Rocketmen demo fired up, misses target
Yesterday finally saw the release of Capcom's Rocketmen: Axis of Evil on he PS Store in the US. The game was also launched two days ago on the X360.
The first we saw of Rocketmen was almost a year ago (April 2007 in fact) when Capcom released the initial batch of screenshots. The release date was originally Autumn 2007, so has the game benefitted from being in the kiln for an extra two seasons?
The graphical style of the game is the first thing that makes you feel uneasy. The cel-shaded comic-book style graphics are pleasing to the eye, but the animation on the title screen and in the many, may cut-scenes is - frankly - bizarre.
The opening title, for example, shows three of the main characters jittering around in front of you like they all have ADD.
When you fire up the demo you are given the opportunity to create a character, and the options allow you a good amount of customisation. If you go ahead an buy the full game in order to earn lots of the various credits the game offers a good number of additional customisations become available.
It is after creating your character that you are subjected to the most bizarre graphical style choice yet - cut-scenes that quickly snap each character into a fixed pose for seconds until they've delivered their line from the (not funny or interesting) script. The result is quite unnerving, as the characters jump from line to line as if you're watching them in a strange 0.2 frames-per-second mode.
The amount of cut-scenes also detracts from the action. Just when you're in the middle of some frantic shooting against the martian hordes, you will brush past a pick-up only to be launched into a whole speech about the item you touched.
But the worst element of Rocketmen, the one thing that makes it almost unbearable to play, is the camera.
The camera moves you forward towards your next natural goal, but it moves very slowly in comparison to your character. Whilst this might be a gameplay choice the developers thought would promote movement strategy, in reality it's just plain annoying.
However, that is not the most heinous crime the camera commits.
The viewpoint moves you forward towards your next goal but doesn't allow you to go back. Because it seems to move you based on certain trigger items (i.e. when you pick up something, the camera assumes that part of the level is done and so moves you on) you often find that you can't collect the items that were dropped by the martians after you sent them packing.
Even worse, the camera often pushes you forward into clumps of martian enemies leaving you absolutely no space on the screen to avoid their rapid-fire pistols.
Rocketmen could have been good fun but the bizarre animation, annoying cut-scenes and terrible camera mechanic ruin the game entirely. No amount of funky weapons, armoured clothing and character customisations will ever make it fun enough to play for long.