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Arcade: Vehicle Combat
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

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Sean Kelly
Chris Bourne

If you always wanted to be the type of policeman where the 'Bobbies' beat' is the rhythm of gunfire, then this game is for you. For, in Gremlin's latest offering, you are Technocop, a member of the most elite crime fighting force around - the Enforcers (and the chap on the loading screen looks just like ol' Clint - what a coincidence!). As the rootinest tootinest I i - Technocop around, you have been chosen to deal with the sinister crime empire 'Dead on Arrival', and to this end you are whizzing down the highway in your VMAX vehicle, the most rootinest tootinest vehicle this side of a James Bond movie.

Unfortunately, the DOA nasties have sent out loads of their vehicles in an attempt to ensure that you are DBA (Dead Before Arrival). The good news, however, is that the buttons on the dashboard don't just turn on the windscreen wiper, they fire the roof-mounted 40mm cannon, or the deadly Nuke 'Em missiles which, would you believe, nuke 'em. Three shots from your cannon will destroy a vehicle, whilst the Nuke 'Em will obliterate every vehicle on the screen but your own. This is particularly useful on the later levels, but should be used sparingly as the supply is very limited.

The illusion of speed, so necessary to the playability of racing games, is really effective in this section, and the scrolling is excellent. It also makes a refreshing change to use the fire button in addition to the four directions, and removing other cars by blowing them up is great fun, as is driving over the pile of dust which was the car you just totalled.

As you progress to your rendezvous with DOA, messages will appear indicating that a wrong doer is doing wrong nearby, and so you must proceed as fast as possible to the scene and either kill or capture the baddie. If you reach your destination within the alloted time twice, your VMAX car will be upgraded. The first upgrade is a Dual Stage turbocharger, which gives faster acceleration. This is followed by a high power missile launcher, which will destroy any car with one shot; and finally you get Hydraulic Side Rams, which allow you to ram and barge cars with greater effect, and reduce the damage done by cars ramming you.

At last you get to climb out of the car and enter the derelict building where the baddie is hiding out. Your wrist timer will indicate the time allowed to apprehend said baddie in the manner ordered, and a radar will show the direction in which he lies. Often there will be no direct route, you'll need to use lifts to move between floors. Collapsed floors must also be negotiated, in addition to millions of minions all intent on filling you so full of lead you could be weighed in for scrap metal. Like a boy scout, however, a Technocop is always prepared, which in this instance means a gun to kill with and nets to entangle prisoners with. Should you reach the really bad guy, he must be shot repeatedly to kill him, made all the more difficult by his habit of firing back - one hit from him and you're injured whilst he escapes. It's even more difficult if you've been ordered to apprehend and not kill him, as he has to be shot until his energy hits the red zone and then have nets thrown over him. Successfully dealing with the baddie will result in promotion for you. and three Nuke 'Em missiles for the VMAX.

Should you find yourself with extra time after, or during, all that (fat chance - I generally had about two picoseconds going spare), there are certain goodies around the place which can benefit you in a number of ways. Finding a bag of money, or releasing a child from a cage, will result in a hefty score bonus: collecting a first aid kit will restore some of your energy; and finding the tool kit will restore some of the damage to the VMAX. Once you leave the building, it's on to the next, more difficult level.

As in the racing section, a mixture of good programming and plenty to keep you occupied make for an exciting, adrenalin-pumping game. Chasing up and down, backwards and forwards in the search for the enemy, rather than just plodding inexorably up or across as in most shoot em ups, also added to the addictiveness and playability of this game.

The two halves also combine well. (Oh no, not a game of two 'alves'! Ed) considering the two styles of game opted for. Having shoot em up elements in the racing section, and relating performance in the shoot 'em up to the power and performance of the vehicle in the racing section worked surprisingly well. One minor gripe: the graphics in the playing area are monochrome throughout. But, there's plenty packed in here, and the racing section alone is better than some racing games that have been released this year.

Gremlin is to be congratulated for making an interesting and addictive game out of two completely different elements.

Surprisingly addictive mix of racing simulation and scrolling shoot 'em up, both well programmed and presented. A welcome return to form for Gremlin.