It Might be seven years since the film hit our screens, but we're finally on the verge of seeing a Starship Troopers game that actually might do Paul Verhoeven's mentalist satire-cum-action romp some justice.
While the last PC-based Starship Troopers game took the form of a fairly lame RTS back in 2000, Strangelite's upcoming title is a first-person shooter with an eye on recreating the crazed, epic and gore-drenched battles seen in the movie. Set just after'' the events of the film, it casts you as a Marauder, an elite member of the Mobile Infantry fighting the arachnid alien menace.
Most of the levels will be mass battle affairs pitting you and a group of friendly grunts against legions of bugs. And we do mean legions: Strangelite's custom-designed engine is able to render over 300 scuttling insectoids on screen at once, in addition to troopers, vehicles and artillery. The idea is to let you participate in chaotic, fast-paced skirmishes against an overwhelming number of enemies, all with a distinct cinematic flavour. The movie's memorable Whiskey Outpost siege is one scene that has certainly inspired a mission in the upcoming game: this has you defending the walls first from waves of smaller bugs and later from huge, flame-spitting behemoths. With variety being the spice of life, the developers are also working on a number of solo infiltration-style missions with a stealthier feel. You'll have to contend with around 20 varieties of bug throughout the game, ranging from the basic Warrior infantry to Blaster Bugs and the hulking, beetle-esque Tankers. Each species will sport its own Al and behaviour: some will rely on sheer weight of numbers to get the job done others will take to the skies a small number will be able to unleash sniper style attacks and heavy artillery.
Luckily you'll have access to a seriously deadly arsenal. Details on the available hardware are still somewhat sketchy, although you can expect several variants of the Morita assault rifle, a shotgun and (praise be!) some form of mini-nuke. Dropships are on hand to ferry you and the other troopers around, but with Strangelite concentrating on perfecting the ground-based action, you won't get the chance to jump behind the controls.
Your Al comrades cannot be controlled, acting instead in much the same way as the friendly units from Call Of Duty. As a member of the elite, it will fall to you to handle the most powerful, advanced weaponry and undertake the bulk of the nasty jobs. A cooperative multiplayer mode is also planned, allowing you to enlist a few mates before embarking on a post-pub bug hunt.
Visually, Starship Troopers is shaping up nicely. Seeing 300-plus spiky arachnids swarming towards you is impressive in itself, but the engine will also incorporate ragdoll physics and normal mapping to give everything a polished sheen.
If work progresses on schedule, the game should make its way into the shops some time in the autumn. In the meantime, watch this space for more info, and never trust Psi-Ops!
Creepy Crawlies - we've all had our troubles with them in the past. Whether it's a family picnic spoiled by a wasp sting to Uncle Andy's nether regions, ants invading the fridge or the sheer panic that results from hearing the whine of a mosquito hovering past your ear, bugs have a habit of making life a tad inconvenient.
However, as bothersome as they may be, wasps, ants and mossies aren't about to thrust their legs through your chest cavity, rip your arms out of their sockets or vaporise beloved Uncle Andy in a jet of boiling napalm. The alien bugs in Strangelite's forthcoming Starship Troopers title, however, seem to love doing just this kind of stuff. Over the couple of levels that we've had the chance to get to grips with in this exclusive hands-on, we've witnessed fellow Mobile Infantry troopers being tom in two, incinerated and decapitated, all by wicked oversized insects.
Paul Verhoeven's 1997 ultra-violent movie (upon which this game is based) painted the human Mobile Infantry as the aggressors and invaders, touching down on bug turf in a war that was started for reasons quite possibly fabricated by a belligerent government. The film suggested that the bugs, rather than being cruel, were simply defending themselves against foreign trespassers. Sound familiar? Factor in the blackly comic propaganda newsreels, and rooting for the film's ostensible heroes became an unusually difficult task.
While the movie was equal parts action-romp and unsettling satire, the game looks set to avoid making any controversial political points, instead concetrating on good old-fashioned alien-slaughtering action. The totalitarian regime that you're fighting for is the same, of course (you don't become a citizen until you've volunteered to serve the government, that kind of thing). However, we don't expect the game to provoke any thoughts other than those along the lines of, which Arachnid do I blow up first?' or, shall I use the alt-fire mode here or save my grenades for later ?
Bring On The Gore
Strangelite is aiming to deliver a full-sized helping of run-and-gun FPS action, echoing the chaotic, ultra-violent and relentlessly noisy battle scenes from the movie and its straight-to-video sequel - which, incidentally, you'd do well to avoid.
The background story is fairly straightforward, set five years after the events of the second Starship Troopers movie, where the once-tranquil planet of Hesperus is under threat from the Arachnid menace and humanity's finest have to step in to clean up the mess.
You're thrust into the gleaming jackboots of a member of the Mobile Infantry's Marauder Unit', an elite detachment - kind of an SAS of the future - with access to advanced weapons and equipment.
