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Games Workshop
Tactical Combat
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Chris Bourne

SLUG is a programmers cooperative and Battlecars is from an idea by Games Workshops' Ian Livingstone, ideas man, incidentally, behind the Fighting Fantasy Books and Domark's Eureka!. It is sub-titled The Game of Deadly Driving and hovers between being a strategy game and an arcade game for one or two players.

After loading you are faced with a menu offering 1 Circuit, 2 Autodrome, 3 Slug City, 4 Car Design and 5 Load Car Code. There are three different arenas for battle, selections 1 to 3. As a solo player you can build up your skills by racing against the computer controlled car on the circuit and then test yourself in combat against the computer in the Autodrome. The third option is the real battle, a fight to the death against another real player in any of the battlegrounds.

In this game you can design your own cars and fill them with the weapons of your choice. Each weapon pod can take only one type of weapon but carry a certain number of rounds. Machine guns can take up to 16 rounds, Shells can take up to 8 rounds, Missiles up to 4, Flame throwers up to 4 and Lasers up to 4 rounds.

Accuracy depends on range, since the target is always at the centre of a 15 degree field of fire and the shot can go anywhere within that angle, so the nearer you are, the more likely it is you will score a hit. If you have a gunnery computer on board, the angle of fire is reduced to about 10 degrees, increasing accuracy.

Each car has six steering functions, four fire functions and throttle and brake, so the box comes complete with a keyboard overlay for each player. Steering is in 45 or 90 degree increments left and right as well as drift to the left and right. Firing, depending on the weapon selected, is controlled by firing either the left, right or rear weapons pod. The amount of pods you have and the weapons carried depends on the type of car you choose. This is done through the Car Selection menu. A choice of eight cars is available incorporating three engine sizes, chassis sizes and weights, wheel sizes and other varied factors. At this time, the type of car for the computer can be selected, and it's wise to cheat at first!

Both cars may be selected as computer controlled, in which case you will be given a demonstration.

The Circuit is loaded with the start of the program, but the other two scenarios each have their own program to be loaded when you are ready. Another program, the Designer, will allow you to redesign your car, with an allocation of money that has to take into account the cost of weapons as well. It's the ultimate Mad Max game!

The screen display is split into two halves, left and right. At the top of each half is the playing area square for each car. This scrolls in all directions with the individual car, showing details of landscape or cityscape through which you are driving. When the two combatants are alongside each other, the two screens show the same view. Below the playing area is a diagramatic view of each car showing weapons and damage, which 'toggle' between the two every time you fire or are hit. It can be manually toggled whenever you wish however. There is also a fuel gauge, and refuelling can be done at any of the garages you may find, although while this is taking place you may be very vulnerable to attack.

Between the two players' displays is a radar map showing the relative positions of both combatants. Battlecars contains many strategical elements which must be taken into account, and add greatly to the possible complexities of the game.


'This is a game of skill and strategy which I feel has great potential, although I wonder whether Games Workshop have done enough with it. The graphics are good, although the sound is poor. It might have been logical to assume that after designing a car, the one you played with would look like it, but this isn't the case. The game itself is pretty good, but it didn't quite live up to my expectations because there are too many control keys, especially for steering. And by having so many facilities on the car meant that the game was a jack of all and master of none.'

'This must be one of the wierdest games I have played for an exceptionally long while. I cannot really say that I understand it even after playing it for an hour. Okay, yeah, we all know what to do with the computer's car - give as much damage to it as possible. This does pose some tricky problems, seeing as the computer controlled car is a computer car it usually thinks ten times as fast as you do, but being a computer he lacks cunning and skill. You can choose your car or design a car, but whatever, you still need to have your wits about you. I must state that there is an odd steering arrangement. Why on earth didn't they have two keys which could continuously control the car? An excellent example of this is Ultimate's Tranz-Am. Although, saying this, the keys which are provided do have a very good response but doesn't quite make up for the odd arrangement. There doesn't seem to be much going on in this game, which is not to say that there's a lack of content though. One thing I missed is that there doesn't seem to be any clear cut winner as defined by the computer with the exception of a quit button, which stops play at that point in time and tells you how much damage is done to each car, the one with the least amount being the winner. I am sure I've missed something in this game, and I am sure there is more to it, but I just can't get into the game at all. Perhaps after four or five hours play, objectives, skill factors will become crystal clear.'

'It isn't all that easy to review Battlecars in a short space because this is a complicated game, not so much to play, but to get into. At first it seems complex, then when you play it seems easier than you thought, then you realise that it is the sort of game to play over a long period, reshuffling strategies and settling on the type of car and weapons you prefer best. Playing against the computer is only half of it, because the computer is a somewhat unthinking opponent, good but unoriginal. Playing in two make the real difference and turns Battlecars into a thrilling experience in which you can eventually become quite lost. The unnecessarily complicated steering is a handicap at first, although you do become used to it, and then fairly sophisticated movements are possible. Perhaps the biggest drawback is that it really requires two well-matched players to get the full potential out of this highly unusual program.'

Control keys: Q and U/A and P 90 left/right, 1 and 7/4 and 0 45 left/right, 2 and 8/3 and 9 drift left/rightA, S, Z, W/J, K, M, 1 for weapons pods
Joystick: you must be kidding!
Keyboard play: complicated but very responsive
Use of colour: not much
Graphics: generally small, though detailed
Sound: not much, firing spot effects
Skill levels: depends on play selection
Lives: percentage of damage
Screens: three scenarios
General Rating: Mixed opinions, definitely unusual, and a good game for strategy enthusiasts who like some arcade skills thrown in.


Screenshot Text

The two-screen layout of BATTLECARS, a mechano-role playing game for one or two players. Here we are in the city (map bottom centre).

The car designer screen from BATTLECARS.