As college has started over again, students take the time out of their first week to try and lay down some studying habits that hopefully take hold and make them all very successful students. I too had this dream—until I had a chance to review Aquanox 2. Exchanging my books for my computer I found that while it has some fundamental flaws, they don’t detract from what is overall a great game.Aquanox 2 takes place shortly after the first game. While there are vague references in the dialogue and occasional hints at the original Aquanox, this game boasts a completely new storyline. You play as William Drake; you are the last of your family, your company has gone bust and you take the last working freighter to go explore the oceans. Quickly however, pirates “borrow” your ship and give you an ultimatum; join them or die. Since most players aren’t a big fan of dying, the game a*umes you will join them and you are soon off to have merry adventures throughout the sea. For those of you not familiar with the Aquanox series; the entire earth has flooded and it’s now one big ocean. Sort of like Waterworld but with better technology and minus Kevin Costner; this isn’t a bad thing.The story in Aquanox 2 unfolds in various locales. From the deck of your ship, The Harvester, and various cities and hideouts you’ll have the opportunity to click around and talk to various people. “Talking” in this case means clicking on the name of someone and watching them and the main character exchange dialogue. This method of revealing the story, while effective, does get on the tedious side after a while. At several points in the game I clicked on the names then closed the windows so I could simply progress to the next mission. The main story itself is quite interesting but too many subplots left the dialogue stale and boring. In addition to using the interface to progress the story, users also use it to buy and sell supplies at merchants and to prep their ships for battle.Aquanox 2 features a myriad of missions; their difficulty can range anywhere from fairly easy to insanely hard in a few cases. Frequency aside, most of the missions are rather short. The majority of missions will take 5-10 minutes to complete but a scant few will take upwards of 20 minutes. To compensate, Massive did a great job of incorporating variety in the objectives so the game doesn’t feel too repetitive. One point that could be improved is the way boss missions, of which there are several, are handled. Most boss missions start off with weak enemies or none at all; the mission then forces you to navigate your ship through the open waters for a good 2-3 minutes to locate the boss. The fundamental flaw in this is that the bosses are rather high on the difficulty scale. In most cases it took me between 5-15 tries to defeat a boss. Each time I died I’d have to go through the same mundane and boring process of holding in the accelerate key until I found the boss again. A feature which would have started us off at the beginning of the fight itself after dying would have worked wonders here since you can’t save during missions; only between missions.Unfortunately the game controls are like its predecessor. Using your first-person c**pit view, you can guide your submarine using the keyboard and mouse. It’s very easy to maneuver around when there isn’t very much action going on but gets complicated when you’re in battle. The AI controlled submarines also do some maneuvers that are impossible for you to duplicate so staying on a target’s six o’ clock will almost never happen. Since your weapons systems are located on the front of your ship you have to face forward whenever you engage an enemy. Battles between yourself and the computer usually wind up as games of chicken with the two vessels facing and firing at each other. For short battles with few enemies this is alright; for more prolonged battles it begins to wear down your front shields and you will find yourself dead after only taking on a few targets. I had to resort to tricks like reversing towards my enemy to get into range so my front shields would not be depleted so quickly. The inconsistent maneuvering is also highlighted during boss battles; you’ll find yourself unable to stand face to face with most of them.I mentioned weapons in the previous paragraph and yes there are plenty of weapons in the game. As is the norm they get progressively more powerful as the game goes on. With around a dozen guns to choose from, there’s something for everyone, whether you like sniping, rapid-fire guns, or powerful cannons and .to compliment the guns you have torpedoes which are the most powerful weapons in the game. In addition to weapons systems you can load in different types of engines, repair kits, armors, and various other additions.I found the AI to play exceptionally well. In most cases it comes down to the player having superior armor and weaponry that wins the battles. They maneuver their ships well and will gang up on you to make things tougher. No matter which level you’re in, the AI has deadly accuracy. I learned to never be too c**y during any mission because while one bad guy may not destroy you, he’ll bang you up to the point where you’re easy pickings for his buddies. There are some pathfinding mistakes like ships running into the sea floor and into the sides of cliffs. The AI normally corrects itself immediately but there were a few cases where the enemy ships will flounder around helplessly trying to go deeper than the seabed will let them. The AI is still very good despite this minor flaw.Graphically, Aquanox 2 has some impressive visuals, the gun models are particularly well done. All the ships are modeled adequately and distinctly from one another. The explosions in the game are nice to look at as well and the frame rate was consistent with no noticeable slowdowns, even in the heavy fighting. There was a problem with some of the seabed-hugging ground vehicles, they wouldn’t always follow the contour of the sea floor and would normally pass right through small hills instead of going over them. It’s a small issue that doesn’t take away from the game itself.In the sound department the guys at Massive should be given a pat on the back; Aquanox 2 has great music. Gun sounds are unique and help immerse the player in the battles. The music will change from a pleasant orchestral mix to a foreboding military march anytime action starts to heat up. I was pleased with the voice acting as well. It was very convincing and helped drive the storyline. The dialogue is mainly serious but there are a few cornball lines thrown in for good measure. During missions you will be able to hear your comrades on the intercoms and also the enemy as well. These heighten the battles and give it a feel of realism.There is no multiplayer to speak of however but there is an instant action skirmish mode. Also, once you beat a mission in the game you can replay it as many times as you like. In addition to that, there are eight training missions you can take on even before you start the storyline part of the game. The training missions are good for honing your skills as they parallel some of the game’s actual missions.Aquanox 2 didn’t really innovate that much from its predecessor; this doesn’t make it a bad game, far from it in fact. From its compelling storyline to its difficult battles it’s a title that every action fan should pick up. I’m hoping this isn’t the end of the Aquanox series.
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.