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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: May 31, 1999
Within the 3D action genre, it is interesting to what extent the first-person perspective has taken over in recent years. Virtually every offering released has the first-person perspective available, even when (as in the case of Zipper Interactive’s Recoil or Hasbro Interactive’s Centipede) the third-person perspective makes more sense. The lemming-like rush toward the first-person viewpoint is due both to the success of classic 3D shooters such as Quake, Unreal and Half-Life, and to the advances in 3D video acceleration that have made the first-person viewpoint one that makes players feel directly involved. Nonetheless, the third-person viewpoint can be superior when a broad overview of the environment is necessary to achieve mission objectives and when an appreciation of a wide and complex setting is a key component of a game’s appeal.
The top-notch British company Rage (more specifically, the Rage Newcastle team) has thumbed its nose at the first-person frenzy and daringly introduced Expendable, a 3D action shooter in which the third-person viewpoint is the only one available. Indeed, the viewing angle is completely controlled by the program, shifting to provide differing third-person vistas as the arenas of action progress. Is this design decision right for this game? Absolutely. In the over eleven months since the preview, I have had a chance to fantasize about this title quite a bit, but nothing prepared me for the level of state-of-the-art excellence or the way the designers have translated the early concepts into brilliant execution.
More than any other offering I have played with this commando “me-against-the-universe” format, Expendable is pure arcade action. There is not a lot of puzzle-solving and precious little resource management or command-and-control complexities. You don’t talk to others around you or exchange goods with them. You do not engage in reflective, methodical, slow-paced strategy. Instead, if you are unsure about what to do next, blasting away with your considerable firepower is almost always the right thing to do. In any case, moving ahead extremely rapidly is invariably essential to avoid dire consequences.
It is interesting to draw parallels between this and other existing action-arcade efforts. In terms of the player’s visual perspective on the action, Expendable reminds me most of Electronic Arts’ Future Cop: LAPD. In terms of gameplay, this title is reminiscent of Shiny’s MDK. In terms of physical setting, Expendable has a lot in common with Accolade’s forthcoming Slave Zero. But ultimately, this new offering harkens back to the early roots of action shooters at video arcades, where continuous, contorted twisting and writhing was commonplace and trying to survive attacks from unending waves of “big meanies” was the name of the game.
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