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Release Date: 30 Nov, 2001
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One of the most adictive games of my childhood. It's really simple and intuitive. May have some glitches when finishing the missions but it's a great adventure into the dephs of the ocean when mankind is at the verge of extintion.. Download size: about 750 mb Playtime: around 10 hours Aquanox is close to 15 years old, so youve seen a lot of the games features in other better games, most notably the Freespace series. That being said, the graphics arent too bad when you keep in mind how old it is. The games settings allow some manipulation of Level of Detail, and at max settings it looks better than the old Half Life 1 game, but still worse than Half Life 2. The cutscenes however, are of horrible quality and honestly Im not sure if it was done that way on purpose. (Super cloudy and low res visuals accompanied by a voice over). The games story is extremely complicated, and even an hour or so into the game I had the itching feeling that I had accidently started Aquanox 2 before playing the first game. Both games were part of a semi recent bundle, so it was a legitimate concern. You get dropped right into the story as the character Emerald, a sort of freelance fighter pilot who goes from city to city kickingand making money. Theres a whole backstory about global warming covering the Earth in water and various factions fighting for domination. The games opening cinematic talked a bunch about genetically engineered dinosaurs and stuff, but I havent seen any, just enemy subs. Aquanox is a first person underwater fighter simulator, but something to note is that you dont control thrust. You press forward and it goes forward, press back and it goes back. Its not like a lot of other simulators where you use +/- thrust and momentum, in fact movement is kind of like a 3 dimensional first person shooter (no momentum, and you can circle strafe). Combat is quite simple, where you use your gun (you can only use one gun at a time) and missiles to destroy enemy subs in dogfights. Missiles are much more powerful than guns, but you buy them individually so if you want to save money, just rely on guns with their infinite ammo. Theres also an EMP type weapon if you dont want to actually destroy your enemies. This is really only a story based feature and most of the time its easier to just blow people up. Its not like you get to salvage their ships. Speaking of salvage, your compensation in the game doesnt seem to take into account how many enemies you blow up. And you dont get experience either (this isnt an RPG) which means that sometimes you can just complete objectives and run from the enemy and not be penalized. Between missions you spend your time in cities which are basically just hubs where you can buy upgrades for your ship and talk to people to get your next mission. One thing I noticed about ship upgrades is that you seem to be able to sell weapons for the same price you bought them for. This means you can experiment with the different weapons and see which ones you like without losing money, except for the missiles of course, which are bought 1 at a time and you should probably just save those for blowing up big enemies. Another thing to note about city hubs is that there is only one exit called dock where you start the next mission. When youre talking to people in the city you can start optional missions by going to the dock immediately after talking to the person. If you keep talking to different people the game will override the side mission with the next story mission, and youll lose it forever. I didnt realize this until about half way through the game and I have no idea how many side missions I missed out on. When you go to the dock it doesnt give you options of which mission you want to play, it just sends you out into the water. Pros: +I really enjoy games where you get to earn money to upgrade your vehicle (especially weapons) and customize your ride according to the levels requirements. Theres not too much customization in Aquanox, but I still liked it. +In fighter simulators, it always nice to go up against larger ships, not just enemy fighters. The big bombers and frigates in Aquanox can be a challenge unless you unleash the missiles. Cons: -Its an old game, with all that entails: Dated graphics (still acceptable), not as much online information (how do I use the heal kit?!?), bad voice acting. -I cant help but compare this game to Freespace 2, which I played exclusively for months. Freespace 2 is in my opinion superior in every way. Dont play this game for the story since it wont really make sense with everything theyre throwing at you. Its like they tried to make up their own world and dropped you into in halfway through. They certainly gave it a lot of thought though, as if they based the game on a novel that I havent read. If you enjoy space fighter simulators such as Descent, Freespace, Wing Commander, you may enjoy Aquanox.. Pretty good, after all those years.. Nonsensical exposition using a bunch of butt-pull terms to sound like complex science-fiction. Mediocre gameplay that would be forgivable if not for the other thing.. TL:DR Aquanox is the kind of game you call a solid 6. Its not great and has lots of flaws, but it's decent for a romp.