Genre: First Person Shooter
Publisher: Buka Entertainment
Release Date: 1st Qtr 2003
Review By: Anthony Mitera
Everyone has his or her favorite low-budget action movie. You know, the one with the sheer cool factor that overpowered the fact that it didn’t have the best actors or the flashiest scenes? March! Offworld Recon is along the same vein of thought in its gameplay, plot, and engine, it isn’t the flashiest game around by any means but rather excels in the fact that it is just fun to pick up and play.
The plot of March! is simplistic enough, but not too shallow so as to handicap the game. In the far-flung future humanity colonized Mars, and created many facilities and installations to facilitate future expansion of the planet. Various factories were created on the planets surface that created robots used in various roles on Mars, from sophisticated security robots to mere cargo movers. As it turns out, to make a long story and a few decades of human history short, humanity found out after a while that Mars wasn’t exactly the gem of the universe that they had hoped for and one by one the colonists left, leaving the facilities and colonies abandoned. Years passed, and Mars fell out of mankind’s attention until one day a satellite orbiting Mars began picking up strange reading from the planet’s surface. When the satellite suddenly stopped transmitting it was decided that an investigation of the planet was in order. Rather than risking human lives on such an investigation, a team of commando robots has been sent in to assess and evaluate the situation.
The player in March! is one of the commando robots sent in, and the leader of a squad including up to four other robots. The premise of the game is simple, lead your squad of commandos through the now hostile surface of Mars, complete your objectives, and shoot any enemy that comes in your way. The gameplay is similar to games such as Serious Sam and Doom where tactics and finesse takes a back-seat to big guns and sheer force. While the addition of being able to command your squad and give them various orders does add a bit of a tactical side to it all, in the end it all boils down to firefights using big guns against hundreds of enemies.
In many first person shooters, the hero carries around about 10 different guns and ammo for each. In March! you get the universal weapons module, or what has been affectionately dubbed as, the Swiss Army Gun. In the game your first weapon is a gatling gun, not a wussy pistol or assault rifle, with which you have an endless supply of ammunition. However, the gun can be modified in many ways to suit various uses. The gun can mount various types of barrels, addon packs, and clip-like modifiers, all of which have a limited lifespan and/or ammo supply. Barrels make up your primary fire, and are things such as a shotgun, minigun, plasma thrower, and an ion rifle. The addon packs are your secondary fire and are things such as a rocket launcher, grenade launcher, and railgun. The modifiers clip onto the top of the gun and can do anything from giving the gun explosive rounds to increasing the accuracy. Swapping the various modules is performed by keyboard shortcuts, which is usually easy but can get to be a pain if your in the middle of a good sized firefight.
The enemies in the game range from robots to strange organic entities, all with varying strengths, weaknesses, and attacks. Cargo robots can only hit you when you are toe to toe with them and thus are little more than cannon fodder for you and your squad, while Security robots come in various rocket-launching and ion-blasting varieties. One thing of particular interest is March!’s locational damage system. When aiming at an enemy, your crosshair will ever so slightly auto-aim at various locations on the bad guy such as the arms, legs, and head. If you shoot off an enemy’s head it may still come at you, but you can disarm it (literally) by shooting at the arms or immobilize it by shooting at its legs. Enemy weaknesses vary from type to type, the feeble legs of a cargo robot are easily broken but its torso can soak up damage like a sponge.
The graphics in March! aren’t anything to run around screaming about, but there’s still plenty to be said. The character and enemy models are decent overall, short of a few misaligned textures. The models of the commando robots simply look cool, textures and polycounts notwithstanding. The enemies are done fairly well, none of them are of real high quality but that is just as well when you can occasionally have 10-20 of them on screen at a time. The level texturing and geometry is fairly low quality in some areas, and then really nice and diverse in others. However, since the previewed build was currently in a pre-beta state, things still have time to be upgraded and changed. When bullets hit a wall or a metallic enemy sparks will go flying off, realistically bouncing and traveling along models and walls.
March!’s sound effects and music tracks do not disappoint and come with just enough oomph to please your ears. The various weapon modules in the game all sound quite nice, with the gatling gun’s pitter-patter and the whoomping rush of air as you launch a grenade. Even the swapping of weapon modules sounds good, with various clicks and snaps as you detach and connect various parts from the main module. Every level has a music track playing as you go, including various themes but focusing mainly on sort of a techno-rock style. While none of the songs are studio quality they set the mood perfectly, there’s nothing like a good pulse-pounding guitar riff kicking in as you unload a Minigun against a swarm of incoming cargo robots.
Overall, March! is a lot like that movie that was described in the first paragraph. While it doesn’t have a name brand title, nor flashy effects or a big budget, what it does have is solid, simplistic yet compelling gameplay, and a good amount of enjoyment. With the full version expected to come out in the first part of 2003, March! is almost ready to debut on store shelves now. Fans of games such as Serious Sam or FPS fans eager for a good game that you can just pick up and play should watch this one carefully.
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