Recently, Gremlin has bee following the 'quality rather than quantity' rule, putting a game out only occasionally, but making sure it's absolutely top hole when it's released. Does H.A.T.E. measure up to this rule? You bet it does, it's a real corker.
The scenario is, of course, the usual tosh, 'Galaxy in turmoil... lack of experienced assault personnel... you are needed to repel the hostile alien forces... Go to Stripworld...' you know the sort of thing. But Stripworld here is nothing like the Stripworld you know where! It's a giant runway, where potential Star Fighters must complete their training.
Training consists of travelling along strips, collecting plasma cells which will enable progression to the next level. The cells must first be exposed by blasting their protective shell, and then flown or driven over to collect them. Upon collection, the plasma cell will join the chain of cells already trailing behind your vehicle.
Each time the vehicle is hit, a plasma cell will be destroyed, or a life will be lost if none are being carried. It is important to get as many cells as possible to the end of a level, as the number carried will determine the number of lives with which the next level will be fought. If the end of a level is reached without any being carried, then it's back to the start for another go.
If the final vehicle is destroyed, you'll be moved back to the last strip you completed with lives in hand. For example, if you complete level two with three lives remaining and carrying two cells, you'll begin level three with two lives. If you then lose both lives without completing level three, you'll go back to level two, to use the three lives you had in hand for that level. All clear? Good. It's a bit confusing, but it does mean that each game will last longer, and there's no reaching level nine only to have to go back to level one on losing the last man. So it's dead addictive.
The 3D strip is presented on the screen in then manner of Alien Highway, or Zaxxon. It's made up of stretches of flat terrain, hills and ditches, and the occasional barrier which considerable narrows the track. The diagonal scrolling along the strip is absolutely faultless, and the speed and quality remain constant no matter how many things are on the screen.
The vehicles which you command also echo Zaxxon and Alien Highway. In some of the strips you'll find yourself fighting a tank, and in others, an aeroplane. You'll change from one machine to another each time a level is completed. The aeroplane takes to the skies to avoid enemies, (obviously) but is a lot slower and more cumbersome than the tank. The tank on the other hand is more manoeuvrable, and in addition to straightforward turret firing, can also launch a steady stream of bombs in an arc - ideal for wiping hazards waiting over the next hill.
The type of fighter you're in obviously governs the way in which you'll deal with the nasties ahead of you. If squadrons of aeroplanes are on their way and you're in the plane yourself, size them up and the blast them out of the sky. If you're in the tank though, simply manoeuvre around them.
There are, of course, loads of other hazards to deal with - squadrons of flying lemons(!), various types of surface skimmers, bouncing bombs, floating mines, and worst of all, surface holes that will destroy all your carefully amassed plasma cells. Bigger and more dangerous meanies lie in wait on later levels.
The animation of the various sprites, and their interaction with the scenery, is absolutely spot on, and on a couple of occasions when first playing, I got killed whilst admiring the graphics. Yikes! Loads of attention is also paid to getting the little details right. The way the shadow of the aeroplane rises and falls over the hills and valleys is perfect.
H.A.T.E. is a brill shoot 'em up well worth anyone's best joystick juggling, and with thirty levels for only eight quid, it's excellent value for money. Go sell your granny to buy a copy.
Mega shoot 'em up from Gremlin. Nothing incredibly innovative, but what's there is excellently programmed and brilliantly executed.