In our exclusive Playtest of Hired Guns, we were already full of praise for it, even though we'd only seen a few levels. And now the completely finished game has arrived it's anything but an anticlimax. Make no mistake about it, this is an instant Amiga classic...
The high-tech world of 2707 is run by a totalitarian central authority. On the run from this regime, Rorian Deevergh has formed a band of mercenaries who'll do anything for money - well, anything involving lots of killing. Just to clear one thing up, in last month's Playtest we said that the group's main objective on the planet known as the Graveyard was to rescue hostages. Not any more it ain't: instead they must recover four fusion-power core rings and take them to the main reactor for a fusion-induced thermonuclear explosion - detonated after evacuating! Each of the four core rings is located at a known site on the scrolling mission map. But to get to them, you have to get through many other levels.
This gun's lor hire
Before embarking, you choose your four-person team from the 12 mercenaries on offer, some of them robots and androids. You can control them all yourself (tricky at times) or get up to three friends to help, the third and fourth players either using the keyboard or joysticks/mice attached with a parallel adaptor. Even for two players, it's worth getting an extra mouse, as this is preferable to the slightly trickier joystick control. After choosing an available mission from the map, you're presented with the main playing screen, split into four so each character gets his own first-person 3-D view of the world. They can even look round and see their colleagues - apart from not using a funny headset, the feeling is a bit like virtual reality.
Character control is very user-friendly, especially with a mouse. In the latter case, arrow icons appear as you position the cursor over certain 'hot spots' on the 3-D view: just click left to rotate 90 loft/right, sidestep or walk forward. Clicking on the panels above the view brings up other useful screens, including a scrolling map of the area explored (if you have a DTS scanner) and a character status screen.
Most important of those, the Store is the character's inventory, scrolling vertically to show all the weapons/equipment in possession. Any of these can be placed in the character's hands to use. By the way, our only gripe in the Playtest was the inability to utilise items straight from the inventory instead of having to return to the 3-D view. This is no longer a problem as you can right-click on the inventory hands to use the item immediately, making it much easier and quicker to use first-aid kits during battle.
And believe me, there's plenty of combat action as you explore the gloomy corridors and rooms populated by all manner of enemies and hostile creatures. It gets really tense as you approach the end of a passage, not knowing what's round the corner. The multiplayer aspect also comes in well, as the other characters can cooperate to give covering fire to the rear etc.
Gunning for glory
Hired Guns is so much more than a glorified shoot-'em-up, though. The levels are so large, there's not only a lot of exploration but also flicking switches, moving boxes, etc to solve puzzles along the way. With an amazing amount of different items to find and use, the game's more like an RPG than anything else - but much easier to get into and play, and with a whole lot more action.
The challenge of attempting the epic full campaign (which should take ages to complete) would be enough for most games, but no. Hired Guns has oven more! There are no less than 20 stand-alone missions, including some competitive multiplayer ones, and five training missions to aid beginners.
With so much game data, not to mention the incredibly varied and detailed graphics and sound, it's no surprise that Hired Guns comes on five disks. This leads to a fair amount of swapping before missions, so the program's clever indication of what disk will be needed next is a welcome feature.
Such disk hassle is a minor, and inevitable, annoyance in an otherwise perfect game. In fact. Hired Guns would be an ideal candidate for conversion onto CD. so it's all the more surprising that Psygnosis currently have no plans to do so - unless they get sackloads of letters demanding it, of course!
Violence is the name of the game in this corker of an adventure. Simply pick your well-armed gun-totin' heroes, choose one of many missions and off you go into uncharted mazes full of vicious puppy dogs, crazy lemmings and shark-infested pools. One of the most impressive things about the game is the graphics: characters and backgrounds are brilliantly detailed and look very realistic. The character-selection music sounds like a 70s cop show, but that only adds to the cool image of the game. All the missions take some working out, so you'll being playing this for quite some time to come. A real winner..
Very well designed and good looking action shooter. Maybe one of the smoothest graphics on A500. Antialiased fonts, etc :) It's good for multiplayer, 3rd persion view with splitted screen! By the way, A1200 and more memory welcomed.
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