When you first hear this title, you probably won’t have a clue to what the hell it means. You may ask yourself, “What’s a battle engine?” and that’s understandable. This game essentially came out of nowhere, there was little hype, and little marketing. The battle engine is this mech/walker/flyer type vehicle thing that you pilot. The story is a bit nonsensical, because you’re just a regular guy bestowed with all this responsibility. The story is fairly similar to Waterworld, and for all the lucky people who haven’t seen it, keep it that way. You’re a group of humans called the Forseti; who dress in funny blue outfits, against another group of humans called the Muspell; who dress in funny red outfits, you fight over the few remaining patches of land left on the planet. Instead of working out their problems and sharing the land like logical people, you have to fight to the death over it. Why does there always seem to be a lack of benevolence in the future? If you’ve ever played Gun Metal, you may notice an resemblance between the two games, they play somewhat similarly. This super powerful, transforming, “thing” is made to help combat the Muspell, and you’re the pilot of it.
The game controls like an FPS when you’re on the ground, in walker form. By pressing X you can transform into the flying form and take to the skies to shoot down enemy planes and such. One thing about flying is that you cannot fly forever, you have an energy meter to monitor or else you could find yourself plummeting into the sea. That’s another thing, the Forseti could make this ultimate “super-destructo” thing, but get a little water on it, bam, it’s gone, but at least it’s one way to get out of programming things far into the ocean. Flying is surprisingly simple, and easy to control, which is definitely a good thing. It seems that flying is just an extension of walking except now you can move up and down. If you’re being attacked by something on land, or in the air, you can try and dodge it by pressing left, then right quickly, or vice versa. You have a few weapons at your disposal depending on which of the battle engines you chose to use. As you progress you unlock more battle engines and even partners which help you. One of the most important things about this game is that you aren’t just a one man army, a la Halo, you’re part of a huge battle that’s going on all over the map. There are literally hundreds of soldiers on each side, not only on foot, but also in vehicles as well. There are a few boss levels spread throughout the game, and the bosses are one of the coolest parts of this game. Each boss has a unique feel and look to them. I especially liked how each boss is defeated a different way and is not too difficult. One of the most annoying parts of the game is when the game decides that you’ve lost. Despite of how well you think you can win, sometime the game just decides that you’ve lost and it’s pretty annoying. The AI isn’t the best that it could be either. I didn’t come into this game excepting Halo, but the AI is downright stupid in many instances. They sometimes ignore enemies right next to them and ignore their own teammates. There are instances when a transport is letting off craft, they don’t move to accommodate the other craft that has to come out of the ship. There is a multiplayer and co-op mode, but it feels like nothing more than a cheap add-on. The co-op mode does not span through the entire game like Halo and Serious Sam, it only gives you six “extra” missions that aren’t a part of the main story. The multiplayer has six Skirmish levels where you and your team go against another player and their team. There’s also Versus mode where you fight one on one against an opponent. The cheesy multiplayer shouldn’t be much of an issue, there’s 44 missions, and most of them are pretty fun to replay as well. Included in the 44 missions are 15 Evo missions, which are basically just the same mission, only much more difficult, with more enemies.
The maps that you play on are huge, and the draw distance on them is excellent. You can see all the way across the map, which helps when using the Lancer battle engine, which has the sniper. The vehicles, soldiers, and turrets are all very detailed, each with distinctive colors and animations that make them unique. It’s obvious that the developers put lots of minute detail into all the small things in this game. One thing that could’ve been improved was the ground textures, they seem very plain and lifeless. Some bump mapping could’ve easily given the ground a more realistic and polished look. The water effects are nicely done and the splashes look realistic as well. When you are destroying a building, you’ll notice all the stages of building destruction, and how detailed they are. The explosions from destroying buildings and craft are all very nicely done, and it’s a great site to watch a flaming drop ship smash into the ground. The fact that this game was simultaneously released on PS2 and Xbox does show. The graphics overall are not on par with other Xbox games, especially most exclusive ones.
The audio is perhaps the most disappointing aspect of Battle Engine Aquila. With very poor and repetitive orchestral soundtrack, the music doesn’t offer much to hold your attention. I had to replay many times to just get a feel of the soundtrack, because it’s just so easily ignored and lifeless. It’s confusing as to why Lost Toys chose NOT to include custom soundtracks, it could’ve given the game a much needed burst of life in the audio department. The sound itself isn’t anything special. Generic explosions, gunfire, and other wartime noises flow from the speakers. There are voices, but they’re pretty boring and lifeless. Your leader has the same boring tone when he gives you instructions, when you let the entire fleet die, and when you take over an enemy base. It would’ve been nice to have some real vocals, but vocals aren’t a big part of the game, and luckily they’re not House Of The Dead quality.
The control in this game is actually very good. It follows the typical FPS format. The controls are responsive and they allow you to make quick manuevers like dodging rockets, which is moving the left thumbstick quickly left to right and vice versa. Sometimes you may even forget that you're in a flying mech/walker vehicle, because of the fluid and human-like FPS controls. If you've used these controls once, you've used them all, and it's a good thing that companies do not try to "improve" upon this format, because it does not need improvement.
The single player game will take a fair amount of time, as it’s the average length for this type of game (10-15 hours). It’s an enjoyable time through, but is it worth playing again? Yes, it is definitely worth playing again. Many of the missions are very fun and there’s nothing like being overwhelmed with lots of enemies and taking them down with your teammates. There are also over 100 “goodies” to unlock, which should keep you busy for quite a bit. Some of the “goodies” include concept art, others are footage of the development, and information on everything. The co-op is always something fun to pick up and play, even though it doesn’t last too long. This game begs for two player split screen, or even system link, but it’s stuck with only two player split screen. The single player missions should be enough to warrant a purchase, although the two player just adds to the replay ability. The ease of replay ability comes from the game’s great sense of pick up and play, as it’s very easy to just pop it in and go.
When Battle Engine Aquila came out and still now, nobody really knows about it, and that’s a shame. It’s a fun game, with a fairly lengthy single player campaign, as well as unlockable extras, and multiplayer. While the story is pretty mediocre, the graphics are barely above average, and the sound is nothing special, the game hits home where it counts. It’s a fun game! You’ll want to play on to see what happens to your characters. You want to see the cut scenes, even though they’re really nothing special, you want to play the game, once you get into it. It takes a pretty original take on the mech genre, of which there is a plethora of on Xbox. The ease of jumping into a mission is simple and seamless. The controls are easy to pick up for most Xbox owners (Halo owners) as every company wants to copy Bungie’s perfect control scheme. If you like mech games at all, or first person games, be sure and pick this up. This game is a great mech game in first and third person view, and it’s sure to bring hours of enjoyment to Xbox fans everywhere. With Lost Toys just recently kicking the bucket, this game should become increasingly rare, and it'd be stupid not to own it.
Edited by Barnolde, 02 March 2004 - 06:35 PM.