Keith's Crappy Videogame Blog

Gene Troopers (PC, 2005, Slovakia): Golden Turkey on Steroids
April 20, 2012, 6:41 pm
Filed under: Gene Troopers (PC, 2005, Slovakia)

I wouldn’t categorize “Gene Troopers” (PC, 2005) as especially overlooked or obscure. Hence, it’s extremely puzzling why it’s so difficult to find any information about the development of the game. Heck, there’s not even a Wikipedia page about it at the time of this writing (and there’s a 1,600-word Wiki page about athlete’s foot for God’s sake). The fallout after the release of “Gene Troopers” is fairly well documented though—most people thought it was a Class-A Turd. But the hype leading up to its release, or even a yellowed newspaper clipping chronicling its development cycle, is sort of nonexistent—maybe there was none (which, in this age of pre-release hysteria, is hard to imagine).

But I can hypothesize all over the place and make some wild assumptions just for giggles: Cauldron, a Slovakian developer, had some surprising success with its title “Chaser,” which released in 2003. (See my discussion of it on this blog.) In fact, the proprietary CloakNT engine used in that game at the time was considered the best on the market. For a little eastern Euro developer comprised of a couple dozen cubicles, that’s got to make you feel good. While the single-player campaign in “Chaser” was considered so-so by many reviewers, the online component had some serious…errr…legs, apparently. Several updates and years later, there were still small knots of people playing it online—sort of unprecedented, in my opinion, for an eastern European developer at that (or any?) point in time. (Cauldron, by the way, is still around and kicking…if you call developing all those crappy, budget Cabela’s hunting games for Activision “kicking.” Yeah, that’s what the once-sorta-mighty Cauldron has been up to since about the mid-2000s. Oh, that and making those History Channel games your grandma buys for your birthday because she thinks she’s being hip. Eh, whatever ya gotta do to survive, right?)

Heck, this speculation is rather plausible and authoritative, so let’s continue the fiction: Considering this relatively early success in 2003 with “Chaser,” Cauldron was now perfectly poised to pounce on the burgeoning console market in the west (which was being dominated by online multiplayer titles like Bungie’s “Halo 2” on the original Xbox right about this time), as well as continuing to scoop up PC sales here in our backyard. I can almost see the developers meeting, dudes slouching around a Slovakian conference table (different than regular conference tables by the way), dreaming up a hardcore, but adolescent-friendly, story-driven, sci-fi FPS that could be developed across multiple platforms and would have both a singleplayer campaign and online multiplayer components. Hey, and it could have something to do with genes and DNA, and hey, I’ve always loved that flick “Starship Troopers.” Oh snap! Let’s call it “Genetic Space Troopers” or something like that! Oh, this will be big.

Anyway, although it was released for the original XBOX (one of the titles not backwards compatible with the 360), the well-established PS2, and also the old standby PC, the game was, by all rights, a major flop. Clocking in with a Metacritic score of 46, descriptions like “dumb,” “aimless,” “boring,” and “stilted” characterized most reviews, though some critics admitted the game had “heart” but could not overcome its multiple failings. As far as I can tell, aside from their “Conan” third-person RPG game that was released on multiplatforms right around the same time, Cauldron never seemed to generate much traction for its lineup after the beloved-by-some “Chaser.” “Cabela’s: Big Game Hunter” here we come. Aw. (Half-hearted apologies to any virtual big game hunters out there.)

And on that note, I am damn glad that whenever I read a review that says “Avoid this title at all costs,” I interpret that as “Go find this title now and give it a whirl.” I’ve been pleasantly surprised way too many times, and “Gene Troopers” (with its deep and numerous flaws) is a goddamned fun game to play. It’s got a fun little narrative that tries—and with much forgiveness on the player’s part—works just fine. It’s got characters that are at least half interesting and are surprisingly dynamic. The shooting mechanic is solid with tons of wacky guns. Though it is a mid-2000s corridor crawler that is as linear as they come, there are varied locations—jungles, a water world, a city, a bar, lab complexes, a forest, a deep-space salvage yard, your own ship. The campaign is lengthy, and one that takes a slow turn from kinda giggly to super serious–and it works. There are serviceable driving sequences and some turret shooting (both on land and in the air). The game is crazily colorful and nice to look at in that mid-2000 kind of way. What the hell else could you want?

