“…like a PlayStation 2 shooter but with shiny modern visuals…”
E.T. Armies is a first time project from Iranian development team Raspina Studio, published by Merge Games. A first-person shooter set in an original science fiction world, the game focuses on an ongoing war across space following the albeit destruction of Earth. Some of the population left long ago in prosperity, whilst those left behind on a near-ruined planet gathered together with the common goal of seeking revenge.
If I am being honest, my first concern with this game was its name. Having done some research on it and looking through some very well polished screenshots, I decided to give it a shot nonetheless. As a big sci-fi fan myself, I had strong expectations going in. It is very hit and miss which way sci-fi games are going to go these days. You get your Halo and Mass Effect-style releases which reinvigorate the genre, but on the other side of the coin you get some games which are frankly easily forgotten. The marketing for E.T. Armies gave me high hopes for the game after my initial uncertainty, and I was keen to see if it would make that critical cut.
The game starts with some background to set up the events to follow. A cutscene explains the game’s setting, which despite being somewhat cliched seemed to have enough thought put into it to hold up. Some unusually placed opening credits took place alongside the action, but at least these didn’t interrupt the flow. Oddly the focus of the opening scenes was on the commander of your ship, who I assumed I would be playing as in the events to follow, but instead you take on the role of a simple soldier when your ship crashed on another desolate planet.
Three things become very apparent immediately when you start to play the game. The first is that the world looks great. It is very nicely designed from a graphical perspective, and the weathering system adds atmosphere to the scenery. Secondly you find that there is way, way too much lens flare going on, especially if you look even slightly in the general direction of the sun. Mr Abrams himself would have a fit if he saw how over the top this lighting is.
The third initial realisation you have is that the dialogue in this game is poor. The chatter between the presumably well trained military men is so casual, off-hand and sloppy that it makes it difficult to feel immersed in what should be a dire and desperate situation. They just sound like some guys, funnily enough, struggling through a video game. Things do not improve later on either sadly, and some grammar issues in the subtitles make matters worse still. It is hard not to cringe a little when the first words of sentences aren’t capitalised properly…
After a mixed reception, you get the chance to take in the parameters of the world, and it is not long before you also enter combat. Despite the appearance of vast open spaces, numerous invisible walls keep you travelling on a pre-determined track. The jump button quickly seems redundant when you can’t jump over low obstacles which stand in your way too, which leads to some level of frustration. This restriction of space becomes problematic when you get into a gunfight, with little in the way of maneuverability on side to help you…
Hunkering down is equally as awkward in this game’s combat situations too, with crouching causing your movement to be vastly impaired and an AI that can see you through walls and will come to find you in cover anyway. Your enemies aren’t the smartest bunch, rushing head first to shoot at you and not moving a muscle if they are about to die. Despite the onslaught which they lay on however, you are fortunate to have such open targets when it comes to the gun mechanics of the game.
This is a very 50/50 feature of E.T. Armies, with some elements being strong for a shooter, whilst others feel about two decades out of date. At times the game felt very much like playing DOOM in a shootout. Enemies would stand and take it, aiming was jaunty, and the guns sounded like either a staple gun or a paintball rifle. In any case, the battles were not as fluid as I had hoped for. The weapons are largely samey early on too, lacking in any real sci-fi variety. On the other hand, the sights were well designed, bullet spread was well developed and headshots worked as usual despite any supposedly protective headgear.
One thing that does hold up in this game is its story, to an extent. The bad dialogue and a number of cliches frequently threaten it, but despite this it still gels together and carries you along. There is that ongoing desire to discover the secrets to what is going on and to discover what the outcome of this bitter conflict will turn out to be. If you can stick with the game for long enough, there is certainly some content there to satisfy, even if it is not on a blockbuster level.
E.T. Armies did not really do it for me. There were to many issues adding up for me to truly enjoy its stronger sides, and I believe that some others would feel this way too. For fans of more classic shooters however, this might be very appealing. It feels almost like a PlayStation 2 shooter but with shiny modern visuals in place too, which a lot of gamers might appreciate. Objectively speaking then, for a first release from a relatively small studio, the game has some merits. To truly win over gamers as a collective however, there is still significant work to be done.
- Visually the game is very well designed as is great to look at.
- Initial cutscenes set out a clear background for the game ahead.
- Some strong combat elements.
- The story holds up just enough despite the odds against it.
- The game feels like it has been made too late for its time; has a PS2 feel.
- Far too much lens flare from the offset.
- Poor dialogue; far to casual for the setting and situation at hand.
- Grammatical errors in the subtitles.
- Unintelligent AI.
- Awkward combat system.
- Poor weapon sounds.
- Lack of variety in early game weaponry takes away from sci-fi theme.