Friday, May 18, 2012

Semi-Obscure Retro Game Review: Soviet STRIKE

In the early-to-mid 90s, there was a series of isometric strategic shooter games known as the STRIKE series. The games enlisted the player as the pilot of an Apache Helicopter, destroying enemy bases or supplies, rescuing comrades or innocents, or capturing enemy personnel, all while managing your resources like fuel, armor and ammo. The first three games in the series, Desert STRIKE, Jungle STRIKE, and Urban STRIKE all took place in a two-dimensional field of play that could only scroll horizontally, as a result of the hardware at the time (these games were released for DOS, but ported to other home consoles, such as the Genesis and the SNES). The fourth game in the series, Soviet STRIKE, was released in 1996, and was the first in the series to be fully three-dimensional, in visuals and in gameplay.
GAMEPLAY: The game is an isometric shooter/strategy game, of sorts. You fly around the levels, accomplishing the various objectives while managing your helicopter's fuel, armor and ammo. The game has no mercy when it comes to the resource management, so when you only have 5 fuel left and you try to make it across the map to a fuel pickup and you fail, it's the game's way of reminding you to PLAN AHEAD. The levels themselves are pretty large, and the objectives are open-ended; you can do them in any order you want, save for the rescue missions. The map system is pretty in-depth as well, as you can pinpoint not only the objectives, but also supplies, types of enemies, and the like. There's even supplemental info for every object. However, the map is on the pause menu, and the in-game HUD contains no signs of direction at all, so you're constantly checking back into the pause menu to see which way you're going. This problem would be fixed in the game's sequel, Nuclear STRIKE with an in-game compass and objective waypoints, but it is what it is.

AESTHETICA: It's a 3-D game in the mid-90s, so you probably know what to expect in terms of texture quality and amount of polygons. One interesting thing is how the textures for the ground were scanned into the game from real-life satellite photographs, and the models were scanned in from their real-life counterparts as well. Yeah, that may seem pretty generic nowadays, but at the time it was cutting-edge. In addition to the graphical improvements, there are also live-action cutscenes to add more detail to the missions, both during the briefing and in-game. You could be taking out some enemy radars and suddenly get a video feed from a POW at a firing camp who needs to be rescued before meeting a rather lead-filled demise. At the time, it was cutting-edge, and even today, it gets the job done. It helps that the acting isn't half-bad either, and was done by some pretty big names (for 90s standards).
John Marzilli does not approve of your shenanigans. 
STORY: You are an agent for an organization known as STRIKE, which is dedicated to quelling uprisings and ending wars before they ever begin. In this go-around, you're trying to prevent World War III at the hands of an ex-KGB dictator who's attempting to seize control of the former Red Army. There are a few other characters in STRIKE, who you'll be working with on a regular basis, such as the General of the organization, and Hack, the Communications Officer/Comic Relief guy. The main story itself doesn't really soak into the game, but on the occasion that it does, it provides some of the game's more memorable moments. One particular sequence near the end involving escorting Boris Yeltsin comes to mind.

REPLAYABILITY: The game as a whole is fun, but has nothing to keep you coming back for multiple playthroughs. There are no extras or bonuses upon completion, so replays will depend solely upon the gamer's desire to replay the game.

OVERALL: Strategy fans and shooter buffs alike will find plenty to love in Soviet STRIKE, if you can disregard quite a bit of aging and 90s graphics. The gameplay still holds up surprisingly well, and it's a wonder that this series hasn't been given a 21st century revival yet.

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