But hey, I bought a copy! I did my part! I have vague memories of enjoying this one in my youth, but it's possible they've been warped by the dark corrupting influence of nostalgia. So I'm going to give it an hour or so to show me if it's got what it takes to win me over all over again.
I can say right now that the theme music won me over in about 20 seconds: youtube link.
(Click the pics to view the screenshots at resolutions unimaginable to those in the ancient times of the early 21st century.)
Though without anyone left to shoot at, humanity didn't have much need for advanced Adaptive Cruisers like Antaeus anymore. So they scuttled them all to the bottom of the ocean, where they have rusted in peace ever since... until now.
By the way I should mention that the game was written by The Authority/Nextwave/Transmetropolitan/Planetary author Warren Ellis and has mad Time Lord Tom Baker reading out his lines, so there's a serious amount of gravitas to this opening narration. I give it an enthusiastic thumbs up.
mannequins in the roles of Walker and Church, the people responsible for saving the world, or at least having long serious discussions about it while I do all the hard work.
They're voiced by Paul Darrow and Glynis Barber of 'Space 1999' fame... or perhaps it was 'Blake's 7'. What's important here is that like Tom Baker they're both veterans of a classic British sci-fi TV series and it turns out they're pretty good at reading lines into a mic themselves. Which is just as well considering the fact that their models are incapable of showing emotion.
They do explain though that they'd noticed a suspiciously large amount of materials being shipped to an island chain in the Pacific and had sent a spec-ops team in to investigate. Two weeks later and there's been no word from the team, they've entirely vanished. So now it's time to bring in the big guns.
The trouble with that plan though is that everyone got bored of war years ago, so they don't actually have any big guns. So instead they've been given to go-ahead to restart... the Antaeus program.
I noticed something written on Walker's personal computer screen as it flew past the camera, so I scooted off to a youtube video so I could pause the cutscene and see what it said. It turns out that it's a news report, with the headline: "Missiles hit London". So that's one mystery solved I guess: the bad people have been attacking cities and it's up to us to shut them down.
Okay this screen here is my command center which gives me an overview of the entire level (what I've explored anyway). Time is frozen here and I can return to this map whenever I feel like it, so it seems like I'll always have the opportunity to see an overview of the situation, order people around, and think through my next move.
The game has a joystick option, but I'm not having much luck with that (my chopper keeps performing pirouettes in the air), so I guess I'll be steering this with the mouse and WASD keys instead. Not that this is a problem.
|Hey it's a screenshot of Carrier Command!|
In Hostile Waters on the other hand you can't drive the carrier at all. Each island seems to be its own separate level and I have to play through a mission taking place on each of them in turn.
I guess I'll go follow the blue dots on the scanner and click on bits of scrap metal then.
Alright and that's the last bit of metal I need. Now that I have my 3500EJ of energy I can finally... acutally that's it, the end of the level. I zapped some metal beams, mission complete!
By the way if you're wondering what an 'EJ' is, it stands for 'exojoule', which is equal to 1018 joules. To put it into perspective, the United States in its entirety consumes about 94EJ each year, and this harvester's somehow delivering this energy wirelessly to my carrier in minutes.
Nanomachines, basically. Untold trillions of them in fact.
But what even IS a creation engine and why should we care? It's actually a construction device built into carrier that will let me build brand new vehicles in seconds. Though first it needs schematics and most of them have been lost to time, so we're running considerably below the ship's original capabilities here.
That just leaves one goal on my list: 'destroy radar'. Which is kinda hard to do when I don't have any weapons.
(The game earns 15,000 bonus points by the way for letting me rotate the camera here and look at the creation engine sitting behind me. This feature serves absolutely no purpose whatsoever and that makes it awesome.)
Like in Carrier Command I can load up my vehicles with any extra gear I can fit into its slots, but it'll cost me more of my resources. I think I'm happy enough for him to travel light for now. In fact, I'll stick Borden into another attack copter so I've got someone to keep an eye on my poor defenceless carrier while I'm out hunting radars.
I don't have to just sit back and watch my units carry out my orders. I can take direct control of any vehicle at any time. Though this does mean I have to put up with the pilot grumbling at me. They're actually surprisingly chatty; often complimenting each other on good kills and complaining about being bored.
The enemy are pretty chatty too and I can eavesdrop on their radio messages to hear what they're up to. It's nice to know exactly what my actions have done to their operations. After this I won't be hearing "Hostile unit on radar!" for a while at least.
I wish I could say he died in the process of earning a decisive victory against overwhelming odds, but the truth is he just kind of flew too close to the anti-air turrets on that fortress where I found his wrecked helicopter, and that was pretty much it for him.
