have to do all sorts of different stuff also. A partial rundown includes: destroying vital equipment, assassination, freeing hostages and escorting them to safety, and maybe the biggest twist of all, defense missions. What? Defense in a first person shooter? Yes. In these missions, you will have to defend equipment from being destroyed until reinforcements arrive. Borrowing from the manual again, this really does remind you of the old Atari 2600 Missile Command. These missions were what I enjoyed the most in RMR, because they required a different approach than normal- I once found myself actually using my body to its last shield point in sustaining fire otherwise damaging to the equipment I was defending.
There are also three different multiplayer modes: Combat (normal free-for-all), Squads (same but in teams), and Capture-the-flag. RMR offers all the standard multiplayer options, from modem connection, through an IPX network, to an Internet game. The manual thoughtfully lists the amount of players expected to play well (i.e. no lag) in relation to your connection bandwidth.
Down to business
But at the end, it all comes down to "how well it plays". A good player interface makes half a game. RMR, in this regard, left me rather cold through all the time I played it. It isn't bad, but it isn't exceptionally good, either. There's nothing to be excited about the 3D view, because there are better implementations on the market. It has a slight problem of feeling a little claustrophobic, although this could be intentional. As for the controls, you can of course reconfigure them yourself, but no matter how hard I tried, I never could get as comfortable as when I play Quake. The main reason is that some buttons are "hard-configured" in advance, meaning that you can't change them. The number buttons for the weapons I can understand, but the tab button for the map toggle? It gets worse because you only realize this during the game- it doesn't warn you when you map your own function to such a "hard" button. Of course, the pre-configured functions take precedence, which means that if you chose particularly badly, you might suffer some untimely deaths because some of your controls wouldn't work. You can change configurations on the fly, though.
During play, you find that you can make some interesting tactical choices, like using a bad placement of baddy machines to make them kill one another (I first did this with the turrets on the first level). The baddy AI, on the other hand, is bad- the laser drones behaved more sensibly than human soldiers! And even that was nothing to be excited about- they usually just fly to all sides erratically while trying to shoot at you. But at least it will stray from its original course if you shoot at it prematurely, and try to hide. As for those soldiers, on the other hand, either I was missing something, or they are really stupid- I once had one just stand there aimlessly waiting for me to drill him with bullets, while returning fire to some other place else altogether. Talking about drills, the weapons in RMR are pretty standard fare- there is the single close-combat weapon, the drill, the gun (laser pistol) and shotgun (ACR rifle, which also has a triple-fire upgrade), some other automatic or semi-automatic weapons (including, how surprising, a r(n)ailgun), and a grenade launcher.
RMR offers time limits on different missions, which is supposed to make you more anxious. You also have a limited oxygen supply to help you feel even worse. Oxygen? I suppose Id better give you the story then: the moon was apparently settled in 2057, and was ruled by the UN since 2062. The problem was that the UN was a dictatorship on the moon, and we all know what happens to dictatorships- a rebellion. In 2069 the lunar colonies declare independence, and war ensues. All of the above was from Rebel Moon, a first in the series. The second, Rebel Moon Rising, comes in after the lunar forces have been put down by the UN forces, with the help of a third, independent party, the NDE, which also plays a part in the game, generally being with their heads-up-their-arses (they may shoot at both sides because they think they are better) but also very tough opponents. You play a part of the remaining LDF (Lunar Defense Force) trying to claim justice. All in all, more or less standard fare, but the best part here is that there are aliens to be found in the game, either as friends or adversaries.
Minor problems do appear throughout the game. Shooting, for example, is assisted by the computer- if you have a target in sight, your shot will automatically be vertically corrected to hit its target. Fine, I don't mind. But the thing is, you don't really have to shoot the target to hit it. I had turrets destroyed even if I was shooting to their sides! More annoying was the fact that some shots seemed to go through wall corners, otherwise there was no way for the gun muzzle to have line-of-sight to the target- although I could see it "around the corner". I suppose that the graphical representation did not take into account my moving my arms about and trying to actually shoot around those corners- right? I also had a funny "run across the chasm" incident once- I tried to jump from ledge to ledge, and missed the jump button while running, but surprisingly, I did not end several stories below, but rather managed to run on air and reach the wanted ledge. Hmmm... in any case, RMR plays pretty well, and these problems only appear in extreme circumstances, which might point at somewhat superficial beta testing.
To the good side, I must note the light sourcing effects, all in different colors as appropriate, which actually help playing the game. Its not only that they are pretty, but you may make tactical decisions based on them. For example, I found that one of the best ways to get rid of a drone-infested halls was to clear a corridor, then get inside, point towards the entrance, and wait. Since the drones have a path they need to follow, sooner or later some of them will go by said entrance. Had they just appeared without warning, it would have been almost impossible to kill them- they are quick, and they shoot back... but they emit light, and you may know that one is approaching when you begin to see their aura slowly affecting and distorting the entrance lights. Its a good effect, and I used it extensively- not only there, but in other circumstances, like discovering the source of shots (which light the walls nicely when they pass through).
Graphics in general are pretty, but not amazing, which fits right in. RMR , in general, is a slower game than its major competitors, as it focuses on some different things. A nice side effect is the ability to make a tactical decision based not only on the adversary's weapon speed, but also on the shot speed! So to take out a turret, you may position yourself in its line of sight, get out a quick shot, and move away before both of your shots actually connect... the turret, of course, can't move away. I liked the audio- it has some pretty good effects going on, and the music adds to the overall experience.
Slip sliding away...
RMR is not a bad game. Its not a top one either. It is one of those decent performers that usually disappear without mention after a while. But it does have some interesting features, innovations that deserve some mention. The voice control system may currently be considered a gadget, but it is the wave of the future. The MMX support is the best I've seen so far. And, of course, the defensive missions are a nice change from the usual manic mayhem. So I suppose you could try it, if you are an addict, or just plain bored- especially as it has a demo version with 6 levels which can give you a pretty good idea as to what this thing is about.
As for myself, I'm back to Carmageddon.
Review By GamesDomain
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