Steel Empire


Review by Matt Paprocki



Graphics: 7

Sound: 6

Gameplay: 7

Overall: 7

As gamers, we've controlled all sorts of wild flying machines in our quest to slaughter every last invader that's entered our atmosphere. Actually, we don't even wait that long occasionally, sending forces into space before they even arrive. Of course, we'll usually wait, they'll slaughter everybody, and that's where we come in as the planet's final chance. "Steel Empire" offers up a unique spin on the genre, as players pilot a blimp on their quest to conquer seven stages worth of shooting action against an invasion. It's a shame it's dry in spots since the murderous blimp genre really could have taken off.

Actually, a blimp is one of two piloting options. The other is a smaller, weaker bi-plane. There's no co-op mode here, so you'll be flying solo. You have the option to select between the two vehicles in-between each stage so you can get a feel early on as to which you prefer. There's not much difference between them other than speed. Both have the ability to level up which puts them on equal ground later in the game, in the areas of health and firepower.

To shake things up a bit, "Steel Empire" lets you fire in two directions. It's a necessary feature since bosses take up prime screen real estate and you'll need to maneuver carefully to avoid both their hulls and bullets. It's tricky and the Genesis occasionally has trouble with it all, slowing down a crawl, especially late in the game when the players firepower has received a significant upgrade.

That slowdown isn't particularly wanted either. The difficulty level is low unless you're playing on the hardest setting. Most deaths come from the inability to see enemy shots in the swarm you're firing back at them. The later stages simply throw everything at you to at least make it seem like you're being challenged.

The biggest complaints against the game are those boss fights. Each one is usually grand in scale as the giant airships fall to pieces as the fight goes on... and on... and on. There are few that never seem to end and it gets far too repetitive to actually be entertaining. It's worse when you have to fight that same boss three times. Even after all of this, the final boss is ridiculously under whelming. The earlier bosses were at least intimidating; the final battle is against a meager opponent that overstays his welcome.

The entire game is soaked in very bland, dark colors. It seems to fit the setting which is a futuristic 1930s or so. The opening cinematic is a nice touch, flickering like an old film reel. There's usually not much in the way of animation, as enemies just fly in and out too quick for anything impressive to happen. A few of the backgrounds have a great sense of depth with deep parallax scrolling.

The audio side avoids repetition since your shots don't make any sound unless they connect. That poses a small problem since it can be hard to decipher whether or not something connected where it needed to. The visual cue is usually enough though. The soundtrack is somewhat weak, but it sets the tone and seems to fit with the pseudo-time the game falls in.

"Steel Empire" isn't a shooter that's going to satisfy a hardcore shooter fans appetite. It's not particularly tense for the most of the game, it's excessively easy, and all of this has been done better before. That doesn't mean it's not worth playing. It does try to be unique in its premise and bi-directional shooting is a nice touch. It just desperately needs a multi-player mode, more processing power, and larger variety in the boss battles.


Go to Digital Press HQ
Return to Digital Press Home

Last updated: Monday, September 26, 2005 03:06 PM