Well I'm sorry man, but I don't have any tanks. So you're just going to have to put up with driving the recycling truck for now.
Right now though they're still hoping that their world domination schemes work out, though they admit they've got a lot to do. It seems that without the corrupt establishment holding them back, the world was very quickly able to banish conflict, poverty, hunger and pollution, and mankind is all one big happy family now they're no longer unnecessarily divided into different countries. It's all very Star Trek.
I've learned a few handy things in the meantime, like how to issue unit commands when I'm outside the map room with a handful of keypresses. Very handy when I want to order my posse to form on my wing and follow me into battle. Three missile launchers are always better than one.
Also I've learned that there are functional enemy bases around and they're able to use resources to create new units the same way I can. Though they use oil derricks instead of harvester trucks to obtain their energy, like those two under the sun on the right for instance. If I can blow up all of the derricks, their production line should eventually crawl to a halt because they can't replace structures.
Once I've gotten these defences down it should be safe enough to airlift a Scarab in to recycle the wreckage, Total Annihilation style.
Right, I think I'll leave Ransom behind to guard the Scarab when it arrives, send the other helicopter back to base for recycling to free up the Soulcatcher chip for another unit, and take Borden's chopper out on recon to explore the rest of the island.
It turns that out a fully fuelled plane goes up much faster than a concrete building, so that worked out pretty well I reckon. In fact it doesn't seem like I even need to blow up the air factory now, I can happily sail off to the wet dock and finally get this boat of mine fixed up.
The plane just exploded into a tentacle monster! Who invited aliens into my military real-time strategy shooter?
I bet this thing's a real bastard to kill as well. That seems to be the typical rule of video games when a mysterious outside faction joins the fray mid-game.
Maybe I can retreat behind the hills and fly around until I find their oil derricks. If I blow up their energy production I'll cut off their ability to produce any kind of unit, permanently. Well, unless the aliens can build new ones. Who even knows what those things can do, they're aliens (probably).
With the energy I get from this base I'll be able to fill every free equipment slot on my Hornets with armour; let's see those aliens punch through that in two shots.
You know, I think that must have been the Russian character, Korolev, who just went down. I guess piloting helicopters might not have been her strong point. Or maybe it was, I haven't got a clue! If there's a way of looking up the strengths and weaknesses of my crew, I haven't found it yet.
Well I sure picked a shitty time to hit the quick save button I guess. Now it seems I have to replay the entire mission from the start and this time keep my Scarab from automatically disintegrating the mission critical item.
SEVERAL MINUTES LATER.
Remember a few screenshots ago, when I saw that object in the fortress and said I'd go back for it later? It turns out THAT was the unknown item I had to bring back to the carrier for analysis: a hovercraft to add to my vehicle collection. So I just replayed the entire level for absolutely no reason. Joy.
Plus this time I got to play through it using my shiny new hovercraft instead, with my bros ordered to follow my lead and provide air support. It seems that that anti-air turrets aren't so great against a land vehicle.
You know it's a shame this doesn't have a drop in co-op mode, or even pvp multiplayer. The game really is crying out for it.
Hey, I got the ship to the wet dock, I've achieved everything I set out to do. Getting the ship fixed up afterwards is a whole other problem. Though I am kind of curious to see what happens if they manage to blow up a carrier with 2500 times as much energy in the fuel tank as the biggest nuclear bomb ever detonated.
Okay here's what I think about Hostile Waters now that I've had a chance to go back and revisit it: I think it's pretty awesome. Sure it's visually dated now, the interface could be a little slicker, and Hostile Waters 4 would probably make it utterly redundant. But they never made a Hostile Waters 4, or even a Hostile Waters 2, so right now I imagine this has to be one of the best games in its depressingly narrow genre.
The combat hasn't been all that amazing so far; my tactic in most battles was to fly into missile range, unload my magazine, then dart back again before they can hit me. Then I'd hold back for my missiles to recharge and repeat if necessary. Attacking buildings in particular has been tedious work, but then that's what the AI is for. Borden loves blowing up factories, so I let her handle those jobs, while I jumped between units to choose the one that's doing something interesting at the moment. At the very least I could always do some recon while I waited.
I haven't really had to use my brain so much so far, but I remember the levels getting trickier as they went on, to the point where good reflexes alone wasn't going to cut it. On the other hand, the AI probably isn't up to completing some of the schemes you have to pull off later, especially when the stealth buggy is introduced, so you do have to go hands on from time to time. There's no difficulty settings so some players are going to find it gets frustrating while others find it a cakewalk, which is a bit annoying.
Overall though I greatly enjoyed it, I want to play more of it and I want to play sequels to it. I think that's enough to earn it a trophy.
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