Wasteland Angel ReviewJoe Shaffer
I'm not sure how I always get myself into this situation, but:
Now and then I'll browse Steam or Desura for a simple action title. Usually I'll uncover something brief, exciting, and unpretentious, like Alien Shooter. Now and then, though, I end up with a sigh-inducing affair that I have to labor my way through because it fails to offer any semblance of variety or substance. Granted, I understand that's how simplistic games tend to operate, but it's not as though there aren't factors that a developer could take into account that give players a reason to stay the course. Alien Shooter did it by bumping up the ridiculous number and types of foes you battled in subsequent stages, Infected accomplished it by providing you with crazier weaponry, unlockables, and tougher challenges; and MadWorld succeeded in that department by progressively upping the difficulty rating and including increasingly sadistic (and cathartic) means of offing the opposition.
...then you have Wasteland Angel, which is the antithesis of a well-made rudimentary action title.
If you've played level one of Wasteland Angel, you've pretty well played the whole game. Despite its desolate, post-apocalyptic setting, each stage places you in a rather confined, uncomplicated arena. There you must defend a town or two from marauders, which you accomplish by driving aimlessly whilst barraging antagonistic vehicles with bullets. It doesn't take much to fell a standard opponent, and even the heavy ones croak with but a smidgen of effort. This might sound like the makings of a straightforward killing affair, but the truth is you do need to be somewhat vigilant. Now and then a huge van or tank will park next to one of the communities and kidnap citizens. You can recover them, though, if you're able to dispatch the offender before he leaves the arena.
The murder process can be lucrative for you, as each death nets you some points and sometimes provides you with a sub-weapon or artillery upgrade. For instance, there are power ups that transform your standard pair of Gatling guns into armor-piercing rounds, incendiary shells, or even homing rockets.
Finish off every last enemy and it's on to the next stage. There you perform the same tasks as before, except during a different time of day. After that, you'll mosey on to a boss encounter and then to a bonus stage, wherein you play the game in a first-person mode in an attempt to rack up some bonus points that technically do nothing for you.
In other words, Wasteland Angel is your standard vehicular action game. Every level features only the most basic sort of combat, with surroundings that evolve only on a superficial level. There are no additional features that crop up as the game advances, save for fresh sub-weapons every now and then. Thankfully, it's at least stable and the mechanics are solid, so there's very little room to complain about the game being unfair or unplayable.
I wish I could say that I didn't bump into any snags and that the game was at least average. Sadly, I did run afoul of a couple of complications, especially when it comes to boss stages. As with the rest of the game, each boss battle is nearly identical. You spend the early portions of the level building up your supply of sub-weapons, which are necessary for defeating the upcoming villain. Once he makes his grand appearance, you need only to lure the dastard towards you while you launch you sub-attack, usually in the form of a napalm trail or a line of mines. If you're lucky, the opposing vehicle will drive over most of the traps and you need only sit back and watch as his health meter depletes. If you're not so fortunate, though, you'll fall victim to the boss's ultimate technique: bad enemy AI.
If you've played even a short ways into the game, you may have noticed that your adversaries are slobbering idiots when it comes to pathfinding. They'll drive into obstructions and fail to reroute, becoming easy prey. Bosses, on the other hand, become impossible. When they get stuck due to pathfinding issues, they're no longer able to drive over your traps, rendering them functionally invincible all because of their stupidity. I have discovered that you can, given the right circumstance, drive on top of a boss for a few seconds and drop a couple of bombs on them. However, they only receive a few blows at a time in this way, so this alternate strategy is terribly inefficient, especially when you're up against a tank who can strip away large portions of your hit points with each shot while taking only minimal damage himself.
The absolute worst, though, is the game's save glitch. At one point I had defeated the fourth boss and advanced on to the next region. When I reloaded my file later that day, it indicated that I was still at the fourth boss. Bear in mind that this was after losing to said maniac several times because of the previously mentioned issue. It took several tries before I managed to keep the boss away from an environmental impediment long enough to kill him, but that didn't matter now because my file failed to save.
So yeah, if you're itching for a mediocre title with a few flaws, then Wasteland Angel is for you. Honestly, I don't think there are many people hankering for an underwhelming experience peppered with frustration, and I would therefore advise avoiding Wasteland Angel or, at the very least, playing infrequently. Just don't be surprised if you return to find your progress is not as you remembered it...
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.