Iron Soldier

Atari Jaguar

from AEO Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 1

 |||   Iron Soldier

 |||   By: Chuck Klimushyn

/ | \  GEnie: L.FULGENZI    CIS: 74064,1466


      "...Cybermorph is one heck of an engrossing pack-in

       and a great preview of things to come for Atari's

       new gaming console. Looking at the game as it runs

       on my television I can't help but sense the ending

       of the 16-bit era for home video games is near.

       Let's wish Atari well in making the Next Level of

       gaming theirs."

It was almost exactly a year ago that I wrote this to close my

strategy guide on Cybermorph for AEO. As we begin 1995, Atari's Jaguar

has passed it's one year anniversary, the 16-bit era is still ending,

and the Jag has entered into its second year of release.

Traditionally, this has always been an important landmark with a

video-game system.  The programers are assumed to have gained enough

familiarity with the new hardware to present competent titles that

accurately represent what the system is capable of doing. Games that

were a bit rough around the edges are forgivable with a console's

first wave of titles.  Similar efforts are judged harshly if they

continue to appear in a unit's second year of release.

In many ways Iron Soldier is the second wave successor to the Jaguar's

first title, Cybermorph. (Perhaps even more than Cybermorph's

scheduled sequel, Battlemorph.) Battlemorph is a CD based title and

the increased storage capacity makes comparisons to the original cart

game difficult. It's time to see if Iron Soldier stands up to the

expectations required of a next wave Cybermorph successor.


//// Nuts and Bolts


Iron Soldier takes place in the future, adopting a familiar Cyberpunk

theme where Industry has conquered government in the form of the Iron

Fist Corporation (IFC). IFC has turned into a typically oppressive

totalitarian regime and has bred the usual rag-time resistance to

challenge them. That's where you come in. The innovatively named

Resistance has managed to steal the prototype of a new weapon, the

Iron Soldier: a 42 foot robot that makes tanks of today look like

soap-box derby race cars. You're elected to pilot the Iron Soldier

(IS) through 16 varied and progressively difficult missions

culminating in a strike at the very heart of IFC's territories.

//// Missions and Game Play

There are three difficulty settings: easy, medium, and hard. I didn't

notice much difference between easy and medium, but hard was a

definite step up in the frustration level. Enemies appear to do more

damage and are tougher to kill. Choppers and light tanks I often

ignored in the lower two settings. I was seeking these same units out

and stomping with a vengeance at the highest level of difficulty.

Pillboxes for which I previously wouldn't bother to switch from a

medium range gatling gun were now treated to long ranged attacks from

my rail cannon or rockets. This feature along with the varied mission

should provide excellent replay value.

The game presents the missions in 4 blocks of 4 missions each. You can

save after completing a block in the first 3 groups and thankfully

after every mission in the last block. Within the first 3 blocks you

have the freedom to complete the missions in any order. This is

noteworthy since some tasks are much easier to complete after gaining

a new weapon available in the latter missions of the block. In the

last set of missions you are fully armed and must complete the

scenarios sequentially.

The missions are extremely wide ranging. They vary from from simple

search-and-destroy tasks, to hunting enemy IS's, attacking fortresses,

escorting truck convoys, territory protection, and more. During these

missions a wide assortment of IFC's armed forces will be thrown at

you. You'll have to cope with attacks from the ground, air, and even

from sea! To deal with these attacks you'll gain progressively

stronger weapons obtained through the various scenarios. You'll

demolish buildings to find extra ammo and packages to repair your war

machine. You'll develop and try different strategies to meet a

mission's objectives. I found several missions that were my favorites

and I replayed them numerous times to find the most efficient ways to


My all-time favorite was "Best Defense." It takes place at night. You

must guard a research building from attack by land and airborne forces

while dodging units hell-bent on your destruction. The night time

battle visuals and accompanying music were captivating!

//// Armament

One of Cybermorph's strength was the wide variety of weapons at your

disposal. This allowed you to match your own talents and preferences

with the weapons to meet the task at hand in many different ways.

