As soon as I got my new Playstation, the first game I set my eyes on was Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. I had bought it before, traded it away and now I wanted it back, so I called my friend that I traded it to and he said it was mine for $7. When I went over there he said "Oh yeah, I got another game you might be interested in, Return Fire, I'll let you borrow it and if you like it you can buy it too". When I got home, I played SotN a bit, then I put in Return Fire. At first I was like "what is this shit?", but I stuck with it, it gradually pulled me in, and let me just say SotN has been on the shelf ever since.
I usually would never review a game until I've beaten it, but what the hey, I'm close enough, I figure it will take forever from where I'm at and I've been itching to review this game.
The graphics of Return Fire are not eye catching, but they are very good for what they try to be, simple-style graphics. It seems like a 2D world but with 3D figures. The vehicles, turrets, walls and a few other things are all 3D polygonal figures, everything else is made of sprites. They're pretty basic, in fact, in the hands of a good development team, it would probably be possible to port this game to the SNES (just with far fewer maps). But basic graphics seem to be what the developers were going for in this game, and when you take that into consideration, the graphics are actually quite nice. There is a lot of attention to detail, there are a variety of trees, the explosions look cool, and the movement of the vehicles and turrets flows very well. A little bit of grain, but what do you expect in a first generation game? Basic, but still good.
Graphics Rating: 88
Oh man, the soundtrack of this game is a real treat. All classical music, I love it. Not the kind of music you would expect in a game like this, it's humorously hokie and sets a non-serious mood into the gameplay. I definately think the music of the game keeps me playing it, it's really great. It has some really well-known tracks, too, like when you are flying the helicopter it plays "Flight of the Valkyries", when you are in the humvee the "Overture of 1812" plays, until you capture the flag when it switches to the "William Tell Overture". These tracks have become synonymous with humor over the years by constantly being played in old Warner Bros. and MGM cartoons like Tom and Jerry. Some of the music, however, are not well-known tracks and are very easy listening and thought inducive, a real plus.
Now let's think of what the developers COULD have done with the music of this game. What most game developers would put in an action/war strategy game, a real serious hard-hitting sound track with a lot of techno, but would that be near as interesting as the classical music in Return Fire? I think not.
Also covered in the sound section, the sound effects are great. You can hear enemy choppers coming at you, and it gets louder and louder the closer they get. The explosion sounds are done well, and you the sound of the tanks drudging across the ground is very nice detail, the sound of the heavily armed tank is a little more muffed than the smaller tank, just like it would be in real life. No problems at all with the sound FX.
Sound rating: 99
The meat and potatoes of the game. The basic premise is simple, use a fleet of 12 vehicles to capture the enemy flag while dodging the enemy fire. Sounds simple, but there are so many ways to complicate that simplistic premise, and the developers found most of them.
The game has a perfect learning curve, the first level is more of a joke than a level, the levels get increasingly harder and have more and more maps on them, and when you get up into the higher levels it will take an extreme amount of strategy, reflexes, brain-power and time to conquer the maps, some of them take over an hour to beat. Lucky for you, it is only required to beat one map to go on to the next level. It is very good in that it forces the player to get better if he wants to advance to the next level, you HAVE to master certain tactics and you have to progress in skill a lot if you want to get to the next level.
That's the basic idea of the one-player game, on 1P the game is really, really fun, but with 2P.... Simply the best multiplayer game ever, forget Goldeneye, the 2P on Return Fire is the absolute pinnacle of multiplayer fun. In this, of course, both players have a base and a flag to capture, and it's a race to see who can do it first. Use all the tricks in the book on your opponent. Wait until they cross a bridge with thier tank and then blow out the bridge, then shield your ears from the stream of obscenities that will undoubtedly come out of thier mouth, it don't get much better!
As I said earlier, you the player get a fleet of 12 vehicles to work with in Return Fire, 3 helicopters, 3 armored support vehicles (heavily armored tanks), 3 regular tanks and 3 humvees. You will have to master all of these vehicles and learn exactly what to do with each of them if you want to stand a chance in this tough game.
Tank: The tank is the vehicle I prefer using. It shoots fast, it goes pretty fast, for a tank, and it can slip in and out of places much easier than the ASV. It's weaknesses are that it can't take very many hits and it's firepower doesn't match that of the ASV.
ASV: This vehicle is like the tank, only bigger. It is pretty slow, and sometimes that can be annoying. If an enemy is firing on you, it is hard to get out of the line of fire considering how slow it is, and when you get pinned into a wall... pure hell, there is little you can do except take a lot of hits while you get out. Despite these things, it's a very good weapon to use, sometimes I prefer it over the tank. It's very powerful, it can take twice as many hits as the tank and it shoots more powerful missiles. It's a gas guzzler though.
Helicopter: The helicopter kinda sucks, but it is imperitive that you learn to use it, or you're toast. The control is awkward for it, you must use the top L and R buttons to make it turn. It is the only vehicle that can strafe, but it does it so slowly that doing so will almost always get it shot down. It doesn't take a whole lot of hits before it plummets to the ground either. However, the helicopter is imperitive in the later maps, it is good to use on levels with 6 or 7 flag towers, the heli can stay relatively safe as long as it flies in straight lines really fast, and this way you can find the flag and then send in the tanks after it.
Humvee: The humvee is the only vehicle that can retrieve the flag. You must use the tanks to clear out anything that might hit the humvee, because the hummer only takes one hit before it dies. The humvee is very fast, though, and it is amphibious meaning it can turn into a boat (albeit a very, very slow boat) in case a bridge is knocked out. The control for the humvee is both good and bad, it's easy to get going in a straight line, but it takes too long to back off of a wall or rock that you've hit.
Every single one of these vehicles must be mastered if you want to get through this game.
Gameplay rating: 94 1/2
Storyline? what storyline? Those things are way too overrated anyway:) I guess the storyline of this game would be to blow shit up and be happy. It is not explained why the military would be wasting so many vehicles on silly games like this, those things can cost 12 million in taxpayer dollars:)
Storyline rating: non applicable
I think I've made this point clear already. Return Fire is the pinnacle of multiplayer gaming. It is ALWAYS fun with another person, no matter who it is. I got my non-gaming sister to play once and she's hooked, the 2P is THAT good. It's very much like a game of capture the flag, only better.
Even in 1P mode, it has a high amount of replay value. The 1P game has around 100 maps to conquer, and the 2P maps are all different, there must be 100 of them too, so it's not like your gonna win every time because you know the territory. To say it has very high replay value would be an understatement.
Replay Value: 99
Return Fire is obviously a game I like very much, I suggest anyone who can find this game, for PSX, 3DO or PC, to get it. You should be able to find this game at dirt cheap prices, since it is pretty old, but old does not mean bad. Check this one out.