Review - Off World Interceptor
Posted: Fri Nov 27, 2009 3:43 am
Crystal Dynamics was such a good 3DO developer, that it’s rather shocking they let a game like Off World Interceptor see release. It has numerous shortcomings atypical of the team, off which I’ll try to touch on some briefly in this review. Let’s be thankful that Crystal’s other projects don’t share the uneven quality of this game.
I need to be fair and acknowledge a couple of things before I continue on … One, Crystal Dynamics was a rookie developer. A skilled group for sure, but newbie’s nonetheless. So they do deserve to have that taken into consideration. Two, I never played OWI when it was first released, or during the lifecycle of the 3DO. (it was always near the bottom of the list of 3DO titles I wanted) In fact, it wasn’t until very recently that I played more than just a demo of it. Confessions out of the way, let the hard truth begin.
The main reason (though not the only one) that I never had a strong desire to own OWI is because it looks so much like Total Eclipse. Granted, game engines do get re-used (fps for instance) but I always thought it felt lazy. Another reason I wasn’t into this game (one that may also qualify as lazy) is that Crystal’s first release was Crash n’ Burn, another combat racer. How about trying something different?
Whereas Crash n’ Burn felt like it was a balanced mix, OWI does not. It feels like a shmup on wheels. The genres don’t blend well, at least not in this case. There is far too much enemy action taking place in what is, essentially, a race. Lost focus results in a game that is neither a good racer, nor a satisfying shooter.
Everything but the kitchen sink was thrown in this game, to disastrous results! Rather than focus on a smaller, smarter group of enemies, Crystal decided to fill OWI with mindless regenerating drones. The firepower is relentless, and spread all over, making the admittedly wide terrain useless for evasion. Other vehicles routinely pop up behind you, forcing you to steer wildly and hope you lose them (not likely) or brake so they will pass. The latter is dangerous for a couple reasons. Not only do you leave yourself a sitting duck for other enemies, you burn precious fuel that runs out before you know it. The need to juggle so many things at once … racing, combat, icon collection, etc … proves to be too demanding, at least for me. I did use a code to max my money enabling me to load up on shields and such, in an effort to help me progress further. It helped to a small extent, but not nearly as much as I would have thought. Oh, and did I forget to mention the bosses?
Yes, as if the game wasn’t already overloaded, Crystal decided to throw in bosses for good measure. I thought I would just have to catch the criminals (the storyline has something to do with you being a bounty hunter or some such nonsense) but nope, I gotta destroy them. Let me tell you, the bosses absorb more firepower than you, I, David Needle, and Trip Hawkins put together could imagine! If you do manage to survive to reach said bosses, be prepared to have your blood pressure spike.
I hate to end a review on a bad note though, so I did save a few positives to discuss. The two player mode is one of these. Although critics griped that the screen had a vertical split (didn't bother me in the least) it offers some intense competition, and I had a pretty good time playing this with my wife. Win 2 out of 3 matches and the planet is yours. The winner gets to select the next planet to race/battle on too, which leads to some anxious moments as the victorious will naturally pick a planet where they are 1 win shy of claiming, and not the other way around. Using warping gates as a means to get behind your opponent offers a fair amount of strategy also. Timing is crucial, as is being aware of where your competition is on the map.
The other positive for me was the copying of Mystery Science Theater (a favorite of mine) Making fun of the full motion video is not only appropriate, but the guys are actually funny (although they use too many exaggerated gestures). Both my wife and I laughed out loud on a few occasions. I wish I could just skip and watch all the clips, but I know of no code to allow this.
Again, I stress that Crystal’s other projects have little in common with the poorness evident in this game. In fact, they are some of the best of the best of 3DO offerings. From original gems like Gex, to acquiring the rights to publish hits like Star Control II and Samurai Shodown, it’s clear they were a great asset to 3DO. So the best thing to do is either try and pretend that OWI never happened, or just limit it’s time in your 3DO to the 2-player mode.