Iron Soldier expands in this worthy tradition with a much wider range

of offensive and defensive capabilities. Your IS contains 2 shoulder

mounts for weapons, 2 waist mounts, plus one hand held mount. Some

weapons may only be mounted at a particular area, such as on the


Into these mounts you will eventually be able to choose from the

following items:

a.  Standard Manipulator - essentially your fist that packs the punch

    of brass-knuckles of the first magnitude.

b.  Cassy Assault Rife - Your first projectile weapon. It's a 75 mm

    semiautomatic hand held rifle. Remember your pistol in DOOM? It's

    about as effective....

c.  Parker Chain Cutter - Another hand held item. One big buzz-saw

    that's much better than your fist for demolishing buildings and

    indispensable for up-close-and-personal fighting with an enemy IS.

d.  Badger Hand Grenades - Short ranged, oil drum sized grenades that

    provide the game's biggest bang, but aiming them takes serious

    practice. Try shooting for the first click on your radar scope.

    They mount at the waist.

e.  Rachels Gatling Gun - A six-barrel 40mm gatling gun that will make

    short work of light tanks, helos, and pillboxes at up to medium

    range. Your standard "active" weapon. Can be mounted on hips or


f.  Wolfpack Rocket Launcher - Less of a punch than grenades but much

    easier to aim and a far longer range. A must for taking out heavy

    tanks quickly. Shoulder or hip mounted.

g.  Charlotte Rail Cannon - Now we're talking... a 120 mm armor

    piercing shoulder mounted gun. Slow firing, but the quickest way

    to stop the A-10 clones and smashing things from a distance.

    Pretty good for wrecking an enemy IS too.

h.  Slate Heavy Shield - Shoulder mounted device that halves incoming

    damage when active. Not a bad choice in latter missions when the

    air attacks get really nasty, but taking it means one less weapon

    can be carried.

i.  Sable Cruise Missile - The best eye-candy in the game. You get to

    fly one of these shoulder mounted babies in a stunning chase-plane

    view around the battle field till you hit something or you run out

    of fuel. The problem is, they're only as strong as a grenade and

    reloads are scarce. Still, skillful use in the game's last

    scenario can take away some of that mission's pain.

j.  Radar Screen - More of a game feature than a weapons item, but

    still a very important part of your defense. Enemies are tracked

    360 degrees around you. Air units are red, land based nasties are

    yellow, and enemy IS units are blue. Missiles, grenades, and bombs

    are white. The screen is extremely helpful with dodging bombing

    runs by the attack planes and missile salvos from an enemy IS.

Picking the right weapons to complete each mission is one of the most

appealing aspects of the game. Are you expecting to engage in long

range or close-in fighting? Are you sharp enough with the gatling gun

to skip taking along the heavy slate shielding for extra defense?

Grenades or rockets, how's your aim? Heck, take both!

Iron Soldier goes beyond Cybermorph in allowing flexibility in

selection and deployment of your armament. Perfect, and in complete

accord of what's expected of a second generation title! My only

disappointment was the inability to mount weapons on both hands, which

is standard with most other mech-type simulations. Instead, the

handheld weapons requires the use of both mechanical arms to operate.

//// Opposition

All these wonderful toys that go boom would be for naught if there

weren't interesting and challenging things to shoot at. Iron Soldier

does not disappoint. It has a wide variety of enemies, each with

different strengths and weaknesses. Each has its own pattern of

attempting to make your life miserable.

There are two forms of tanks, light and heavy. Light tanks are pesky

little things that are tempting to ignore, but will inflict a

surprisingly high amount of damage if they draw an extended bead on

you. Luckily, you can stomp 'em like ants <g>. Heavy tanks are much

nastier. They pack a strong punch, are fast in tracking you, and are

too large to be stomped. Heavy tanks require a steady steam of rockets

to dispatch.

Air borne attacks come in three varieties of "G's". A "Glaive"

helicopter that is as tempting to ignore as a light tank. The "Greave"

V.T.O.L. is far more worthy of your attention. If these jump jets get

close they'll circle around your head, just beyond your gun sight and

quickly drop a large quantity of very damaging bombs. The "Gantlet"

Attack Plane is an A-10 clone bent on your destruction with even more

bombs than the V.T.O.L.s. It's very thick skinned and requires

extended gatling gun bursts to take out. Luckily, a single well placed

shot from a rail cannon will send it to earth in a spectacular shower

of pieces.

There are two pillboxes: one armed with two missiles - "Javelin"

Rocket Launcher, and another with fixed heavy machine guns - "Heaume"

Gun Turret. Each will do a steady stream of damage if not dealt with.

They're best destroyed at long range with rockets or the rail cannon.

"Behemoth" Frigates are one of the surprise bonuses in the game.

