Incoming Forces Review
By Chris Commodore |
Incoming, which coincidentally enough is included as part of this game's package, was a very straightforward but attractive shooter far ahead of its time in terms of aesthetics and the clever melding of several different sub-genres into one larger package. Incoming Forces, for which you are here to learn about, adheres to the same principles its father laid out, only instead of slaughtering droves of vicious aliens, players join their ranks, killing the mindless apes we call people.
And boy is the human armada ever stupid. They might as well be slinging feces and mocking the greater Kaiyodo nation with group cackles like their banana eating, caged ancestors in the city zoo do to passersby, because their laser blasts and endless waves of attack craft certainly aren't enough to needlessly obliterate the otherwise peaceful and easy going Kaiyodans.
They try. Make no mistake, they try with fighters, they try with bombers, they try with tanks, they try with artillery... But for every bomb dropped, the human race loses at least a dozen men and mechanisms of war. And for what? To appease a raging paranoia that's gripped the species ever since their near defeat at the hands of the aggressive Teraumans some twenty years prior to this title's onset? It's not the fault of all Kaiyodans that a different alien race attacked the Earth. So when the apes come pounding on the four planetary doors of the Kaiyodan home system, what are the bulky green men to do but kick their smug asses all over the damn place?
And that's exactly what happens. For sixteen long, linear, objective-based missions, the human race suffers profound causalities in the air and on land. The soldiers pledged to the defense of Kaiyodo are adroit and capable of piloting and driving all kinds of futuristic weaponry (planes and tanks). This is what helps keeps the otherwise repetitious murder of many a man interesting, to an extent.
First-person with optional chase camera and HUD (though the chase comes with no targeting reticle and is thus impossible to play), Incoming Forces is air combat, ground combat, and stationary combat. Each method (plane, tank, turret) comes with several variations and drastically different control schemes. And herein lies the first severe problem.
The control setup is crazy. Each mode has its own separate configuration sub-menu a la AvP (cool). All of them crash when you try and setup a Microsoft Sidewinder Precision Pro (not so cool). Unplugging that obscure peripheral and using a far more standard Super PSJoy, which no one can find or get to work, remedies the "desktop is prettier than the game" bug, but that doesn't mean other issues, like no options to bind acceleration and deceleration to analog control, get any better.
When the wanted pad is finally setup properly, assuming it's not made by Microsoft, players will likely find it necessary to swap the Y axis invert function every time a tank is exited and a plane is entered or vice versa. It's reasonable to assume that like me, most people prefer their planes to pitch like planes and their tanks to drive like first-person shooters (tanks). Now, I don't mind using a mouse on the dirt and a stick in the air, which is the best of both worlds that the game thoughtfully allows for, but having an axis function that applies across the board is wrong, wrong, wrong.
Ideally I would have been able to use the Sidewinder. Kind of ideally (thank you so much Stephen Butts for not helping me to find a better choice of words), I would have been able to at least bind my throttle and roll function to the right stick of my pad and turn and pitch to the left, like any flight/space action shooter worth its salt. When coupled with Descent or AquaNox up/down and left/right strafing, not wasting precious keys on simple functions like go and go back that control pads or throttles can easily accommodate is critical. Crashes and omissions in this department are both baffling and annoying.
Indeed, where applicable, the game retains a control schema very much like those two first-person shooters. But once the auto-leveling is turned off -- an immediate and mandatory switch to be done at the beginning of any level -- the flight action far surpasses that of AquaNox's slow, tiresome movement and uncannily high turn rate.
Effortlessly darting about the sparsely populated maps either above or below a paper thin cloud layer that's not as drastic a separator as what was seen in some levels of Crimson Skies makes me cry for more intricate urban sprawls like those found in G-Police, but thanks to the responsive control and surprisingly solid flight system, wherever the action is, it's fluid.
The game's four planets, each with varying scenery, come in day and night flavors and different colors, making them more distinct. Still, the few structures necessary for the resupply of a vehicle or completion of an objective like defense that dot these vast plots of nothingness remain relatively unchanged, thus the always fast, open, and shoot everywhere play dynamic remains relatively unchanged. It's disheartening but not debilitating thanks to the tight, intuitive, manageable control.