Looking Glass Technologies are probably best known for their Ultima Underworld series of games, but this 1996 tactical shooter from them is also a retro-gaming classic.
Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri is a first-person, futuristic ‘combat suit’ type action game with an interesting mix of styles.
It reminds me on some levels of a Wing Commander game, or X-Wing, with you playing a soldier with a central briefing room, from where you accept missions and communicate with your team. And – like X-Wing and Wing Commander – the action sequences are played-out in a first-person shooter environment.
What makes Terra Nova so good are the challenging levels, which are kinda sandbox-y in a way. Meaning: you can tackle the same mission in different ways (if you want to). The missions also grow in difficulty quite rapidly. By level four you might be scratching your head and thinking: “tactics?”. It’s worth fighting on, though, because by level six things get really interesting, with combat taking place on a hillside inside in a big lightning storm with atmospheric lighting.
The game even has a Random Scenario Builder, for after you’ve exhausted the single-player campaign (no mean feat). The ‘mission generator’ is actually a lot of fun by itself, mainly because you can activate certain ‘cheats’, which are funny. It’s basically a quick blast against bots, but is great for practise.
Special mention must go to the Full Motion Video (FMV) scenes in-between missions, which are performed by real actors. They are not bad, but they’re not Ingmar Bergman either, so are kind of extraneous to me. Looking Glass certainly used a professional film crew and actors to shoot them though, which is why so many people seem to have worked on this game…
Terra Nova is impeccably presented. The Heads Up Display (HUD) during combat is one of the best I’ve seen. All the different windows and configurations and various details are well thought-out and actually useful. The in-game 3D graphics are a little raggeddy (because they’re pre-3D acceleration), but that doesn’t detract too much from the game. Terra Nova is still quite exciting and engrossing to play now, so is well worth a visit.