Warthog mixes nostalgia with classic space-shooting in an effort to recreate the feeling of the original TV show.
Once again Vivendi Universal brings us an interesting game based on a television series. This time, a nostalgic retro feel comes into play here and becomes an important aspect of the game. You would have to imagine that this left the developers, Warthog, with a difficult job ahead of them, with a delicate balance in the mix. First of all, like any game based on a movie or television series or any franchise for that matter, it has to be playable and of quality enough that if you were to play it without the well-known name or label, it would still be a good game. Second of all, they need to capture the story and feel of that franchise. It is much the same as when a sequel to a popular videogame series is made. Gamers want it to capture the feel of the original. It is like drinking a new Coca-Cola product. Would you like it if there were no brand label slapped on the can? Remember New Coke, anyone? And finally, since this is a game based on a series that was popular in the seventies, the "retro" variable comes into play and it makes it, in my opinion, exponentially harder for the developers to catch gamers' interest. This puts a strong reliance on fanboys and fangirls to get other people interested in the game. That is, if they themselves like it and feel it does the series justice.
Battlestar Galactica is a game resembling Wing Commander, Descent: Freespace, The Colony Wars series and other outer space shooters involving loads of enemy spaceships to dogfight with. With all these challenges at hand, let's see how well Battlestar Galactica stacks up.
The story sounds like it was tried to be made to sound complicated, but it isn't. It will not fool most people in this regard. However, the original TV shows plot was not that complicated: Find Earth and do not let the Cylons kill the human race on their way there. This time around, events take place 40 years before hand and you are flying missions out of the same capitol ship, the Battlestar Galactica. Your job is much like it was for the pilots in the show. Protect the Battlestar and the fleet. Make raids on the Cylons and protect the humans because as the Narrator says "...a war where the price of surrender is extinction!" This does add to the drama nicely, but I feel it could have been done better. Yes, the original series' story was relatively simple, but today, in the times of The Matrix and other insanely complicated storylines that create a whole universe of possibilities, there really should have been more added here. What I was hoping for, along with many fans of the original series I'm sure, was a huge delving into the original plot and metaphorically blowing it wide open into a whole range of new possibilities. Usually this is the point of something that is a precursor to something. If a prequel to the original Metal Gear game was made and all it turned out to be was another episode or adventure, would fans of the series not be disappointed?
When you first put Battlestar Galactica in and look at the controls, you will probably feel a bit overwhelmed. If you are like me, you might look at the Flight Manual option before beginning the game. You are going to have to trust a fellow gamer here on this one. Trust me, it looks like very complicated controls, but it's not. You should be able to get the hang of it relatively quickly if you are determined enough. The diagrams will be a little bit hard to read at first, but then you should figure it out quickly. There's no in game tutorial, but the first few times through the first part of the first mission practicing the skills from the flight manual should help.
What's most important and saves this game from bad gameplay is most of all the control. The PS2 controller is designed quite nicely for its purpose here, even though I would have liked a different default function for the right analog stick. Luckily, things can be arranged in the options menu to your liking, at least to an extent.
The most important feature is probably the ability to use the triangle button in order to have your primary (i.e. most important and of highest priority) target shown to you in relation to your ship, so that you can keep on the ball of the mission. This is especially helpful due to the chaotic feel of the actual gaming experience with Cylons Raiders and other enemy ships whirling around you in epic space battle style at an alarming rate. Your objective constantly needs to be clear to you, especially in missions where you must protect fellow members of the colonial fleet. Your quickness in your timing is key.
The most important gauges that you must pay attention to on your HUD (heads-up display) are the energy level and the hull integrity level. Energy replenishes itself automatically, but a number of important things consume it and this adds strategy into the mix. Some may find this a neat idea while others, like me, will be frustrated by it. I am frustrated in particular because I do not feel it was balanced well. The way it works is that certain amounts of energy are consumed when using your afterburner, targeting and launching missiles, rapid firing of your lasers cannons, and replenishing of your hull integrity. This is all fine and great, but your energy runs out at such a quick rate that it becomes almost impossible to conserve it enough to have enough energy available to complete your missions without failing them.
Meanwhile, missiles can be modified on the fly to deal with certain situations, adding another bit of strategy to the game, which is actually extremely welcome. Speed, agility, power, and blast radius, can all be adjusted. You cannot raise all four levels to the max because they balance each other out so you must choose the right attributes for your missiles in each situation. More agile missiles will not have as much power, for example.
The most important thing to remember about missiles is to use them! Hold down the square button (default targeting button) and watch the enemies within your sights be locked on to. When they are locked on to and within range, release the button and watch multiple missiles careen towards their targets with satisfaction.
Use R2 and L2 to switch between targets. There is a big flaw here, because if you lose sight of a primary target, you have "tagged" with a reticule or there are multiple targets of less importance flying closely around it, it becomes very difficult to keep your firepower focused on that primary target of immanent importance. You'll find yourself hitting the R2 and L2 way too much in order to try to remain on the proper target before you realize that you must hit and hold the triangle button again to focus on it. By the time you've figured all this out, whomever you were supposed to protect has been obliterated or they have come for you and turned you into expensive space debris. Then, you have to start the mission over. Sound exciting?
There are other vehicles to control other than the Vipers. There are colonial bombers at your disposal, but luckily the levels involving these do not take up a large portion of the game. They are controlled quite differently from the Vipers. The most frustrating aspect of them is that they have no agility. You rely mostly on defense of buddy support and gun turrets on your bombing missions. I did not find these missions particularly exciting compared to the Viper missions. You will also control Cylon raiders. These feel more like a traditional space battle again, but are different enough than the Vipers to be frustrating, but also unique in a fun way at times.
Enemy and support A.I. is at a medium level, although it is hard to tell with everything moving at such a fast rate whether they rely more on fixed patterns or advanced A.I. to get their jobs done. Controlling your wing mates is an interesting challenge and seems to work smoothly only a portion of the time. I have yet to figure out what exactly that portion is. To some gamers it will feel like they are just chasing dots and arrows around the screen amidst strange reticules, all symbols that represent the enemy ships when they are not close up. This can be confusing for any player who is not used to this type of games, but if you are looking for your typical space shooter, it may not bother you. It didn't bother me because I have played games of this type before.
One cool aspect is definitely the huge epic space battles that take place around these giant capitol space ships. The Cylon Battlestar makes its appearance here along with a new one as well. This is sure to induce some nostalgia to fans of the original show.
I have already mentioned some of the inconsistencies stemming from the difficulty of this game, which is extremely high. I will explore this more in depth in the Replay Value section.