by JoWooD Productions
Few games are famous long before their release. This is exactly what happened with Aquanox. Shortly before the release of the GeForce 3 graphics card screenshots of Aquanox were plastered over the hardware websites in order to demonstrate the new abilities of the Nvidia card. Of course that was a long time ago now, the GeForce 3 has been superseded by the GeForce 4, so how does the game look after all this time? Well it is fair to say that graphically it is still as good as anything on the PC, even after all this time. Let's have a look to see if there is anything behind the visuals.
The sequel to the now ancient game, Archimedean Dynasty, Aquanox is set in the world of Aqua. The main character, who you play as, in the game is Emerald 'Dead-Eye' Flint. The introduction cutscene to the story mode is narrated by Emerald Flint and gives you the background to the game. The only problem is that it is not subtitled, which is made more of a problem because the cutscene is quite lengthy and to be honest the visual action does not give any indication of the verbal content. If you look in the manual, on page 55, you can learn some of the games background but it is shocking the subtitles were not given for this important part of the game.
Of course as a water based shooter Aquanox is more or less on it's own. The experience is similar to earlier games such as the Descent series. Generally speaking the control system is designed to make it feel as close to a FPS as possible, utilising the mouse and keyboard combination, with the ability to strafe etc. There are several control issues that make the gameplay slightly awkward. To accelerate in your submersible you need to keep your finger pressed down on the accelerator button. Remove your finger off the button and the speed will instantly decrease. This makes travelling at a particular speed, other than full speed, very awkward. It also makes navigating through a tight space an awkward affair as you have to keep dabbing the accelerator button to move slowly.
The story mode contains over 30 missions for you to complete. In the earlier missions you are confined to slow methods of transport but as you progress to later episodes the chance to pilot the high speed models will come your way. You also get the chance, between missions, to buy extra equipment and converse with the local inhabitants. All of these conversations are fully subtitled, if occasionally boring. The missions are OK, although some are mundane, for the most part but there isn't really any action that makes you want to sit up and take notice especially as the battles you find yourself in from time to time are not that exciting. You can't save a game mid-mission, which might irritate some people. The game auto-saves after each mission.
During missions you'll receive reminders from Sally, your personal information centre, who can be carried around like a cell phone or embedded into the ship's systems. Sally also reminds you of your objectives. All of Sally's comments are fully subtitled. This make the initial cutscene being unsubtitled seem rather silly.
As well as the story mode you can also elect to play an instant fight. The instant fight mode places you in one of four scenarios that includes Dogfight, Fightclub, Duel and Asylum. It ain't exactly Unreal Tournament but it provides a welcome diversion from the story mode. What is nice to see though is that the AI taunts are subtitled. I can't remember another game in which that happens. If fighting against the AI does nothing for you then you can play against human opponents on the Internet. The modes of play on offer are Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture the flag. The game is fully supported by Gamespy so organising a game is a cinch.
Overall Game Rating: 6.7/10 Aquanox is a little disappointing for those who have been looking forward to the game since those initial screenshots appeared, all that time ago. The showpiece graphics fail to hide what is a distinctly average affair. Fans of the original Archimedean Dynasty might find favour with the game but for many it will offer very little.
Deaf Gamers comment: The initial cutscene in the story mode should have been subtitled as it robs the deaf gamer of start of the storyline. The crazy thing is that apart from this the rest of the game is fully subtitled.