Terrawars: New York Invasion Review
By Daniel Lampkin |
Terrawars: New York Invasion encompasses some of the most overused themes in the history of video games. You'll experience alien invasion, gun fights, platform jumping, and time travel. OK, so there's no time travel actually in the game, but playing it will give you the distinct feeling that you've traveled back in time to play a mediocre Half-Life mod from 1999. The overall lack of quality is painfully evident throughout Terrawars, from the eye-gouging visuals to the rudimentary, almost primitive, design. Compared to modern PC shooters, Terrawars is outclassed in every possible way, and it certainly isn't worth even a budget price.
In this game you don't get to play as a marine or even as a soldier. You're not a cybernetic ninja or a rookie cop. You aren't even an ex-con or a hapless research scientist. No, instead you are John Armstrong, a medical student who works for the National Guard in New York City. Luckily for all those city dwellers, medical students in the National Guard apparently receive extensive training in tactical combat, including weapons proficiency training with machine guns, sniper rifles, and rocket launchers. This all comes in handy, of course, when all of a sudden the city of New York is invaded by a bunch of multicolored aliens that look like poorly animated Covenant rip-offs from Halo. There's no story behind the invasion, but all you need to know is that aliens are bad and must be destroyed.
The game takes you through more than a dozen levels scattered throughout the rubble of what was once New York City. The levels are all very linear, and you're gently guided in the right direction by invisible walls and impassable barriers, such as office chairs that restrict your movement to a narrow and straightforward path through each stage. You'll usually have objectives to fulfill, such as finding the injured soldiers scattered throughout the area or securing a particular point on the map. However, all you ever have to do is shoot all the aliens you see, and in doing so you'll always end up fulfilling your objectives anyway. The action is all scripted, so no matter how many times you play the game you'll encounter the same aliens in the same spot doing the same thing each and every time. It all becomes very predictable after just a few minutes of playing the game. You enter an area, and as soon as you hit the invisible trigger, a bunch of aliens jump out and start shooting you. As you kill those aliens, more appear from thin air right in front of you, and you have to keep killing one after the other until they finally stop spawning. Then you move on to the next area and do it all over again.
There is more to the game than just shooting, though. Sometimes you'll have to partake in a bit of platform jumping. First-person shooters and platformers go together like hair and gummy bears, but it's especially bad here because the collision detection means that you'll get stuck on the edge of ledges or miss jumps due to invisible barriers. There are parts where you have to jump on narrow pipes and boards or crawl around in air ducts, and you'll greet each of these sections with a groan of frustration as you attempt to maneuver the clumsy John Armstrong on top of rickety old boards and other items that look like they wouldn't hold the weight of a house cat, much less a medical student. Even more annoying is that you have to pay attention to a stamina gauge, and if it gets depleted, you can't do anything but walk slowly until your stamina recharges.
The one thing this game does well is keeping you busy by throwing tons of enemies at you. That doesn't matter much, though, because the gunplay in Terrawars is neither fun nor exciting. The guns are very generic. You start out with a semiautomatic pistol and a combat knife, and you quickly find new weapons, like an assault rifle, a sniper rifle, and a rocket launcher. These weapons all feel weak, though, and there's never any reason to use anything other than the basic assault rifle, which has a fast rate of fire, inflicts as much damage as any other weapon, and is accurate enough for sniping. All of your guns can be upgraded by collecting vials of biomatter that can be exchanged for increased damage, accuracy, and clip size at any time. It's a fine if nonsensical idea, but the improvements you'll see in your weapons are minimal. If guns aren't your thing, you can also chuck grenades at your enemies, which comes in handy for dispatching groups of aliens, but the explosions aren't very satisfying. Instead of seeing crumpled bodies go flying, you'll see the aliens throw their hands up and disappear into a cloud of green mist. The hit context is completely inconsistent as well. Sometimes you can instantly kill enemies with well-placed headshots, but other times you can shoot enemies in the head and they won't so much as flinch.
The gunplay also gets old quickly because you'll constantly be fighting the same enemies throughout the game. There are about four different types of aliens, which all look exactly the same but with different-colored skin. There are only two boss fights in the game, and they're so short-lived and lame that they do nothing to break the monotony. The aliens usually stand in fixed positions shooting at you, but sometimes they'll twitch and jitter their way after you, or simply float right through solid objects in the environment. The aliens, it seems, can even shoot through walls, and you'll often see a disembodied arm shooting at you through a closed door. They don't need to aim their weapons either, because even if an alien isn't facing you, its blasters will somehow manage to shoot right at you. On the default difficulty setting, these problems can make the game especially challenging, because it takes only a couple of hits for you to die. There's a quicksave function, though, so if you're feeling masochistic you can just reload your save and try it all again.
If for some reason you want to share this experience with a friend, you can play Terrawars cooperatively. You can play on a local network and supposedly online as well, although we weren't able to find a single server, so it looks like you'll have to set up your own if you want to actually play this game online. Considering how bad the single-player game is, playing it again with another player probably won't do anything to improve the experience. There are a multitude of available online multiplayer shooters for the PC, so there's no reason to go to the trouble to play this one.
One of the bullet points on the back of the box states in bold type that Terrawars "runs well on diverse PC configurations." That basically means that the game is so out of date that it will run on an old hand-me-down laptop. To its credit, the game does in fact run fairly well, but it looks very ugly doing so. The levels are all empty and smeared with the same couple of blurry textures, and the geometry in the levels is jagged and unnatural. You'll see ugly flickering and texture seams all over the place, and it's all set to the backdrop of multicolored fog that blocks out any detail that might have been present in the backgrounds. The sound isn't any better either, with no music to speak of, a handful of tinny sound effects, and a few repeated grunts from the aliens. The voice acting is some of the worst you'll find in any game. The characters are obviously voiced by actors whose primary language is not English, and the fake American accents sound terrible. It doesn't help that the dialogue includes such choice lines as, "I'm glad you two made it back, in the proverbial nick of time!"
Terrawars: New York Invasion is a terrible game that should be avoided. The visuals are dated, the gameplay is repetitive and simple, the multiplayer is worthless, and the story is nonexistent. Even at $20, Terrawars is a rip-off.