Is it possible to discuss Bandits: Phoenix Rising without
mentioning Mad Max? I guess not. Bandits features that post-apocalyptic
backdrop that we all know and love. With bands of marauding nomads, eccentric
military organizations, and a wacky sidekick, there's just enough action and style
to keep Bandits ahead of the pack.
For those who enjoyed
Recoil and games of that nature, it has been a little rough lately. With
the landscape of gaming still filled with first-person shooters and strategy titles,
it's hard to get that solid action fix. Not quite as refined as the Interstate
series, Bandits does feature fast-paced car combat action that's solid
and easy to get into.
won't grab everyone, though. The future is a drab place filled with standard weapons
- shotguns, grenades, rockets, machine guns, etc. - and some truly oddly designed
vehicles. There's a mounted turret with tons of ammo and enough enemies to cause
a mouse button to break. It's difficult to say just how Bandits achieved
its success when so many fail in this genre. It has a clean style to it that pervades
throughout the game and even the menus themselves. There's the dog looking co-pilot
that speaks in a stereotypical Scottish accent and a ton of fringe groups that
range from enunciating-loving military types to religious zealots who never seem
to shut up.
The missions aren't innovating,
but they're still entertaining. There are the standard assault and recon missions,
as well as escorting and ambushing supply vehicles, and the odd manning of the
gun turret segment. A few fun, if not incredibly frustrating, missions had the
player race some friends for goods to add onto their vehicle; fun due to the rough
terrain and having to wrestle to keep the vehicle on course, frustrating at how
difficult it is to keep track of where the actual course is. The enemies aren't
the brightest, but they make up for their lack of intellect by being hard as nails
and trigger-happy. Their factional alliances don't really pervade much in how
they attack or how their vehicles are adorned, which is a shame since I'd like
to have seen their differences more fully realized. I would've also loved to have
a sequence like Freelancer where the player could spend time in various outposts
and instigate fights or find out more info; alas, there's no time for relaxing
when you're a nomadic badass.
clear waypoint indications on the mini map and on the screen itself, as well as
brief update in status - mainly ammo count - from the co-pilot. Despite a pretty
weak turbo boost, the blazing weapons and excellent radar system do a great job
in keeping the action fast and constant. However, games of this ilk are bound
to get tiresome after a while; after all, there are only so many buggies that
can be blown up before the fun wears off. It's that reason that makes Bandits
a fantastic game for people who tend to take longer trips. It would be perfect
for any traveler, if it weren't for the fact that the missions can get incredibly
difficult and can only be saved after a mission's completion. With some levels
only taking a few minutes, that wouldn't be a problem, but some will have wave
after wave after wave of assaulting enemies and it's never fun to die after 20
minutes of hard fighting. That's about the harshest criticism that I can level
towards Bandits. It sets out to be an action game set on wheels and it
succeeds, despite a design that makes extensive playing remaining enjoyable and
a questionable save feature, it's a great throwback title for people just looking
to let the rockets fly and do donuts around the shell of a victim.
Clean. That's really
the best way to describe everything in Bandits. The objects, vehicles,
textures, everything is clean. Although they shouldn't really be so spot-free
since the game takes place in the desert and all, but they're crisp and easy on
the eyes, if a bit drab, so it's forgivable. Vehicle design ranges from generic
to odd and their payloads deliver satisfying explosions. Aside from the weak turbo
flame, there's nothing really to complain about, but there's also isn't anything
noteworthy either. The best way to describe it would be 'good enough'.
While I'm not
the biggest fan of metal, there's no denying how well the music fits the game's
theme. For those who love to throw up the horns, there's a solid amount of tunes
- complete with song and band names - that are ready to accompany gamers on their
'highway to hell' (eh, eh, get it?). At times the music does drown out the effects,
and call me odd, but I always liked the sound of buggies revving up to get over
a large rock and the crackle of a shotgun blast. I would've liked to hear more
differentiation for weapon impact though, a harder thud when rounds hit the ground,
various dings when bullets hit metal, etc.
Featuring two styles, either should suit any gamer.
There's scheme that controls like Halo's Warthog where the vehicle moves
in the direction the player indicates with the crosshairs. The other method uses
the keyboard to control the vehicle's movements and the mouse to control the gun
turret. While the advice given during loading screens suggests alternating between
the two to practice some more intricate maneuvers, I never found the second to
my liking. By controlling direction with the crosshairs, it felt as if I was playing
futuristic joust. I would have liked to have seen a method to select weapons that
used the mouse wheel, possibly something along the lines of Half-Life's
method of selection.
It goes without saying that this game isn't for everyone. It doesn't
mix genres or try to push any boundaries. The developers wanted to make a solid
action game and they succeeded. Stylish, hard as nails, and, while it lasts, one
hell of a ride; Bandits: Phoenix Rising is a great title to entertain those
moments of boredom as it's instantly playable and easy to get back into. A solid
release and one that fans of the genre should enjoy.