Bundling me through Stormrise’s opening sequence, I experience every crisis movie ever made, as it dragging me suddenly and uncomfortably from my bed and into a suit of power-armour, to be then thrown into a situation exemplified in every futuristic war movie ever made. In fact, the entire plot was a series of throwbacks to many an underage cinema trip. Stormrise is a tangled elastic-band ball of clichés, bouncing its way idly into my Xbox and straight back out again. Giving myself a shake down and entering the tutorial, I kept my mind open, for all I knew I was about to play the Game of the Year. I wasn’t.
Met initially with some poorly rendered cutscenes, I wasn’t impressed. It’s not like I was expecting a celebratory brass fanfare and party poppers, but the grainy, pixelated splodge had me despairing from the off. Finally getting to the game, my character “Geary”, a man with biceps bigger than battleships, was talked at by the ever-so-familiar hardened female commander, whose constant blatherings were only partitioned by the meek, diffident concurrences from our man Muscles. With my attention and patience already being tested, the game finally introduced me to the movement system, including the so-called “verticality” system. Lauded as a bold new genre-defining step, it fails miserably, achieving only a pale imitation of every other 3D RTS to grace my computer and Xbox for a fair old time. It’s also clumsy as anything, clunking around like a dying lawnmower.
Jettisoned into combat I am blasted with Generi-Metal as I am taught the ropes of basic fighting. Slaying my enemies with aplomb, I feel fairly satisfied. Not with the game as rewarding is the last word that comes to my head when playing Stormrise, but because of the immense amount of effort required to perform some very basic tasks. Wiping the sweat from my brow, I continue into the next segment of play.
The game’s key site of innovation is its “Whip Select” unit selection system. While the steps into the unknown and exploration of new, alternative methods to replace long-established video game trends is refreshing, it doesn’t make it good. While in the tutorial it feels intuitive and smooth, in the raging battlefields of the actual game, laden with hordes of units that are likely to be clustered around the mission’s ugly abomination of choice, it is just not practical. There were countless occasions where the camera was sent zooming off like a frenzied goat to some far and distant location while teams and teams of my men got mowed down by enemies, that as far as my eyes tell me, are ghosts. I couldn’t see them, but then, I guess that’s not surprising considering the farce that is the camera system and battlefield view.
The well trodden path is to have a bird’s eye view of the relevant meadow of mayhem, allowing for a comprehensive analysis of the situation and giving opportunity for a STRATEGY to be formed. That is where the genre, RTS, got its name. The inability to send units any further than their respective line of sight renders most tactical moments obsolete, with the player instead being forced to deploy as many units as possible into one place then spam them relentlessly at the target until their thumb has been ground down into a powdery, pulped mess of flayed skin and bone marrow. Needless to say, this makes for a tiresome gaming experience and after the first few missions I was left with little reason to play on other than the alluring “plink” of the achievements.
The in-game graphics are nothing to throw a party for, if a party was thrown for them, the words “lackluster”, “average” and “meh” would be bandied about more than the requisite amount. If this were any other RTS, then from a nice bird’s eye view, they would look acceptable and with some of the effects, at points, fairly satisfying. Leading back to the game’s central downfall, however, the negative visual experience can be attributed to the botched camera angles, a hash-up of epic proportions on a par with the Chernobyl accident, current world finance and, dare I say it, Swine Flu.
The audio is composed of a less-than-eclectic variety pack of supposed “driving metal”, which is, in reality, a cheap knock off of the glorious soundtrack to the original Red Alert games and melancholy dross that would bring a tear to the eye of Vinnie Jones. The voice-acting is your average fare with the protagonist fed reams of trash-talking battle nonsense to be read with a voice like rusty bolts and nails being fed into a blender. Inside a bass drum.
Boasting up to 8-player LIVE multiplayer action, Stormrise disappoints. I could visualise perfectly the tumbleweed rolling by in the deserted, echoing doldrums of the online community. I can only assume that the other purchasers of the game enjoyed it as little as I did.
The missions in the campaign are sure to last a while, and there will definitely be some nuts who want to go through the whole trauma again on Hard mode. With these supplemented by some skirmish maps to play through Stormrise surely has plenty to be getting on with, it’s whether you’d actually want to have that much clunky, awkward, unfinished, poorly-made metal sandwich in your mouth in one go that’s the question. This game definitely has enough content to warrant a purchase…Well it would if the content was any good. The experience is more of a chore than an enjoyable experience, and whenever a game gets like that it’s not fulfilling its task. The developers are to be saluted for their valiant stab at innovation and that is very admirable, but when the core gameplay just isn’t fun, all the innovation (and men with compensatory robot exo-skeletons) in the world won’t redeem a title.