YOU MAY not see yourself as the heroic type, capable of winning a war single-handed, but Elite's conversion of the popular arcade game Commando is likely to bring out the Rambo you didn't know you had inside you.
The game panders to your worst instincts, allowing you to zap away for all you're worth, amassing points the more people and things you blow up. You can disapprove as much as you like, but the game is great fun and you will probably find it hard to resist.
The storyline couldn't be simpler. You are the crack combat soldier Super Joe, sent in alone to defeat the advance rebel forces equipped only with your M60 machine gun and six hand grenades. Pushing relentlessly forwards, you must penetrate deep into hostile territory with the eventual aim of capturing the heart of the enemy fortress.
Luckily, your machine gun is perpetually self-loading, and there are plenty of hand grenades abandoned by enemy soldiers for you to be able to replenish your stock. In all other respects, however, the odds are heavily stacked against you.
Right from the start, the pace is hectic. Advancing steadily along the scrolling landscape, you are assailed on all sides by soldiers who come at you from behind sandbags, boulders and palm trees or leap down on you from the top of tufted hillocks. The bullets fly, the hand grenades and the dynamite rain down, and with all the explosions it is a bit like firework night. Any stray bullet or hand grenade can make you lose one of your five lives, and you must keep dodging and firing every inch of the way.
Having disposed of a first wave of attackers, you will come to a bridge with a narrow archway. Run through this, avoiding the hail of bombs coming over the wall. If you are still in business you'll arrive at a set of red gates, and here your troubles really begin. The gates slowly part to unleash a flood of enemy soldiers.
Sheltering behind the wall, firing continuously and lobbing a few grenades, you may just about be able to eliminate this horde down to the last man. A tickertape message then appears despatching you to area two, although by now you'd probably rather have a nice quiet tea break.
Area two features lorries, bunkers, huts and mobile typewriters - probably meant to be jeeps. All of these conceal more enemy soldiers and snipers, and if you get rid of them, you will eventually arrive at another set of gates releasing a second wave of attackers. If you manage to survive this onslaught without being overwhelmed, Rambo would surely be proud of you.
Daunting though the game is, Commando is also powerfully addictive. It has fast and furious action, plenty of excitement, and just the right blend of suspense in seeing how far you can get without losing all your lives, and of satisfaction in zapping moving targets. It also has smooth movement and lively, imaginative graphics.
As the screen scrolls from top to bottom, the scene is viewed in 3D from a height - but not directly overhead - so that men and machines are foreshortened. Our hero Super Joe scuttles about in a mean and menacing fashion, and although at first it is difficult to distinguish him from the enemy - he is black, the rest are mostly blue - you soon get the hang of identifying with the right chap.
The hillocks on the first level look a little odd, but palm trees, trucks and sand bags are realistically done, as is the bridge with its motor bike patrol on top. The enemy soldiers daringly fling themselves from the hilltops, arms outstretched in true commando style, and there are no distasteful death throes, either. The enemy shimmer and disintegrate when hit, while Super Joe just sinks straight into the ground.
One particularly nice touch is the high score table, which consists of military style letters, as seen stencilled on the sides of army vehicles. To spell out your name, you line up each letter in your sights and shoot it - a good enough idea in itself but these letters spin when they are hit like fairground targets. You can even set the whole lot spinning if you so fancy.
There are minor flaws in the graphics, such as ghosts which appear in front of the gates instead of behind them, or figures which glide backwards until they melt into a wall. A worse fault is the fact that the scoring is not explained, either on the inlay or on screen, and with everything happening so fast, there is no time to work out where the points are coming from. An element of strategic planning might have added interest to the game.
All in all, though, Commando is exciting, challenging and guaranteed to keep you playing until keyboard or joystick fatigue get you shipped out on home leave.
Programmers: Keith Burkhill, Nigel Alderton