Atari Jaguar

from AEO Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 2


 |||   Cannon Fodder
 |||   Review by: Travis Guy
/ | \  GEnie: AEO.MAG   Delphi: AEO_MAG
       ----------------------------------------------------------------

Crawling across a glacier field.... Slogging through the jungle....
Fording icy rivers.... You lead your soldiers on one mission after
another against increasingly incredible odds against a relentless
enemy force. The only glory that awaits your men is another pip on the
sleeve. More probably, their future only holds a final marker on a
hillside, with more cannon fodder waiting to take their places.

This is the basis for the next Jaguar title to be released, Virgin's
Cannon Fodder. Originally appearing on Amigas, STs and PCs, Cannon
Fodder developed a small following with wargamers, and those who were
generally mayhem-minded. While I never got to play the computer
versions, I was interested in the title. Over the holidays, I was
given several weeks to look over an almost-finished EPROM of the Jag
version by its American publisher. I think I see a small sleeper hit
here, folks.


=-=-=-=-=-=-=
//// Overview
=-=-=-=-=-=-=

To start out with, there's possibly the best title music to any Jaguar
game short of Tempest 2000 - a very clean MODish beat with lots of
samples, and actual singing. If you've heard the opening music in Zool
2, you know what to expect here, except it's not as quirky.

Next up, there's a simple screen that will be repeated between
missions of men running over hills to join your outfit. A macabre
scoreboard of enemy deaths versus your group's deaths is kept here,
along with icons for loading and saving games and a strangely GEMish-
looking "arrow" pointer. (Two separate games may be saved.)

You'll find out as you progress in the game, that as long as you can
complete another mission, more men /f/o/d/d/e/r/ will join your ranks,
and the men /f/o/d/d/e/r/ you lose along the way will flower these
same hills with burial markers. Another dark touch to the game is the
higher the rank they achieve, the more pronounced their gravestones
are.

But as their commander, you have to realize that death is a part of it
all, so though you may shed a virtual tear at someone's passing, you
saddle up and sally forth with a new batch of recruits /f/o/d/d/e/r/
for the next battle.

There's 72 actual skirmishes that you'll have to make it through,
divided into 15 (I believe) separate missions. Each mission takes
place in a similar environment (wooded, arctic, jungle, SW American
desert) and slowly builds in intensity and introduces weapons and
tactics along the way.

Each mission ends with a nicely rendered static shot of roly-poly
soldiers being awarded their new ranks (based on their number of
kills). You will eventually be rewarded with another rendered memorial
shot, remembering those men /f/o/d/d/e/r/ who fell. (The scenes shown
will change, depending on the latest environment fought in.) The only
drawback here is that these scenes appear to be done in 8-bit color,
and color banding is noticeable.

If you fail, and lose all of your fodder /m/e/n/, there's another
scene of the dictator you've been fighting against, with a text crawl
telling you of your fate. There should be another scene celebrating
your victory if you make it to the end, but I can't describe it. In
just over three week's playing, I only made it halfway through Mission
7. (This may paint my skills at this as rather anemic, but I'd rather
think it shows the increasing difficulty curve of the game. <g>)
Speaking of difficulty, there are no user-selectable levels here.


=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
//// Bang, You're Dead
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

You start off with about 20 recruits in reserve, two of whom are
plunged into Mission 1, a single-screen "hunt-and-kill" of two
bog-stupid enemy troopers. (The programmer's had a bit of fun at
naming some of the missions. Mission 1 is called "The Sensible
Initiation" and others are "Onward Virgin Soldiers", "Those Vicious
Vikings", "Westward, Ho" and "Greenland Redblood." Gotta love those
initial plugs though.)

Missions are broken up into separate levels, with easily discernible
tasks to follow: Kill all enemy soldiers - Destroy all buildings.
Something any grunt speaking any language can understand. You can
divide your men in up to three groups - the active group is under your
control, inactive groups will hunker down and try to hold their
position using any weapons at their disposal. You can switch between
groups with the press of a button, and groups can be rejoined easily.

Combat takes place in a orthogonal view. (Overhead, offset at an
angle.) The combat screen takes up most of the screen, with an icon
bar on the left side that displays how your current batch of troops
/f/o/d/d/e/r/ are divided into groups; ammo levels for grenades and
rocket launchers; and icons for "surrender" and a strategic map of the
area.

There's that arrow cursor again, which you move around using the dpad.
One of the user-selectable "ABC" buttons will make your selected group
"go to" the cursor, while another of the buttons will turn the cursor
into a gunsight, and the group will begin firing an inexhaustible
supply of machine gun ammo towards it, killing or maiming anyone in
its path.

When you do, there's a short spray of blood from those hit, and the
body will slide along the ground accompanied by anguished cries of
pain, all to disappear in seconds.

