STAFF REVIEW of Robotech: Invasion (Xbox)

Monday, November 15, 2004.
by Stacy Code

Robotech:  Invasion Box art I get the feeling the scene went down something like the following:

Global Star Producer: ?All right, you guys have been in development on this thing ? this?? (pause as he checks his dayplanner) ?? this ?Robotech Invasion? for two years now. Now, it?s going okay, it looks really good so far ? lots of light blooms and effects and stuff - and you seem to have hit your milestones and all, but I have to ask you. When are you gonna ship??

Vicious Cycle Programmer: ?Hey. It?ll be ready when it?s ready.?

Global Star Producer: *laughter* ?What, you think you?re Blizzard or something? Come on. Get real. You aren?t making the next Warcraft. Come on. When are you gonna ship??

Vicious Cycle Programmer (obviously uncomfortable): ?Uh? well? we?ve still got some things to tweak ? and some features to add, and some, uh, stuff to come up with, and, uh??

Global Star Producer: ?I?ll tell you when you?re gonna ship. You?re gonna ship before the first week of November because after that it ain?t gonna matter whether you ship, don?t ship, or move to the moon. You understand what I mean? Now get on it.? (pause) ?And good luck!?

Robotech: Invasion is a beautifully written love-letter to the hardcore Robotech fan, but, sadly, as an action game ? and as a multiplayer title ? it falls into decidedly mediocre territory. Consequently, unless you?re a dedicated fan of the show who knows their Alpha Fighters from their Cyclones and that the Invid Flower of Life isn?t something you pick up at the florist to get out of the doghouse with your girlfriend, you will probably find this a satisfying, but perhaps less than thrilling, experience.

The game takes a markedly different graphical approach from its 2001-released predecessor, the beautifully cel-rendered Robotech Battlecry (games based on animation are the best and possibly only reason to use cel-shading animation), and abandons the anime-look for a hybrid of visual realism and fantasy. The character models are incredibly detailed and beautifully textured, but are situated so far from the camera and rendered so small that most of this attention to detail is lost. This is further aggravated by level graphics that seem thinly textured, repetitive, and bland, with the actual level architecture pretty simple and linear ? you play through the levels pretty much ?on rails?, following a restrictive path that allows for little or no wandering.

The game allows for play in the first- or third-person perspective, though with enemies attacking from multiple directions you?ll likely prefer the third-person perspective, as the gameplay seems to have been designed with this in mind. The player?s HUD always features a compass arrow pointing to the necessary objectives at any point, making navigating a cinch. Animation for both the character and the enemies is well done- the Invid units have a lumbering, threatening stride that suits their large stature, and the Cyclone-clad fighters jet-assisted jumps are fun to execute and to watch. Weapon variety is pretty thin, though this is possibly a concession to the television source material. The storyline is pure Robotech, with alien cloning, lost romance, political maneuverings and betrayal; though rich and rewarding for the Robotech fan, it may well be irritating or well-nigh incomprehensible to the uninitiated who has never seen the show. The opening movie and cutscenes do very little to explain the Robotech setting or lore outside of ?aliens are occupying Earth and you must fight them?. Longtime fans will be doubly pleased to hear the return of the Robotech voice cast from the show, which give the game a feeling of complete, immersive authenticity.

In short, the game is a frustrating series of self-contradictions ? the effort made to bring in the original voice cast and back them with another excellent music score by Jesper Kyd (you might know his work from his top-notch work on the Hitman series and Freedom Fighters) and to write a story fitting for a Robotech episode is hampered by repetive, circle-strafe-and-shoot gameplay in levels and settings which simply do not represent what the Xbox ? or this genre- is capable of. The split-screen multiplayer of Robotech: Battlecry has been tossed out, and the Live multiplayer simply cannot hope to compete with the roster of powerhouse titles looming on the holiday release season. Sadly, the age of the license (Robotech first aired in North America nearly twenty years ago) and the possibly poor showing of this title means Robotech fans may be waiting a long, long time for the game they?ve been really waiting for.

Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 6.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.6 / 10
Sound: 8.4 / 10


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