Sub Rebellion


Review by Greg Wilcox



Graphics: 7

Sound: 9

Gameplay: 7

Overall: 8

Even far less represented than flying games, there hasn't been a good underwater action game on a Sony system in ages. As beautiful as Sega's Ecco the Dolphin was on the PS2, that game's languid pacing turned off die-hard action fans in droves. Fortunately, US-based publisher Metro 3D has a treat for you in the form of Irem's Sub Rebellion, one of the best little sleeper games of 2002. The game is simple to get into and challenging enough to keep just about any action fan happy deep deep down in the deepest deeps (to swipe a line from Ray Bradbury).

Some of you more perceptive types will note the Irem name and submarine theme and immediately think SR is a sequel to In the Hunt, but closer examination reveals otherwise. The game owes a lot more to GCE's excellent Vectrex release, Polar Rescue, as well as Black Ops' great Treasures of the Deep. The closest thing to an In the Hunt reference comes in the way of the stubby sub designs seen throughout the game, and some aspects of certain boss battles. What we have here is a 3D action/shooter where you proceed at your own pace, and where careful exploration is rewarded with some cool bonuses.

There's a minimalist plot about the Earth going through a disaster and being flooded, nations at war using subs, and you being on the side of the good guys, but the game doesn't have any spiky-haired anime characters to grow attached to. Nor does it need any- Sub Rebellion is great because it lets you dive into the game without too much wading through text and menus. Even the game's brief tutorial is a quick watch and learn affair, the developers want you to immerse yourself into the game experience with as little fuss as possible. And once you take your first dip in the Chronos, you'll be hooked.

The game uses every button on the PS2 controller, and replaying the first few levels a few times is recommended, as the difficulty ramps up fairly quickly. With the default setup, L1 and L2 move you forward and backwards, R1 & R2 up and down. The left analog tilts the nose in any direction, and the right stick is for looking about- pressing it in (R3) gives a quick peek behind you, good for avoiding incoming fire. Tapping the Square button shoots your regular guns (or a machine gun when surfaced), and holding it down sets up a torpedo lock (or missile above ground). Circle surfaces the Chronos (and dives when surfaced), while Triangle fires whichever of the special weapons you've equipped for the mission at hand. Finally, while submerged, the X button activates the cool X-Sonar which displays a quick wireframe pattern of the surrounding area, with enemies and items showing up as differently colored outlines onscreen and on your radarscope.

You have one main sub, and as you make your way through the game you earn money to upgrade it, which is where the exploration thing comes in. Buried in each level are hidden relics of the Earth's older civilizations (us, it seems), and some of these items are necessary in order for better weapons and items to be created. Most are well guarded by enemy subs, and you'll have to use the X-Sonar to uncover them- this is where the Polar Rescue influence comes in. You don't have to worry about air levels here though, but you do have to watch your depth gauge, radar, torpedo loading speed, and damage meter. You can also toggle between first and third person viewpoints, which helps a lot in some of the tougher missions.

SR has some fairly large environments, and there's no set way to tackle a particular level. I wouldn't recommend a full frontal arcade assault, though- you'll simply get blown out of the sea like the shark in Jaws. Each level has more than enough enemy subs to keep you busy, plus a boss that shows up at a set point in each stage. Here's where more strategy comes in, if you're trying to get a 100% treasure bonus. Some levels have certain tasks that need to be completed, and if you do these before you grab everything, the boss will make its appearance and you'll have to beat it or die and restart the stage. It's also possible to beat the boss and simply go back and play the stage over to uncover everything, if you're so inclined.

On the presentation end, Sub Rebellion scores pretty well in the the graphics department. The game doesn't go overboard and push the PS2 in any way, but there are some really cool underwater effects and the subs all animate excellently, with a nice balance of real and arcade physics. The only element that's a bit off are the explosions, which look more like they belong in a space shooter. The music and sound design are cool, and there's a small amount of fuzzy voice acting here and there that'll have you turning up the volume a bit.

Overall, there's nothing bad about this game I can see, except that the fact that it's probably going to be ignored by those gamers looking for bigger name fish to land. I say, give Sub Rebellion a shot, and you'll be more than pleasantly surprised at how deep it is (and you won't have to read any more of my lousy underwater puns)...


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Last updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 02:33 PM