Starship Troopers: Terran Ascendancy

strtroopStarship Troopers was always misunderstood. First there was the book, which was a political philosophy wrapped in a narrative, then the movie (which was more about the gritty action than any politics), and then finally the game. Believe it or not, Starship Troopers the game had a more tumultuous creation process than even the movie. It was first set to be a third-person shooter that would pit you against swarming masses of bugs. However, it soon became very clear that there was no way any modern computer could put that many arachnids on the screen at once. Plan B was to transform it into an RTS.

You play an officer in the Mobile Infantry, basically the Marines of the 23rd century. You’ll be in charge of your very own platoon, selecting which troops to take on missions and what equipment to give them. Once that’s all settled, orders arrive via an audio briefing and then you’re dropped into the combat zone. On the ground, you control your platoon by squads, choose what formations they march in, give out waypoints, call in airstrikes, and even play around with the little mini-nukes that were so cool in the movie.

Fans of the book and the movie will be happy to know that the style, weaponry, and technology of the Starship Troopers mythos is intact. The power armor suits from the book (but missing from the movie) are here in all their bug-stomping glory. These things make the average grunt more like a walking tank and less like a walking bag of bug food. All the hardware from the movie is here as well, as well as some new additions. You’ll have the Morita assault rifle plus an array of energy and heavy weapons that are guaranteed to work better than a giant can of extra-strength Raid.

Among the missions – an invasion of the bugs’ homeworld, Klendathu; escort duty for truck convoys through arachnid-infected territory; and defending a fort under siege long enough for the dropships to come and pick you up. You’ll face worker bugs, warrior bugs, hopper bugs (the green, flying ones), massive tanker bugs that spew an acidic liquid, the giant bugs that shoot plasma out of their asses, and some brand-new, never-before-seen, er, bugs.

Starship Troopers is played with a free-roaming camera in a full 3D world, and this is where the flaws start to show up. The game itself looks good — the terrain is detailed, and the bugs look nice. But the camera has a very nasty habit of lagging behind your troops. It gets worse as you progress, until the camera is actually centered on a bit of ground that’s yards behind your troops. The environment makes matters worse, with very simple mountains and canyons often completely obscuring your view. This frustration can be avoided by hitting a button to reset the camera, but it’s evidently a button designed to accommodate crap camera.

Also, the bugs are just plain dumb. The best way to take them out is to form a gauntlet of troops, and then send one guy out as bait to lure the arachnids into the firing line. The bottom line is that Starship Troopers, while pretty, will appeal mostly to die-hard fans of the movie.

System Requirements: Pentium II 233 MHz, 64 MB RAM, Win95

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