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For starters, a piece of important advice: CHANGE YOUR MOUsE REPORT RATE.
Many modern gaming mice report 500 to 1000 times per second, and this is too fast - motion will be jerky to nonexistent as information is dropped. I've heard reports of values as high as 250 working, but I set mine to 200 and minimum DPI, and that worked very nicely.
The game looks good - decent geometry and detailed textures prevent it from showing its age too much, and it's perfectly happy to do 1920x1200. Weapon effects look nice and are varied enough to distinguish at a glance. In a heavy firefight, you can lose sight of a distant target in all the flash, especially if you're throwing a torrent of glowing bolts from a Plasma Gatling - for me, this was a bonus, emphasizing the hectic nature of a crowded 3D battle. Enemies and allies are visually distinct, with each faction employing ships sharing their own unique style - and some of the ships look pretty cool!
Gameplay is a mixed bag. The concept of free 3D motion in an environment that has a definite floor and ceiling (unlike open space) is rather neat (and provides an opportunity for interesting visuals), but the execution could have been better.
You have 5 degrees of freedom in movement, but unlike most space-based 5DOF games (such as DarkStar One), the dropped element is roll. You can yaw (you actually bank left and right, but automatically come back to upright when you stop turning), pitch, strafe horizontally or vertically, and accelerate/reverse. This arrangement guarantees that the seafloor stays on the floor, and the vertical strafe is tremendously useful in some situations . . . but it also creates one of the most irritiating limitations of the system -- there is a fixed vertical axis through which you cannot pitch. If a target passes above or below you and you've been pitching up or down to track it, once you reach vertical you have to spin around to continue to track.
The other unpleasant limitation is that many missions have a very low (and invisible) ceiling. Thousands of meters of vertical space from which to launch surprise 3D flanking attacks, and you can't use it. It was a real joy to have that vertical freedom in the one mission that involves escorting a rising buoy, but normally the low ceiling limits your firing angles (really irritating when trying to hit small targets on top of several nasty enemies), traps you behind just-barely-too-high mountains (usually not a huge issue unless exploring outside the main mission area), and turns what could have been a game of true-3D tactics into something where battles and defenses are dominated by 2D positioning, more constrained than even a terrestrial flight sim.
The story is fairly typical fare, predictable but sufficient (if you can ignore the ridiculously bad science driving several plot elements). The writing is merely mediocre, although the monologues for the movies are over-long, overwrought, and underestimate the player's intelligence. The protagonist mostly re-hashes recent events in a slow near-monotone, offers some stultifyingly obvious "insights", then delivers a faux-philosophical wannabe-warrior-poet musing. Over time, this becomes less irritating, although I'm not sure whether it's due to getting used to it, or the writers running out of time and padding the speeches less heavily.
The voice acting, however, ranges from bad to terrible, with a healthy sprinkling of rage-inducingly painful. The most grating element is Lt. Bonham, with her whiny voice, strangely off-tempo delivery, obsession with grade-school fun science facts (not all of them correct), and tendency to ramble. It's bad enough in the "talk" sections in port, but those are skippable / can be read with headphones off; the worst bit is that she talks during missions. It's a bad sign when my reaction to failing a mission is not "dangit, all that wasted effort!" but "Oh NO, I have to listen to my wingman again!!" instead.
Initially, the unusual controls may be an issue, but they're fine once you get used to them - the only real problems I had were the slow ascent, low ceiling, and occasionally the vertical pitch limit mentioned above. Those used to flight sims will lament the lack of a lead indicator. Long missions with distinct, cutscene-separated sections can be frustrating to re-do from the start when you fail, but I mostly found it to be a nice challenge that enhanced the tension of later stages. Where an unexpected Scalar Howitzer to the face might just prompt you to return to a save from two minutes ago in some games, here it creates an adrenaline rush as you struggle to stay alive and complete the suddenly-desperate mission. The final mission did become frustrating, but finally beating it at high difficulty gave a nice feeling of accomplishment. At higher difficulties, strategy matters, and you need to think about tactics in the harder missions (hint: you *can* consistently hit Headshax with guided missiles if you do it right; look at what allows them to go into that failing orbit). Fortunately, you can change the difficulty level any time in port.
As with many games, some missions make certain ships invincible so that you can't derail the story. Fortunately, you'll realize rather quickly and can avoid them. More frustratingly, there are a couple occasions when a ship you know you want to destroy is marked non-hostile; if you're not paying attention, killing it fails the mission. Just watch the color!
Levels, Strategy, and Other Elements:
A customizable Single-Player instant fight would be nice, but the 4 included arena fights are at least interesting, particularly the you-vs-an-army "Asylum" (hint: you can retreat and recover as much as you like, it's neither timed nor an escort mission). The game does get points for crowded, hectic battles, including the final level and the 3-area defense against the crawler assault late in the game. I found the latter unfortunately easy even on max difficulty, but it was still fun. It also earns points for genuinely varied weapons: the EMP gun is a bit forced (useful only in missions requiring non-lethal assault), but all the weapons have a useful tactical role at some point. You can trade in your guns, hardware, and ships at purchase price, so you can change load-out every mission, to anything you can afford. In addition to providing some fun variety, that choice can matter a lot, particularly your missile mix.
The Verdict:
Overall, the game has a neat concept, looks good, has decent controls with a few limitations, gives you freedom to try and switch between all affordable load-outs, and provides weapons varied enough to suit a variety of tactics; this would earn it 4 stars, but numerous irritating flaws drag it down to a three - the voice acting, the tactics-limiting low ceilings, a couple situations in which missiles should not fail but do, and the frustration with multi-part missions, although I'm of two minds on the last one because I usually liked the challenge.
I feel a bit bad giving it a 3, but it just hasn't earned that 4. Still, I'll buy AquaNox 2 if it goes on sale.
I think you're being overly kind about this game. Its awful ;-)
Hartoz: I think you're being overly kind about this game. Its awful ;-)
Heh. I rather liked the combat at times, even though there's a lot of room for improvement. :-)

I try to have a fairly balanced rating scale; 2 is for games that are pretty bad and 1 is for games I really don't like. And I'm evaluating them as GOG buys, not full-price buys, so they get some help there too, I suppose (particularly short games).