Sometimes, you won't kill an enemy, you'll only wound him. Until you
put him out of his misery, he will lie where he fell, screaming. This
may be a little disturbing to some, though the effect is nowhere as
gruesome as bloody fighting games like Mortal Kombat and Kasumi Ninja.
(Though there is room for some sadism here. As long as the enemy who
was shot is on-screen and in range, your men can continue to pump
bullets into him; each volley will be met by more cries. Such
barbarism has been known to happen in real battles.)

Early on in the game, you'll have to seek out explosives that are
handily stored out in the open by the enemy to finish your task. They
come in the form of grenades and bazookas, and take some practice to
use. (Hold the "Fire" button, place the cursor on your target, press
the "Move" button.) A few times of making your men /f/o/d/d/e/r/ toss
a grenade on themselves will teach you.... The beauty of a grenade is
that you can throw one over a line of trees, which are normally
impermeable to small arms fire and rockets - just don't stand too
close to a tree to throw - I have had grenades lodge in an adjacent
tree and kill the thrower. (More fodder for the grinder, please.)

Machine gun ammo is unlimited. If you break your men into separate
groups, you'll have to allocate all/half/none of the available
explosive ammo yourself. Think carefully before you send that raw
recruit on that suicide mission - if he dies, you lose whatever he was
carrying.

The sound effects in Cannon Fodder are nicely done, though like the
graphics, they won't stun you. Grenades whistle through the air as
they are thrown (you'll hear it when you're the one being attacked as
well), rockets "Whoosh!" as they are fired, and explosions sound
like... well, explosions. Ambient sounds - of birds and seals, of
water flowing, and of jets far overhead - help create an atmosphere in
the game. (Listen for the burble of a patch of quicksand if you're
trodding through a jungle, and be careful of where you lead your men.)

There's many other details that flesh out the gameplay. You will
occasionally come across vehicles that you can use. (Look for the snow
skidder to help you jump at the end of Mission 5.) There are booby
trap tripwires in certain places. You can't use weapons in deep water,
but you can in the shallows. Some of the levels are set up as puzzles
for you to figure out. (Some levels are many screens wide and tall -
use the strategic map to find the locations of your group and
landmarks.) There's lots more spoken of in the instructions that I
never made it to, so I know you shouldn't get bored when playing. I
didn't.


=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
//// Conclusion
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

I made my move from console video game (Atari 2600) to computer game
(Atari 400) back in 1980. I wanted the complexity and detail that
computer games (like Star Raiders then) offered. I scoffed at the NES
generation of games, and only returned to video game consoles when
Jaguar appeared with the power of a desktop computer.

Cannon Fodder is one of a type of games I like - a moderately detailed
simulation. It's not a wrist twitcher (I do like some of those), so it
won't appeal to all videogamers. It's clearly a computer game that's
now on a video game console, and I am awaiting its release so I can
pick up where I left off, and lead my men /f/o/d/d/e/r/ on to victory!


=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
//// Final Ratings
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

         Title: Cannon Fodder           Networkable: No
        Design: Virgin Software             Players: One
  Published by: C-West                   Age Rating: N/A
         Price: $59.95(US)                Available: Mid-February (US)

  Here's the summary ratings:
              "*" is a whole
               "+" is a half
             5 stars maximum


 Graphics - **+   Very small sprites, but lots of detail involved. I
                  noticed no slowdown in action, nor any glitches.
    Audio - ***   Great title music - sound effects are plentiful and
                  good, but not overwhelming.
  Control - ***+  After accidently killing off my group a few times
                  with errant grenade tosses, it becomes very easy.
                  Nothing goes to waste here.
 Gameplay - ****  It's like "Lemmings", only with bazookas, grenades
                  and machine guns.
  Overall - ***+  A good, solid, lengthy computer game that will keep
                  you coming back for one more go.


Pts Stars  AEO Ratings
""" """""  """""""""""
 10 *****  GAMING NIRVANA!!! - You have left reality behind... for good.
  9 ****+  Unbelieveable GAME!! - Your family notices you're often absent.
  8 ****   Fantastic Game!! - You can't get enough playtime in on this.
  7 ***+   Great Game! - Something to show off to friends or 3DOers.
  6 ***    Good game - You find yourself playing this from time to time.
  5 **+    Ho-hum - If there's nothing else to do, you play this.
  4 **     Waste of time - Better to play this than play in traffic.
  3 *+     Sucks - Playing in traffic sounds like more fun.
  2 *      Sucks Badly - You'd rather face an IRS audit than play this.
  1 +      Forget it - ... but you can't; it's so badly done, it haunts you.
  0 -      Burn it - Disallow programmer from ever writing games again.


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