Thursday, 30 July 2015

Robocop - Arcade

"Half man, half machine, all computer game" -Actual advert.

In what was one of the forerunner films of the 80s and finally put the police as the heroes in a "5 minutes into the future" setting of Detroit, Robocop (1987) was something of a breakthrough with violence and story even for an 80s action film. The premise being that a cop, freshly moved in from another precinct, is out on duty with his cop-partner and gets a call to respond to a robbery, shit goes South, things get fucked up and he ends up becoming a shotgun target for the gang that committed the crime.

The less said on this the better...
Rather than leaving him dead, the company OCP which owns hospitals, insurances, banks, the police etc. (Gives us a lovely little privatisation situation possibility there) decides to use the dead officer in a new project that basically gives him a brain wipe, suits him up in titanium and sends him back out on the street as a robot cop... Hence, "Robocop", who is now a walking tank, and systematically starts claiming back the streets while corrupt politicians are throwing money around and trying to keep the crime going.

Enforcement Droid 209 series, the first one at least...

The film is well worth the watch despite also being one of the most violent films of the 80s, nay, all time. The tongue-in-cheek attitude to modern media and the (at the time) current trend of evolving technology and the economy are rather accurately lampooned and seen with considerable foresight in such a way that even today it's clear to see that some of the humour still pays off with the steadily increasing trends that were identified nearly 30 years ago.

Since when did anyone have a chainsaw in this film?

As a game based on a movie, you're going to have to be familiar with the movie to get the references that are used within the game, as the game follows this rather closely and uses locales, weapons, bosses that reference events happening within the film. Although even without the game/movie knowledge, there's still the fact that there's a game underneath the graphics and audio even if some of the references will be rather out of place and seem like they're thrown together for the sake of the game. Such as the first boss being ED-209 which is a giant of a robot walker, but makes sense if you've seen the film as you'll identify what he is straight away and the audio bytes synonymous with its identity. (20 seconds to comply, I think you'd better do what he says Mr Kenny...)

Powerups, while strong, are few and far between

Your game will take you through the city streets with a mishmash of gang members carrying knives and guns to grenades and the occasional use of a motorbike (Given the Emil incident in the film when they blew up a petrol station, see... more references), to the slums of the gang, a working scrap metal factory (not in the film), a drug factory/warehouse (with a very out of place boss) then the involvement of criminals taking over OCP which leads to the 2 more futuristic levels and repeat of earlier bosses but are beefed up for the ED-209 series. So some of the game follows the film and takes liberties with others, the film does have a scene involving OCP HQ but not to the same degree that the game makes out.

There's lots going on at this scrapyard. Fairly certain H&S will complain though.

And where the hell did jet-packing enemies come in? Robocop himself gets a jetpack in the 3rd film which was released WAY after the game was, so it's a bit of a random moment in this instance but fits in with the style and flow of the game.

Pimp my Ride meets ED 209.

Control-wise, Robo moves along at a steady pace for someone weighed down with hydraulics and titanium armour but can jump faster than he walks... fair enough, it's a game. Shooting comes in the 5-way directional flavour in that he cannot shoot downwards unless walking on stairs at that angle, any attempt to aim downwards invariably has Robo ducking and shooting in that direction instead. However, it's functional, gets the job done and the controls and the rate of fire set in such a way that you can almost always avoid gunfire and other such issues if you're careful and don't just charge head-first into bigger issues.

This week on "Shit that never happened" this boss!

Your usual cap-gun (The Auto 9 from the films) does sufficient damage to be useful even if it's supposedly the weak "standard" weapon. You can hammer the fire button and butcher the health bar of bosses quite readily. Alternatively you might find other weapons like 3-Way shots which can be just as lethal up close to the more heavily armoured enemies like the chainsaw-nutcase; armour piercing shots which shoot through items and blockades and does a lot of damage but limited in ammo. The final weapon is the Cobra Cannon from the films, which is a huge blast of a shot that slaughters most enemies and cripples bosses in 2-3 hits but as with most of these weapons, you'll find them at a point where you end up with little to no ammo left to use for the actual boss fight. So most of the fights will be you and a pop-gun Auto 9. Unless you're very conservative.

That's hardly fair! But who cares, bring it!

The music within the game takes directly from the films, the first level being a good rendition of the Robocop theme tune and the boss music taken from the fight between Robocop and ED-209 in the OCP tower from the film. Later levels take tunes from other key points within the film such as the car chases and scenes set within the warehouse. Further sound bytes are taken from the film such as Robo's pseudo catchphrase of "Dead or Alive you are coming with me" during boss battles, or "Drop it" at the start of most levels or against key opponents wielding the heavier firepower within the game, such as the Cobra Cannon.

