Steel Horizon

By on November 6, 2006

You’ll need balls of steel to play this.

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First Impressions
My reaction is

I’m absolutely terrible at being on a boat. I don’t care if I’m on a luxury liner or on Noah’s Ark, I am going to be a pain. Green-in-the-face and ‘are we there yet’ modes just kick in as soon as I step on a boat. After playing Steel Horizon, I was feeling just as sick for playing one of the most pointless games in PSP history.

Remember the old Battleship board game where you had to sink your friend’s fleet of cardboard ships? Well, Steel Horizon is pretty much like that, except with the fun element sucked out. Though there are plenty of war-themed games out there, not many of them focus on water-based combat, and this game is a perfect example why this is so. Developers Konami have tried to blend turn-based strategy with real-time battles, thus sending the game to an early and watery graveyard. Players can command either a submarine, destroyer, or battleship as their primary vessel, with each one having its own attack and defense bonuses. But no matter which vessel you choose as your flagship, you’re pretty much going to get blown out of the water anyway. Though you may jump into the game with a ‘full speed ahead’ attitude, you will abruptly hit a very large snag as you find that the entire game is turn-based, which means you have to scroll around the map and move your little minions around to locate enemy ships and destroy them. The game has a pathetic ‘fog of war’ covering most of the map, so you won’t see enemy ships until they come into view or start attacking you. And before you’ve had time to even react, you’re pretty much destroyed anyway.

Ship management is a total joke here. You’re given a variety of skilled vessels in your fleet, but for some random reason, the game likes to clump them together in various groups. So you may be given one group that consists of submarines and destroyers. The game encourages you to split this group into two groups, so that you can command the destroyers and submarines separately. Micro-managing your fleet this way becomes incredibly frustrating, and you’ll often find yourself only using a select group of ships to take on the enemy, as most of your vessels have very poor firepower and end up becoming new homes for coral.

If you think that things get better once you actually enter into a battle, then think again. The game does break out of the annoying birds eye view to give you a 3D view of your ships and the enemy, but here’s where the real confusion starts. You have to mash buttons in order to actually attack or target enemy ships, while they happily carve great big holes in your hull. Some of your ships have special attacks such as rapid fire and missiles, but again these take time to deploy and you’ll often miss your target as there is no targeting help or any indication of what you’re shooting at. You also have to constantly flip between the different ships in your fleet to position them out of harm’s way and face the correct enemy – this again leaves you vulnerable to enemy attack, so be prepared to lose a lot of your ships this way. There is also no clear indication during battle of who’s being attacked or which enemy ships you have destroyed. There’s just a couple of miniscule boxes at the bottom of your screen which is supposed to represent your fleet, but how can you remember what BS, DP, FS, and XY mean?

Graphically the game pretty much digs its own grave. The top-down view is a nightmare to work with, and the land on your map looks like it was carved out of a bath sponge. The battle sequences have plenty of grainy pixilated explosions, and your ships just look like floating hunks of junk. The audio is also terrible, with the same snare and drum score being looped over and over in the background. The ‘explosions’ during battle sequences sound like they were recorded at a popcorn machine, and after about 15 minutes I had to take a break from this game or I would have hurled my precious PSP out the window, thanks to the irritating background music.

Steel Horizon is a shockingly bad game, failing in almost every department. Though the ad-hoc multiplayer will give you a slightly better experience when playing against another person, the single-player missions are a total snore, and the unappealing visuals won’t have you playing the game for long – steer clear of this iceberg of a game.


The Scorecard
GAMEPLAY
2
Battleship was more fun than playing this game, though your fleet does behave like it’s made of cardboard.
GRAPHICS
1
Grainy, murky, and pathetic. Obviously the graphics were handled by a hundred monkeys with easels and crayons.
SOUND
2
Dum dum da da dum. Da dum. Repeat.
VALUE
3
Who in their right mind would play this game more than once?
FUN FACTOR
2
The game succeeds in sucking the fun out of every part of the game.
OVERALL
2
A shockingly bad game that is destined for the discount bin.

About

A former IT & Marketing Manager turned full time Editor, Nick enjoys hurling fireballs and tinkering with the latest gadgets. Follow him on Twitter as @theregos

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