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Written by  :  yprbest (128)
Written on  :  Jul 25, 2003
Platform  :  Xbox
Rating  :  4.6 Stars4.6 Stars4.6 Stars4.6 Stars4.6 Stars

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One of Rage's last games, and one of their best. If you like transformers or action games, this is for you!

The Good

The music. Suitably atmospheric, plus you get the choice to blast the enemy to your own ripped soundtracks - choice is a wonderful thing, no? A little plus point, but worth mentioning.

The graphics. Ah yes, the graphics. Very crisp and clear, all the buildings and units have been lovingly crafted, and stay true to the clean future aesthetic which permeates throughout the game. The sky is often beautiful, and the snow levels can look quite breath-taking. The only problem which can be levelled at the game is the blandness of some of the textures, notably the terrain-maps: perhaps I've been spoiled by Halo, but I want detailed multi-layered textures and snazzy grass effects! However, even though they can be bland, the textures aren't ugly, and hardly detract from the overall quality of the game; indeed, the snow texture felt better to me than Halo's; not because it's particularly realistic but because the imagery of clean-white snow appeals to me more. I guess that simplicity does have its advantages after all! Anyhow, the different decals - such as small clusters of trees and bushes that can be knocked over or set alight, streams that you can wade through, and entire forests to be levelled - add to the graphics (and the atmosphere) greatly, and more than make up for the somewhat bland textures. The draw distance is quite phenomenal, and many of you may feel the urge to go on a sight-seeing tour in the jet form, though it can be irritating when you hit the invisible edge of the (sadly quite small) game-areas, which will cause you to veer back into the zone. Of course, such niceties go out of the window as soon as you enter into the fray, with laser blasts and missiles flying past you every few milli-seconds, so perhaps a more important question is how good the people you're going to be fighting with look. First things first; the smallest of the allied and enemy vehicles, although not ugly, are fairly bland. When you encounter batallions of these units (and believe me, you will) you won't really take much notice of how they look, being far too busy shooting them. This is made up for by the beauty of the larger craft. The large flying craft are very impressive, particularly the beautiful allied cruiser; this curvacious blue-chrome giant of a ship is a joy to behold and trust me; you WILL want to defend it to the last! The buildings follow a similar pattern, with the smaller houses being quite boring to look at but the larger base-buildings being worth a second-look. Also, as with the vehicles, allied buildings are generally prettier than the enemy's; both sides have a distinct look, with enemy craft and buildings being generally more angular than the smooth, curved designs of the allies. Finally then, how does all this look in battle? Well, with enemy fighters flying overhead, tanks moving slowly towards their targets, bombs dropping all around you and laser fire streaking the hills, battles can be very atmospheric and are also good fun to watch. Nothing beats going on a bombing run in the jet, firing off missiles at a few enemy fighters and then flying out of there, evading laser fire and missiles as you barrel-roll out of danger. Indeed, a good player can put up quite a show, and GunMetal can be almost as much fun for the spectators as for the player. The game never jerks, though occasionally I have experienced slow-down (mainly in the last few levels as you get intense amounts of firepower flying around the landscape and huge explosions taking place all-around you), but it never gets too out of hand. Overall then, the graphics are good; aesthetically and technically pleasing, they really come alive in the thick of the action. There's no way you can accuse this game of being ugly, even if you take into account the textures and occasional slow-down.

The action. The meat and bones of the game, thankfully this doesn't disappoint. The very first mission places you into the action quite nicely, pitting you (and a small defence force of light vehicles and infantry) against a large group of light tanks and a squadron of fighters. Even though this is far easier than any of the other missions it's no pushover, and will probably take most people more than one go to complete. This mission, though not up to the quality of the later missions, serves to get the player aquainted with their chosen control method and teaches them how to properly control the Mech, leaving them better equipped to deal with the enemy hordes that will follow. In this first mission you are equipped with four weapons, two for the mech form and two for the jet form. As you get further through the game however, you get a far greater arsenal to choose from, with you eventually having a choice of twenty four weapons and only eight weapon slots to share them across, and with weapons ranging from low powered auto-aiming machine pistols to the powerful but hard to aim dispersion rifle, and from deadly spread-fire Photon Storm to the death bringing Napalm bombs; there's a lot of choices to be made. All of the weapons are satisfying, usually resulting in meaty explosions as you annihilate the enemy, and much of the fun of the game comes from using the heaviest weapons that you can find to destroy the enemy with. So, what is the actual fighting like? Well, you'll have to use some degree of tactics in the game, as the two forms you can control determine the way you fight: go for all out agression in the jet form - initiating bombing runs and strafing the enemy whilst dodging laser and missile fire but constantly aware that you have no shield to absorb the hits for you - or go for a more defensive role as the mech, letting your shield absorb the hits as you lumber around, firing round after round into the enemy's defences. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and there are of course situations where one form has an obvious advantage over the other; attacking a cruiser head on in the mech form is suicidal, as all enemy cruisers are equipped with a huge gun that can destroy you in one shot. However, use the jet form, which is far too fast for the gun to track you and you've got much more of a chance. Alternatively, if you're attacking an enemy base bristling with turrets, the jet is going to be next to useless as even the most skillful of pilots is going to have some difficulty trying to evade the huge amounts of guided anti-aircraft missiles that are going to come your way. Most of the time, however, it is wise to make use of both forms, for instance, a tactic which you may find yourself falling back on often is to soften up the enemy with an aerial attack and finish them off with a frontal assault in the mech. As for the controls, the Mech itself operates like the average FPS character, just in a much "heavier" manner, while the jet manoeuvers well with one stick controlling the throttle and the other controlling the pitch and yaw (i.e which way it's facing). The controls take a little getting used to, but stick with it and you'll soon get the hang of it. As for the missions themselves, they're a varied bunch, and should keep you interested up until the end. Ranging from escort and defence duties to infiltration and base assault missions, you'll never get bored with them, and the final level - which pits you against four waves of enemies, culminating with you and a friendly cruiser taking on two gargantuan enemy cruisers in a battle to the death - is one of the most exhilarating I have ever played.

The Bad

The loading times. These are killers in Gun-Metal, ranging from about 4 to 20 seconds, on paper they don't sound too bad, but you're going to see them so often (thanks to restarts and the like) that they really do get irritating. Still, not the worst crime a game can commit.

The longeivity. Sadly, although you should stay interested in the game until the end, that's not so impressive when you consider that the game consists of only fourteen missions, spread over seven maps, and most of these missions are fairly short (they range from about three to twenty minutes in length). A pity, though the game has some replay value thanks to the fact that once you get a new weapon you can use it in any of the missions that you had previously completed, and not only that but your best time for each mission is displayed, meaning that you can always strive to beat it.

The Bottom Line

A nice looking game which is great fun to play, but let down by its lack of longeivity and a few other minor niggles. However, despite the problems I have found it to be far more than the sum of its parts, and I don't regret spending my hard-earned cash on this game. Gun Metal remains one of my favorite Xbox titles, and it's a crying shame that Rage filed for bankruptcy but one game later.