In the Forums...
Posted: April 17, 1999
Written by: Dan "Tweak Monkey" Kennedy
Rage Software's Expendable offers more excitement than a good first person shooter with graphics and sounds that will blow you away. If you've played Rage's Incoming, you know just how fantastic their work is, and how incredible the lighting and explosion effects can be when applied to a 3D environment. Expendable is an arcade style shoot-em-up action game with an overhead view much like Ikari Warriors back on the NES. The overhead view offers a fresh and unique type of gameplay, much like Loaded, and the huge selection of weapons leads to almost limitless re-playability. Expendable is a combination of three important elements: simple (yet challenging) Ikari Warriors' style action, amazing 3D accelerated graphics, and one of the most talented software companies in business today.
In Expendable, it's your mission to rid the worlds you travel of aliens while saving your human buddies. The concept of the game is as simple as it gets: destroy anything in sight, (except the occasional human slaves you have to save) while avoiding traps and solving puzzles. You're armed with a standard pulse rifle that has infinite ammo. This little gun packs a punch, but not enough of one to stop all enemies with ease. Luckily you also start with two grenades. These grenades will clear out a group of small enemies, but will have only a small effect on larger enemies. As you move along, you continually pick up new guns and more grenades, along with other items like health power-ups and passcards. Some guns will take care of some enemies, while other guns will be almost useless against them. For example, the flame thrower doesn't work too well against a large group of fast moving, small, long distance attackers, but it will easily toast a single slow moving, large enemy at close range. As you obtain more power-ups for an individual gun, it will be upgraded. Instead of just giving you more ammo, it will also have a longer range, more projectiles, and new abilities. Once you die, all your weapons will be lost and you'll have to start collecting again.
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Each time you play the game, it will change. The intelligent AI will find ways to counter your offense, or use it against you. I recall being in a large room with only a pulse rifle. It was easy to shake a few enemies at a time, but then they charged in and surrounded me and began to beat me senseless. My long range weapon was completely useless against the parade of aliens that was marching in. The game retains an arcade style that has been somewhat forgotten, and one strong indication of this arcade style is a score. Players can try to survive the longest or kill the most efficiently in order to obtain the high score and enter their initials.
The game supports a ton of display modes - everything from 320x200 to 1600x1200, in 16-bit or 32-bit color depths. The 32-bit option offers more vivid explosions and lighting effects, but the 16-bit option looks excellent as well. The game supports a number of hardware features, including trilinear filtering and antialiasing. I saw virtually no slowdowns even with tons of explosions on the screen, while running at 1280x960x32bpp with my P2 450/ TNT-2 system. Much like Incoming, the game offers maximum visual effects without using total CPU and video utilization. Unlike some lower quality games, Expendable offers more than just cheesy lens flares.. it has dynamic/colored lighting, high quality shadows, and coronas that will boggle your mind. The game also supports joysticks, and utilizes force feedback technology, so that players can feel every shot fired and every house shaking explosion.
Play and Re-playability
As many games have taught us in the past, graphics aren't everything. But don't worry, Expendable isn't just pleasant to look at - it's a blast to play. The action is constant but not overwhelming. Players must be on task at all times, because if they stop concentrating for just a few seconds they could be ripped to pieces. I have to admit that after I played two player mode, it was hard to go back to single player. Two player mode allows both players to fight together and protect each other. It sure is nice to know your buddy has your back when you're taking on a group of twenty aliens using only a pulse rifle.
The controls are simple, but adequate for the gameplay. It's really easy to jump into the game and learn to play, but it takes some time to master the controls.
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The re-playability should not be overlooked. Because the game is an arcade style shooter, there is always room for more. You're not only compelled to take on such challenges as beating a level without dying, but you're also geared to beat the high score, or upgrade your weapon until it shoots across the whole screen, etc. Unfortunately, the game suffers from over repetitiveness. That is to say, the gameplay doesn't change much as you progress, it's always the same. The two player mode is even more re-playable because you can always compete for the glory. The only thing more fun than beating your own score is beating your friend's score.
Graphics and Sound
The graphics get a bit repetitive, but in this case it's a good thing. The lighting is unrivaled as the best I've seen, at least in a long time. The textures and overall detail are revolutionary. Every single time you grab a weapon you haven't seen before, you'll probably awe at its beauty and special effects. The characters are small but intricately detailed, and even the weapon projectiles are outstanding. The vivid colors will leave you stunned. A ton of work went into the graphics of this game, and it shows.
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The sound is about as good as it gets. All the weapons, enemies, and explosions have a distinct noise. If you have a good sound card and speakers, you'll love the sound. In the options menu, there are a few items you can configure with the sound that other games fail to account for: 3D sound effects, speaker type, and speaker geometry.
If you're looking for a fun arcade style shooter with a ton of special effects, great graphics, sound, and gameplay, check out Expendable. You won't be disappointed.