Released in 1995, Crusader: No Remorse pits the player against the tyranny of the World Economic Consortium in a series of challenging missions fighting through robots, traps and soldiers in isometric, futuristic environments.
My love of Wing Commander 2 is no secret at this point. It's a game that I love almost unconditionally and one that stands tall amongst those classics that have stuck with and influenced me as a gamer. Heck, even just the game disc itself managed to affect me. You see, the copy I purchased came with a folder containing a bunch of trailers for different games published by Electronic Arts. There were a few for other Wing Commander titles (including this really cool one for Wing Commander 4), but the rest ran the gamut of genres and titles.
One that stuck with me in particular through the years was for the game Crusader: No Regret. Today, the trailer itself is nothing too impressive; a showcase, at best, of the 90's awful CGI. Watching it again recently however, I couldn't help but feel a twinge of nostalgia and, in turn, a desire to finally give the series a try by diving into its original entry Crusader: No Remorse.
I'll admit that I had no idea what to expect going into it. Aside from my beloved trailer's proclamation that No Remorse had been 1996's "Action Game of the Year," I actually knew very little about the game and the reception it received back in its heyday. Rather than spoiling my ignorance with research however, I opted to jump right in and revel in the surprise which, I'm happy to say, was pretty danged pleasant.
Not pleasant, in the happy, birds, bees and sunshine manner, mind you. Crusader: No Remorse is the sort of grim and gritty experience that makes those sorts of picturesque mental images cry. Taking place in a dystopian future, it follows the story of a resistance group trying to overthrow the tyranny of the World Economic Consortium. The player assumes the role of a defecting special forces soldier who takes on a series of missions to bring down the WEC.
Honestly, the game's story is nothing much to write home about. It's there and it's serviceable, but it's very much on the generic end of things and is fairly forgettable overall. Where No Remorse shines is in its gameplay, which more than makes up for its plot deficiencies by delivering some brilliantly entertaining carnage. Simply put, if you're a fan of games where the focus is firmly on blowing things into itty bitty bits, No Remorse should be at the top of your "need to play" list.
Not that the game is all just mindless action. While you'll certainly spend a good portion of your time gunning down the WEC's troops with an increasingly powerful arsenal of weapons, it's still based on missions and environments with objectives and obstacles that can require some genuine thought to maneuver.
In one early level, for instance, I came across a room containing a large turret. Whoop-de-doo, I thought, I'll just take it down the same way I've killed everything else so far, with a healthy dose of hot lead. As you can probably imagine, this didn't go so well. During the course of my non-planning, I forgot to take into account the fact that said turret, being made of metal, wasn't all that susceptible to the little pee shooter I'd been using to gun down the fleshier opponents I'd been fighting up until then. My bullets bounced harmlessly off its armor, leaving it in the perfect position to blow me away with its lasers. Actually getting past it wound up forcing me to employ a bit more thought.
This isn't to say you can't go guns-blazing through the game. In fact, my favorite moments were easily the ones where I was able to walk into a room and leave it a flaming, bloody wreck. It just balances these moments with challenges that force you to look at your enemies and surroundings and think things through. In the end, it all adds up to a game that's difficult but fulfilling. I died plenty of times playing No Remorse but there was never a moment where I didn't feel like an agent of awesome.
That it manages to accomplish this is something of a miracle because, honestly, No Remorse is built on a shaky foundation at best. Put succinctly, its controls and its isometric view can be frequently troublesome. The simple act of walking around, for instance, whether you're using the mouse or the directional keys, is just plain awkward. And Allfather help you if you find yourself in a spot where you need to jump with any semblance of accuracy. The isometric view likewise doesn't do it any favors. I suppose it wasn't a huge issue in the end, but I never quite learned to appreciate the experience of walking into a room and being shot at by an enemy hidden by the wall.
Even with these problems however, I had a ton of fun with Crusader: No Remorse. I went into it to satisfy my nostalgia, but the experience I found easily transcended my expectations and has me more than excited to someday play through its sequel. Put shortly, if you're looking for a game with lengthy, complex levels and energizing action, I'd wholeheartedly recommend you spend the $5.99 that GOG's asking.
Come back next week for my first retro console review: X-Men and X-Men 2 for the Sega Genesis. Also feel to PM me with comments and suggestions for future Good Old Reviews!