Review: Carrier Command: Gaea Mission Needs Sea Legs
Barely righting a sinking ship
I’m going to spend perhaps more time than one would expect talking about an aspect of the game that comprises perhaps 15% of the whole. This is necessary because elements from this aspect affect a significant amount of the main event, particularly combat, and they nearly break the game. Carrier Command: Gaea Mission, you see, offers two modes of play – Campaign, and Strategy. As befits a game meant to challenge players, the Strategy game is nigh inscrutable without playing through the tutorial. Unfortunately, you cannot access the tutorial without first playing through the campaign, and that means suffering the absolute worst first person shooter I have ever played.
The story begins with a Unified Earth Coalition fleet in orbit around Taurus, set to launch a full scale invasion to take control of the moon’s water. One of the troop transports is damaged by Asian Pacific Alliance fire during entry and crash lands. The campaign begins with the player taking control of a platoon commander who must fight his way through enemy controlled territory, in order to reach the Carrier from which the actual game will be played. But good lord if getting there isn’t painful. There is no sprint. There is no jump. Aiming is extremely clumsy, as zooming in is barely more precise than squinting, and the reticle of your rifle practically swims through your line of site.
Enemies tend to die after only taking a few shots, but between the swimming reticule and the lack of aim, you will find yourself killed over and over again while shooting at enemies that should be within range. Onscreen indicators are so vague as to be useless (you’ll spend far too long trying to figure out where your objective is), and god help you if you’re in a hurry, because it’s ridiculously easy to keep losing a lock on critical interactive items like ammo resupplies and doors. Worse, the HUD is useless. Objectives are almost never placed clearly on your map, and they’re never adequately explained. As a result, you never know precisely where you’re supposed to go and what you’re supposed to do. (This is especially maddening in one scene where you’re making your way down a train tunnel with no guidance as to how, and which direction you should proceed.
When combined with the wandering reticule, the inaccurate firing makes it stupid-easy to walk right into a line of fire that sends you back to the nearest save point (which, it should be noted, are not generously distributed.) This doesn’t mean that the shooter game in Carrier Command: Gaea Mission is hard. It really isn’t. You aren’t having to restart again and again because of any particular challenge, you’re just being cheesed to death.
Add to this the execrable voice acting that makes Mark Meer look like Billy West, and the horrid character modeling that doesn’t even compare favorably to the Mass Effect series’ hilarious NPC haircuts, and you’re getting the worst possible first impression. It’s like going on a first date with someone your friends recommend highly only to find out that, independently rich rocket scientist/porn star/motorcycle enthusiast or not, they never bathe. At every moment during this awful introduction, you’ll be amazed that someone released this in the final product of a commercial game, and I would not blame gamers who spend the 30 or 40 minutes wading through this dreck for giving up and playing something fun.
Fortunately, once you’re finally past this mess the actual game begins, and if it’s not the glorious return longtime fans were hoping for, it’s definitely a brain-bending challenge worthy of the name, though not the reputation, of the original Carrier Command.