Crusader: No Remorse
Crusader is a fantastic SVGA shoot-em-up from the mid 90s, well integrated with Origin's then-famous storytelling method. You are a silencer; a red-armored, almost Boba Fett-looking elite enforcer of the law in a world where one united corporation called the World Economic Consortium controls the world's industry, peoples, minds, and lives. It's a Big Brother world where you are the enforcer of their ideas and thoughts, which are nowhere near your own. While on patrol with two other silencers you are ambushed by one of the newest enforcers of the WEC's ideals, a large servomech that resembles ED209 from the Robocop movies. This attack is the WEC's way of punishing you for letting a few civilians that they felt were rebels get away. After the melee, you are the only survivor of the assault on your group and start plotting revenge for the WEC's asinine actions. You join the resistance against the WEC. Your mission is now to prove yourself to your new comrades by taking on covert missions against the WEC, like taking out specific industrial targets and freeing prisoners to mention a few.
Crusader is a mission based shooter. You are given your orders via video sequences, and then it's up to you to survive. Crusader reminds me a of the action/adventure game D/Generation from 1993 and has some elements of Ultima VIII (because of the perspective used). The motions your silencer is capable of are best compared to those in Fade to Black, another popular game of the era from Electronic Arts. The game keeps an inventory in which you can store bombs, med-packs, and other various goodies as you make your way through the various missions. Control of your character is a bit tricky at first, but once you've played it for a few hours you'll be detonating everything in site (until you run out of ammo a few times). Given the limits of 1995 hardware destruction looks great in this game. Most objects will explode three of four time before they are totally gone.
As with EA's Fade to Black, you must think before you shoot in this game. In one of the first missions you must meet up with an operative in one of the rooms, to get a keycode that is vital to finishing the mission. If you were to run into a room like a disgruntled employee and shoot everything in sight, you could be in for in a heap of trouble when it comes time to reach your objective. Some people will talk to you, so you can't just kill blindly. There are some great storytelling elements woven into this game too. If you meet up with certain people, or certain events are about to happen, the game shifts to a half-screen video cut-scene.
The plot of the game goes pretty deep. You are in a world where most people live at their workplace and must be productive at all times 'for the greater good of all'. A world where a fraternization code must be followed when communicating with other people or attempting to have a good time. As in the Wing Commander series, there is always a bar you can go to and chat with your fellow resistance-fighters. At your base of operations there is a bar where you can buy weapons and ammo from a guy named weasel, or deal with getting verbally abused by the rebels who despise the sight of your uniform and don't like the fact that they must work with you. After all, you were once their most-feared enemy.
The graphics are SVGA all the way, and are some of the best 3/4 perspective screens ever done in a computer game at the time. Crusader is sharp and polished. The explosions look excellent, and thankfully, everything is combustible. Origin did a great job of integrating video sequences with the beautiful SVGA game graphics. For example, in the bar you can go the Weasel and hit the S key to select him, then `enter` to start speaking with him. The game then goes into a half-screen FMV sequence of him slickly trying to push some weapons on you. The same procedure is used to speak to anyone in the game.
Near the bar door, there's a viewscreen where you can catch the latest news and hear about the last mission you've completed from the media, in their biased WEC-fed way. This is an excellent reflection on real life. One mission I returned from in which the objective was to rescue some fellow resistance fighters, the media reported that a lab which was producing a miracle heal-all drug had been sabotaged by the resistance. In reality, it was a lab for horrible human experiments. Video in Crusader is on par with all of the industry's latest offerings to this point. The story is much more enjoyable than, say Wing Commander III, and gets the player involved.
There are a lot of good gameplay and storyline-based elements in this game which really benefit from the game's overall structure. The storyline is not beat into the ground. It's fresh and new, but also compelling and believable. As I mentioned earlier, you can blow up just about anything in Crusader, and when you do, you are treated to some of the best sounding explosions of the mid 90s. There is no crackling or breaking up at all, just pure clean, loud explosions. An important part of any PC game is the music, as with most major Origin productions of late, there is a great film quality musical score during the intro. The music during gameplay is also excellent. It's a fast-paced, bass-heavy, adrenaline pumping sound track.
Crusader is an exciting and compelling action game, perfectly combined with excellent story-telling elements. While this game's engine bears some similarity to the one used for Ultima VIII, the SVGA graphics and the overall quality of this game makes it far superior to most other games of this type. If you're looking for a good example of mid 90s action gaming, with great solo game that offers beautiful SVGA graphics, quality FMV, awesome SFX and music to feed the atmosphere, WC-type interaction with other characters, and pulse pounding gameplay, Origin has your game with Crusader: No Remorse.