Posted on July 7, 2011, Phil Hornshaw You’re Basically Mad Max in Wasteland Angel — But With a Cooler Car (PREVIEW)
I hope you all are doing everything you can to prevent nuclear annihilation, World War III, global warming, alien invasions and robot uprisings, because if Hollywood has taught us anything, it’s that the post-apocalyptic wasteland world we’ll all live in will be absolutely bristling with slavers. Also mutants and random psychopaths with all the weapons that weren’t destroyed in the world-ending catastrophe.
There will also be lone vehicle-riding heroes to save the innocent wasteland dwellers from the horrors that infest them. In Wasteland Angel, you’re that lone hero — the titular beautiful asskicker with the sweet ride. The game is a bit of a throwback arcade shooter, with waves of enemies attacking human settlements, and you, the only line of defense. You also get to bring massive firepower to the party.
Wasteland Angel is set from a top-down perspective, and you drive around, shooting enemy vehicles as they come at you in waves. It’s a throwback to old-school arcade shooters in which you’ll fend off tons of enemies as you drive around desert wastelands; each new level has you defending a town (or towns) from enemies, which are broken up into three types. Two of the types will often try to take you on, while one is strictly designed to attack the cities you protect.
With each wave, you’ll face various enemies that have different goals. The faster, killing-you enemies just drive around trying to take you out, but one larger enemy vehicle will sidle up next to the town you’re defending and start pilfering its people to turn into slaves. You lose the game if you’re killed — your car has both armor and health bars — or if too many civilians are siphoned off from your town. Luckily, blasting the big slaver trucks, and the smaller missile-launching vehicles that can either be attackers or slave-stealers, frees the imprisoned civvies and adds them back to your total.
So in each level of Wasteland Angel, you’re juggling a lot of responsibilities. Waves come at you fast, like every 20 or 30 seconds, so clearing them all can often be impossible. Instead, the game becomes about priorities, with eliminating the slavers becoming more important than eliminating the smaller, less dangerous threats. This is especially tough when settlements are divided into two separate areas, and you have to drive back and forth between them to take out slavers.
At the end of each set of levels for a given town, you’ll take on a bigger boss, which throws in a needed change tactics and strategy. Little enemies still dot the landscape, which is more open than in other levels because there’s no town in the center. They also require the use of the special weapons that can be garnered from power-ups to defeat, which requires deeper thinking than just lining up the Angel’s guns and holding down the fire button.
The only thing that felt like it held Wasteland Angel back in the preview was the driving. Especially in stages with more than one town to defend, driving back and forth was really difficult because the car doesn’t handle well or move particularly quickly. It’s a minor complaint, but it feels like trying to address threats and emergencies quickly is really hard to do when turning around takes so long. It’s a especially bad if the car impacts something solid, because it literally bounces off, and the hit detection on such objects, like the towns, is a little loose. It can be easy to smack into a wall without realizing you were driving to close to it, and recovering from the crash can take a few seconds.
When Wasteland Angel hits Steam, though, it should be easy for it to find a niche among players who like their games a little more on the arcade side. There are a whole lot of mutants and crazies to blow up, and Wasteland Angel provides a lot of fun ways to do so.
For more information, check out Meridian4′s Wasteland Angel site.