Though the narrative in “Gene Troopers” has continuity problems and is treated in a terribly hamfisted way (which accounted for some of the negative critical reactions to the game), on the surface it is actually an interesting and surprisingly coherent story well suited to this medium. Even more interesting, the main characters who assist you on your quest form a ragtag team of personalities (with interesting individual backstories) that surprised me in some ways. In essence, everything adds up to a narrative that you can easily become engrossed in as long as you forgive, forgive, forgive (and if you are adept at filling in some narrative gaps that are conveniently missing).

The backstory proceeds thusly: After significant deep space exploration and many wars, by the year 4008 the Galactic Empire (GE) runs our part of the solar system. In short, the GE is a military regime run by President Horatio Prowler which relies on Gene Trooper manufacturing technology—basically an ability to use strains of alien DNA to alter human hosts and change them into elite battle units to do the bidding of the Galactic Empire. The only detail kept hush-hush is the fact that, while some folks volunteer, the human hosts are not always willing participants in this plan.

Against this backdrop, the game begins with Bridger Johannson (a handsome, run-of-the-mill human scientist) and his afro-sporting-20-something daughter Mareen (that’s Mareen, not Maureen), on a spaceship enjoying what might as well be a deep space cruise upon Earthliner flight A172-449. (I’m not making this up; it’s in the game manual.) They are headed towards a newly settled planet Eidon; the only problem is that strange gravity phenomena have been occurring in that region of space and some ships have gone missing. Apparently daddy Bridger and daughter Mareen are the adventurous types.

Too bad for them. Halfway through their trip, an alien craft appears out of a space anomaly and forces the Earthliner through said anomaly with a tractor beam. While all this is happening, genetically altered gorilla-like-monstrosities (which you later find out are called GTs—guess what that stands for!) invade the cruise ship, and dozens of vacationers/settlers run wild as the gorilla-monsters collect them up and carry them away. Bridger and Mareen escape into a closed room, but one of the monsters peels the door down, knocks Bridger out cold, hauls Mareen over his shoulder kicking and screaming, and the thing carries both characters away. As it turns out, people are being harvested for the Gene Troopers program (or so it seems)—you and your daughter were in the wrong place at the wrong time and have been slated for transformation against your will.

When the game begins in first-person, you (playing as Bridger) wake up imprisoned inside a transformation unit in the highly guarded Gene Trooper facility on the planet Greenech surrounded by others who are being genetically transformed. Before you even realize what is happening though, your mutation into a GT is interrupted by a thin, stick-like alien named Al (who accidentally blows up your cell and releases you). His first question to you is to ascertain if you’ve managed to retain your own will. (This is the first of several dozen dialogue sequences in the game where you have multiple answers to choose from when interacting with characters.) Lucky for you, your will is still your own since your transformation is only half completed (which means you have some of the physical augmentations of a GT, but none of the brainwashing). By the way, this half-finished transformation actually becomes a debilitating problem for your character later on in the game, and you are given an optional mission to complete your transformation (which requires a bit of backtracking through recycled environments) or to forge ahead as a half-made-monster. Pretty neat.

