Carrier Command: Gaea Mission Review (Xbox 360/PC)
(This review is for the Xbox 360 version of the game)
Carrier Command is one of those games that holds influence long after its time, so replicating such success was always going to be a difficult task. Knowing the history when you launch Carrier Command: Gaea Mission, you expect greatness and something solid for you to sink you teeth into and in a lot of ways Gaea Mission really strives to deliver on those expectations
Carrier Command: Gaea Mission (Simply Gaea Mission from here on in) isn’t the simplest of games to understand. As the Commander of a Carrier, you move from island to island in an effort to gain a foothold in the region; you use smaller vehicles to capture the island and fight the enemy throughout two different modes – campaign and Skirmish – and in a lot of ways is how you will spend the majority of your time, managing smaller units in groups to punish your enemy a small chunk at a time.
While your Carrier works as a hub for vehicles, it also acts as the Command Centre for the entire micro-nation you begin to amass throughout your game. Resources gained through Production facilities are funneled to you and vehicle manufacture is utilised through the carrier menu which allows you quick access to keep your forces at full strength. You can order modifications to be fit on to vehicles and upgrades for your carrier.
Your forces are split into two categories – The Walrus, an amphibious vehicle that is extremely versatile can transition from land to sea without a second thought. It can be modified with extreme effectiveness to become almost anything; a super fast sniper for Recon or perhaps a bunker buster with limitless stopping power. Your aerial combat is through the use of Mantas; versatile and quick Osprey-style machine that will slice through the air and Recon on an island within seconds.
While you can control all your vehicles manually (Including your carrier) it is also possible to program roles and missions from the map screen to allow the AI to carry out tasks it’s near impossible to trust it to little more than drive in a straight line across flat, unburdened terrain. You’ll command a Walrus into battle escorted by two others that you will constantly have to switch to too have them keep up and when you’re down and out and need to dock you’ll change into another Walrus sending the damaged one back to the carrier for repair only to find at the end of the mission the Walrus is trapped on a piece of terrain or circling around the island unable to calculate a route home.
These little bugs are infuriating when so much is going on in and around the combat that your focus should solely be on the major events such as enemy carrier movements or hacking an enemy’s command centre on an island, but instead you’re micro-managing minute movements of vehicles that should be able to take care of themselves.
The Walrus controls like an over-sized tank, its long body and wide wheel base make maneuverability an annoyance especially as the machine gun attached to the top of the vehicle doesn’t rotate 360 degrees; if you’re charging into battle you often dive too deep into enemy territory and end up getting endlessly assaulted from the rear that you are helpless to defend against. You scramble to turn around but instead give the enemy a larger target to hit as you are caught in the kill-zone for far too long.
In contrast the Mantis is extremely effective in the air, it doesn’t feel cumbersome or slow to respond at all as you drop low and slice your enemies down with a passing raid on their base. The Mantis controls take a little time to get used to but once you’re confident you can pass in and out of each area without taking a hit. Its speed and reactionary controls mean you spend a lot of time dodging incoming attacks while still continuing your assault without having to move away and re-engage constantly.
Gaea Mission looks wonderful. The vibrant seas and the differing island design bring a fresh and simple feel to the game play. The changing weather and altered terrain dependent on location really challenges you to think about what it is you’re doing as you begin your assaults. Day-Night cycles also have you plotting assaults for times of the day but unfortunately the glaring sun can often completely blind you which is a little overpowering as you attempt to push forward. The game suffers from some minor texture pop in on occasion but hardly causes a problem as the change is quick, though a little daunting if you’re currently running on it.
The voice work is flat and out of place for a game that seems to put a lot of work into developing scenarios, the voice work and writing just doesn’t hold up. Each character sounds like they’re trapped in a box forced to deliver lines without emotion or context for what they actually say. This leaves you feeling disjointed and disconnected from the story as it develops but, fortunately, the minor exposition is little more than a tutorial masquerading as a story.
Gaea Mission isn’t an easy game and in a lot of ways will punish you for spending time with it and that’s a great thing to see. Almost as a homage to the original, Gaea Mission doesn’t pull any punches and will gladly destroy hours of progress because you make a single mistake or over-engage the enemy and this is an absolutely wonderful thing to behold that isn’t often seen in the modern age of video games.
Gaea Mission offers a unique challenge that triggers nostalgia for the games of old that you spent hours on determined to make any progress in an effort to simply brag to your friends when you saw them next. Rather than come in with a bang Gaea Mission holds an intelligence and brutality that it doesn’t need to shout about and offers its challenge to all who dare.
One glaring omission from Gaea Mission is multiplayer. Although there isn’t always a need for such a component it would have been great to be able to engage in Carrier to Carrier combat with friends in an effort to drive them from the region as you conquer island after island. Perhaps this is simply an oversight or something the developers didn’t feel needed, but would have completed the package and added a little versatility to the waning gameplay and AI issues and would keep you engaged in the game for a longer.
Carrier Command: Gaea Mission isn’t a perfect game but its issues all wrap to make it even more difficult and actually aids the game play in a lot of ways; Gaea Mission keeps an integrity from the original game and has the audacity to update a classic formula without hesitation or misstep. There are certainly problems and the unforgiving nature of the game will hamper its success but it is with unabashed force.
Gaea Mission steps up to the plate and offers a challenge different to a lot of what is available to modern day gamers who are perhaps a little more used to an easier challenges; this will give them a taste of a classic game while looking wonderful and presenting something different with every mission and will provide people who have played the original nostalgic twang with which to drive them through some of the technical issues to discover a fantastic game.Carrier Command: Gaea Mission Review (Xbox 360/PC),