(also see my final verdinct, pros and cons at the end) To start off with the visuals. They were ok then, and they are passable for their age, but I think they could do better even back in the day when the game came out. Soundwise the game is average with ok-ish sounds for weapons, good sounds for torpedoes and a repetitious soundtrack. Voiceacting is wierd. It's exaggerated in a cartoonish way in some instances, while its good in some others. In regards to the story, I found the characters to be enjoyable and the overall plot interesting, but they do leave a lot to be desired. For starters, characters are introduced out of the blue and with no context, with no proper development, and with some being one time affairs. dont be surpised if you find it hard to care about even for main characters. The story up next, it is a few centuries after a cataclysmic event that rendered the surface of the earth uninhabbitable, with the survivors moving into underwater cities. It has been five years after a war against some biomechanical beings known as the bionts, your character, flint fought in that war and lost a good friend in order for a chance to win that war. Unfortunately this is mostly inconsequential to the overall story. Much like the characters the various factions(be it normal or antagonistic) are not properly introduced. One other thing is that major events in the game are not treated properly and they feel insignificant with the ending treated in such manner, resulting in an anticlimactic closure. Diving into the gameplay, if you played Descent then this is not that far off, but not quite there. While you can strafe its not all that fast and you cant slide up or down. I think the devs tried to make it feel like its a submarine vehicular game, but its not really doing it properly either. It is stuck somewhere in between. This also results in the worst possible mouse aim ever. The mouse acceleration in aquanox is awful. Even after quite a bit of tweaking, it still needs some getting used to and it makes the game more difficult than it should be. If you cant you are out of luck. If you do, the shooting is fairly enjoyable and satisfying, just dont crank the difficulty too high. And this is not the end of it. When I first started the game I expected something along the lines of Novalogics Tachyon: the fringe, where you have a go at a branching mission path with side missions and all. There none of that here. It creates a feel that this is what you get yourself into, but in reality, this game is absolutely linear. No branching path, no side missions, nothing. This game is not replayable at all, and the fact it has a form of skirmish does not help at all, as you cant decide what ship and weapons to take And its not like you are given the opportunity to do any sort of experimentation with the equipment either. The upgrade path is as linear as the rest of the game. You dont get sidegrades. Every new piece of equipment is objectively better than the last and thats what you should get, the end. It renders concepts like earning money and upgrading meaningless. you might as well be given the lasest ship and weapons without buying them. And speaking of weapons, I found torpedoes not to be mostly ineffective and alternative firemodes for guns are outright useless, not to mentions that there are features that are usless themselves, like EMP which is usefull for only a few missions before you never use them again, and the same goes for silent running which is not a thing beyond a couple of missions. Annoyingly you get wingmen, and I say annoyingly because sometimes they are usesfull and someother times they either fail to follow you to the next point or they just die too fast. But wait, there's more. They completely lack any form of personalised ability, they all perform the same, to top it all off, you cant choose who comes with you, you cant choose their ships, you cant choose what weapons they get to use, you can't even give them commands. At least they are helpful in some crutial moments in the game that you couldn't do it by yourself otherwise Finally the game is not all that stable in some parts it has the tendency to crash, but not always. Just make sure to ALWAYS SAVE before a mission, because the damn game doesn't autosave. There have been a few instances where the game crashed on me and I hadn't saved and I ended up 3 missions back. MY FINAL VERDICT on this is that its ok. You will get some enjoyment out of the shooting and plot/characters, provided you can get used to the controls and get past the narative shortcomings and the linearity and lack of replayability. I would say that you might want to wait for a sale, but it's still ok at its full price. PROS -Fun shooting -Ok visuals for its age -Interesting story and characters -Its cheap and disposable entertainment. CONS -.which can also be a sad thing -Terrible mouse controls that take some getting used to even after some tweaking -It tries to be something between simulation and action FPS, But it's not proficient at neither -Average sound -No control over wingmen whatsoever -EMP and silent running are used in only a handful of missions but are useless otherwise. -Significant plot elements are not treated with the importance they deserve -Anticlimacting ending -Poorly introduced hard to care for characters -Plot holes resulting from problematic naration -Absolute linearity in mission progression and upgrades kill replayability and experimentation.. good game that aged well + has old graphics, but still looks good + can be run on toaster - could be longer. Note: this review is based on the GOG version.* Flawed but Fun: 3/5 For starters, a piece of important advice: CHANGE YOUR MOUSE REPORT RATE. Many modern gaming mice report 500 to 1000 times per second, and this is too fast - motion will be jerky to nonexistent as information is dropped. I've heard reports of values as high as 250 working, but I set mine to 200 and minimum DPI, and that worked very nicely. Visuals: The game looks good - decent geometry and detailed textures prevent it from showing its age too much, and it's perfectly happy to do 1920x1200. Weapon effects look nice and are varied enough to distinguish at a glance. In a heavy firefight, you can lose sight of a distant target in all the flash, especially if you're throwing a torrent of glowing bolts from a Plasma Gatling - for me, this was a bonus, emphasizing the hectic nature of a crowded 3D battle. Enemies and allies are visually distinct, with each faction employing ships sharing their own unique style - and some of the ships look pretty cool! Controls: Gameplay is a mixed bag. The concept of free 3D motion in an environment that has a definite floor and ceiling (unlike open space) is rather neat (and provides an opportunity for interesting visuals), but the execution could have been better. You have 5 degrees of freedom in movement, but unlike most space-based 5DOF games (such as DarkStar One), the dropped element is roll. You can yaw (you actually bank left and right, but automatically come back to upright when you stop turning), pitch, strafe horizontally or vertically, and