Why did Al blow up your pod and free you? Well, it wasn’t on purpose. He was actually freeing a woman being held as a prisoner in a lab cell adjacent to yours—the explosive he used just happen to destroy both cells. The person he was intentionally rescuing is Keysha, a bitchy and nervous lady who clearly does not want to be here as an interloper in the dangerous Galactic Empire complex. Al is from an ancient insectoid race, and Keysha is an energo-vampire (e-vamps, for short, all who wear cool shades, apparently). These two characters, Al and Keysha, already have a history—she is clearly a thief who has stolen a powerful artifact of some kind from Al, and he is rescuing her from the Gene Trooper lab to force her to show him where she hid it near the complex and return it to him. But because of this accidental jailbreak, Al figures having you on his side as a grateful escapee (who happens to be physically powerful) would be keen, so he gives you a gun and invites you along (much to Keysha’s chagrin).

Of course, you don’t care about the squabble between these two strangers—all you want to know is the location of your daughter Mareen. But she’s clearly not here—in fact, it is likely she’s not even on the planet Greenech at all, so says Al. And this drives you through the entirety of the game—your sole mission is to find out where the Galactic Empire has taken Mareen and to rescue her. Luckily, after escaping the Gene Trooper complex, slogging through a jungle world, and after a mishap with Al’s artifact which you eventually find (the artifact is called the Seed of Bane and it actually uses your body as a host, which further augments your powers, though you didn’t ask for it), you safely board Al’s ship. There you meet a half-mechanical man who has lost his memory named Trigger (who is deep friends with Al, who once rescued him, and is part of the crew). And therein begins the ragtag group’s quest across multiple worlds (and meeting a variety of feathered-scaley-fat-skinny-three-stalk-eyed-six-armed aliens) to find your daughter. Perhaps I’m not explaining it very well here, but on the surface, the story is compelling and coherent enough that as you play, you do want to discover what happens next. It’s good, clichéd sci-fi…on the surface. But as I’ll discuss in a moment, there is much more under the hood than you might expect.

Regarding this ragtag group, they are a surprisingly dynamic trio. By that I mean their relationships are rather complex for what appears to be a silly sci-fi shooter, and their opinions of you change over the course of the game. For instance, the mech-man Trigger seems to like you at first. But as the story progresses and you keep insisting on finding your daughter Mareen against ridiculous odds, Trigger begins to call you a hothead, and he thinks you are foolish to believe you will ever find her alive. After you show him your killer moves as a GT however, Trigger then finds new respect for you and actually calls you his leader. Nevertheless, while he is willing to help you, Trigger thinks your quest is ultimately a waste of time. Similarly, the e-vamp, Keysha, actually abandons the party in a huff after an altercation with Al and disappears for an entire act of the game; she reappears under completely believable circumstances later, and her attitude toward you [which was initially cold and bitchy] has completely changed too (for reasons explained in the story) and she becomes your dedicated companion and love interest (depending on some choices you make later on).

To my delight, I could interact with these characters narratively, engaging in optional dialogue with them to learn their backstories or the circumstances why they have banded together, and even their rationale for being willing to assist me. These conversations (which are presented as very basic dialogue trees) are completely optional; generally speaking, they do not change the path of the narrative and they don’t really impact the game in any way, other than deepening your connection to the story. Conversely, as the game progresses, there are a handful of major decisions your character must make which alters the way the game plays out, at least in a nascent way. But the more frequent dialogue trees with characters don’t have this kind of impact and are present just to relay more of the story to the player. When interacting with characters, your choices of responses are geared more towards whether or not you want to take a friendly approach to a character or a surly one—again, neither of which matters very much. In other words, you can blow through the game never engaging with these characters or learning about them at all. (An actual on-screen prompt says “Press X on a character to learn more about them, or go to your sleep pod to begin the next mission.”) Even though the dialogue is relatively clunky (some of that due to localization problems), choosing to ignore this option would be like ignoring half the game, in my opinion.

