A labour of love?
Those gamers out there who are getting on in years may well have some fond memories of the original Carrier Command game from way back in 1988. At this time, the game was considered to be ahead of its time, offering a style of gameplay that still holds up today, even if the graphics should now be thrown back into gaming history. I never actually played the original, but it certainly looks like the type of game I would have enjoyed.
But Bohemia Interactive, the developers of ArmA, must have played the original and were obviously so enamoured with it that they decided modern gamers should be able to try it out. Thus they have created Carrier Command: Gaea Mission, a much more up-to-date imagining of the game with modern visuals and a sandbox mode that holds close to the original.
Carrier Command packs in a story mode alongside the sandbox and is where players both old and new should begin. The problem is that the story doesn’t really start very well and could run the risk of scaring some players away. But hold your ground because the story actually acts as an extended tutorial for the most part and without it most players will find themselves struggling.
Essentially, you take on the role of a battle-hardened future soldier with an unfortunately bad London accent. Jumping in with no prior knowledge, you would be mistaken for thinking that the game is another sci-fi FPS as, for the early part of the story, the player will find themselves running around an island and shooting somewhat frail robots. But this is just building the story and adding a bit of depth to the proceedings. Eventually, the player will come across a Walrus, a type of highly customisable all-terrain vehicle, and after a quick cruise across the island and a short expanse of water, the player will find themselves in control of a massive Carrier, a sea-going vehicle from which the player can plan their conquest and the game begins proper.
The story dwindles along, complete with bad voice acting, but does a good job of introducing the player to the different aspects of the game. That being said, there are some pointers that were missed from the explanations that can result in some rather harsh game overs. Once the player is in control of the Carrier, the second island they reach will be the spider-shaped island and this will be their first chance to take out their armed Walrus and explore. However, being in control of only one Walrus and not being told that running out of fuel will result in game over means that exploring is not really advisable this early in the game, and neither is putting too much effort into destroying the roaming robots or turrets that can be found. It would have been nice to know in advance.
The main objective is to take control of a cluster of islands from the safety of the Carrier, and the player will find themselves in control of up to eight vehicles, four Walrus and four Mantas, an aircraft-type vehicle. Whilst the player can personally take control of each vehicle, they are also able to set waypoints and commands for the vehicles, letting the AI take control while you plot on the overhead map.
Which is all well and good when the AI performs how it should. But one of the biggest problems with Carrier Command is that the AI can be very unpredictable. Vehicles getting stuck on scenery, crashing or falling to their doom are all very possible, forcing the player to keep a close eye on what their vehicles are doing at all times. It’s not a game breaking situation, but it does make life that bit more difficult that it needs to be.
Still, as the game progresses, the player will find themselves managing the resources of the islands that they control, doing repairs and upgrading/customising their vehicles to fit whatever purpose they have for them. The problem here is that Carrier Command is a fairly complex game, certainly not one for the casual gamer, and playing on the Xbox360 makes it even more difficult thanks to the limitations of a controller. I would imagine playing the game on PC (which is also available) would be much more intuitive. However, there is still a fairly steep learning curve which will put off a lot of players.
But that’s fine. Carrier Command: Gaea Mission certainly seems to be Bohemia’s labour of love and they have created the game for an audience that feels the same way.
Carrier Command: Gaea Mission will undoubtedly get a lot of interest as there are very few games of this type available on the Xbox360. But the game is targeted at a very specific audience – one that longs for some action/Strategy gameplay and won’t mind the high level of complexity or the buggy AI. For those players, Carrier Command will be everything they have been missing in recent years. Anyone else should probably keep browsing.