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Armorines: Project Swarm
Platform:  Nintendo 64
# of Players:  1-2
Developer:  Acclaim London
Publisher:  Acclaim
Features:  Expansion Pak/Rumble Pak support
Ratings:  Everyone
Memory Req.:  
Obviously inspired in part by the film Starship Troopers, Armorines: Project Swarm for the N64 is an extremely average first person shooter utilizing the Turok 2 engine. Acclaim's London studio did the work on this one, and the game does a pretty decent job of putting you in the shoes (and armor) of one of two badass bug killers. But the game ends up being little more than a collection of huge, mostly dark maze levels, with too many dull moments, despite all the blasting going on. Here's a game that needs a shot of Verhoeven, badly! They should have just done an adaptation of the film, instead of a derivative (yet not as exiting) shooter that will only impress those looking for something new to shoot at.

To begin with, the game has some of the blandest intro screens i've ever seen- no CG movie to set the story up, just a static screen with the game's title and the options. I could forgive this, if the game had a great opening afterward, but upon starting up the game, you're treated to guess what? MORE static screens, with tiny type scrolling up, telling you what needs to be done in a paticular mission! This is boring, to say the least, and if anything, gives the game a rushed to market feel. Even some really bad games have some really nice cinemas to entertain those unlucky enough to plunk down the hard-earned bucks for the displeasure of playing them, so the omission of an opening movie in Armorines is a big no-no. after the first level, the game does have some movies, but you'll wonder why the developers left out a proper intro!

Anyway, you can choose between a male and female soldier, and other than weapons and running speed, there's not much difference between them, except that the woman sounds like a man when she takes damage! Well, the guy can blast open boxes to obtain items the gal can't, but I really don't see the purpose in this, other than to give players an excuse to either play the game over as the other character, or go at it in the co-op mode. Which, by the way is pretty good, but Rainbow Six on the N64 does it a lot better! There's a multiplayer game as well, but it's so-so, considering the other choices out there...Despite using the Turok-style controls, the game moves a bit stiffly, and you'll have a hard time getting a bead on even the biggest bugs, with the odd target collision- there's almost no spread damage from weapons- it's all or nothing, most of the time!

The game box also boasts of how "smart" the bugs are, but the AI in Armorines generally consists of bugs popping up out of the ground, or leaping out at you after you trigger a specific event. Case in point: early on, while looking for a scientist to open a door for you (why not just blow it up?), you come across a couple of very dark rooms, that have you shooting through the windows at cocoons inside them. Once you do this, a bug screeches and comes after you from around a corner. After doing this twice, I decided to just enter the next room through the door, and deal with the darn thing up close and personal! As I arrive at the door, I notice that my crosshairs are going wild, so i point them down at the corner of the doorway, and lookie there- a bug, waiting for it's cue! I start blasting away, but, strangely, none of my shots hit- they all pass through the damn bug, who just sits there, bobbing up and down like a character in a 1920's cartoon! Not good.

Also not good, is having players navigate HUGE levels with just three bugs to shoot at (five sometimes, if you want to slow things down) at a given time, along with the occasional swarm of mini-bugs (nice), and nearly unbeatable flame-spitting bugs! I hate these guys the most, as there is usually some fierce blasting needed to get rid of them, but they show up after you've wandered about in the dark, looking for hidden areas and such... By then, you're tired, want to find the exit, and leave that particular level, perhaps have a nice bowl of tomato soup and a sandwich, hmmm? But, NOOOO!- some big, hard to kill monstrosity is waiting to ruin your day, and turn YOU into soup! You can't even save the game mid-level, which is another crime, as this means loads of restarts, should you bite it (or get bitten, i should say) mid- mission. Actually, thanks to some clever programming, there seems to be an endless supply of some of the larger bugs too, but this just gets annoying, as it forces you to run about searching for a safe spot, rather than stand and fight!

Graphically, Armorines ranges from pretty adequate to way too dark, and you'll often find yourself running about bumping into boxes and other stuff, because you just can't see a damn thing. Even firing off a high powered weapon doesn't help much, as all you're doing is wasting precious ammo. The lightsourcing is weak, at best, and even the most powerful weapons only light up areas for a split second. The game tries to borrow from Half-Life too, in the way that bugs and bodies explode into spinning chunks, but this grows tired after the second or third level. The level design is of the "let's make it large, but confusing to navigate" variety, and the third area seems like it was cut from a Turok game, with it's stone temples and rising pillars.

The game also supports the Expansion Pak, which is a BIG help- run it in the hi-resolution letterbox mode, and don't go back! Lo-Res will have your eyes tired and bulging from their sockets after about 15 minutes (i'll have to see how the Playstation port compares, with it's grainier textures...). The music is flat out weird- it sounds as if they used leftover Turok tracks here, and for the most part, it doesn't fit at all! The sound effects are decent, but shooting a wall or certain bugs will produce the same sort of sound, and that's just plain bad!

Why spend so much ink on a game that i dislike? I don't know, but Iguess that deep down, Armorines: Project Swarm appealed to me on a testosterone-fueled, "destroy all the bugs" sort of level. But this was superceded greatly by a "need to have a much better attempt at a 3D shooter" level, instead. Rent this one first, and if you can deal with the huge darkness of the levels, and the somtimes unclear mission objectives it throws at you, then more power to you- As for me, I'm going to rent a movie, instead... Starship Troopers, anyone?

Greg Wilcox

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