Lastly, regarding the story, as you progress through missions, information is added to Johannson’s journal, which is accessed in a sub-menu. Journal information includes items like the names and details regarding the planets you’ve visited, the races of aliens you’ve come into contact with during the various missions, what the relationships are amongst those various races of aliens, what successes and failures you’ve had, and the overall temperament of the crew. Needless to say, this kind of information deepens the narrative context of the game considerably—though it is still a rather surfacey affair compared to higher profile titles. Early in the game, when information is added to the journal, a prompt appears on screen to alert you that some new reading material is available. These prompts, however, seemed to disappear or got buried as the game progressed. (This kind of inconsistency is one of my major gripes about “Gene Troopers,” which I’ll detail in a moment.) The bad news is that this means unless you take the initiative to exit the play screen and check the journal submenu on your own, you will lose contact with a large part of the story. After forgetting to check journal entries after several hours of play, I found myself reading backstories regarding planets and missions I had finished quite some time ago. Still, all of this shows the amount of thought poured into the actual universe of Gene Troopers by Cauldron—this ultimately is an arcadey kind of shooter, but there’s quite a bit more underneath the hood if you take the time.

For instance, as I mentioned, you have several major decisions to make in the game which can actually alter events, which is not something I expected to find here. The first one I alluded to—whether or not to complete your transformation as a GT. However, choices eventually become much more dire. The next major decision occurs right before the final mission, when you are faced with saving your daughter or saving Earth. I won’t detail how the circumstances lead to this all-or-nothing decision, but it all makes sense within the game. Much to the game’s credit, the decisions are not as straightforward as they might seem—saving Mareen might actually mean she dies, or someone else might die. To complicate matters further, immediately following that major decision, you then have to decide whether to basically commit suicide (to destroy the rogue and potentially dangerous Seed of Bane artifact inside you) or continue with your mission—again, with choices that are not telegraphed in a way that makes choosing easy or obvious. (I mean, we are not talking “Mass Effect”-quality narrative choices here, but this style of gameplay had to begin somewhere, right?) Thankfully, being able to create as many gamesaves as you wish, you can actually make all the decisions and watch how they play out. And these decisions result in surprisingly different narrative paths, with different cutscenes and even a different final mission accompanied by different NPCs. My first string of decisions, which I thought would lead to the most positive endgame (everyone living, the Earth being saved, everything hunky-dory), were completely wrong, and I ended up having to kill all my adoptive crewmates who had come to admire me. I basically became the antihero—interesting, but not my style. Returning to an earlier save allowed me to make the opposite decisions to get the happy ending I wanted. I realize in this day and age, these kinds of choices are not revolutionary; however, the only reason I bring it up is because I was not at all expecting this flashy, seven-year-old shoot-em-up to require lofty decision-making, yet it’s all here and part of the experience. Bonus. Furthermore (without giving too much away), the ending of the game is surprisingly reminiscent of “Mass Effect 2” (my previous non-comparison notwithstanding) with a strange, ominous race of “collectors” descending upon our universe. After the final boss battle, Bridger heroically declares, “This fight is not over. My daughter is still not safe…” as he awaits his sequel. Alas, his wait will be a long one, since I imagine Cauldron will not revisit this universe anytime soon. What I mean is…never ever.

Regarding the gameplay itself, a good part of the fun relies on the powerups and weapons in the game. I am a total sucker for weird, not-real, clichéd sci-fi guns that blast freeze rays, blobs of green goo, and lasers (you know, the shit you’ve seen a billion times before); and I’m an even bigger sucker anytime I can slow down time, create a wave of energy to knock enemies on their asses, or throw up a shield at will (the shit you’ve seen a trillion times before). While none of this is new or particularly exciting, “Gene Troopers” has all that. One of the core mechanics in the game is that since you have been transformed into a GT, you can collect genetic material from downed enemies (in the form of hot pink, glowing, spinning balls of energy) and tuck it away into a bank account to be spent on multiple levels of powerups whenever you choose. (Warning: Your enemies can do the same, so if you don’t quickly scoop up the genes, your foes can become more powerful by using them too.) The powerups are appropriately titled Battle Rush (increases damage done by weapons and the resistance of your armor for a short time period), Global Wave (knocks enemies down), Bio-Energy Shield (self-explanatory), and Neuron Drift (the game’s version of bullet-time). Your collected genes can also be spent on more permanent attributes by increasing your overall hit points, increasing the speed of regenerating health, and also giving you “Night Vision” and “Battle Vision,” that allows you to more easily spot enemies, even through walls. The weapons sport monikers like “Respect” (assault rifle), “Messenger” (a railgun), “Freezer” (an icecube-maker), “Ghost” (sniper rifle), and a “Howa-Do” (a Howitzer—get it?)—there are apparently 10 different guns, and several kinds of grenades. None of this sounds particularly interesting? OK, but this is 2005 folks. More importantly, this is Slovakia, folks.

