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Publisher:    Genre: Strategy & War
Min OS X: 10.4    CPU: G4 @ 1200 MHz

October 6, 2006 | Bryan Clodfelter

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When you encounter a situation where there’s little to do but discharge a barrage of criticism, there is almost no easy way to start. To put it bluntly, I could have more fun with $35, a can of lighter fluid, and a match than DropTeam offers in its entirety. By the time that you finally get past the cluttered interface and the awkward updater, you have to sit out a 2-3 minute loading process to get into each campaign level, complete with an obnoxious five-second long loop that repeats itself continuously (killing small mammals, setting off car alarms, and causing brain cancer in the process). When you finally make it into the game, you’re presented with a generic, bland environment that tries to mask its bleak vistas with grass and low-resolution backdrops. The control setup, for one, is intuitive: you use the standard WASD setup to move, and the mouse to fire. Since you can engage targets at ranges exceeding a kilometer, each vehicle allows you to zoom in on your target. Once you’ve acquired a target, you have to lock-in the distance to your objective by activating your vehicle’s range finder by clicking the right mouse button. With the range set, you’re free to fire, but if you or your target moves a few meters closer or further away from each other, your shells will explode uselessly on the ground. That means that you have to become skilled at locating a target, determining the range, and firing in one smooth motion. Once you have that mastered, there really isn’t much more to gameplay. Your vehicle, regardless of type, moves extremely slowly (and remember that this is coming from someone who loves the speed of Halo and FASA’s Mechwarrior). In campaigns where you have to capture or defend multiple targets, it can take over five minutes to move from point to point, so you’re forced to rely on your computer AI teammates to do a lot of the work. Unfortunately, their intelligence is comparable to the average bowl of tapioca, meaning that they often fail to notice nearby enemy units, and when they do engage a target, usually get wiped out in a matter of seconds.

In multiplayer, the story is largely the same. Since vehicles are too slow to dodge incoming fire, players rely on hills and small mounds of earth to shield themselves by popping in and out of cover to return fire upon the enemy. If your tank is destroyed or crippled, you can pick another vehicle from your team’s inventory and choose a location to drop back into the fight. Unfortunately, if you pick a spot that’s within the enemy’s range, your dropship can and will be shot down (a nice touch). However, even at a safe distance, you still have to be careful: since the DropTeam physics engine apparently decided that gigantic tanks bounce like basketballs when dropped from ten feet, slight unevenness in the terrain will cause your tank to roll over upon impact with the ground. Congratulations: you get to select another vehicle and drop again.

Graphics and Sound
DropTeam’s graphics are clearly sub-par, and feel more like a user-created mod rather than a commercial product. Environments as a whole have little, if any variation, which is magnified if you leave the foliage and “High Definition” rendering options off. Sound effects are generic to a fault and prone to distortion, and the only music found in DropTeam can be heard while updating the game, loading a map, and browsing through the interface. This “music” leaves a lot to be desired, which is why I find that it is more enjoyable to play DropTeam with speakers muted.

The Final Word
In the fifteen years that I’ve been playing computer games, I have never played such an over-marketed and poorly conceived game. Graphically, DropTeam is several years behind the curve, and the audio seems to be designed to make players unplug their speakers. All of Battlefront’s talk about refined gameplay falls far, far short of the mark. When all is said and done, you can talk about sophisticated gameplay, precise damage models, and dynamic effects until you’re blue in the face, but if the game isn’t fun—you’ve failed. With that said, I strongly recommend that users avoid this game. It would be extremely difficult to spend your time and money on something worse.

• None significant

• Boring gameplay, frustrating mechanics
• Cluttered menu design
• Ghastly auto-update system
• Bland graphics
• Cheesy sound effects, replete with irritating looping soundtrack
• Protracted loading times

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