Review - Return Fire
Posted: Sun Oct 28, 2012 8:40 pm
Return Fire is a game of capture the flag. Taking control of a group of 4 unique vehicles you try to not only return yout opponents flag to your home base, but destroy a bunch of stuff in the process. The straightforward structure will allow nearly anyone to pick up and play Return Fire, but the game’s arranged in such a way as to ensure that you’ll keep playing! Especially when nearly everything about Return Fire is done so well.
Visually this is one fine looking title. Besides the slick opening, which will get you pumped to play, the game impresses with attractive 3d terrain. While the actual look of the levels isn’t that diverse, the landscape varies wildly. Small enclosed areas give way to huge bases, numerous islands with connecting bridges, defended bunkers, tents occupied by soldiers, etc … Add in the camera which zooms and pans (highlighting the advantage of 3d vs. 2d), the destructible environments, and so forth, and you see a game that really shows the advantages a 32 bit cd has over 16 bit cartridges.
Any complaints about the 3do controller’s d-pad (especially the diagonals) are not relevant when playing Return Fire. It poses no problem … and you’ll be going diagonal a lot, zigzagging between buildings, trees, towers, rubble, etc… It’s especially noticeable when riding the jeep trying to return the flag, as it is lacking in fire power compared to the other vehicles. Since you can’t bull doze your way through the environment, you’ll need to work around it, traversing it carefully. And it is no problem.
Control for each vehicle handles differently, but once you get them down it is smooth. (you’ll want to practice with the helicopter especially) Early levels are presented in such a way as to really allow you to get a feel of each vehicle. You can explore the level without too much in the way of risk. From the slow armored support vehicle (ASV) go to my go to vehicle, the tank, you’ll feel comfortable with each before long. The game is even Flightstick Pro compatible!
Speaking of risks, they come in many different forms. From just the layout of the land itself, to the defenses of the buildings, flying helicopters firing at you from above, submarines firing from below, and fleeing soldiers flinging grenades in your directions, there is plenty to keep you on your toes. Especially in the later levels you’ll want to plan your attacks carefully, as going in guns blazing will see your vehicle reserves quickly depleted. Scoping out the scene to learn which mix of vehicles to employ isn’t a bad idea (this is where you’ll be glad you practiced with the helicopter ) There is a nice balance of action and strategy, so fans of either genre (or even better, both!) will enjoy it.
The game has a good challenge I think, that ramps quite nicely. Regardless of your gaming level though, you’ll find plenty to challenge you without proving frustrating. This is because the levels are grouped in different sections, and beating just one in a section allows you to move on, if you want. While I do wish the game did a slightly better job at this (it’s easy to lose track of which level you beat as the game doesn’t mark it, for instance) it does prevent frustration from setting in if a particular level proves too bothersome. Not as linear, which is always a plus in my book!
Being a big fan classical music, I absolutely love the soundtrack of Return Fire! But even if you are not a fan of that style of music, you’ll probably still find that the soundtrack is stunning! The quality is off the charts, and it fits the game perfectly! Arguably the best soundtrack of any 3do game in my opinion! I really can’t stress enough what a huge asset to the game it is … it draws you in, in ways that words simply can’t express properly, it just needs to be experienced firsthand. From “Ride of the Valkyries”, “Flight of the Bumblebee”, “The William Tell Overture” and more … this game stands next to Loom (whose soundtrack is also based on classical music) as one of my favorite video game soundtracks ever!
The sound effects likewise are also great. Explosions are loud and clear, and each vehicle has terrific sound (the rolling of a heavy tank, the turning of helicopter blades etc…) Even when you lose there is some great laughter mocking you courtesy of 3DO co creator RJ Mical) Top notch cd audio!
The one player mode is fun, but if you can experience it with two players it brings the game to a whole different level. The game shines brightest when playing with a friend, really showing that computer AI is no substitute for a fellow gamer. Mainly the fact that in two player mode both are trying to capture the flag, whereas when playing against the computer, they are only defending their own. That really is the main drawback to playing solo … after a while you may really be wishing for another player.
The game has no printed instructions included with it. Instead they are accessed via the game itself. While the gamer in me likes this, the collector in me certainly doesn’t. A thin paper insert the jewel case is no substitute for an actual manual. It makes the packaging feel cheap in my opinion (not to mention the fact that I think Return Fire’s original box art is poor to begin with) A minor complaint, but certainly worth bringing up.
After a few plays with Return Fire you’ll probably be hooked. The game quickly grows on you. If you missed this game and haven’t played it yet, I recommend checking it out now. It hasn’t aged too badly, and is still fun, even without nostalgia. If you’re already a fan, be sure to grab the Maps o' Death add on disc (which I’ll review separately)
3DO has a number of great 2 player games, and Return Fire is one of the best. In fact, I think of it similar to Twisted or Trip’d. Fun 3DO games when played solo, but significantly enhanced when playing with others. Bottom line, the critics were right with this one … Return Fire is one of the best 3DO games ever!