They're actually large ships that you have to contend with on several

missions. Armed with cannons and rockets, it's risky to get too close.

To make matters worst, they can speedily put to sea, out of range of

many of your weapons. Not a good thing when your mission objectives

call for their destruction.

Enemy Iron Soldiers complete the roster of opponents. They progress in

toughness through the missions. They can target you at long range with

unlimited cannons or rockets. At close range their fists can inflict

heavy damage on you. Grenades, rockets, and cruise missiles help you

for distance attacks. At close range, it becomes a riotous rock-'em-

sock-'em-robots affair as you dodge in with your fist or chainsaw to

inflict damage and dance out of range before the enemy IS can respond

in kind!

The AI of these enemies is one of Iron Soldier's real strengths.

Target a light tank for stomping and it starts running for the hills.

Draw a bead on a helo and it'll climb and bank trying to get above the

range of your gunsight. The V.T.O.L.'s will cagily circle around your

head, just temptingly away from your gunsight, while they pound your

IS into spare parts.

The enemy ISes are the only disappointing loafers in the bunch. At

long range they have an inexplicable habit of walking away from you

after drawing devastating aim on your IS. At close range they are

thrown into confusion, walking in random directions trying to gain

distance to use ranged weapons, and responding far too slowly with

their punch against close range attacks of your fist or chainsaw.

Iron Soldier easily surpasses Cybermorph in the quality of its

opponents. They are far more complex in design and movement patterns

than those in Cybermorph. The helos and attack planes give the

appearance of startlingly realistic flight, all at a frame that is

silky smooth. The quality screams of a true next generation title, and

meets the expectations of the "64-bit" promise of the Jaguar. I would

have liked to see more combat with enemy IS units, but I'm


//// Control

At first control and movement of your IS may seem lumbering. Pressing

the joypad left or right results in painfully slow movement in the

respective direction. Pressing the joypad up or down allows you to

change the angle of your view to in a skyward direction. You can

actually look down at your iron boots as you stomp luckless tanks and

small houses <g>. Pressing A plus up/down on the joypad increases or

decreases your speed. (It's possible to move in reverse at up to about

a third of your best forward speed.) The B button fires your active

weapon. This is selected through a sharp, full color number-pad

overlay for the robot's waist and shoulder mounts, or the options

button for handheld weapons.

Thankfully using the C button in combination with the joypad will

increase the speed of your IS's rotation. This is still barely enough

to keep pace with fast circling air borne pests. An undocumented

feature is to press the C and A button in combination with the joypad.

This results in satisfyingly fast targeting. It takes some time to

accurately use the C/A/joypad together, plus press the B button to

fire, but it makes the progressively harder air attacks in the latter

missions much more manageable!

The game provides an advanced control option that allows you to set a

course and then have your turret free to rotate approximately 180

degrees. An interesting option to use if you're sure of your path. I

tended to avoid making much use of the feature and preferred to

generally zig-zag to help avoid air attacks.

There's a couple of undocumented control features included. Pressing

"Pause", and then "1" or "3" will single-step through gameplay.

Pressing "8" during a game appears to display the current mission


The increased complexity of Iron Soldier is more difficult than using

the simple pin-point accurate controls of Cybermorph. Given the

increased realism of a viewpoint that allows varying degrees of

elevation or recession, however, I found it to be a more than even

trade off.


//// Presentation and Impact


So, all the essentials for a good sim. are here: lots of toys to

shoot, fun targets, and decent control. The basics are only a start,

though, and it's up to the graphics and audio aspects of the game to

present a virtual world that impacts the gamer to the point of

suspending their disbelief enough to become lost in this alternate

reality. Cybermorph provided enough in each category to have gamers

jumping for joy with its virtual playground. Does Iron Soldier, a year

later, improve on the illusion?

//// Graphics

The battle areas of Iron Soldier are comprised of different cities in

the future. Buildings range from towering skyscrapers to squat fuel

tanks, and small houses. Gone is the sparse, angular look of

Cybermorph's universe. It's now replaced by rounded Power Plants,

circular smoke stacks, curving exhaust vents, and sweeping bridges.

Skyscrapers now have numerous windows and shapes. Texture mapping now

accents several of the buildings and objects on the landscape. The

environment still definitely has a shaded polygon look, but has been

refined and is extremely eye-pleasing.

