GameOver Game Reviews - Lander (c) Psygnosis, Reviewed by - Umax & |X|treme

Game & Publisher Lander (c) Psygnosis
System Requirements Pentium 166, 32 MB Ram, 3D Card
Overall Rating 82%
Date Published , ,

Divider Left By: Umax Divider Right

When I first read about Psygnosis? Lander, I was skeptical. As soon as I heard the name I thought the exact same thing 90% of you out there thought of; the old game Lander. I assumed that this would just be some rather pathetic attempt at putting the game into a 3D environment and throwing the player into ?horrible wind shears? or something equally mind numbing. I was totally wrong. This is a game that is pretty unique, and it does take some time to get into fully. After playing it for quite a while however, I can say it is a mix of G-Police, Descent II, Privateer, and yes, the original Lander.

I assumed first off that the craft which I would be flying would have a pretty restricted range of movement, within a 3D environment. I didn?t let this bug me though, because of the Psygnosis name-tag and the relatively excellent reputation they have for making these sorts of games. (Re.: G-Police) I was shocked to learn on my first mission that this game had a fully explorable 3D environment made up of planetscapes, craters, huge underground complexes and tunnels, and yes, even the obligatory military installations! The first thing a player must do in Lander is realize that your craft (ironically known as a lander) doesn?t handle or fly like a regular aircraft. It is a bit like a helicopter, except that you stay aloft by a large thrust unit on the bottom of your craft. You move forward, left, right and backwards by changing the angle of your craft, and therefore the primary thrust unit. It sounds a lot more complex then it really is. Basically, anyone who knows sort of how the Harrier JumpJet flies will understand the basic idea behind flying your Lander. Now that you?ve mastered the first Lander you get to fly (yes, there are 5 different Landers) and you can now embark on your first true mission. The basic premise of the missions are all the same: you must usually bring something into somewhere, like bringing a "Data-bomb" into the brain of a huge AI installation, or bring something out, like evacuating a doctor from a prison. How is this done? Well with your handy tractor beam of course! You simply fly over the object you must pick up, turn it on, lock onto it and gain altitude. During the course of a typical mission you will have to fly into a base, fight your way past the numerous defenses, plant or rescue whatever the mission dictates, and fly out and back up to 10,000ft. For every mission you complete you gain a certain amount of money. This was the one aspect of the game that bugged me. While you can chose which mission you want to take, there is generally only one mission to take at a time, which nearly defeats the purpose of money entirely. It would be much easier to just allow the player to get control of the next best Lander at a certain point in the game. The money you do earn can be used to upgrade things like weapons, armor plating, engines and a few other things. Putting aside this one minor confusion, the game plays extremely well, and despite the simple sounding objectives, the conditions in which you must perform them vary innumerably, so it stays pretty fun throughout. (And on top of that the drool factor over getting behind the controls of a new Lander is pretty high?)

The game not only plays well though, it also looks pretty good. The graphics are very reminiscent of G-Police, but with a very ?techno-ish-Japanese-Bladerunner-ish? feeling. I ran the game both through my Viper 330 4meg AGP card, and the now standard 12meg Voodoo2 card; both delivered excellent framerates, and the game has lots of different graphics modes. It also has full native support for Glide, in addition to Direct3D. All of your standard special effects are here, with spectacular explosions and guns that looked a bit more like fireworks then weapons. There has been some special attention paid to little details in this game though. I found things like dust kicked up by your Lander over different terrain types actually behaved differently (ie. moondust is different to mars dust) and the smoke trails from various types of missiles were also well done. I found there were no texture cracking or clipping errors on either card, and in either mode. The textures, incidentally, were all very well done. One thing I really liked the look of in this game was the spotlight. When your Lander goes from above ground into a deep, unlit cave system, a big spotlight on the side turns on, illuminating the way for a bit in front of you. Even with this light though, the path you must often take is obscured by fog or dust, or your light just isn?t powerful enough. Other miscellaneous effects that were rather snazy were the reflections in the glass of your Lander, the well constructed and thought out levels, the enemies that were more numerous then intelligent (even though this still presents a bit of a challenge when you have 10 ground-to-air missile installations around the opening to a cave system) and the atmospheric effects in the game such as lightning which you can actually fly through for a change!

This game has one thing I must I?ve begun to miss recently in simulation/action/arcade games; proper TCP/IP multiplayer integration. It works perfectly in Lander. Gamers on 56k modems will have as little lag as someone on a cable or ADSL connection. Not only that, but the multiplayer game is really fun. The only complaint here is that you can?t really change or chose Landers when you start, you must wait for some money I suppose. This, coupled with there only being two multiplayer levels doesn?t give it a perfect mark here, but its still fun.

