[Yes, I’ve been away for a while. Things got busy, as they do from time to time.]
This is not a good game. It’s a shame, because it’s got some fun ideas in it, but it just gets too much of the fundamentals wrong.
The game starts on the ground with pretty standard third-person cover-based shooting. It is not well executed. The guns lack impact, the enemies are boring to fight. It devolves into the standard hide behind the first piece of cover available and pick enemies off when they pop their heads off. Even on the top difficulty, enemies aren’t aggressive enough to flush you out and force you to move. The standard machine gun feels like it does hardly any damage. The alien sub-machine gun is better. The shotgun is troublesome. It’s too easy to post up on an enemy and then shoot past rather than at them. While I was playing, all I could think is that this game came out over three years after Gears of War, and it’s kind of pathetic that they weren’t able to learn their lessons from it. (Compare Mass Effect 2 which came out around the same time, and how much better the combat feels there). The aiming reticule feels large and inconsistent. I didn’t feel like I was getting good feedback about how much health I had left.
Once combat gets off the ground, things improve. The vertical cover combat has an intense feel to it due to its perspective shift, even if it’s mechanically even simpler than the on-foot shooting. I feel like they toned down the hitpoints the enemies have, which keeps things moving (another issue that tended to bog down the standard combat).
In the air, things feel quite good. It helps that there hasn’t been a lot of console flight games since Crimson Skies. There are some air sequences that go on too long, but there are also a couple of levels have great pacing – mixing up on-foot and vertical cover and flight to great effect.
But every time things are going well, the game insists on throwing in some over-long escort mission or boss fight. Having to do the same quicktime events over and over again for hijacking enemy vehicles and finishing off bosses is just plain bad.
And then, as a final insult, the game didn’t even give me the achievement for beating it, even though I did it all on hard difficulty.