E.T. Armies – Review

Title   E.T. Armies
Developer  Raspina Studio
Publisher  Merge Games
Platform  Windows PC
Genre  First-person shooter
Release Date  March 3, 2016

E.T. Armies feels like a game struggling to break free of a well-worn mould and never really managing to do so, which is a shame because behind the veil of ‘another first-person shooter‘ is an a game that has a lot of potential. Developers, Raspina, are an Iranian-based outfit who have only just been able to release their product to western shores and, for what appears at least to be a first effort, things seem pretty promising. Alas, though, underneath the surface things aren’t perfect, much like on planet Earth in the E.T. Armies universe.

Having exhausted all the resources that earth had to offer, the majority of Earth’s inhabitants flee into space, leaving the downtrodden and poor to live out a horrible existence. Those remaining have formed a militia, of sorts, and now they’re organising a proper uprising that you and your army buddies need to quash. You are part of a peace-keeping force known as The Parsis and that’s all the story you get to play with for a while. Cue some fairly shady military and government types that all smack of being up to something, and you’ve got the makings of a pretty by-the-numbers story. The actual execution is a little more shaky than that, and despite watching the opening scenes intently, I was still a little confused as to why we gave two solid fucks about planet Earth if we’d all just left it but who am I to question my motivation to kill dudes?

Combat is a pretty large part of the proceedings for the genre, which, in this case, is something of an issue. The weapons, generally speaking, feel a little lifeless. I’m quite particular about how my weapons sound in video games (especially shotguns) and the majority of these sound like pop-guns; the sort of weapons that wouldn’t sting a hamster. Of particular note is the mounted turret, which is fairly pathetic sounding and could be shooting small fluffy pillows for all the gusto that it displays. It doesn’t get much better with the enemy AI, which is fairly predictable at best. Enemies run in fairly straight lines, mostly behind one another, and pose little threat to you as a whole. The only time that things get dicey is if the enemy ranks begin to swell and you end up lost for somewhere to turn. Enemies arrive from doors, ledges, and walkways, almost like ducks appearing in a shooting gallery. Most of them are moving to get to a preset position in order to engage you – shooting them before they do ensures that they won’t pose any problems for you.

The arsenal is pretty standard for a game of this type – machine guns, shotguns, sniper rifles, and pistols. The standard machine gun and sniper rifle are more than a match for whatever is thrown at you. The other machine gun has a smaller clip and seems less powerful. The shotgun is fairly unremarkable, and the pistol, a fallback weapon with unlimited ammo, has an irritatingly slow rate of fire and is fairly weak. That being said, the default machine gun packs a punch and feels weighty. The sniper rifle gets the most use and feels well balanced in its role. The same can’t be said of the grenades, which seem to flick between being fairly effective and utterly useless.

Overall, the gameplay and combat is as standard as it comes, ticking the required boxes without ever thinking outside of them – the combat kept me occupied, but so does bouncing a rubber ball off the wall. The level design feels fairly repetitive, which is a shame because the graphics are the highlight of the game. Most indoor areas feel recycled, but the outdoor areas feel natural and original. The early game sees you in a large ancient ruined area, which involves lots of running around and a cool section with a standoff in a closed in area. Most of the game is about getting from  point A to point B with some different objectives thrown in for good measure. As a first-person shooter on the PC, it works; it isn’t broken and it plays it safe, so it has that much going for it.

Thankfully, the graphics are better than I expected them to be. They certainly aren’t going to win any awards but they look good enough minute by minute. The cut scenes are  a little on the cheesy side, but that’s more down to the dialogue than the graphics. As the game takes you through its various locations the graphics hold up well, although I really, really could have done with some different character models to shoot at over the course of the game. Despite this, though, the game looks very pretty and there are only the occasional dips in performance. Hats off to developers, Raspina though, because the game looks good and in this day and age, that goes a fair amount of the way for this genre.

The same can’t be said of the sound, which is as unremarkable as the AI. The guns sound pretty pathetic (especially the mounted turrets) although kudos to the developers for a decent attempt at what makes a great gaming shotgun. Seriously, that shit is hard to nail and that’s a decent attempt. The voice acting is okay but the dialogue ends up in either the ‘cheesy’ or ‘overdoing it’ category. Finally, the music stringing the whole thing together is, in one word, beige, which isn’t to say I was high on drugs and it made me ‘see the colour of music.’ It’s as inoffensive as it is forgettable. and that’s not a good or bad thing, depending on who you ask. Sure, it could have been a little more exciting but at least it doesn’t feel too repetitive.

There is multiplayer on offer here but, much like Earth in this game, it’s pretty empty and lifeless. This is both a shame and a blessing in equal measures, because unless you’re a smaller developer with a really niche hook, I honestly don’t understand why a multiplayer component feels necessary. It just can’t compete with the big titles and even if it’s a competent game (which for the most part this is) you need to shift so many units just to get the thing going. It would have been much better for that time to have been poured into the single-player element and no doubt improved it greatly.

  • Average, if unreliable, combat
  • Good graphics
  • Crazy story
  • Forgettable sound
  • For the love of god, ditch the multiplayer.

E.T. Armies has plenty to offer, but it's just a shame that so much of it is average and playing more of a safety game. I feel like they could have shifted outside of their comfort zones a little and really made a game that could have turned some heads. All the components are there; they just aren't exactly what we need to break into the upper echelons of video gaming. That being said, if you want a break from the norm, this is a tidy little shooter and I'm pretty intrigued to see what these guys come up with next.

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