Sunday, May 2, 2010


Accolade / NEC

I'd been warned that Gunboat's gameplay can be pretty confusing when you first start playing it, and I was indeed tempted to shut the search-and-destroy-themed title off for good after just a few moments of bewilderment. But once I'd spent about fifteen minutes acclimating myself to the controls and sorting out the mission objectives, I actually started having fun with it. Piloting your boat feels good once you've got the unusual pad, button, and turbo-switch functions down, and upon achieving that level of competence, you can concentrate on completing tasks and blowing stuff up.

The one thing that can remain awkward about the first-person action is switching from pilot's view, which you generally use when navigating the rivers, to gunners' perspectives.

The gunners are stationed at spots a distance from one another on the boat, so while you may be staring right at an enemy as you're piloting the vessel, you'll probably find yourself looking at something completely different upon changing perspectives. This demands that you reorient yourself in the heat of battle and can be quite disconcerting. Fortunately, I've found that switches are seldom required. Your bow gunner can take care of most enemies while you continue steering.

Some folks may end up irritated that they essentially have to pause the game to look at their map (and they'll have to do plenty of this). I wish that the sector maps had been placed on the piloting screen; many of the gauges that are there seem relatively useless, while the maps are lifesavers. Still, stopping here and there to check my location didn't annoy me much.

The game is known (though not necessarily in a positive way) for its polygon-based visuals, and all in all, I think it looks pretty good, a hell of a lot better than fellow polygon-flaunter Falcon. I really can't complain about most of the craft, vessels, and structures (though infantrymen look awful).

It's cool that many of your foes don't just "vanish" upon being annihilated; take a look around in the midst of battle and you'll see downed choppers, burning rubble, and the like.

The designers tried to use superficial elements to establish atmosphere: the sky turns red when enemies are on the scene, and you can hear people screaming as structures and vehicles are being hit. In truth, the screams can be rather annoying (especially at first, before you're used to them), and the game is too easy to be truly scary; but hey, at least they made an effort with this stuff.

Actually, since the missions are easy to complete and don't really require much time, Gunboat ends up being a nice pick-up-and-play title. It lets you save your rank and kill numbers as a little extra incentive to return to it and continue to advance your illustrious "career."

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