accelerate/reverse. This arrangement guarantees that the seafloor stays on the floor, and the vertical strafe is tremendously useful in some situations . . . but it also creates one of the most irritiating limitations of the system -- there is a fixed vertical axis through which you cannot pitch. If a target passes above or below you and you've been pitching up or down to track it, once you reach vertical you have to spin around to continue to track. The other unpleasant limitation is that many missions have a very low (and invisible) ceiling. Thousands of meters of vertical space from which to launch surprise 3D flanking attacks, and you can't use it. It was a real joy to have that vertical freedom in the one mission that involves escorting a rising buoy, but normally the low ceiling limits your firing angles (really irritating when trying to hit small targets on top of several nasty enemies), traps you behind just-barely-too-high mountains (usually not a huge issue unless exploring outside the main mission area), and turns what could have been a game of true-3D tactics into something where battles and defenses are dominated by 2D positioning, more constrained than even a terrestrial flight sim. Story/Acting: The story is fairly typical fare, predictable but sufficient (if you can ignore the ridiculously bad science driving several plot elements). The writing is merely mediocre, although the monologues for the movies are over-long, overwrought, and underestimate the player's intelligence. The protagonist mostly re-hashes recent events in a slow near-monotone, offers some stultifyingly obvious "insights", then delivers a faux-philosophical wannabe-warrior-poet musing. Over time, this becomes less irritating, although I'm not sure whether it's due to getting used to it, or the writers running out of time and padding the speeches less heavily. The voice acting, however, ranges from bad to terrible, with a healthy sprinkling of rage-inducingly painful. The most grating element is Lt. Bonham, with her whiny voice, strangely off-tempo delivery, obsession with grade-school fun science facts (not all of them correct), and tendency to ramble. It's bad enough in the "talk" sections in port, but those are skippable / can be read with headphones off; the worst bit is that she talks during missions. It's a bad sign when my reaction to failing a mission is not "dangit, all that wasted effort!" but "Oh NO, I have to listen to my wingman again!!" instead. Difficulty: Initially, the unusual controls may be an issue, but they're fine once you get used to them - the only real problems I had were the slow ascent, low ceiling, and occasionally the vertical pitch limit mentioned above. Those used to flight sims will lament the lack of a lead indicator. Long missions with distinct, cutscene-separated sections can be frustrating to re-do from the start when you fail, but I mostly found it to be a nice challenge that enhanced the tension of later stages. Where an unexpected Scalar Howitzer to the face might just prompt you to return to a save from two minutes ago in some games, here it creates an adrenaline rush as you struggle to stay alive and complete the suddenly-desperate mission. The final mission did become frustrating, but finally beating it at high difficulty gave a nice feeling of accomplishment. At higher difficulties, strategy matters, and you need to think about tactics in the harder missions (hint: you *can* consistently hit Headshax with guided missiles if you do it right; look at what allows them to go into that failing orbit). Fortunately, you can change the difficulty level any time in port. As with many games, some missions make certain ships invincible so that you can't derail the story. Fortunately, you'll realize rather quickly and can avoid them. More frustratingly, there are a couple occasions when a ship you know you want to destroy is marked non-hostile; if you're not paying attention, killing it fails the mission. Just watch the color! Levels, Strategy, and Other Elements: A customizable Single-Player instant fight would be nice, but the 4 included arena fights are at least interesting, particularly the you-vs-an-army "Asylum" (hint: you can retreat and recover as much as you like, it's neither timed nor an escort mission). The game does get points for crowded, hectic battles, including the final level and the 3-area defense against the crawler assault late in the game. I found the latter unfortunately easy even on max difficulty, but it was still fun. It also earns points for genuinely varied weapons: the EMP gun is a bit forced (useful only in missions requiring non-lethal assault), but all the weapons have a useful tactical role at some point. You can trade in your guns, hardware, and ships at purchase price, so you can change load-out every mission, to anything you can afford. In addition to providing some fun variety, that choice can matter a lot, particularly your missile mix. The Verdict: Overall, the game has a neat concept, looks good, has decent controls with a few limitations, gives you freedom to try and switch between all affordable load-outs, and provides weapons varied enough to suit a variety of tactics; this would earn it 4 stars, but numerous irritating flaws drag it down to a three - the voice acting, the tactics-limiting low ceilings, a couple situations in which missiles should not fail but do, and the frustration with multi-part missions, although I'm of two minds on the last one because I usually liked the challenge. I feel a bit bad giving it a 3, but it just hasn't earned that 4. Still, it convinced me to buy Aquanox 2, which addresses most of the flaws and is definitely worth trying.. Post apocalyptic underwater cyberpunk at it's best. Nice story, great world and setting and fun gameplay, as well as great voice actors (in it's German version at least). I've played this game a lot in my youth and it's still great fun. I would definitely recommend this game if you like this genre and/or setting, especially at its current price. I have to mention that I have spend dozens of hours with the CD version of this game before rebuying it on Steam. The few hours I've played it here may mislead you.
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