Being in the military, I have had the privilege of viewing multiple weapons demonstrations, not to mention the training and use many of these devices. A few of these include the standard M-16A2 assault rifle, the MK-19 Automatic Grenade Launcher, and even the B2 Stealth Bomber. While many of these weapons and vehicles are true attributes to their designers and modern day technology, none have come close to the ideas dreamed up by some of today's anime or videogame designers. It's quite understandable though, as the power of ones own imagination can often outweigh the power of today's equipment capabilities.
We are, however, fortunate in today's day and age to have console systems and game designers who strive to bring us an experience that would essentially imitate the use of such futuristic equipment. From games such as Halo to MechAssault, these designers present us with futuristic weapons and vehicles. Battle Engine Aquila's designers are no different. But where many companies limit their ideas to genre conformity, Lost Toys tries to push itself outside the box. Instead of limiting one vehicle to land or air, they have produced a duel transportation mode weapon.
Aquila, the vehicle's codename, is an incredible step forward in military design, as it cannot only be utilized in land assaults, but for air attacks as well. It's also well equipped with both offensive and defensive capabilities. There is one problem. Aquila is without a pilot and the military can't seem to find one within its ranks to fill such a position. Instead they have opted to select an outsider. He's a freight loader operator by day and a freight loader racer by night. After seeing Hawk Winter's abilities in action during a race, the military feels he may be the only person around with the necessary flare to pilot their prototype weapon. So in a desperate move, they recruit him to handle the assault vehicle.
After strapping in for the first time, I was given a rather short but informative training session to familiarize myself with Aquila. In no time at all I was able to understand how to utilize the weapons, transformation, and navigation of this incredible machine. Controlling Aquila is wonderfully simple. It utilizes a standard first-person shooter setup and is very easy to just pick up and play. The system's HUD was also covered in my tutorial and while it may look complicated, it proved to be very easy to read and understand. Radar, weapon selection, ammunition and energy levels are all present. Everything a pilot needs to know during battle is readily available at any given moment. This is incredibly essential to a pilot's success, but I'll brief more on that portion later.
I have to say that the view from the cockpit is absolutely breathtaking. When in flight, it' s possible to see what seems for miles and it really brings out the vivid and lush landscapes. Even while in combat on the ground, everything down to the tiniest foot soldier is easy to spot. It seems as though nothing is lost through the Battle Engine's view screen.
It's through this magnificent view that made it possible for me to adequately form a measure of attack and be successful in my campaign. Battles are intense but the power of Aqulia made them manageable. Not to say I felt unchallenged—far from it—because Aquila is not indestructible. Its hull and shields can be penetrated, but the experienced pilot will have everything he or she needs to survive. This is where the importance of the aforementioned HUD comes into play. During flight, Aquila's energy is drained to maintain the altitude, so regular stops on the ground are necessary to recharge and continue the attack. Pilots must keep an eye on these levels or they will surely crash. Sinking in to the oceans is another cause for concern because Aquila sinks like a brick in water. This multiplies the difficulty on missions that are held over the ocean as friendly and enemy ships are the only areas on which to land.
After each mission, I was rated by my supervisor and assigned a grade based on my performance (A through F). I was always given two sets of objectives to meet and how well I met them determined my outcome. If I failed the war was lost, but if I was triumphant, we continued on our path. If I met the secondary objectives as well, we would be sent down an alternate path with a greater victory in our grasp. Our rewards were a slew of unlockable data and branching mission paths.
After time and providing proof of my abilities as a pilot and leader, I was given extended rights and privileges. Eventually, I could choose from different Battle Engines and a variety of new armaments. Later on, I was even provided with a few command opportunities. I could assign and configure my wingmen's vehicles, their weapons, and even command them during battle. Often my decisions before and during battle would have a direct impact on the outcome.
Battle Engine Aquila is not perfect though. Often the game suffers from repeater syndrome. Missions are regularly rehashed with minor difficulty changes during the course. 'Destroy all enemies' and 'protect this ship' or that base were all too frequent. It would be nice to see a few different battles or variations. My only other complaint is the laughable in-between mission cutscenes. The voice acting as absolutely atrocious and for some reason they mixed several accents from this world, into a world in some distant galaxy.
While playing, Battle Engine Aquila, I was often reminded of some of the military demonstrations I had seen over the past several years. The introduction of a new type of weapon to a military organization really hit home with me and probably added to the allure of this game. Additionally, the use of new mechanics in a mech or shooter was welcome. These days, it seems very few games ever aspire to try anything different outside of their genre without poor implementation the first time around. Fortunately, this title's drawbacks don't keep it from being a fine addition to any gamer's library.
Disclaimer: This review is based on the Xbox version of the game.