Game Description: Take charge of the ultimate war machine: the Battle Engine. Whether in walking or flying mode, you will have access to an array of destructive weapons and receive constant direction from base command. Feel the thrill of immediate, frenetic action as you engage in conflict from a first-person perspective and immerse yourself in lush, expansive environments lit up by massive raging battles. You can shape the direction of each battle by choosing where and how you launch your offensive. Strategy comes to the fore as you sniff out the opposition’s weaknesses and deliver crippling blows with the most feared weapon on the battlefield.
Being in the military, I have had the privilege of viewing multiple weapons demonstrations, not to mention the training and use many of these devices. A few of these include the standard M-16A2 assault rifle, the MK-19 Automatic Grenade Launcher, and even the B2 Stealth Bomber. While many of these weapons and vehicles are true attributes to their designers and modern day technology, none have come close to the ideas dreamed up by some of today's anime or videogame designers. It's quite understandable though, as the power of ones own imagination can often outweigh the power of today's equipment capabilities.
We are, however, fortunate in today's day and age to have console systems and game designers who strive to bring us an experience that would essentially imitate the use of such futuristic equipment. From games such as Halo to MechAssault, these designers present us with futuristic weapons and vehicles. Battle Engine Aquila's designers are no different. But where many companies limit their ideas to genre conformity, Lost Toys tries to push itself outside the box. Instead of limiting one vehicle to land or air, they have produced a duel transportation mode weapon.
Aquila, the vehicle's codename, is an incredible step forward in military design, as it cannot only be utilized in land assaults, but for air attacks as well. It's also well equipped with both offensive and defensive capabilities. There is one problem. Aquila is without a pilot and the military can't seem to find one within its ranks to fill such a position. Instead they have opted to select an outsider. He's a freight loader operator by day and a freight loader racer by night. After seeing Hawk Winter's abilities in action during a race, the military feels he may be the only person around with the necessary flare to pilot their prototype weapon. So in a desperate move, they recruit him to handle the assault vehicle.
After strapping in for the first time, I was given a rather short but informative training session to familiarize myself with Aquila. In no time at all I was able to understand how to utilize the weapons, transformation, and navigation of this incredible machine. Controlling Aquila is wonderfully simple. It utilizes a standard first-person shooter setup and is very easy to just pick up and play. The system's HUD was also covered in my tutorial and while it may look complicated, it proved to be very easy to read and understand. Radar, weapon selection, ammunition and energy levels are all present. Everything a pilot needs to know during battle is readily available at any given moment. This is incredibly essential to a pilot's success, but I'll brief more on that portion later.
I have to say that the view from the cockpit is absolutely breathtaking. When in flight, it' s possible to see what seems for miles and it really brings out the vivid and lush landscapes. Even while in combat on the ground, everything down to the tiniest foot soldier is easy to spot. It seems as though nothing is lost through the Battle Engine's view screen.
It's through this magnificent view that made it possible for me to adequately form a measure of attack and be successful in my campaign. Battles are intense but the power of Aqulia made them manageable. Not to say I felt unchallenged—far from it—because Aquila is not indestructible. Its hull and shields can be penetrated, but the experienced pilot will have everything he or she needs to survive. This is where the importance of the aforementioned HUD comes into play. During flight, Aquila's energy is drained to maintain the altitude, so regular stops on the ground are necessary to recharge and continue the attack. Pilots must keep an eye on these levels or they will surely crash. Sinking in to the oceans is another cause for concern because Aquila sinks like a brick in water. This multiplies the difficulty on missions that are held over the ocean as friendly and enemy ships are the only areas on which to land.
After each mission, I was rated by my supervisor and assigned a grade based on my performance (A through F). I was always given two sets of objectives to meet and how well I met them determined my outcome. If I failed the war was lost, but if I was triumphant, we continued on our path. If I met the secondary objectives as well, we would be sent down an alternate path with a greater victory in our grasp. Our rewards were a slew of unlockable data and branching mission paths.
After time and providing proof of my abilities as a pilot and leader, I was given extended rights and privileges. Eventually, I could choose from different Battle Engines and a variety of new armaments. Later on, I was even provided with a few command opportunities. I could assign and configure my wingmen's vehicles, their weapons, and even command them during battle. Often my decisions before and during battle would have a direct impact on the outcome.
Battle Engine Aquila is not perfect though. Often the game suffers from repeater syndrome. Missions are regularly rehashed with minor difficulty changes during the course. 'Destroy all enemies' and 'protect this ship' or that base were all too frequent. It would be nice to see a few different battles or variations. My only other complaint is the laughable in-between mission cutscenes. The voice acting as absolutely atrocious and for some reason they mixed several accents from this world, into a world in some distant galaxy.
