Developer: Massive Development
Release Date: August 21, 2003
Buy 'AQUANOX 2: Revelation': PC
There's really been a lack of underwater submarine piloting titles lately. Naturally, someone's taken the initiative and decided to construct a sequel to the PC game from a couple years ago, Aquanox. Aquanox originally earned a little recognition for using the GeForce3's power at the time, but sales weren't too good, thanks to the game's rather shallow underwater gameplay (pun not intended). Is the sequel worth playing? Keep reading to find out.
The story revolves around a fellow named William Drake, a rather naive fellow who's recently been granted a huge freighter ship. But being the helpful and kind guy that he is, he one days recieves a distress call and decides to help out. So he hops in his little vessel and separates from his freighter. Once he gets there, however, all he can find is a drunken fellow who's tried to take advantage of him - and that's exactly what some pirates are doing to his large ship right now. Once he gets back, he's taken in by the new crew and is given jobs to do.
Don't ask why Drake doesn't put up a fight for his ship, or what happened to all of his crew. The story itself, despite it's simplicity, has some glaring plot-holes, and is accompanied by, often, dialogue that could be far better.
Anyway - enough about the story. How does the game play? Well, it doesn't play badly. But on the other hand, there's nothing here you haven't seen before. When you're not on an underwater mission, you can explore the ship via a point-and-click interface, looking in various rooms and finding people to talk to and inform you of your next objective. You'll also visit some cities, and you'll have a chance to buy some subs or customize it with certain equipment, although it's standard fare; machine guns, pistols, and sniper rifles are what you'll be using most of the time.
Once you jump into a mission, you'll find the game to control similarly to a first-person-shooter. You can use WASD to move forward, backward, left, and right, use the mouse to angle the ship, and click to fire your weapons. It's really like a watered-down FPS, with slightly sluggish controls to give you that underwater feel (again, pun not intended).
It doesn't help, then, that there's not way to move straight up or down vertically. You'll need to manually angle your ship and accelerate to move upwards - or, at least, when you can move upwards. All of the levels sport a wonderfully strict invisible wall - a ceiling, if you will. You can't actually move up any higher than the ceiling. While I can understand why this was implemented, it really ruins the freedom that one should have in an underwater game and could have been implemented in other ways. It's also annoying, then, to see enemy ships fly above the ceiling where you can't.
Even when you take away the annoying factors like the ceiling, we still have what is essentially a pretty boring game. Most missions consist of traveling through a certain area to reach a ship that you need to destroy, or escorting a vulnerable vessel. The level design is never all that intriguing, so you can basically just hold down the accelerator and steer around a bit with the mouse, shooting when you need to. It's not awful, but there are far better experiences to be had elsewhere.
When the original game debuted, it had some nifty graphical power that showed off the best video cards of the day. It's kind of funny, then, that the sequel isn't anything special, graphics-wise. It runs well enough, with a solid framerate, and everything looks fairly solid. Some of the ship designs are actually pretty cool. But most areas consist of bland, dark-colored landscapes, which really aren't all that interesting to look at for more than a few minutes. Textures are all decent, if overused. The whole thing feels as if it could have used a bit more variety.
The sound is reasonably good, though perhaps not great. The guitar music in the background seems strangely out of place - one would expect something more soothing, or even adventurous and epic. If you dislike it, though, you can always turn it off. The voice-acting is decent. It can be pretty odd at times, but you can often chalk that up to rather silly writing, rather than bad acting. It could be far worse.
There's not much replay value to be had. The missions don't particularly allow for inventive thinking on your part, so they always play basically the same. There isn't any sort of multiplayer mode, and since neither the story or gameplay is all that demanding for a second play-through, Aquanox 2 will probably collect dust on your shelf after you've decided you're done with it.
All in all, what we have is a product that, while not really bad at all, isn't really that great either. The underwater gameplay is solid, but by no means innovative or very exciting. The invisible ceiling is annoying, as it limits your freedom - and in a game that takes place in a vast ocean, it seems silly that we're restricted to tiny areas on the sea-floor. Still, the story might keep you playing, even if it is silly, and the graphics and sound are bearable. If you would like to venture into the depths of the ocean, and happen to be really bored, Aquanox 2 may quench your thirst (dammit, is that the third pun!?). But there are far better FPSes to play, and you may be better off leaving Aquanox behind on the shelf.
Score : 6.5/10