VrE Online
Steel Harbinger
from Mindscape
This Robo-babe can really kick some butt.

Rating : graphics 89, sound 80, interface 85, fun factor 94, overall 87 Right after the third world war comes to a close, wouldn't you know it? We get an alien invasion of Pods! Not just any pods, though. These pods first land then shoot out red tentacles, converting everything they touch into mechanical Cy-Borg. (Sound familiar, anyone?) You play the role of Miranda, a pretty young woman (to whom nature was _exceptionally_ kind to). Being the daughter of a brilliant scientist Miranda's life wasn't easy; especially when one of the captured and "contained" pods attacks her. Miranda was partially converted into one of the mindless collective but enough of her persona lived on. Now it's this robo-babe's mission to travel the country activating the network of shields orbiting overhead, save as many humans as possible and blow a lot of stuff up!

Steel Harbinger Steel Harbinger is a surprisingly fun, addictive 3/4 view, 3D shooter pitting you against an onslaught of aliens. Lack of originality put aside, this game is more than a 3/4 view shooter you may remember from 16 bit systems. The graphics range from good to great with effective used of 2D, 3D, and transparency effects. The music and sound effects are decent and never get annoying. Controlling Miranda is a piece of cake, but if you miss an area on any level, you may be stuck for a while.

The graphics in Steel Harbinger are a pleasure to look at. The world you travel through is texture-mapped and rendered in real-time 3D. That includes buildings, boxes, gas-pumps, and the larger enemies you'll have to hunt down. Miranda, many of the smaller enemies and some environment objects are all pre-rendered 2D sprites that look very good. Some of the more interesting effects were those used for transparencies. When you walk behind a building, the building becomes transparent so you can always see yourself. While motoring around in the hovercraft, you'll see a great, moving transparency defining the water. (The splash of water behind the hovercraft is very cool as well.)

There are many other little things that help polish off the great graphics in Steel Harbinger. The light-sourcing techniques used are great to look at from the reflection of your plasma blasts to the brightening of the world when you use a flare. Then there are the great animations of alien bodies exploding as you shoot them--thankfully without blood, but very realistic all the same. The FMV videos that you'll run across during the game pop up fast, are sometimes funny and interfere very little with the game itself. If you don't want to watch the video, then don't pick up the rotating disc's.

Steel Harbinger The sound effects and music in Steel Harbinger are on par with everything else that's currently available. The sound effects are good with standard sound effects for shooting, being hit, running, and people crying out for help. There's music in SH, but there's nothing that will stick in your head which is a good thing. The tunes will help with the atmosphere of action but won't annoy you with monotonous regularity. In other words, the music and sound effects are good, but not outstanding.

While playing Steel Harbinger I found the interface to be good, but could have been improved in a couple areas. First off, there are only four different layout options for the game-pad and none of them had a layout that I wanted. The designers never thought that someone may want to put the fire button on Square and the jump button on X, but that's a minor problem. Another small problem with Steel Harbinger are the somewhat questionable save-game limitations. There is no password feature so those of you without a memory card are tough out of luck. (TIP: Don't save your game when you get to the last transporter on a level. Instead go to the next level and then save your game. Doing so will save you time when restoring your games.)

The biggest problem with Steel Harbinger has to do with the game-play. You will have to cover every square inch of every level if you want to complete them. Hidden throughout the level are passcards, credits (to let you go to the next level) and weapons. The only thing that will hinder the completion of a level will be the oversight of a building that harbors the passcard you've been looking for. If you miss one item, you could be stuck on a level for a while--and often the solution is elusive. A small hint system would have been nice. "You need to find the red passcard located in the SE area of the map."

Steel Harbinger Despite these minor nit-picks, and the game-play hinderance, gameplay in SH is absolutely addictive. The world you travel through is fast and smooth. When you start the game, Marinda walks and it can make the game feel a little slow--trust me it's not. On a later level, you'll get to ride one of those hover-boards the enemy rides on and you really get moving _fast_. Blowing up enemies is fun, but when you get to ride in hovercraft, ride on hover-boards, drive trucks and tanks, you literally have a blast. The variety of level designs, weapons, enemies and situations really make this game a lot of fun to play. Steel Harbinger is a must have game for any serious gamer who likes shooters.

-- Louis Stice
-- louis@psyber.com

Players: 1Password: No
Memory Card: Yes, 1 BlockLink-Up: No
ESRB Rating: Teens 17+

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