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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