In the story, you take the role of combat veteran Joshua Gant, brought out of retirement for a critical mission. Gant is a pilot well-versed in the fighting machine referred to as a Heavy Armor Weapons Chassis or HAWC. The reason Gant has been called up is due to an enemy of the humans known as the Scorps, with whom they’ve been at war with for some time. There is an uneasy truce between the two that may erupt into war again, particularly if the Scorps are successful in unleashing their secret weapon, a genetically engineered fighting machine called G-NOME.
Since knowledge of the project can’t be revealed without compromising undercover agents among the Scorps, the plan is to have you, as Gant, destroy the facility where the prototypes are being created. Much like the Star Wars game Dark Forces, the responsibility for preventing the use of this superweapon is almost solely in your hands. Along the way, you will team up with other people who can help you in your mission and who are vital to completing the game.
As with Activision’s Mechwarrior and Interplay’s recently release Shattered Steel, G-NOME is, essentially, a fighting game with giant robots. The HAWCs are highly mobile weapons platforms and it is through the use of these that you travel across the planet known as Ruhelen to reach the Scorp research facility. You’ll have to find information along the way and fight with various other races that are also on Ruhelen as you make your way across their territory. You can play the campaign which takes you from start to finish in your quest to destroy the Scorp research facility, or you can replay any missions you’ve already completed. There are also several training missions to begin with, designed to familiarize you with the operation of a typical HAWC and the tactics used.
What makes G-NOME stand out is your ability to run around outside of a HAWC and to switch between HAWCs during the course of a mission. One of your weapons allows you to force your opponent to eject from his HAWC, potentially allowing you to take it over. This means that one of the things you have to get used to is rapidly accustoming yourself to new and different HAWCs, each with its own capabilities and drawbacks (such as different weapons arrays and in some, the ability to rotate the upper part independent of the lower, allowing you to move and fire in different directions).
Learning the controls can be a bit of a challenge, mostly due to the variety of things you need to keep track of. This shouldn’t be too daunting a task for those familiar with other games of this type and it’s certainly simpler than many of the flight simulators currently on the market. Attempts have been made to automate certain functions, among them an autopilot that lets you automatically head for pre-set navigational waypoints, auto target tracking once you’ve selected a target, and keys to set your throttle to zero or maximum and center all views at the same time as your torso is fully aligned.
The biggest problem you’re likely to run into is actually acquiring targets and aiming. It’s sometimes frustratingly difficult to determine whether you’re actually hitting your target and doing damage. A little more attention to the effects when your shot hits something would have been nice instead of generic flares and flashes (or the occasional lack altogether). Particularly hard to find and hit are people on foot. While the enemy has no problem finding you and ending your life in short order, you’ll probably find yourself looking all over, looking for the momentary flash
on your radar when the footsoldier’s weapon is recharging or spinning helplessly as he runs around underfoot. At times, it’s almost easier to eject and take him on at the same level.
There’s certainly plenty of flash and flare in G-NOME however. The animations are smooth and fascinating to watch, there’s plenty of pyrotechnics and the music stylistically tends towards the epic movie score. In the opening menu, if you select Lab from among the bottom options, you can view the different vehicles you’re likely to encounter, something that’s worth it for the animations. You can also switch to an external camera view during game play to see yourself, another fascinating sight we recommend.
G-NOME supports network play over most common connections. It also comes bundled with software for M-Player, a network group like TEN or Battlenet, making it easy to connect with players from all over. While we didn’t test how robust network play is, it seems easy to set-up a game with friends on a network or modem.
Among this genre of action games, somewhere between combat flight simulators and Doom-style shooters, G-NOME is a strong competitor and an impressive entry in the field. If you’re looking for some variety from Mechwarrior, this is a game worth investigating.