Gamestyle Archive intro: there are lots of writers who stuck with the site for years, providing a rich stream of content. One-by-one we’re slowly rediscovering examples of their work and putting them into this archive. There are other writers we’ve still yet to reach, but I wanted to find a review from Gareth who was an early member of the team. I’ve found this example of a decent Xbox title that has been lost to time since.
Writer: Gareth Chappell
Published: May 2003
Welcome to the world of Yager: set on earth in the distant future, the planet is no longer divided with borders denoting different countries and regions, indeed such divisions are no longer considered a worthy way of defining geographical (and ideological) boundaries. Due to mega companies all looking after their own interests, the earth has now been ‘terraformed’, triangulated and assigned ownership. On one side of the sphere is a small province under the control of Proteus – a company based upon old-earth or western philosophies. On the other side is the OST, a militaristic organisation who tend not to get on with their Proteus brothers. In between these factions lies an area known as the Free Trade Zone; where inhabitants are laid-back and freedom-loving individuals – a culture radically peopled by Han Solo-types to be sure, all of them lovable scoundrels. The game sees you as pilot Magnus Tide, trying to rebuild your career after an unfortunate incident that left a wing commander with a broken nose. Hooking up with Proteus again, you must undergo a number of training sessions before taking on whatever mission they deem you are capable of.
At its heart, Yager is a sort of Rogue Leader-styled game set on land, with missions requiring you to fly about shooting various hostile forces, as well as doing reconnaissance work and a spot of investigating from time to time. Here is where the game comes into its own: the world of Yager is arguably the most credible, wilfully-constructed and altogether enticing environment that Gamestyle has chanced to come across. Each character you meet seems to have an individual history all of their own, even if they only say a few words to you. A more non-generic bunch of characters simply does not exist anywhere in the gaming spectrum. This is most notable when you reach the Free Trade Zone to investigate various goings-on. Whilst airborne, numerous pilots will chat to you about various things, such as how trade is going or even inviting you down to the local bar for a drink. It all comes across so well that you become completely immersed in the interaction; you simply stop playing the game and ‘become’ Magnus Tide.
The characters in the title are equally personable and all are complete individuals – from the slightly mad mechanic brothers to the freighter pilots and bar owners – everyone seems to have their own story to tell; meaning you end up caring about each and every person you come across, thus expanding the scope of the game. Though essentially guided by story parameters, the character involvement covers this up brilliantly, with apparent random meetings with old friends keeping things fresh and interesting all the way through. This is mainly achieved due to the fact that every character you meet does not necessarily have anything to do with the plot as a whole; there are just lots of friendly, hospitable folk about, all aiming to contribute to your sense of belonging.
Graphically, the title is stunning. Areas sprawl off into the distance for miles around, with rolling hills and some of the most astounding water effects ever seen in a game. If there is a weakness, it is that a lot of the landscapes tend to look the same – being a mix of grass-covered hills, roads and the odd mountain – but this doesn’t really detract from the experience as you get the impression you are working within a fairly small area where the plot is concerned. So things would look familiar, would they not? Between levels you are treated to some lovely cut-scenes where the story evolves further, and most of the time has Magnus relaxing with a drink in the local bar. Missions are varied; with some being a simple case of shooting things down, while others have you flying underneath the radar to pinpoint locations for missile strikes. Every now and then though, something irregular will pop up – like having to test out the new gun which the bar owner has installed. This sees you shooting a range of flying targets, pool tables, chairs, and just about anything else they can find to launch as space-aged clay pigeons. Magnus’s ship has two different control styles: it can either hover, allowing you to raise the ship up and down more easily and stay in one place, allowing movement at a fairly slow pace. The second style puts the ship into jet mode, which means you move a lot faster, and is ideally suited for combat situations as it allows for more flexible movements, vital for avoiding incoming missiles and gunfire.
Combat is easy enough to perform, with the ship being as manoeuvrable as is needed in order to take out multiple targets at once. A wide range of weaponry and tools are available, allowing for different approaches to each situation. The only problem really is that sometimes the combat seems to lack a touch of intensity – which ideally, in the midst of a huge gun battle, should be coming from all quarters. Overall then, Yager is a brilliant attempt at creating a completely engaging and interactive ‘living’ world. It is clear that an awful lot of care and attention has gone into sweating the details. On this count it cannot be faulted, however the lukewarm nature of its combat model suggests there is something ‘missing’ from the final picture; some genre-defining element that remains unexposed in the development tray.
In the final analysis, everyone should experience Yager as you do not play it – you visit it – and it soon becomes one of the most enthralling locations you could uncover. Undoubtedly a title that will either be loved or discarded over time, it is hard to see anyone disliking it completely. In short though, it is completely great, and that is the best recommendation we can give.
Gamestyle Score: 8/10