In addition to these powerups and weapons, you are also fitted with a gravity glove that allows you to pick up large objects (including dead enemies) and hold them aloft or hurl them wherever you choose. There are a few not-particularly-challenging environmental puzzles involving the glove as well. Again, nothing new. But one of the powerups associated with the glove is a “Death Grasp” that turns your glove into a killing tool. I didn’t use it.

And the fact that I didn’t use or power up the “Death Grasp” points to one of the flaws in the game. While there’s quite a bit of variety on display here as far as defensive and offensive capabilities, the game does not require you to use or explore much of it. You might be optimistic and say the game is offering you the option of how to play, which is true. But ultimately, it seems a lot of thought was spent on design and innovation which can be easily ignored by the player. You can literally run through the game with one gun and no powerups (other than maybe increasing your lifebar), as long as there is ample ammo, and you’d be fine. In fact, the game is kind of…easy. As usual, I played it on a normal setting, but after a few hours I wish I could have increased the difficulty level (which, this being an old-skool title, cannot be altered once the game begins).

And since I’ve started down the path of negativity, shall I simply continue? This might seem like a list of disparate gripes, but ultimately the title does suffer from some haphazard—and especially inconsistent—design choices. Discontinuity also plays a major negative role. Case in point: Through much of the game, you are accompanied by one or more NPC pals (Keysha, Al, Trigger, or even a third-party character temporarily introduced into the narrative–or some combination of these). However, the game will also inexplicably, or conveniently, have them disappear as well to force you to go it alone. For example, often in the game, you’ll be traipsing through a map, say a jungle planet, with Trigger and Al trailing behind you (and doing a surprisingly decent job of taking down enemies–in some cases, your teammates’ aim is a bit too superior, making the game even easier). But then, you’ll reach a new area, say a train station, and a loading screen will appear. After loading has occurred, your teammates are nowhere to be found. In some cases, the game is happy to run merrily along without any explanation as to where your dudes disappeared to. In other cases some cursory on-screen message will appear that says something like “Your crew has been transported elsewhere. You are on your own!” Talk about yanking you out of the narrative. Of course, they all eventually reappear, but ugh. This, by the way is not a glitch. This is how the game is designed—I presume to provide some variety in both solo-gaming and cooperative-like play. But it simply comes across as seriously discontinuous.

In the same vein, your loadout will inexplicably change after a mid-chapter loading screen appears (I’m not talking about the beginning of a major shift in the game’s acts, but just a small loading screen in the middle of a chapter). It is as if the levels were “pre-designed” by having you utilize certain guns at certain times. For example, I was gunning through the jungle with Al and Trigger, and I was using the assault rifle. But when I hit the train station, after the loading screen, not only have Al and Trigger disappeared inexplicably, I also am now sporting a pistol and a sniper rifle. Huh? This sort of discontinuity seems like haphazard game-making—something that would be easily avoidable with some more concrete planning. The negative effect is that it feels like you are always starting over and that the game you are playing was created in bits and pieces by teams who did not know what their peers in the next cubicle were doing. In other words, the seams are showing. Seriously. This also doesn’t happen once. It happens with almost every load.

