Game review: Terminal Velocity
Reviewed by Mike Porter
I want to take another trip down memory lane, because I believe some of the best games we have today are still some of the old ones. This game in particular also plays a big part in my getting into the game industry. Terminal Velocity (the game, not the Sandra Bullock movie) was a huge catalyst for me wanting to work on games.
While Doom was known for great FPS action but was only 2D and no looking up or down, Terminal Velocity had 6 degrees of freedom, was fully 3D and allowed you to fly above the clouds or low to the ground. Those two games came out in roughly the same time period. I actually remember going for my interview at Terminal Reality with Doom levels that I had made to show them I could do art and level design. Terminal Velocity was published by 3DRealms, of Duke Nuk’em fame and was co-produced by Tom Hall. Just like other games at the time, there were three episodes, but the first one was given away for free.
This business model, called Shareware, relied on people sending the game out and sharing with other players. This allowed people to play a full episode, unrestricted, with all the gameplay assets and ideas that would be in the full game. Having this demo in the hands of tonnes of people allowed the game to spread like wildfire. This wasn't a tiny game either, here is a list of the features from the official website that is still in operation.
A RUSH OF FEATURES
Fast texture mapped 3D flight with full 360 degree movement.
9 totally unique planets, with 3 levels per planet, and dozens of tunnels!
Over 400,000 sq. miles of terrain--incredibly large levels.
7 destructive weapons, plus other power-ups.
Non-stop air-to-air and air-to-ground realistic combat.
SVGA support (640 x 480 resolution).
This is a Pentium-recommended mode.
The gist of the game is that alien armadas have surrounded the Earth with the intent of waging war. You, the hero, is Earth’s last and best hope. The ship you are flying, the TV-202 is a ship so fast and loose that few people can handle it. “You are outgunned, outmanned and strapped to a flying coffin”.
Each planet had a different look and feel and the enemies were different on each planet at as well. While there is a storyline, it is really is there just to motivate you into blowing up everything that stands in your path. The game was so successful that it got the attention of Microsoft, who was looking for a launch game for their Windows 95 operating system. This spawned the game Fury3, an add-on pack called FZone! and Hellbender, the very first title that I worked on in the games industry. You can still buy Terminal Velocity through the 3DRealms website and it's only US$5.99.