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Friday, September 01, 2006

Masters of the Past : Hostile Waters

I love my mothership! All games should be required to feature at least one super-sized carrier with manufacturing capabilities, by law. Only two series of games do their motherships well enough to meet my standards, and one of them is Hostile Waters, developed by Rage.

Hostile Waters gripped me from the very outset. The player is introduced to a peaceful planet, Earth, several decades from now, and to a society which is forced to re-learn war in order to defend the significant freedoms it has earned in an era without conflict. The game presents this future Earth as a world with clean, medicated air, allowing for the perfect health of every person; a planet with the ability to create food and provisions for all by utilising nanotechnology. As Walker - one of the main characters in this involving tale - phrases it, "we stand on the verge of greatness". Those who wish to destroy these achievements are the "dinosaurs", the old leaders of Earth who wish to return back to a time when labour was rewarded with money, and money allowed individuals to exist. The story is told through excellent voice acting and a powerful, moving script.

The game mechanics are superb. It is in credit to the storyline that I fail to mention gameplay aspects until my third paragraph. Victory conditions both begin and end with your mothership, Antaeus. The mothership (a naval vessel classed as an Adaptive Cruiser) is capable of using nanorobots to convert scrap into anything from a helicopter to a tank, and placing a chip with the 'soul' of a dead soldier within the new unit. The player is treated to a display of sophisticated AI which had no parallel at Hostile Waters' release date in 2001. It is worthy of note that just a year previously, Daikatana was released, supposedly boasting incredibly complex AI and failing to deliver. Antaeus' 'souls' are supremely capable at pathfinding and combat, able to attack and defend whilst holding position if the player were to leave them to their own devices. I believe Rage intentionally didn't grant their AI the capability to show their own agressive initiative, placing the burden and challenge of achieving victory upon the player. The mothership itself is able to bombard the nearby terrain a limited number of times per mission, and only after repairs are carried out on the main guns of the ship in an early scenario. The player is able to take direct control of any of the units Antaeus produces and perform all of the actions a 'soul' would be able to.

The soundtrack is never anything but superbly appropriate, exciting and emotionally evoking. The graphics are more than a little rough around the edges by today's standards, but their basic nature removes nothing from Hostile Waters' rewarding gameplay experience. As a bonus, this game aught to run on any rig purchased this century. Buy Hostile Waters and you will not regret your decision. It is available from Gameplay at £4.99.

Edit : Blogger doesn't get on very well with pounds sterling, I can't remove that silly letter before the price, sorry. In a related complaint, Blogger finds itself in a state of confusion any time myself or ShadowBolt try and write within another word processor. Any help with this issue would save my backspace key from erosion.

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