While playing, Battle Engine Aquila, I was often reminded of some of the military demonstrations I had seen over the past several years. The introduction of a new type of weapon to a military organization really hit home with me and probably added to the allure of this game. Additionally, the use of new mechanics in a mech or shooter was welcome. These days, it seems very few games ever aspire to try anything different outside of their genre without poor implementation the first time around. Fortunately, this title's drawbacks don't keep it from being a fine addition to any gamer's library.
Disclaimer: This review is based on the Xbox version of the game.
Either Keith is a hell of a lot better at playing games than I am, or he was being very kind by glossing over Battle Engine Aquila's difficulty level. Before I say anything else about the game, let me say this: it's hard. So hard, in fact, that I had doubts as to whether I actually possessed the skill (and patience) to bring the game to completion.
Battle Engine Aquila is based around a highly rigid mission structure similar to that found in the Star Wars-based Rogue Leader series. As Keith mentioned, there are usually some bonus objectives in each level that lead to alternate (and tougher) missions, but fail any of the main objectives and you've got to try the whole thing again. Initially it might not sound very challenging, but instead of fierce opponents' weaponry taking you down, the difficulty comes from failing goals that aren't clear about what you're supposed to be doing, especially with regard to where and when. I had to repeat the game's toughest mission somewhere around twenty times because my forces were "taking too many losses" although I couldn't figure out where the trouble spots were, or what to do about the problem. It was an incredibly frustrating experience to say the least, although I think it's to Battle Engine Aquila's credit that I was invested enough to hang in there until the end.
In truth, there's a lot to like about the game. The land/air abilities of your ship work very well to establish a unique feel to the fighting, and to say that the game is "action packed" is a real understatement. If you ever find yourself in the mood to sit down and blow things up for an hour or two, this game has you coveredand then some.
Although you've got to do a crazy amount of fighting personally, Lost Toys really did an excellent job of making you feel like a part of a larger force instead of the typical "lone soldier against all odds" so common in videogames. Also, quite the opposite of Keith, I found that the CG cutscenes did a great job of holding the game together. The dramatic bits kept me motivated enough to forge onwards even though the difficulty was quite discouraging at times.
However, despite my affection for a game that so clearly did not love me back, I do want to outline a number of things working against it.
Despite sporting some very nice visuals (especially the ship design and strong use of reds and blues) the level design needs a complete overhaul. From start to finish, you'll be fighting on a series of hilly green islands dotted with small installations. The plot justifies this by saying that the world's water level has risen and land is scarce, but looking at the same basic area for the duration of the game gets old, fast. I often found myself wanting some urban sprawl, a forest, or just about anything else that would break up the monotony.
The missions could have been used more variety as well. For a powerful, agile craft capable of tackling both land and sky, it's a shame that the developers couldn't come up with something a little more creative than the straight-ahead blast-fest that it is. Don't get me wrong; the action is intense and well-done. I just think it wouldn't have hurt to include other types of objectives to keep things fresh. Adding more mission flavor is even more necessary given the limited diversity in environments.
The final point I'd like to make (and another area where I diverge from Keith) is the HUD and onscreen information. He's entirely correct in saying this setup is essential to a pilot's success, but I was not as satisfied as he was with the layout. The bars indicating remaining flight time and ship "health" are transparent, and easily misread when looking at them overlaid on top of all the onscreen chaos you encounter. Additionally, the radar display is small and quite cluttered. It's hard to tell what's going on amidst the jumble of dots representing enemies, and it was often more reliable to swing the camera around and use my eyes.
Battle Engine Aquila is a very strange game. Examining the component parts, it seems as though it would be exactly the kind of heartless, low-rent affair you'd want to stay away from but this is actually not the case. It's flawed, obscenely difficult at times, and suffers from creative deficiencies rooted at its very core, yet it manages to overcome all of these obstacles and establish itself as something unique and surprisingly compelling. The excitement of strafing enemy tanks from above and then landing to finish them off with a frontal assault works extremely well, and added to the satisfying feelings of battlefield teamwork and a passable story, Battle Engine Aquila becomes a title to check outjust be aware that you're signing up for one rough tour of duty.
Disclaimer: This review is based on the PlayStation 2 version of the game.
According to ESRB, this game contains: Violence
Parents may want to show concern for their younger children. The game's theme revolves around war and there are numerous foot soldiers, buildings and vehicles to be destroyed.
Any Mech or Shooter fan will want to consider picking up this title. Battle Engine Aquila offers numerous hours of exciting gameplay and plenty of unlockables for return gaming sessions.
Casual gamers would probably be interested in this title. It's not difficult to pick up and play, and many missions are short enough to fill in those quick gaming sessions.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing gamers will not get the full enjoyment of the game. In-between mission cut-scenes, essential to the story, do not have subtitles. Fortunately, the in-game instruction and radio chatter do.