Because you play the role of a Marauder rather than a regular grunt, you're given the chance to participate not only in epic massed battles but in smaller, commando-style raids and even stealth operations. This, of course, provides Strangelite with a handy excuse to vary the pace of the game over its 12 single-player levels. We got the chance to experience this, ploughing through a couple of action-packed early missions.
Another Whiskey, Please
Outpost 29' is a level heavily reminiscent of the original flick's memorable Whiskey Outpost' scene (apparently many of the movies' scenes will get this treatment in the final product). This mission sees you and a number of comrades charged with defending a fort-like outpost from an encroaching horde of Arachnids; think Zulu crossed with Eight Legged Freaks.
Gazing down the desert valley from our lofty position on the ramparts, we
Johnny Rico Tells You What To Do...
Strangelite's licence extends to the Starship Troopers comics, books and cartoons as well as to the 1997 Paul Verhoeven movie - and it certainly appears to be putting a bit of effort into using it. Lantern-jawed thesp Casper Van Dien has been drafted in to lend his dulcet tones to the pre-mission briefings: his character in the original movie was a mere grunt in the Mobile Infantry, but now he's General Johnny Rico, otherwise known as your boss.
Sadly, other Starship Troopers stars such as Bond girl stunner Denise Richards and Neil Patrick Doogie Howser' Harris had not been brought into the fold at the time of writing. We live in hope see several Warrior bugs emerge out of the haze, scurrying across the sand towards us. The commonest enemies you face in the game, these are the fourlegged creatures that make up the bulk of the alien force. At first there's a mere trickle of the things in the distance, then more appear behind them, then more, then even more until there's something in the region of 150 scuttling nasties rapidly converging on your increasingly outnumbered platoon.
This huge number of enemies is awesome to behold, all courtesy of Strangelite's proprietary Swarm Engine, developed in-house for this title. While most current generation FPS engines are geared around creating several complex humanoid figures on screen at one time, Swarm has been engineered to deliver hundreds of simpler models. Starship Troopers' bug models, y'see, have less joints and moving parts than your average FPS homo sapiens, so a well-designed engine like this is able to literally fill the screen with them. Enemy Al is still a work in progress, so the bugs don't provide a huge challenge at the moment, with Warrior bugs that reach the outpost wall seemingly content to sit there, allowing themselves to be easily picked off - something the developer says will be changed before launch. However it's still a blast, as we shoulder our standard issue Morita assault rifle (which looks set to be the default weapon - there'll be no melee options) and pepper the advancing horde from the safety of the stockade. Our Al-controlled team-mates begin to do likewise, and soon the desert is littered with broken bug corpses.
Alien Ant Farm
With the initial wave obliterated, we're sent into the desert alone to grab some landmines from a downed dropship. Locating the crash site is a simple matter of following an on-screen waypoint indicator, and we're soon collecting a couple of crates from the burning wreckage. Doing so triggers another huge influx of Warriors, but this time we have to deal with them on our lonesome. Two other weapons in the Mobile Infantry arsenal, a burly combat shotgun and a heavy machine gun help us eliminate the menace at the cost of a few minor scratches.
Strangelite is keeping schtum about the game's other weapons, although we know there will be nine in total, that most will have alt-fire modes and those cool miniature nukes make an appearance. Something else scheduled for a shot in the arm is the bug animations. At present they flop down when killed, but Strangelite claims the final game will let you blow off their limbs, something sure to appeal to the inner sadist in you. The blighters will still be able to crawl and attack when heavily maimed though, which could lead to some interesting one-legged chase scenarios (we hope).
Back in our playtest, we return to Outpost 29, only to see a larger wave of Warrior bugs assault the walls, some blundering haplessly into our freshly-laid minefield en route. Once again, our left mouse button finger gets a thorough workout as we nddle bug after bug with lead in a non-stop carnival of destruction. Then it's time to jump behind a wall-mounted AA cannon, clearing the skies of flying Hopper bugs so that air support can rain fiery death on the alien army.
But there are simply too many Arachnids to kill, and as they begin pounng over the walls and brutally gutting my comrades left, right and centre, the order is given to abandon the outpost. Amid the chaos, a huge Tanker bug enters the fray, smashing down a wall and spouting flames in our direction. After killing this monstrous abomination by blasting it repeatedly in the face with our shotgun, we dive into the safety of a waiting dropship and hightail it outta there. Level over. Phew.
It's the merest taste of the action, and it still needs polish, but it's succeeded in whetting our appetite for the final game, which looks set to supply a brand of ceaseless carnage that befits the Starship Troopers name. After all, it's based on a movie where humans and bugs are constantly dropping like flies (no pun intended) in spectacularly gory fashion -and that's exactly what Strangelite is delivering. If nothing else, it should help banish the memory of the dreary movie-based RTS unleashed on us a few years back. Failing that, there's always the Showgirls and Basic Instinct licences up for grabs...
Processor: PC compatible,
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode