A drug baron took over Alcatraz prison and now the player takes the role of an U.S. Navy Seal to break in and neutralize him. He has two hours to complete his objectives in three buildings and needs to survive two different playing styles: side-scrolling fighting on the streets and first-person shooting inside.
Outside, the goal is to reach the building in which the objectives have to be completed. Of course the baron's thugs are not too pleased and try to kill the hero - so he has to shoot back with a many different weapons, e.g. flamethrowers, machine guns, bombs, and other destructive or close combat weapons, which can be collected from dead enemies. Similarly to Hostage: Rescue Mission, he can also hide in the background in certain spots.
Once inside a building, the game switches to a first-person view, in which the player has to navigate a maze to reach his goal, e.g. recovering evidence. To his disposal are a radar and a rifle.
In 1992 221B Software Development - not very known company - developed an interesting game called ALCATRAZ. With some help from their publisher Infogrames, the game was released to Atari ST, Amiga and Personal Computers. At first it was meant to be a sequel to another Infogrames production called Hostage: Rescue Mission, but finally it was decided to be a separate title.
The American government has declared war on the drug cartel whose chief, Miguel Tardiez, public enemy number 1, is holed up on the island of Alcatraz which has been a `high risk` zone since the San Francisco earthquake in 1989. Currently it's year 1996 and the former prison is now the headquarters of an evil drug ring led by previously mentioned Miguel. Two brave members of a crack commando, known as Bird and Fist, were selected for the mission to infiltrate Alcatraz. Their mission is divided into three parts, including: gathering evidence of criminal activity, destroying drugs and bank notes, and finally capturing the cartel boss. To keep the mission as confident as possible the helicopter will await for our commandos for only two hours. It's time to get onto canoe and sail to the island.
After the introduction Bird and Fist stands near canoe, equipped with two time bombs and some knives. First thing you will probably notice is the split-screen. The game is prepared for two player cooperation and it does not matter if you play alone - the screen will be split for the whole game. Eventually the second commando will be killed by cartel soldiers and after that the other part of the screen shows only Game Over text. The subsequent stages can be categorized into three game-styles, also varying in perspective.
Most of the time, the game is played in a side-scroller style. During these stages our ranger needs to get to a building which is placed, without a surprise, at the right end of the area. Enemies are walking around patrolling the island. All of them looks similar but they differ in weaponry: grenades, flame-throwers or rifles. The good thing is, that each weapon can be avoided - you can run from the blast range of a grenade or duck below the bullet. Every weapon seen being used by cartel soldiers can be picked up after their death. In some places you can hide your commando, so keep your eyes open for corners, open doors and other shadowed hideouts. Being hidden not only give you a chance to wait until enemies go away but also makes you invulnerable for that time. The last but not least advantage of being unseen is possibility to change your own weaponry - just press fire button. At the end of nearly every side-scrolling level you'll come across a bit bigger doorway and, as mentioned before, the gameplay shall be different when you get through these.
Inside buildings game changes its' perspective to first person. The division of the screen changes from horizontal to vertical, between screens appears inventory bar and on the bottom - the map of the building. The inventory screen does not give you much info, but the map is really helpful - it shows current position of your enemies. Apart from graphics there are also significant differences in gameplay mechanics. Most important change is that you cannot avoid bullets in these stages - when you or your enemy shoots, the bullets are not flying "in slow motion" but hit the target when shot. Another characteristic element is that number of enemies is not increasing - if you kill all of them you can feel safe. On your map You'll notice that some walls are coloured - it indicates doors. When you enter a room you can find some enemies to kill or complete one of the mission objectives.
As mentioned before, there is also a third kind of stage, but I will leave it as a surprise.
It is time to write some words about technical aspect of the game. Graphics are clean and sharp, you should not have any problems with recognizing what is what. During side-scrolling levels the scrolling is smooth and the game allows you to go backwards (back in a day many games allowed scrolling only in direction of progress). First person perspective is not shown in 3D, there are static screens after each step without any animation and turning left/right is always a 90 degree turn. Sound effects and music are good, they are not disturbing. Strange thing is, that the music is playing only when you are inside a building, never during "outside" parts of the mission.
To control the game you need only five keys: four directions and space as a fire button if you are not using joystick. When you are not in the building everything is working fine and it's easy to find out how it works, when you duck - you pick up lying weapons, when it is possible to hide press up arrow. During FPP stages you need to remember about aiming - when fire is pressed directional buttons allows you to point weapon to different position. If you will come across more than one enemy at a time it can be really difficult to get out of this situation without bleeding.
All in all Alcatraz can be considered as two separate games. In my opinion the differences between included game-styles are that big. I really enjoyed playing the side-scroller part where you could hide or fight. Challenges varied from simple walking enemies, throughout dogs and mines, up to enemies seen only in background which were impossible to be killed. Supplies of ammo had to be replenished often, and I could choose what kind of weapon I want to use - low range flame-thrower, silent knife or just dangerous hand-to-hand combat. I could not feel safe as the enemy could walk not only from the side of the screen, but also get out of a hide-out, jump from a window or simply walk out from the door. Inside building everything was different, enemies were shown on a map, ammunition was endless and I had to walk around and check every room for elements to complete objectives of the mission - I assure you, inside the last building there are really A LOT of these. Rooms were often empty, but when they was not - it was really hard to keep constant amount of life because of aiming system. This distinction can be considered as a advantage - you get two game-styles in one production, but in my opinion the FPP stages could have been done better and that is a reason to reduce the overall score. I would give this game a five, as it can be considered as a progenitor of Splinter Cell series but there are some flaws so it shall be only a score of three.
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