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Dropship: United Peace Force Review
game: Dropship: United Peace
three star
posted by: Jeremy Kauffman
publisher: Bam! Entertainment
date posted: 09:10 AM Tue Aug 20th, 2002
last revision: 06:09 AM Fri Sep 23rd, 2005

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In the not-so-distant future of Dropship: United Peace Force, terrorists are on the verge of global domination. The very fate of the world rests on the shoulders of an elite army of freedom fighters and...yadda, yadda, yadda. You know the drill. This is the standard good guy versus bad guy story. Not so standard, however, is the variety of ways that this tactical vehicle shooter allows you to engage your enemies. Whether you are in the air, on the ground, or inside of a turret, whether you are shooting missiles, bullets, or photographs, this game covers the spectrum.

The gameplay in Dropship spans a rigorous and demanding twenty levels, with another five training missions to warm up on. You will pilot a variety of land and air vehicles, including several VTOL dropships of varying size and mobility, battle tanks, and armored assault vehicles. Most levels consist of rescue, escort, and surveillance missions that are filled with plot twists and reversals of action.

For instance, one of the best passages in the game begins with you piloting an armed dropship into enemy territory in order to rescue a surveillance team that is under fire. The mission seems simple: destroy all land and air targets that are after your guys. Then you find out that a battle tank and its wounded crew were separated from the group and are stranded in a hot zone. You must fly in, land, and carry them away to safety. But when you get there, your plane is disabled and blows up. So, you must drive the battle tank, whose guns are disabled, through the hot zone filled with landmines, enemy tanks, and choppers. Then, about halfway through your tank run, the crew gets the gun running, and you hop in the turret, finishing the escapade as a rail shooter, blowing away a bevy of choppers, tanks, and ground forces while your crew drives.

One of the best qualities of this game is the level of tension it is able to convey when it really gets going. It is like one of those action movies where one dangerous situation leads to another, problems compound, and occasionally, all hell breaks loose. The passage described above entails only two levels of the game, which go quickly but accomplish a lot.

All of that-the different vehicles, the twists and reversals, the occasional moment of butt-clenching terror-is bound to keep you entertained for a while. Unfortunately, Dropship is so mired in problems that the fun grinds to a halt fairly quickly.

The control system does a surprisingly good job of handling the intricacies of VTOL flight by using the shoulder buttons in different combinations. Everything else, on the other hand, is unnecessarily cumbersome. As nearly every button on the controller has multiple functions, things become very complicated, creating a steep learning curve, especially when piloting the aircraft. And even the simple things have hang-ups. For instance, in order to switch from hover to flight mode, you press the accelerate button twice while doing over 150kph. To go from flight to hover, press decelerate twice. But as your speed is measured incrementally on the HUD, you will often find yourself pressing the accelerate and decelerate buttons repeatedly to attain an optimal speed, rather than just holding them down. This causes you to inadvertently switch from hover to flight, flight to hover, sometimes causing you to stall and plummet to the ground. Also, the pitch and roll functions are placed on the same analog stick, making smooth rolling and banking maneuvers next to impossible. Much of this would have been easily remedied if you could change the control configuration. I, for one, would place the pitch on the left stick, roll on the right, and assign the flight/hover functions to the D-pad. No such luck.

The game presentation is all over the place. Graphically, the game runs at a solid framerate, with little to no slowdown. The strong points here are the vehicle design and nearly photo-realistic landscapes. However, there are very few flourishes-the lighting and weather effects are average, explosions are lame, not all of the wing flaps move on your aircraft, and so on. The vehicles do not kick up any dust or sand, either-not when you are landing your VTOL dropship, not when you are tearing across the desert in a battle tank. The result is that your vehicles do not look like they are a part of their surroundings, as if they have no weight. The sound, though presented in Dolby Pro-Logic, is completely forgettable.

Those are the specifics. More nebulously, the game has a very inconsistent tone. The opening movie contains a satirical recruitment video that would make Paul Verhoeven (director of Robocop and Starship Troopers) proud. The movies between levels showcase rounded, cartoon-like characters and a lot of one-liners and in-jokes. And yet, the actual game, with its war maps, records, and photo-realistic terrain is completely devoid of this kind of satire and humor. It makes the movies seem out of place, jarringly so.

Also, while I can never get enough of an intelligent and compelling storyline (Deus Ex 2 cannot come fast enough), a little bit of stupidity can ruin what is otherwise a decent experience. And there is no end to this game\'s stupidity. Take, for example, those two levels I described earlier-the ones I liked. The UPF sends a rookie pilot into a hot zone to save personnel carrying crucial information. Not only that, but they send her out there in a faulty dropship. That\'s right-you don\'t get shot down; your aircraft malfunctions and explodes! Then, when you call for back up, you are denied because now the area is too dangerous. Instead, they advise you to try and make it on land, in a tank with disabled guns. Okaaay. But that\'s not all. They map out an escape route for you-directly into the oncoming enemy tanks and choppers, through not one but two mine fields, and, get this, right through the center of the enemy\'s base! Sure, the levels are tense and exciting, but the whole time I was going through them I couldn\'t help but think that the entire UPF consists of one rookie, me, and about ten-thousand dancing monkeys.

Finally, when it all comes down to it, with all of the game\'s varying ways to shoot people, there is very little freedom in doing so. This is one of those tactical games where the tactics are completely laid out for you. When you are flying, your targets appear on the screen in the order that you are supposed to take them down. When you are driving, your path is provided for you via checkpoints. Some people really enjoy a straight forward shooter like that, and will probably dig this game, if they can get past the controls and other issues. But most, I think, will tire of it rather quickly. Try it before you buy it.