The over-used triangular shaped enemies of Cybermorph have been

replaced by realistically shaped helicopters, planes, and tanks. The

helos have softly rounded underbellies that look great as they fly

directly over your head. The graceful wings of the A-10 clone are both

captivating and unnerving as the plane completes a gentle bank and

begins to initiate an attack run towards you. Again, texture mapping

is used to accent several of these opponents, most notably with the

helos and tanks.

Missions take place both during the day and night with appropriate

lighting changes. Seeing missiles streak from partially illuminated

helos at night is especially good looking.

Explosions are varied. The best are the airborne enemies that

disintegrate into dozens of different pieces that will rain about you

if you're close enough. Buildings are a bit more tame as they blow up

into perfectly square blocks. Light tanks explode humorously, with

gears bouncing.

The game has strong backgrounds of varying skyfalls, mountains, and

city images. The storm clouds of the night missions are especially

haunting. Gone are the bland colors from the backgrounds in


Finally, the visuals give a great sense of walking in a two-legged

tank. The objects on screen rise and fall in proportion to your speed.

Unfortunately this effect is lost when moving in a direction devoid of

on screen items or moving away from a city toward the background

mountains and skyfalls. An acceptable concession to ROM space for a

cartridge game. In all respects, Iron Soldier clearly surpasses the

first generation graphics of Cybermorph.

//// Audio

The music and sound effects are the most disappointing aspect of Iron

Soldier. This is particularly troublesome because they're both pretty

good. Ok, let me explain. The game allows you to select having music

in the game, but at the cost of losing some important sound effects.

Mostly these are the distance cued sounds of approaching helicopters

and tanks. Unfortunately, these sounds effects don't appear

directionally cued. If you wish to have these important audio hints

in the game, you must sacrifice the music.

This is too bad since the six in-game tunes are the best music I've

heard for the Jag since Tempest 2000. Even though they're in mono,

the music come across very well. The tracks range from strong driving

numbers that would fit in a Miami Vice episode to a rather eerie treat

that accompanies the night action missions.

The other sounds such as the explosions, firing guns, and launching

missiles are well done and present with or without music. It is

troublesome to me that Jag games appear to have such difficulty

integrating audio. I'm not a game developer so I can't accurately

state where the problem lies. I'm a consumer. I know the competition

can and does provide both quality music and sound effects in their

games. At this point in the Jaguar's development it should, too.

Apparently audio hasn't shown the growth that graphics have since

Cybermorph was released. It does rate higher than Cybermorph though

with the inclusion of in-game music and more sound effects.


//// Conclusion


Those of you who have followed my posts under the handle of [Chas] in

the Video Games Roundtable on GEnie know that at best over the last

year I've been ambivalent about the Jaguar. At times I've bordered on

on bashing Atari. My unit generally sat in my closet except for a week

or so of enjoyable use every quarter as the 1994 games trickled out. I

have trouble liking systems that get new titles released once every

three months, no matter how impressive the specs.

Iron Soldier has renewed the initial excitement and promise I felt

upon originally playing Cybermorph. It surpasses the game in every

aspect to which I've made comparisons. If Atari can deliver more of

these second generation titles at a healthy pace it truly can become a

serious competitor. Happy New Year Atari! You're off to a fine start,

keep 'em coming!


//// Final Ratings


Title: Iron Soldier                   JagNet: No

Design: Eclipse                      Players: 1

Published by: Atari Corp.          Available: Now

MSRP: $59.95                      Age Rating: K-A (Kids to Adult, 6+)

Here's the summary ratings:

                "*" is a whole

                 "+" is a half

               5 stars maximum

 Control: ***+   Lumbering, until you become accustomed to using the A,

                 B, C buttons and joypad simultaneously. Satisfying


Gameplay: *****  Absolutely the best mech-sim available on a console.

                 (I've played them all.) You =will= feel like you're

                 in a 42 foot bipedal tank!!

Graphics: ****+  Improves upon Cybermorph with rounded and curved

                 objects, accented with texture mapping. A fantastic

                 frame rate. Only a fully-textured map game would have

                 scored higher.

   Sound: **+    Good music or good sound effects, you can only pick

                 one. Yeah, I'm being harsh, but amateur hour is


 Overall: *****  Yep. Five Stars. Dedicated Mechheads will buy the

                 Jaguar to play this game when the word gets out, it's

                 that good! It's so fun it negates my audio concerns

                 for now

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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