Sound in the game is good as well. Because your Lander only makes noise when you either fire the engine or a weapon, the game designers had to find a way to fill in that blank noise, and they did it well. In one level I remember well, you must find a subterranean investigation module, or something to that effect. It is located deep inside a cave system, and there is this erie, background noise like one would expect to hear on an alien spaceship. It really creeps you out when you turn out all the lights in your room, and crank the volume up.

Lander will seem to most to be very difficult to master in the early stages, but patience will pay off. Evidently the game designers took into account that most people won?t get it right away and they put in a panic key, that when pressed will right your ship and put you at a level attitude right away. Once you get over the rather steep learning curve involved with flying the Lander, the funpart actually begins. This game?s futuristic graphics coupled with the interesting and varying level design and some just plain creepy sound effects it sometimes throws at you, make it an excellent overall game. Add to this the multiplayer and, dispite it?s limitations, the game really looks like one of the upcoming ?sleeper hits? to me. Maybe Psygnosis will realize they have a winner here and promote it a bit more aggressively.

Highs: Excellent graphics that suit this game very well, Cool and varying level design, Innovative and original gameplay, cool ships, upgrading options, plenty of new environments to fly in and through, Excellent sound that can creep you out as much as Quake can.

Lows: Very big learning curve involved with flying the Lander at first, only two levels of multiplayer, It?s hardly Einstein at the controls of the enemy installations.

Rating System
Overall Impression9/10


Divider Left By: |X|treme Divider Right

Wow! I haven't seen a good game from Psygnosis in a while. Anyway, this game puts you into the persona of a pilot of vehicles called "Landers". The game has 5 different Landers in total, with each having various and different attributes. As a pilot you do different jobs for different organizations, usually for money. You take your earnings and you buy new weapons, engines, shields and even better, Landers. As you play the single player mode a deep mysterious and intricate plot unfolds involving alien intelligence.

This game REALLY shows what 3D is about in a setting where you're not holding a BFG10K running around like a headless chicken. The levels are beautifully detailed with amazing weather effects such as rain and fog. The landscapes are intricate and generally well done as well. I am glad to report that Landers supports both Glide and Direct3D, which some games seem to leave out. I used both a Voodoo 1 and an ATI-All-in-Wonder-Pro to test out each version and they both looked stunning. The levels are big and will sometimes have you going down shafts and tunnels and when this happens, instead of losing sight of your ship behind the tunnel or shaft, the game automatically turns the tunnel/shaft into a wire-frame model letting you see through it. Great job on Psygnosis's part!

Sounds were as good as can be expected. There were different sounds for different guns and different engines (as it should be) as well as helpful speech warnings that tell you when you're low on shields or fuel. The best thing about the sound in Lander is that it supports Dolby 5.1, 4 speaker surround, and the regular 2 speakers as well as including reverb settings. I have a Creative Labs Live and the Soundworks 4 point surround speaker set and it sounded great. Don't know too many people with Dolby encoders hooked up to their computers though, but I expect it to only sound better if not as good as a 4 speaker system.

The BIGGEST hurdle in this game is learning how to "drive" your Lander. The default controls have you use the mouse for 2 of the axis and 'C' and 'V" to move along your 3rd axis. Not good :(. In this mode, one little flinch of your mouse and your Lander starts doing cartwheels all over the place. It looks funny watching it if you're not trying to beat the level, but extremely difficult to steer where you want to. I recommend assign most of the keys to keyboard but even after that expect to take a bit of time getting used to the controls. After that you can really feel good about yourself mastering turns and curves while avoiding gunfire. The AI is a little slow, but the game is definitely NOT easy. I found myself dying mostly from either running out of fuel or bouncing my Lander off the walls in the cavern. Anyway, you complete the early missions by finding lost artifacts and dragging them back with your tractor beam. Like I said, your biggest hurdle is learning to drive your crazy Lander but after that, the game becomes quite fun.

Lander supports 16 players over IPX or TCPIP Internet. I couldn't find a place to test this out multiplayer, so off we go once again to my home network to test this baby out. Multiplayer was kind of boring to be honest as too much emphasis is placed on collecting shields and fuel. If you haven't mastered driving your Lander (by the way, not an easy task), you have to constantly worry about grabbing your fuel and shield power-ups and you just become a sitting duck when you try to properly steer over them. I think they should have at least included an option to take out fuel in the game, as it really becomes an annoyance. Other than that, Lander is okay in multiplayer but I enjoyed single player much more.

Single player won me over. Once you've got the driving down, the game becomes really fun, especially when you're trying to finish the missions, drooling at the level graphics and upgrading and maintain your ship with your well earned quid. Multiplayer however didn't really interest me; perhaps a future patch will improve some of the quibbles I had, but for now the control is just too difficult for multiplayer. The graphics are really amazing in Lander and the sound support is great for any audiophile. For the most part I had a lot of fun playing Lander, however, many of the missions get quite repetitive. If not for the poor control and somewhat similar missions Lander would be a very cool game.

Rating System
Overall Impression7/10


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