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US Gold Ltd
1990
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
English
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

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88,89
David Wilson
Chris Bourne

First off, let me just say that despite the oh-so-obvious opportunity for me to write lots of Metal Mutha-type quips in this review I most definitely will not be doing so. Hem hem.

Right, here we go then, with a game that we first told you about quite some time ago. It's Heavy Metal, the tank game which mixes arcade action with strategy simulation. So, without the slightest shaking of them thar golden locks or strumming of an invisible guitar, let's take a closer look, shall we?

It's a colourful little number to be sure, programmed by Probe Software, in which you begin as a cadet laced with the prospect of having to qualify in three different vehicles. There's the XR 311 FAV (that's fast armoured vehicle, fact fans), the ADAT (air defence anti-tank), and the meaty M1 A1 Abrams MBT (main battle tank). You get an arcade/sim sequence for each of these, so, er... shall I explain them?

The FAV bit plays just like an arcade sequence in which you basically drive at high speed shooting everything in sight. The MBT bit is more of a sim. And the AOAT is more of an arcade than a sim, but a bit in between the two. Instead of just using your cannon in this bit (on the enemy tanks and fighters via your moving cursor) you can also adopt surface-to-air missiles to repel the airborne baddies.

Achieve a certain qualifying score in all three vehicles and you get to enter the strategy game. This shows you a map of a continent with your forces positioned across it. Each unit has a certain strength, which will dictate how many vehicles or 'lives' you get if you opt to control it. You can either sit back and watch the computer play or choose to control your different units and then fight out the arcade sequence to determine the outcome. This looks the same as the qualifying sequences, but isn't as easy 'cos you've only got limited ammo.

Sounds great, doesn't it? So how does it play? The answer is that the three vehicle segments are strangely addictive. Strangely because, when all's said and done, their gameplay is a tad repetitive and limited. The FAV segment is your basic shoot-'em-up fare with slightly ropey graphics. The sprites (planes, tanks and cactii) don't increase in size convincingly as you approach. For example, you see your vehicle from behind approaching a plane at high speed and as you whip toward it it appears to be about a third of the size of your FAV (in other words very small indeed). Hem hem. The ADAT segment is quite addictive and colourful, but restricted to a limited number of screens - your ADAT being static, apart from the gun scrolling left and right. The nicest looking bit though is the MBT tank jobby. You've got a tricky gun-sight to master and three types of shell - armour piercing for taking out tanks, and two forms of high explosive for soft targets (like people, heh heh). If you're copping a bit of flak, why not hide yourself behind a cloud of smoke!? Yep. you've got smoke cannisters too! Hmmm, I feel a song coming on... "Smoke On The Waa-ter", keraaaang kraang! Argh! No, stop it! Smoke and ammo aren't so important in the qualifying section but in the strategy game you'll have to use your limited supplies pretty carefully! Anyway, get into the strategy game and you'll have a nice overall perspective on the whole thing.

Not a bad game this one with three playable segments, but in some respects it's very much a mixture of extremes. At one end of the spectrum you've got the very simple, graphically wobbly FAV bit - a simple left-right shoot-em-up - whilst, at the other, you've got the reasonably complex and satisfying MBT tank sim with all the component parts thrown into a strategy game. Quite polished but it ain't exactly a whole lotta rosie. Aaargh!

A colourful romp through the wonderful world of armoured warfare. Different types of game, different levels of quality.

65%
78%
73%
75%
75%

Screenshot Text

Here I am sitting in my cosy little ADAT taking leisurely potshots at that tank out there. Uh-oh! I've got company - 'cabbage crates over the conning tower'. Time to dispatch a missile, methinks.

Ah ha! Some 'soft' targets! Yum yum, my favourite!