Major problem #3: Oh, the voice acting is deplorable. Well, let me revise that. Some of the voicework is acceptable—ultimately, Al’s, Trigger’s, and Keysha’s voices are endurable. Unfortunately, the worst voice is the game is…YOUR VOICE. Every time your character opens his mouth, it becomes a laughable ordeal. This is an area where the game requires an extremely forgiving nature, especially since engaging in the optional dialogue with characters helps to create a deeper narrative experience. So at the same time you are gaining more information about the context of the Gene Troopers universe and its inhabitants, you involuntarily cringe while listening to your own voice. The problem may be that these are not native English speakers (a typical problem lots of us have encountered), or it might be that Johannson Bridger’s voice actor is READING… FROM… A… SCRIPT… WITHOUT… ANY… INTENTION… OF… MAKING… THIS… PERSON… SOUND… LIKE… A… HUMAN… BEING… AT… ALL. Overall, it is a dire black eye on this title—easily sufferable if you are interested in playing it, but just prepare yourself.

Also allow me to backtrack regarding the story: Overall, it is intelligible, if you pay attention and fill in the requisite gaps, as I mentioned. Actually, it moves beyond mere intelligibility and could be called enjoyable. Some of the large decisions you must make that change the final narrative are especially engaging; I actually had a sense of investment in it all, which is a testament. However, there are instances where odd, nonsensical scenes happen that are filled with non-sequiturs. One example: There’s a moment pretty late in the game when your crew comes very close to finding Mareen, but you simply cannot reach her in time before she is chased aboard a ship by some nasty GTs and the ship flies away. Daddy Johannson is depressed by his failure, and all of the NPCs–Trigger, Al, and Keysha–begin blabbing simultaneously, providing different platitudes or offering various condolences and ideas about how to proceed. Their speeches all occur simultaneously, like a massive, thoroughly-tossed audio salad. The result is a jumble of…WHAT? Then during other exchanges, lengthy, bizarre silences can occur which wrecks the immersion. When this happens (and it happens with some frequency), it feels more like a technical glitch than anything. The unfortunate result is that these moments are actually high points in the narrative that are thoroughly ruined. In the same vein, when engaged in dialogue with the NPCs, there are sometimes nonsensical reply-options offered to you. Case in point: Frequently, the only way to exit a dialogue tree (like when you are finished engaging a character) is by having Johannson say “Oh! Never mind! Just forget it!” in his awful, irritated voice—a reply which absolutely makes no sense in light of the previous, perfectly pleasant conversation. Why couldn’t the developers have just included a silent “exit conversation” choice? Wouldn’t that have been easy?

One final specific gripe, if I may, regarding combat. As I mentioned, the shooting mechanic is not complex and works fine, targeting is tight enough to play this game using a gamepad even though no aim assist is available (if that’s your milieu), and ammo is plentiful. There are two major caveats though. First, your AI opponents are especially brainless (even the “battle elite” GTs!…yeah, right), appearing as little more than shooting-gallery-fodder; while they may take cover here and there or do a little dodging, they generally rush you, and they are experts at killing themselves by tossing grenades at their own feet or launching missiles in enclosed areas which can kill entire squads. Eh. But I guess to even the odds, you’ll discover that throwing grenades is a suicidal act even for you about half the time. Why? I have no idea, but the grenades often blow up right in your face, as though they are hitting some invisible wall three feet in front of you. I thought I got the hang of it by pointing the reticule almost to the ceiling in order to lob a grenade high. This seemed to work a handful of times, but then I continued to kill myself, so I forgot about using grenades altogether. Luckily, they are not necessary.

The next three paragraphs chronicle some of the technical issues I encountered while attempting to play the game on a modern rig in Windows 7. Though I realize this kind of information doesn’t make for especially compelling reading (in other words, skip it), I figure it can be used as an indirect resource for anyone encountering similar issues.

