Developer: Terminal Reality
Platforms: Xbox, PlayStation 2, GameCube
Reviewed on PlayStation 2
The fringes of human space are guarded by massive battle platforms that protect Earth's colonial properties against alien Xenos invaders. To ensure that these platforms are manned by the best humanity has to offer, they are crewed by MI-2 clones – clones of top human soldiers, but with ambitions and personal desires bio-engineered out of their systems. During a recent attack on the battle platform Honor Guard, the Xenos released a virus that attacked the genetic structure of the onboard clones. One clone onboard the Honor Guard became both self-aware and psychotic. That clone discovered how to replicate itself, and began cloning itself to create an army.
That army seized control of the Honor Guard, filling the battle platform with rapidly mutating offspring of the original clone and demented versions of the insects and creatures that inhabited the battle platform. The denizens of the Honor Guard are now set to take over human space. Fortunately, battle platforms are closely monitored by a law enforcement agency known as the Jump Posse. In jump ships crewed by a pilot and six battle-hardened soldiers, the Jump Posse deals harshly with rogue clones. Marshal "Dutch" Cane is the toughest of his Jump Posse, and now must clear the Honor Guard of rogue clones and mutants, guided only guts, grit and some radio chatter from his pilot Red.
Before expressing shock or surprise at the above rating, take a look at FI's review criteria. Just as the quality and playability of a title is important to a high rating, so is the price of the game at release. On that count, Blowout beats many new games – the PlayStation 2 version has been released for $9.99. The game is an unsophisticated side-scrolling shooter, but for $10 the game has a lot less to prove than a $55 title.
Blowout was built using developer Terminal Reality's 3D Infernal Engine, but follows Marshall "Dutch" Cane from a scrolling, 2D perspective as the enormous soldier wields gargantuan firepower. The game itself plays like a cross between the old coin-op games Contra and Xenophobe, but replaces Xenophobe's humor with a dystopian future and a heavy soundtrack. Cane has a jet pack that allows him to jump from level to level, and maneuver in the vertical as well run back and forth in the horizontal. He gets a variety of big weapons and power-ups with which to clear the battle platform Honor Guard of its alien infestation and automated defenses.
For the most part, genetic monsters and station defenses are just obstacles on your key hunt. In order for Cane to progress to his final challenge, he has to open security doors that require keys; find terminals to open blast doors; and sometimes blast through the floors and walls of the decaying battle platform itself. To help him along, Cane is guided by the voice of Red from the Jump Posse, and a mini-map marked with Cane's objectives. Although it can be easy to get lost, players can expand the small map in the corner to fill the screen to identify Cane's path. Each region of the Honor Guard ends with a teleportation unit that gives Cane access to the next area, but is guarded by one or more boss monsters that require a straightforward task of pattern recognition to defeat.
To help him on his way, Cane has a machine gun with unlimited ammunition (although if it overheats it will stop firing until it cools). As Cane progresses through the Honor Guard, he finds more powerful weapons and ammunition scattered everywhere. The more advanced weapons range from a missile launcher to a mini-gun to a flamethrower. They vary in power and firing spread, but aren't thrillingly different (and the flamethrower is particularly difficult to use). Although the effects are short-term, the special effects found in secret areas (sometimes hidden in barrels, sometimes through destructible walls) provide useful boosts to Cane's speed, power, health, or provide defensive effects.
The enemies are standard fare, and without tremendous variety. There are plenty of things that look like giant bugs (slugs, mosquitoes and walking mouths). There are also turrets, mines, laser beams and floating security drones (that look like spinning blades or electrified spheres). Once you get past the introductory level, monsters come in hordes, and they'll respawn randomly or when you trigger certain events, so they just keep coming. Despite being rendered in a 3D engine, the creatures move a lot like sprites in the old coin-op games. The 3D perspective does allow for more interesting death animations, such as the swarms of insects that are blasted toward the screen when killed. The only substantial variation you'll encounter is in the boss monsters at the end of each stage.
Cain himself has been cast as a spoof of an action movie hero, similar to Duke Nukem. He and Red banter, and Cane tosses out one liners such as "I'll jump right on it – like prom night." Some of the strangest dialog surrounds Cane's giant cigar. That provokes constant comments from the battle platform's automated systems as well as Red. The female voice of the Honor Guard often breaks from comments like "Access denied" and announcing the level an elevator has reached to let Cane know that smoking is prohibited in the elevators, or to say "Smoking is hazardous to your health and prohibited while on board." Parents that don't mind gratuitous violence directed at alien slugs might very well enjoy the anti-smoking sentiment. Even Red gets in on the action with comments like "Better hope these Xenos are slow and smoke, too!" or "Have a cigar, it seems to make you cough real tough."
Overall, the graphics and sound are of a more recent vintage, but the gameplay could just as easily have been designed in 1987. There's plenty of mindless shooting, secret areas to explore and big final bosses. It's hardly surprising that the game isn't anything ambitious – it was previously a project of French studio Kaos Kontrol. Majesco announced at the beginning of June 2003 that Terminal Reality had taken over the game to bring it to release. Despite the lack of innovation, there's plenty of action. Moreover, you can revisit any level that you've completed in an effort to beat your previous score on that level (based on enemies killed, items found and time taken to complete the level). The levels are just as much fun the second time as the first, and you can easily hop into the title for a few minutes blasting mutant monstrosities. For $10, that's not so bad a deal. If you do grab this game, purchase the PlayStation 2 or upcoming GameCube version. The Xbox version is being offered at nearly $20.