Title  : Incoming
Platforms  : Sega Dreamcast, Windows
Publisher  : Interplay (for Dreamcast), Xicat Interactive (for Windows)
ESRB Rating  : Teen
Game Rating  : 7.9
Review by  : Ken Gagne

Remember "Independence Day," the alien invasion movie with plot holes big enough to could drive a garbage truck through? What if it had been a video game? A good one, I mean, not the one for PlayStation and Saturn. 

The result might be Incoming, a game developed by Rage and released on the PC last year, and now available for the Sega Dreamcast, courtesy Interplay. This 3D free-range shooter has the plot and action of a good science fiction movie, but ultimately lacks the variety necessary to stay interesting. 

Players pilot 35 vehicles as they defend Earth in 65 stages, or "phases." Every phase has its own vehicle, from tanks to turrets, fighters, and choppers, and a goal that ultimately boils down to shooting anything that moves. Every ten phases constitutes a level, which can range in setting from the Arctic to the Atlantic to the moon, with the option to save one's progress between levels. 

An arcade mode provides an endless battle for one or two players, with their choice of vehicle and level. These endurance trials can be enjoyable, though they lack the direction and variety of simulation mode. 

Despite the number of vehicles, players need not worry about a schizophrenic control scheme. All vehicles have similar controls — even the jet fighters, which are as comfortable flying forward as they are hovering or backing up. The tanks are not as much fun to drive as Star Fox's, and the helicopters' teetering nose makes taking aim a bit frustrating, but no major control issues exist. 

Incoming's atmosphere creates a positive initial impression. The music's guitar and drums serve fitting tunes, though the tunes can occasionally be boring. Sound effects punctuate a huey cutting through the air, or lasers streaking to their target, while a confident voice reports on incoming fire, new directives, or available power-ups. 

The action starts hot and heavy, with lots to do and shoot. But after awhile, it becomes apparent how repetitive Incoming really is. Whether defending a silo or carrying a parcel, it's just dogfights of one sort or another. 

While the gameplay doesn't vary much, the challenge varies wildly. The first twenty phases are fairly simple, serving as a good opportunity to become accustomed to the controls. But after the second level, the goals become more difficult, with enemy fighters swarming the installations you're defending, no matter how hard you try. 

Gameplay and objectives are not always in agreement, either. It's much too easy to train one's sights on an enemy fighter and fire away… just as it zooms behind the oil rig you're supposed to be protecting. Whoosh, it goes up in flames. Oops. 

Incoming's package is another story. The graphics are as impressive as they were on the 3Dfx card a year ago. The terrain, if not colorful, is smooth; backgrounds don't pop into eyesight, but flow appropriately. The vehicles have a cold, futuristic look to them. 

Incoming offers several camera angles from which to play, but only the first-person perspective is usable; the others restrict one's vision too much. 

Incoming starts off as a fun and fast shoot-em-up, but degrades over time to a tautological exercise in frustration. Play it for an hour or two and enjoy the best of what it has to offer — then move on.


This article is copyright (c) 2000, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 03-Jan-00