So, of course, as usual, attempting to play these older titles (even if they’re not all that old) can be a game unto itself. In the case of “Gene Troopers,” everything started out well enough. In fact, the game is surprisingly well optimized, and the resolution-wrestling-matches that I’ve sometimes experienced with these older titles (if playing on high resolution flat screens or laptops, or whatever) were nonexistent here. The game conveniently read the highest resolutions displayed by my various monitors (I played this on my BRAND FREAKING NEW GODLIKE 65″ PLASMA SCREEN at 1920×1080 [the screen is so freakishly huge it actually induces motion sickness—thanks IRS] and also a widescreen laptop at 1680×945) and would adjust accordingly.

Of course, things wouldn’t remain problem-free for long. A massive polygonal glitch occurred after the first chapter when the game enters into a swamp and then into a heavily wooded forest, and then later on the water world of Wenomar (I told you there was striking variety in gameplay locations here). In my videocard’s attempt to render the reflective water surface and the swaying trees, the screen became awash with striated blue and green vibrating stripes crisscrossing the screen and obliterating everything in sight. Thus began a two-day hunt for a solution; eventually, the net told me this problem was related to the 8x-series of nVidia cards’ drivers. Then, I discovered a tiny post on some cobwebbed thread somewhere discussing how using a freeware program called 3DAnalyzer to run the game, while checking one of the options labeled “Emulate HW TnL caps” (which basically forces the game to use the main processors, rather than the videocard, to render the game) would make the game run normally. I gave it a shot and VIOLA! If you play this title and run into a serious polygonal glitch that hinders your progress, give this a shot. Just Google “3DAnalyzer” and the free download will appear. The entire game does not need to be run through 3DAnalyzer, however. Since using 3DA will give you a serious processing hit, only use it in sections when your graphics go haywire (usually where water, trees, or grass is present).

One last technical problem involved the sound. While the (generally awful) music and workaday sound effects were present, I found that from the get-go, none of the voices were working. Considering that the voice work on display here is just short of abominable, you might think that was not a problem. But ultimately, having characters mechanically move their lips without any sound being emitted sort of breaks the gameplay experience. After even more hunting around, I discovered that this glitch has to do with the fact that Windows operating systems (like Windows 7 in my case) no longer support EAX, and many older games used this system to manage sound. In the case of “Gene Troopers,” without EAX, all voices disappear. Thankfully, I found a beta program created by Realtek just to correct this shortcoming called “3DSoundBack.” It’s a free, simple program to use and is self-explanatory. Google is your friend. The program works with any old-school EAX-supported game, apparently, so that sound in older games can be properly rendered in newer operating systems.

I said it earlier, and I’ll say it again: I had an easygoing, fun time playing this oh-it’s-so-mid-2000-corridor-crawling-neon-soaked-kooky-alien-inhabited shooter. Cringing while listening to Johannson’s voice, I still wanted to forge ahead to find out if Mr. Bridger would find his daughter Mareen (not Maureen), and to see the next world we would land on, what new gun I might find, what new alien I’d meet or fight, and what would happen to the crew–as well as the universe. Yet another good time with a cheap, crappy, earnest FPS that needs as much computing power as your phone in order to run (and it looks mighty fine doing so). It’s what I live for, pretty much. Yay.


8 Comments so far
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Either your writing is getting better, or the games you’re finding are getting better (or possibly I’m just in a good mood), but I had an especially good time reading this review. Took me 45 minutes, as I dramatically slow down my reading when the writing is good, to increase my comprehension (yes, seriously, 45 minutes!). Your summary of the story elements was especially captivating.

Regarding your technical comments: Please continue to include them in your reviews. While I do love these games, I am not nearly as technically proficient as I should be, and these comments can help people like me GREATLY! Google may be my friend, but if someone else has already done the work, I can save myself hours of Googling by just reading what you already did. And I thank you for going to the trouble.