See above for Jetpack comment in review.

You can power through the game on credits, each time you die you get the chance to continue back where you were with another credit, though it cannot be recalled if there is a maximum number of continues that one could use within a single session, some games for example have a max of 6-7 continues before you get a compulsory Game Over, while others will not let you continue once you get past a set level (usually when on the final level), but in this case for the most part you'll get back up with full health and time and be straight back to the battle. Which is usually enough for the rest of the level and/or boss except on the final few levels when the firepower directed at your can be criminally overwhelming.

Some could say I've played this a bit before.

But you do have some respite, there's 2 bonus levels that act as "shooting ranges" in a sort of first person perspective and gaining high scores here will gift you with extra food/health for the next level, while in levels you can occasionally find the baby-food pickups that will replenish limited health or the even more rare bonus containers that will increase the maximum health Robo can have (and not fill it at the same time) while dying will reset that health level back down again upon continue, making levels harder as a result of failing and PAYING to continue the game again. Not quite a working economy model there.

If you're not careful you CAN kill hostages... If...

Of course, it's not quite enough but then again, that's the whole point of getting cash out of the players. It is however a good game which is quite strange given that a lot of licensed games are not very good and are running solely on the merit of the original film/franchise. In this case however, you've got a very good game which pays homage to the source material in a closer way than a lot of other games would do, is very playable and responsive and keeps in with the theme of the original material. It does take some different routes like the Wrecking Ball (no Miley here) boss that features not in any film (save the 3rd, but again, way after this was made) and the junkyard battle which isn't part of the original film at all, nor are the super-powered ED-209s, or fighting 2 ED-209's at the same time in the last session of the penultimate level only to then take on ANOTHER tower of climbing, ANOTHER ED-209 (with rockets! which you can punch!) and then the final duel with Dick Jones though sadly you can't blow him out a window.

...I win.

It's still a fun, fairly enjoyable and reasonable game, looking very gritty in the right places and fitting in with the gritty theme of the sort-of futuristic Detroit and firmly stylised after the first film. It could have done a lot worse and given that it's made by Data East, which has been hit and miss quite regularly with their games, shines through as a diamond amongst the shit.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Outfoxies - Arcade

No foxes are involved

It's every once in a while a game really surprises me as to just how inventive an arcade game can be. It's been a long time since I saw anything like this one and with Outfoxies, I can only really liken it to a sort of 2D version of the original Power Stone, or Super Smash Brothers with less in the way of items and combat.

Some large and creative areas here

Outfoxies is about over the top arenas, crazy characters and duelling spies one on one in a very action orientated game that seems like the semi-final showdowns in numerous James Bond films, especially with one particular character that seems to be a direct copy of Tee Hee from Live and Let Die (You know, the tall guy with the metal claw arm thanks to a hungry gator... or croc, I forget and I don't stop to ask when running from such things).

Dead on a dead whale... How embarassing.

Your characters in Outfoxies, range from Any Job for Cash man, Psycho Twins, Naughty Chimp, Professor Chairbound, Madame Killer, Circus nutcase, Tee Hee rip off and High Class Hit Woman. Each character brings something fairly unique to the table aside from speed and strength bonuses, the professor in a chair is able to turn aruond and negate most projectile damage with his reinforced wheelchair at the cost of mobility, the chimp is faster but takes more damage while the more generics of the group are John Smith (Great name) and Betty Doe (Missed a trick there, should have been called Jane).

Rocket, grenades, machineguns, swords and more to use.

Each character has their own level and the missions are all to kill the other spies for cash. Levels range from cargo planes while in flight, to circus tents (complete with their own human cannonball cannon), to boats on the oceans in storms, an aquarium and a train while it goes through tunnels. The levels themselves are dynamic in that things change all the time. The train will periodically go through tunnels, forcing combat inside the carriages. The ship and plane levels will tilt and sway violently with the combat that takes place, the aquarium will flood and fill with chompy little critters at the first opportunity and each level will generously spawn a variety of weapons.

Obligatory "I Win" sticker

Combat takes place in Outfoxies with a simple interface, the joystick moves you around while the attack button will generically attack and the jump button, naturally, jumps you from place to place. You can jump and down through levels and floors, climb onto things, pick up and toss barrels and crates and assault your opponent with a mixture of guns, machineguns, rocket launchers, grenades, flamethrowers, swords and weapons based around the level in which you fight. As such your own fists aren't all that powerful and as such, you'll often be scrambling for death-dealing weapons, particularly the explosives.

