Oil Rush: A Review
In Oil Rush, by Unigine Inc, you lead your fearless air and naval forces across the pristinely clean waters of a post-nuclear, post-global warming world. Oil Rush spins quite the yarn about our current addiction to oil and the devastating effects it will have on the planet. More tower defense than actual real time strategy, Oil Rush utilizes classic Tower Defense tropes as well as certain strategy elements to create a somewhat unique experience. While the graphics and gameplay hold their own against other bigger and more developed games, Oil Rush suffers from awful voice acting, repetitive gameplay, odd hit detection, and a general lack of polish.
You take the role of Kevin, the triumphant if somewhat prodigal son of an important but very dead military leader. Kevin is part of the Sharks, one of the only non renegade groups in the area trying to restore order and oil to the world. You see, the Sharks have one goal in mind; to capture all of the remaining oil.
The campaign is split into 4 chapters all of which introduce a new aspect or game element with each passing level. Oil Rush does a good job of always having a new tech to use or a new vehicle to play with. The techs range from increasing your vehicles fire power and defenses to being able to deploy experimental air and naval units which come later in the game. The first two chapters chronicle Kevin’s rise and fall through the ranks of the Sharks as well as establishing his connection with Commander. Wait, did I just say, Commander? Yes, that’s right. Your leader and father figure during the first two chapters is named Commander, not the Commander, just Commander. Anyways, you find that the rebels have been making good on their promise to suck the oil dry from the salty oceans and deprive the poor Sharks of their precious peat. As time passes and levels change, Kevin and his air-born companion, Firefly, come to a point where they must either defend or destroy a helpless group of stereotypical Asian seafarers. Without giving away too much, even though the story is practically like watching a B movie play out in game form, let’s just say that things became a little complicated between Commander, Kevin, and Firefly. By the end of the campaign you are left with a feeling of hope as your newly acquired Asian helper, Zhuang, drops little fortune cookie style proverbs to rest upon your weary head about the new and improved methods of energy that are just beyond the slick horizon.
Though the campaign introduces all of the important elements of gameplay it was the extreme awkwardness of line delivery and pure soap opera style writing that bogged the story down. While the gameplay elements are not changed by these exterior facts the truth of the matter is that this game is often incoherent and downright confusing. And it’s not just the horrible voice acting and shoddy script. No. The actual message of “Oil bad. Alternative Energy good” is so shameless in its pandering that you wonder why Unigine even decided to use this Environmental tale in the first place other than that they needed an setting for their naval warfare. They actually show Commander using an hour glass filled with Oil! That doesn’t even seem practical or useful in a world where only bits of land, trash, and skyscrapers stick out from the sea floor.
Oil Rush gives you the ability to send your units from platform to platform more akin to the strategic island hopping used by the US in World War II. You see, there are numerous platforms that dot the watery landscape, all of which have different importance to your overall victory; while some platforms will give you oil and storage the majority spawn your units until your reach your unit cap. This is where your tower defense skills will come into play. Around each rig, except Oil storage and Oil rigs, are 5 areas for upgrades, each of which have three different tower types, (Anti-Air, Machine gun bunker, and Artillery). With these towers you will do most of your defending as you can upgrade each tower to three levels of intensity. Instead of controlling individual units you are able to send 25%, 50%, or 100% percent of your troops to various platforms for plundering. Once your units are en route you can either recall them all or watch them attack; I found this to be a major point of dread while playing the game. Instead of feeling like you are actually playing Oil Rush, I often felt like the game was playing itself while I gave orders here and there to expedite the processes of my troops. It’s hard to feel the excitement of rushing a platform and destroying their tower defenses only to press F to “Watch the action”. About a third of the way into the game I completely stopped using the F function and just followed the action manually.
At your disposal is a vast armada of Jet Skis (Piranhas), Angler Boats, Hammerhead tanks, and submarines to cause havoc amongst your enemies. Also, you have gliders, helicopters, and osprey like aircraft. With these assault units at your disposal you are tasked with capturing and fortifying the enemies platforms. As you destroy units and and capture platforms you are rewarded with skill points to use in your tech tree. Oddly, you are rewarded 2 points at a time.
For the most part, Oil Rush delivers with middle paced action, (I say this because it is not a fast game but not a meticulously slow game either), and gives you enough incentive to to cruse across the silky smooth waters for a few hours, reliving the dreams of Kevin Costner and his web-toed adventures in WaterWorld.
Should you Play Oil Rush?
The short answer: Yes, especially if you are a Linux user. While Oil Rush has copious amounts of infuriating escort missions and completely empty online lobbies for multiplayer, the core of the game is still solid. Getting into skirmish mode against the computer or finding an opponent in multiplayer allows you to appreciate the game more. While not being as snappy and refreshing as many of the free Tower Defense games online, Oil Rush still adds a fine layer graphical improvement and a neat wub-wub soundtrack to keep things going at a steady pace. Right now, Oil Rush is available on Steam for PC, Linux, Mac, and PS3 for $19.99, but I would recommend to wait a few months for some much needed patches as well as a price drop.
This appears to be Unigine’s first game using their in house graphical engine.
(Check out the Unigine website to see live stats of actual Oil prices. NEAT!)