This kind of knowledge can be helpful in other older games as well, so I never tire of reading about it, as sometime in the future it may come in handy for those other games too. That EAX thing for instance: Never heard of that problem before, and now I’m wondering if I’ve had that problem before…maybe there’s a game I gave up on for lack of sound that I can try again now.

Comment by Mark L

Hey Mark. Very glad you enjoyed this. It’s overly long, but what the heck. I’ve been writing for a long time now (was an editor at a community weekly and also a managing editor at a national healthcare mag before getting my Ph.D. in teaching writing). But I’ve gotten to the point now where really the only “freespirited” kind of writing I actually enjoy doing is right here. I had my 7th peer-reviewed academic article published in January, which was nice and all, but I couldn’t wait to be done with the academic research and writing so I could get back to playing games and waxing poetic about them. Thanks again for reading and posting. It helps tremendously.

Comment by wkduffy

Hmm… maybe I’m going to have to dig up my copy of this and actually give it a second shot. Also in regards to the comment above, could you write a brief text doc about how to run this on Win7. It could be posted with the listing on 3DSL, and I’m sure it would be super useful for people who like trying older and (somewhat) obscure games.

Comment by Trey

Hi Trey. Thy will be done. See below and do with it what you will, including editing it or whatever. I’ll also post this on the 3DSL forums under Games Support because…why not.

Potential problems and fixes playing “Gene Troopers” on Win 7 or newer OS:

1: You hear music and sound effects but no voices: This is a problem with EAX no longer being supported in Win7. To fix, Google and download “3D Sound Back,” freeware from Realtek to emulate EAX for older games. IMPORTANT NOTE: 3D Sound Back must run in VISTA compatibility mode in order to initialize.

2. You encouter heavy graphical corruption in areas with trees and water (polygon spikes obscure the whole screen): This is a problem encountered with some nVidia cards. To fix, Google and download “3D Analyzer” (3DA) freeware from ToMMTi-Systems. Run “Gene Troopers” through 3DA as you play. Before starting the game in 3DA, on the main 3DA menu, go to
the column “Hardware LImits” and tick the box “emulate HW TnL caps,” which limits/bypasses your nVidia card and removes the corruption. NOTE: 3DA taxes your processor. Remember the entire game does not need to be run through
3DA–static environments (not including moving trees or water) should work fine in Win7. For weaker rigs, only use 3DA in chapters where the corruption occurs.

Comment by wkduffy

Hi there again! 😀
Ever played this?
Rarest I’ve ever seen.

Comment by Hombre de Incógnito (@Donpeste)

Hey! It really does look neat. 3D Shooter Legends has a nice entry on it with some more info. You might want to check it out. It is listed as Pyl under the category 1998:

Comment by wkduffy

Hi-Glad i discovered your blog(through 3DSL),i was wondering if you ever have tried any post processing effects programs(ENB,ReShade,SweetFX,etc.) with any of these games? I am especially fond of ReShade as it is pretty user friendly. I love many of these budget titles,although i don’t complete many of them,i certainly feel like i’m getting my money’s worth. I enjoy your reviews,keep up the good work!

Comment by William Ross

Hi William, thanks for reading. I’ve fiddled with earlier versions of ENB and SweetFX but with varying degrees of success. Even using other folks’ presets, I’ve never been too sure of the results. The last game I FX’d was Quake 4; over the last few years, I’ve been revisiting some games I originally played on console to play on PC using stereoscopic 3D…again with varying degrees of success…but this was before Reshade. So, I guess it is time for me to try it out again? The pix included here on the blog are straight-up screenshots, in some cases sharpened a bit with Photoshop but that’s it. And about finishing games, I hear you…but especially with some of these — ahem “gems”– I’ve got a pact (with whatever greater force is out there) that if I start a game, I’m obligated to finish it, no matter what. That pact has brought lots of heartache as you can imagine.

Comment by wkduffy

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