Atari Jaguar

from AEO magazine, Volume 4, Issue 9

 |||   Jaguar Review - I-WAR
 |||   By: Clay Halliwell
/ | \  GEnie: E.HALLIWELL   Internet: halliwee@ts436.dyess.af.mil

Imagitec Design, the folks who brought us such classics as Raiden and
Evolution: Dino Dudes, have struck again with I-War. Developed and
released without fanfare, I-War is both the best and the worst Jaguar
game I've seen.

In the future world of I-War, all the computing tasks on the planet
have been handed over to the Override Mainframe Computer. All is well
for a few years, then the obligatory Bad Things start happening.
Mutant databases begin appearing and clogging up the I-Way with their
datapods. Looks like it's time to hop into your anti-virus tank and
save the world!

//// Cybertank Driving 101

I-War can be played in one or two player mode. The two-player mode is
mentioned only in passing in the manual, but seems to be a head-to-
head contest set in a single arena.

At the start of the one-player game you set your difficulty level
(Easy/Medium/Hard), and choose between three different tanks - Light,
Medium, and Heavy. Go for the Heavy. It's not much slower than the
Light tank, and allows you access to all the weapon upgrades. It also
doesn't slide around as much.

You steer your tank by pushing left and right on the control pad, and
move forward and backward by pushing up and down. The default button
configuration is A: Select Weapon, B: Fire Weapon, C: Shields. Option
isn't used. You can select from a variety of Club Drive-style camera
angles with the keypad. Pressing "7" overlays a map of the current
level on the screen. The manual says pressing "8" toggles the texture
mapping, but I couldn't get it to do anything. The usual
music-toggling and volume-adjusting options are also present.

//// Toys, Wonderful Toys

No matter which tank you pick, you're started off with a single
forward-firing laser. Weapon upgrades can be found as you progress
through the game. For example, Mark 2 lasers fire two-shot bursts. The
bigger your tank, the more weapons you can mount simultaneously, so if
you're in a Heavy, you can carry two Mark 2 lasers (a four-shot
spread!) and two racks of missiles. You can eventually acquire the
following goodies (most of which are available in several upgrade

[] Radar: One of the first items you find. Places a radar display at
   the bottom center of your screen.

[] Missiles: These home in on the closest target, and are primarily
   for use against airborne targets. Unfortunately, a typical launch
   will result in the missile undershooting the target, looping back
   over it, and nosediving into the ground.

[] Plasma Cannon: Hold down your fire button to charge this baby up,
   then unleash a huge blast of destructive energy at your target.
   That's the theory anyway. In practice, it's quicker to just blitz
   your target with laser fire. The range of the plasma cannon does
   seem to be slightly greater than the lasers though.

[] Mine Dispenser: Tosses mines out the back of your tank. Due to the
   way I-War is set up (small rooms, enemies that mostly sit and
   shoot), mines are less than useless. Generally you'll forget you
   have them, accidentally spew out a few when switching weapons, then
   drive over them yourself.

[] Rear Laser: A single peashooter laser that must be selected just
   like your main weapons. If you're getting hammered from behind,
   it's better to either run, or turn around and engage the enemy with
   your main batteries, thus also putting the Rear Laser in the
   useless category.

[] Auto Targeting:  Not a weapon, but an upgrade which causes your
   targeting cursor to float around and lock onto the closest target.
   You get this fairly early in the game, and it works great... most
   of the time. Annoyingly, you can't force it to cycle through the
   available targets, so it will sometimes lock onto, for instance, a
   stationary mine instead of the guard tower that's raining plasma
   bolts down on your head.

You can toggle Auto Targeting off, but without it you can only fire
straight ahead. Shooting flying enemies is especially problematic,
since the only way to elevate your sights is to enable Auto Targeting,
but since it locks precisely on, it's impossible to lead your target.

[] A.I. Drone: A kissing cousin to Tempest 2000's A.I. Droid, the
   Drone will hover over your tank and take potshots at any nearby
   threats. Not very powerful (even the upgraded versions), but handy
   for alerting you to enemies not in your field of vision. Also good
   for shooting over electric barriers. The Drone can be destroyed by
   enemy fire.

[] Shields: Your friend in a pinch. Hitting the "shield" button on
   your controller will make you temporarily invulnerable.

There's a huge variety of enemies in I-War - bombers, tanks, homing
mines, guard towers - but you deal with almost all of them in exactly
the same way: blast 'em toe-to-toe until they die. Often you'll clear
a room of enemies without ever knowing what was in it.

