Saturday, August 6, 2011

Armorines: More Armor and More Marines

Stop me if you've heard this one before. Earth is under attack from an alien force of monstrous bugs or something, and the only chance for humanity to survive is to fight back with some big scary marines. That may be the plot to a million shooters, but in this case it happens to be the plot of Armorines: Project S.W.A.R.M. I don't actually know what S.W.A.R.M. is supposed to stand for, but considering I only had the stomach to play to the second level, so I can't say with certainty that Acclaim Studios London didn't bother to come up with one. Acclaim Studios London is probably better known by their other names, Probe Entertainment which was the name the company went by when they ported the Mortal Kombat games to the Genesis and when they made Die Hard Trilogy.


The game is apparently based on the  Turok 2 engine, but I played the game on Playstation, so I'm not sure if this one was also based on that engine, or if it is significantly different from the Nintendo 64 version. All I know is the game that I played is a complete mess. I can look past a certain level of awkwardness in the controls in a PS1 game because it was from before the time when first-person shooters had a generally accepted control scheme, but the controls in this game are just obnoxiously bad. The d-pad is used to control where you look, square and circle strafe, L2 crouches, X shoots, triangle jumps, and if you've been keeping score at home, then you've probably just realized that no face buttons control walking forwards and backwards. That's right, forward and backward movement is controlled by R1 and R2.


Like I stated previously, I could have forgiven a certain level of awkwardness in controls, but these controls aren't just awkward, they seem specifically designed to fight all of your brain's logic. Another boneheaded choice was the system for selecting your weapon. Instead of just having L1 cycle through your weapons, you need to hold down L1, then press left or right to choose from an invisible list, and they didn't even bother to make holding L1 stop the look movements from pressing left and right. The manual shows a DualShock controller with various, far more modern control schemes, but for some reason the game would not let me use them. I tried multiple controllers, and I made sure that little red light turned on, but would never let me use a setup that used the analog sticks. Maybe I'm just stupid and missed something, but at this point I'm far past the point of being able to find any redeeming qualities to the game.

The levels are boring, with objectives that all seem to amount to running into a wall that has a switch on it, then going to some other part of the map. The enemies are just plain dumb, running infinitely into rails and things like that. It is a good thing that there is generous auto aim in this game, because there are a lot of enemies that are not very tall and that could have easily been frustrating. What is frustrating is understanding where you need to go and what you need to do. The briefings before missions only tell you what needs to be done, not how to do it, and the in-game radar is only used for locating enemies, not objectives.

Armorines: Project S.W.A.R.M. just isn't good at being an FPS, and it isn't any fun. If I were to compliment anything about the game, it would probably be the cover art, which is quite nice looking. The most interesting things about it have nothing to do with the game itself. The history of the IP is interesting because Armorines started out as a comic book for Valiant, a spinoff of one of their more popular titles. In 1994, after the collector bubble in comics burst and companies like Valiant were doing horribly, Acclaim, high on all that Mortal Kombat money, bought Valiant for its IP's and shutdown the comics business. That is how we ended up with games like Armorines and Shadow Man.

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