Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone







BAM!ís finally released SCEEís much anticipated Dropship for the PS2 after Sony went back and forth as to releasing it in the US. This futuristic military combat game allows you to control multiple vehicles and go through some fairly detailed missions. Itís not your usual console fare because complicated controls are extremely difficult to get the hang of. However, the unique approach leads to some challenging and involving gameplay. The Laser drops in and lets you know if climbing Dropshipís learning curve is worth the trouble, or if the incline is too steep.

Dropship: United Peace Force is a futuristic combat title that puts the player in the role as a member of an elite international soldier. It allows players to control a variety of ground and air-based vehicles through its many missions. There are 20 missions in all, and multitudes of enemy forces gunning for you. Each mission is laid out beforehand with an extensive cinema, though the game doesnít offer branching missions, its linear gameplay is still challenging. Once you get started, it quickly becomes apparent that this isnít the usual superficial console shooter. Playing Dropship is enormously challenging, since each one of the mission objectives need to be strictly adhered to. This is a straight-forward combat title, but the combat doesnít come until later. Earlier missions emphasize controlling your ship but the game gradually introduces you to new tactics and weaponry. This makes the early going a bit dull, but with patience and persistence, you gradually gain more abilities as you earn the commandersí trust to handle weapons. Fighting through the first couple of missions is hard, since each one will take awhile to complete. However, once you get into it, Dropship wins you over. Each mission has multiple objectives, which gives the mission structures plenty of depth. While each of the vehicles in the game has their own conventions, they share enough commonality to make the transitions easy and exist in a common space which allows the player to master new vehicles quickly. Luckily there is an extensive training mode that guides you through the game. Youíll have to master the controls before attempting missions, since fiddling around with the techniques during timed missions is going to make you lose every time. The interface is a bit complicated and still seems a bit clunky even later on in the game, making things more frustrating than they should be. This can be overcome after some extensive time, but Dropship will still require plenty of time to beat. The investment pays off with a solid, enjoyable title that immerses the player into the action.

Thereís plenty of action during the game, and the sensations of flight it creates is a good one. Dropshipís plot is interesting to a certain extent, and unfolds at a good clip during between mission cinemas. Itís not the most original storyline but it does help to keep you motivated. You also have to suffer through some bland dialogue which is clichťd and dull and the constant reminders get on your nerves after awhile. If you take too long to complete an objective, your commander yells at you to hurry up and a clock is displayed. This adds to the tension and makes the gameplay much more challenging. The only problem with this is that the time lengths and placement of the objectives and strike points seems a little arbitrary. This makes the gameplay difficult, and not surprisingly, curtails the overall enjoyment significantly. As stated earlier, the initial missions seem to drag on, and the game is a bit too exacting in its mission objectives.

Thereís surprisingly little leeway given to players. For example, during the flight missions, in addition to having to put the ship down precisely inside the landing-zone indicator, you also have to land in the same direction the landing-zoneís arrow is pointing. This is going to far and is obviously extremely annoying, though it does add to the realism somewhat. It doesnít help that simply turning the ship is a complicated maneuver requiring several steps. Also adding to the gameís overall feel is that the Dropshipís have two modes, hover and flight which are used to achieve different objectives. However, switching between the Hovering and flying isnít as seamless or intuitive as you would expect. Youíll frequently find yourself hovering when you want to fly, and since the game automatically transitions between the modes at odd points, it seems to make little logical sense. This makes landing the ship much harder than it should be, and being even a little off in the direction once you do land means you have to do this again;. You also have to press down again once you get on the ground to officially land. This is extremely annoying and is a big detriment during play. A simpler, easier to understand would have helped the game immensely, but the clunky controls remain a problem throughout the experience.

This is a real shame since Dropzone has an impressive graphics engine that allows for huge, nicely detailed levels. Itís environments are large and impressive, giving the player a realistic sense of space and terrain. The ship designs are interesting and look great, and since you can change the viewpoint, the overall production seems relatively seamless. Unfortunately, the visuals are marred by the ever-annoying presence of the PS2ís unaliased jaggies, which really undermines the effort thatís gone into the visuals. It hurts the appeal, and especially at this point is a serious problem, since other games have long-ago solved this problem. Audio isnít too bad with decent background music making a nice counterpoint to the action. The acting in the game isnít that great, and the cursory readings do nothing to enhance the already clichť-ridden dialogue.

Dropship is a mixed bag, and while there was obviously a lot of potential, itís largely missing in action here. It starts off too slowly with extended training and practice missions taking far too long to play through before you get to the good stuff. Dropship improves dramatically once you get some combat experience, and the multiple vehicles are a nice touch that should keep you from getting bored. That is if you donít give up in frustration long before that point. Novices to these types of games wonít get far without a great deal of effort. While there are some good missions and a lot of challenge to the game, itís poorly designed interface is a major factor initially and never really stops being a detriment to the fun. Itís a shame, but this is a missed opportunity. There are some good ideas here, but the implementation isnít good enough to really make them shine. In the end, this game is disappointing and never delivers on its promise. Thereís too much effort for too little reward and itís mainly aimed at those with the time and patience to really learn the controls. Thereís definitely some challenge and enjoyment to be had, but the time investment still seems excessive given the mediocre quality of the gameplay. Those not in that camp will probably find the complex controls and intricate mission structure have a learning curve thatís too steep commensurate with the entertainment value of the game.

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