Sunday, May 22, 2011

Review: Steel Storm: Burning Retribution (PC)

Steel Storm's first episode, released by developer Kot-in-Action late last year, made a decent impact by offering old school isometric shooting for a great price- free. Now that the second release, Burning Retribution, is upon us (complete with retail price) should you climb back into the hovertank?


Old school gameplay, modern presentation = killer combination



For those who don't know, Steel Storm centers around a lone hovertank pilot who's thrown into battle with a faceless alien horde hell bent on invading the Earth. But honestly, the story's not all that in-depth and if it sounds like a tale that you've heard about a billion times before, well, it's because you have heard it a billion times before... maybe even a trillion times before. But put all that aside, because there's an awful lot to like about Steel Storm: Burning Retribution and story isn't really all that important when there's shootin' to be done..


Let's start with the gameplay. A word of advice, don't play it with the keyboard and mouse- it's not that it's bad, it's just that this is a twin stick shooter and it needs to be played that way. I played through Burning Retribution with a Razer Onza and it controlled like a dream. Movement is tight, the shooting mechanics are precise- maybe it's from playing so many twin stick jobs on iOS, but I really appreciated the mechanics here. Well done all around.


It's fun when the points start flying in from everywhere


And 'here' is a very pretty place by the way. Graphically, Burning Retribution has a really attractive cel shaded look to it. If the term isn't ringing a bell, think Crackdown; it's cartoon-like but still has a three-dimensional structure. It's a sharp style that looks great in all the different areas that the game takes you to. While it doesn't have the varied locals of the original, Burning Retribution does take you across an icy landscape and through high tech alien bases chock full of stuff to blast away at.


There are a lot of things to shoot in this game, and I don't just mean the baddies. Every level is loaded with structures and equipment to blow to smithereens. Most of this stuff drops something when it goes boom too, so it's almost got a little Diablo-esque loot grabbing feel at times. You'll get weapon upgrades and repair powerups a plenty. But while we're on the subject of bad guys, I have to mention that a few more enemy designs wouldn't have hurt things any.


Someone please license these guys the next Star Wars game


Almost all the enemies in the game are tanks. Some of them are big, some of them are small, but aside from a couple turrets, they're all tanks. Personally, I would have loved to have been able to bum rush a squad of alien troops or pick away at an airborne craft. It's not really a big knock, because to be honest the gameplay is so much fun that I really wasn't looking at anything all that closely, but some more variation would have been nice.


Sound in a game like this is almost always forgettable, and Steel Storm is no different here. The effects are serviceable enough but the music is... meh. The good news is that it doesn't really matter much. One oddity is that there's no speech in the mission intros. You will not be treated to any cheesy acting whatsoever since the cut scenes aren't cut scenes; they're just a little bit of text to give you mission parameters and set you in the right direction.


Hopefully the next sequel will offer a little more variety, then we have the perfect package


Steel Storm: Burning Retribution is a great shooter that's old school, but manages to not feel dated at all. If you like top down blast-a-thon's, you'll love it, if you like side-scrollers, you'll more than likely enjoy it too. Even though it is a little short, Burning Retribution is a good looking, well designed game that I have no trouble recommending.


- Jason M



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