Hi-explosives at the Hi-Top

Each round takes about a few minutes, combat can be fast paced or get bogged down in a simple exchange of blows back and forth as one person gets floored only to rise and floor the other. If one character has higher strength/defense then it's clear who the winner is going to be at that point (usually the CPU player), otherwise it becomes an issue of who gets the explosives and who gets slapped hard with the death cannon rocket launcher.

"I'm on a boat, I'm on a boat..."

The sounds within the game are your usual set of explosions and booms with a little focus on the music but with so much going on you barely will be listening to it. However the digitised speech for every item pick up, enemy interaction and as an announcer voice, serves the game well, as does the final few speeches given by the Last Boss within their mansion (bonus points for 3 attack dogs and the more vicious fluffy, yappy dog too) really add to the overall experience of the game.

Last level, run a gauntlet into a bossfight

That said, Outfoxies has flaws. The screen gets far too small to see clearly unless the fight is very close together, which is ok if it's human vs human but against the computer, you're disadvantaged by an algorithm process that negates the need to be able to see clearly. In 1 vs 1, the game is a lot of fun and the sheer size, scale and scope is remarkable for an arcade game to the point that I'd like to see it redeveloped, though once you add more weapons etc, you're looking at games that already exist. Certainly an overlooked game and if you find one of them around, play it, you won't be disappointed in the entertainment.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Line of Fire - Arcade

You're firing, in lines... Maybe.

Sega seem to enjoy milking this game engine in particular for over the top gunnage (it's a word now, I said so) and for giving people the chance to be Rambo. Having reviewed Jurassic Park back in the J section of these reviews, I thought I'd take a gander at Line of Fire.

Missions are complicated and involve a lot of thought and consideration.

The arcade of Line of Fire, sported two heavy machine guns mounted to the cabinet in both the stand up and sit-down versions of the machine which added an extra level of immersion to the game while the game itself did away entirely with the idea of ammo, reloading, driving or guiding any real vestige of control related to gaming and just have you on rails and shooting stuff, you don't even overheat the guns and the power remains at the maximum. Seriously, if this was a gun in the military, EVERYONE would want it. (I already do)

The game puts a huge focus on the importance of timing.

The plot is pretty much that though in Line of Fire, someone has made these guns and you're part of a team (or solo) that have gone in to steal them. In doing so, you get caught and decide to use the guns to escape while kidnapping a driver in a jeep (I think, against his will) and make a Beeline for the nearest pick up point to be rescued while fighting off everything you could possibly imagine that an army would throw at you at even more.

Shots taken at your are often hard to see and camouflaged.

So off you go through the game of Line of Fire shooting everything from soldiers with rifles, grenades, knives, rocket launchers and more to tanks, helicopters, jets, AWACS (which are on your side... not very stealthy really) and a whole host of assorted vehicles that tend to act as bosses at the end of levels to whittle away your health bar and make you use up your explosive "kill all on screen" shots.

Enemy vehicles often blend in with the scenary.

There's a significant challenge within the game in that Line of Fire just bombards you figuratively and literally, with an enormous amount of enemies in faster time than most games will introduce their whole line up, in just one level. The action rare, if ever, lets up but you've got infinite bullets and you'll going to have to make them count while cutting swathes of damage through line after line of opponents and obstructions.

There's multiple routes of travel and most will have very few enemies on them.

While the sound effects in Line of Fire are fairly suitable, I can't say the same for the music which is usually drowned out by the shooting, explosions, bombs, rockets, people dying, people throwing things at you and pretty much everything else in this game. Thankfully, you're not going to be missing much with the absence of music and the focus on shooting and killing takes priority, not such a bad thing but to be honest, this is ALL this game is about.

Bosses are often a long distance affair.

It can be rather intimidating at times in Line of Fire when you're being nothing less than overwhelmed by the sheer volume of attackers and assaults on the player. At times your only real option to escape damage is to use up one of your bomb/rockets or hope that soon after that particular point, there will be health items to shoot and/or bombs to shoot as well to boost your stock of explosive One Hit Kills.

This game causes image captions to be lies... Maybe.

If you can manage to navigate through killing as many threats as possible and also to predict where rockets and heavier vehicles will spawn from, you can last quite a while and enjoy some longevity from your credit, you might even want to play it through to the end just to see the bigger and more powerful bosses, but like other gun-games, it's almost certain you'll want to play it once and leave it at that.