Off-World Interceptor is a third person driving shoot-em up that puts you in the shoes of a “Trashman”, an interplanetary bounty hunter tasked with apprehending several dangerous criminals. So far, so good. What this 3DO release does is turn that premise into a rather enjoyable game that also saw later ports to the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn.
There are story, arcade and two player head to head options, the latter of which I couldn’t try out as I only had one pad (that’s my excuse and I am sticking to it!). Arcade is effectively a training option for the story (minus the final level) so you can see which of the six vehicles works best on the five available worlds – the sixth is trial and error. Each world has a number of stages before a final boss battle where the big money is earned. On the surface, there certainly seems enough here to keep the average player busy for a fair few hours.
Effectively an off-road racer with funky weapons and an alien planet setting, your goal is to reach the end of the course before the bad guy. Being an off-world interceptor, your vehicle can not only drive places but can also jump and, to a small degree, hover. This comes in handy! Along the way, you’ll deal with other bounty hunters, laser turrets and other obstacles. You can pick up fuel, armour, special weapon ammunition and cash tokens along the way. Run out of fuel and you’ll get a pick me up, although that costs you time in this race. Too much damage and you’ll explode, though you can purchase clones in-between levels in an upgrade shop. You can also buy new vehicles, upgrade existing ones and generally improve your chances by spending that hard-earned cash. Fail to reach the end of a stage before the criminal, and an airstrike is called in that will demolish everything in the level, including you.
If this sounds pretty simple and straightforward, well, that’s because it is. Action is pretty much on rails, in that whilst you can drive forwards, you can’t go backwards and you are limited to a roughly 45 degree left or right turn. The boss stages provide the greatest challenge where dodging fire is a hit and miss affair (that was a terrible joke, but I make no apologies!) whereas the normal stages are pretty much a “hold down gas and fire buttons – sometimes hit the special weapon one” and that’s it. The planets themselves are just a variation on colour, mere decoration for the driving and shooting. It is, however, an enjoyable arcade style game to play.
Graphically, I can see why this was considered a good example of what the 3DO could do and how it improved upon the 16-bit generation. The action is quite smooth, the 3D terrain whips by at a fair rate and it’s only the limited frames of animation that appear to slow things down. There’s usually a ton of things on screen – laser bolts, enemies, other drivers and tokens, and the only real downside is the terrible draw distance for the terrain. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing if it wasn’t for the fact that if you find yourself in the hill areas, you’ll have difficulty seeing what’s coming up next, never mind those important fuel and armour tokens. Still, for an early title on a machine not renowned for being a 3D powerhouse, it’s good. The full motion video of the story cut scenes is, well, early 90’s FMV, but I’ll speak more on that in a moment.
Music is of the era, rock pop generic action stuff which, to be honest, suits the game well. Nothing memorable or ear worm like but good all the same. Sound effects are more limited, but again, suit the title well and certainly don’t detract from it.
Controls are a bit of an issue though as whoever decided on the layout really hadn’t thought it through, in my humble opinion. You see, the left and right shifts are jump and fire respectively. The A, B and C buttons are Switch Special Weapon, Gas and Use Special Weapon. P is brake and X is the pause/menu/select button. This may make sense in writing, but in actual play, it gave me cramp. Okay, that could just be my aged digits, but for me, it would have made more sense to have left shift as gas and B as jump, as you’re pretty much going to have the gas button pressed all of the time. It’s a small niggle but one that did have an impact, especially after half an hour or so of play.
So with decent game play, show off graphics (for the time) and suitable audio, this would have made a great arcade title but it seriously lacks depth and I managed a play through of the story mode in just under two hours – and that’s not a brag either, I have seen faster. Whether this was worth the full price tag upon release, well, 3DO owners weren’t exactly buried under a mass of great games so I can see why this one was popular. It was also far more accomplished than the frankly dire Saturn conversion. If I left it at that, you can see why I have given the score I have below. But I don’t want to leave it there…
Outside of the core game, there are the FMV cut scenes that supposedly set the story and give context to the missions. You could accept that and be happy. Or, you could be of the opinion that they had the bare bones of a game and needed to pad out the disc and be seen to provide more value, hence the almost mandatory FMV sequences. Me? Cynical? No idea what you mean…
Quality wise, they’re not that bad, though they do look like a knock off from the Future Zone of the Crystal Maze. Everything looks suitably cheap, though the lighting does no favours here, and the acting is similarly bargain basement, but it does the job. No, the issue with the cut scenes is the presentation.
Every cut scene is commented upon by two silhouetted jokers imposed at the bottom of the screen – think the world’s worst pair of cinema commentators – or The Muppet’s Statler and Waldorf except not funny. These two comment, joke and laugh as they watch the story scenes with you. This would not be much of a problem if they didn’t drown out the actual scene they are watching, so if you were interested in the story, good luck on trying to hear it. Also, the “humour” has not aged well at all. This is early 90’s jock humour and time has not been kind. I’ll leave it at that.
Ignoring the questionable FMV, Off-World Interceptor is quite a fun game and one that would certainly occupy an afternoon or two. Whether that provided value to the player, that’s up to the individual. What I can say is that, for me, this was a nice little title to review as having experienced/tolerated/suffered some absolutely dire titles for the 3DO, it was more than a relief to play something halfway decent and I am happy to say, worth playing by anyone with an interest in the period or genre.
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A good arcade racing shoot-em up with only the questionable control decision and some very dated humour that hold it back.