//// Netscape Navigation

Once you get past all the Cyberpunk gobbledygook, I-War is pretty
straightforward. Play consists of driving your tank through a series
of areas connected by teleporters, collecting datapods, upgrading your
weapons, and blowing up anything that gets in your way. Once you
collect all the pods, make your way back to the teleporter to move on
to the next level.

If this sounds familiar, it should. Gameplay is eerily similar to
Cybermorph, except you drive instead of flying. The major difference
is that each level is divided into up to a dozen "rooms" connected by
teleporters. Since the map doesn't show your current location, getting
from place to place can be a major headache. Also unlike Cybermorph,
there's no handy arrow pointing toward the nearest pod. In fact, pods
don't show up on your radar at all!

There is one save-game slot, but it's a tad flaky, and tends to
replace your rear-firing laser with an A.I. Drone.

The terrain is flat, with the occasional bridge, ledge, or platform.
These are accessed by driving onto jumpers, which bounce you up into
the air. (Whee!) There are also intermittent electric barriers, doors,
magnets (pull you in), repellers (push you away), spikes (drain your
shields), spinners (fling you away randomly), and switches. Switches
may activate jumpers, doors, or teleporters. Driving into walls and
off of cliffs doesn't damage you.

Between levels you take a trip down the Data Link, a bonus round
similar to the ones in Tempest 2000. Cruising down a variety of tunnel
shapes, you attempt to avoid stray junk while intercepting at at least
75% of the viruses that come your way. Doing so will net you an extra
life. You have two view modes available in the bonus round - first-
person, which lets you see what's coming but pitches your viewpoint
around so much you can't tell where you are, and third-person, which
lets you see where you are but also sticks your ship directly in the
middle of your field of view.

//// Graphics

At first glance, I-War is the slickest, most professional-looking game
I've seen on the Jaguar. The title screen is wonderfully sharp and
colorful (and I suspect 640x200). All the option and intro graphics
are just superb... large, easy-to-read menu text, lots of
transparencies and gee-whiz animations in the backgrounds, a demo mode
that runs through the game story, a "know your enemies"-type screen,
and some sample gameplay. If you were to simply stare at I-War and
never play it, you'd swear it was the best Jag game ever.

Alas, I made the mistake of playing I-War. The game starts you off in
small rooms with only a few enemies, so the frame rate is good enough
that you don't mind the primarily gouraud-shaded environs. The moment
you make tracks into one of the larger rooms though, the frame rate
drops like a rock, to around 5 FPS. Large numbers of enemies onscreen
at once have the same effect.

It's obvious that I-War's polygon engine isn't up to snuff, yet
inexplicably the programmer seems to try to load it down at every
opportunity. The model of your tank is marvelously detailed... so
detailed that switching to any of the external views cuts the frame
rate almost in half. Every laser shot that hits a wall produces a
shower of polygon sparks, spraying an enemy with laser fire lets loose
such a bloom of shards that you can barely see what you're shooting
at, and the larger rooms in the game are often the ones with the
highest level of architectural detail. There are some even some pretty
impressive effects, like the "TRON"-ish way enemies burst apart when
destroyed, and the mirrored ball that englobes your tank when your
shields are on.

//// Sound

These are the guys behind Tempest 2000's legendary soundtrack, so of
course the music (mild techno) is great. Sound effects are limited
primarily to weapons fire and explosions. There's a computer voice,
which sounds almost exactly like a Type 'n' Talk, but not much else.

//// Conclusion

This is very much a two-headed beast. It's apparent that a lot of care
and thought went into I-War, but it's undermined by an inadequate
polygon engine and gameplay which is, while fun at first, ultimately
tedious and repetitive.

//// Final Ratings

        Title: I-War                     JagNet: No
       Design: Imagitec Design          Players: 1-2
 Published by: Atari                  Cart Size: 2 Megabytes
       Retail: $59.99               Availability: Now

 A Summary of Ratings:
              "*" is a whole
              "+" is a half
              5 stars Maximum

 Graphics - **       First-class intro graphics; pathetic frame rate
                     when things get busy.
    Audio - ****     Awesome tunes from the Tempest 2000 guys; so-so
                     but serviceable sound effects.
  Control - ****     Maneuvering your way around the I-Way couldn't be
 Gameplay - **       The variety of weapon upgrades is fun; the
                     stumbling around lost is not.
  Overall - **       Lots of promising stuff here, but the low frame
                     rate and confusing navigation are the kiss of
                     death for I-War.

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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