Ah, the SAS. After that memorable raid on the Iranian Embassy in London in 1980, the SAS were forced into the public eye and what a shock it was for most people. The most secret of the secret services showed just how big and hard and clever they were by wiping out a load of terrorists without losing a single team member to 'friendly fire'. Then down the local for loads of drinks and tall stories about how touch and butch they all were. Not bad for a night out with the lads eh? So what has all this to do with a team running around with sabres? Well, actually, a Sabre Team is a four man SAS attack unit, trained to kill and keen to do it. Great, eh?
Krisalis have put their heads together and come up with a combat infiltration strategy simulator (God, if I have to see just one more combat/infiltration strategy simulator this month...) that puts you in direct control of one of these crack teams. And of course, since it is computer controlled, you won't have to go through the arduous training or suffer eating live worms on a wet weekend at Dartmoor, either (Hey, we said that they were tough, we did not say anything about them being smart).
So what does it take to become a cool commander of the toughest hombres in the world? Well, it takes three things - muscle, brawn, patience and brains. Patience? Yes. Patience because this is a strategy game so you are not going to run all over the place with your finger twitching on the trigger, but before all the action nuts start to turn the page looking for an arcade game review, read on - you might just like this as well.
Sabre Team is a mixture of strategy with a little simulated combat thrown in. Okay, a lot of simulated combat. After all, this is the SAS and if they cannot fight they are about as much use as a pacifist in the Los Angeles Police Department.
Unlike some strategy games, Sabre Team is very pleasing to look at. The 3D view works really well, and for once common sense has come into play. After all you cannot see what is in a room until you enter it and you cannot see who is standing behind you unless you are facing them, can you? It also helps create a fair amount of atmosphere - imagine the scene as you face a closed door. Your energy is low and your guns is almost out of ammo. You have heard a noise in the room but you do not know whether it is a hostage, a terrorist or even one of your own men. Will you open the door and go in or wait for the rest of your party to catch up? You get old heroes and you get bold heroes but never old, bold heroes. The choice is yours.
You get five missions to guide your team through and they are by no means easy. Although you get three skill levels you are still going to be put to the test. The strategy side of the game can be as intense as you want it to be - you can fuss around deploying your strongest men at strategic points and hunting down the terrorists, or you can just send your team in guns blazing to wipe out anything that moves. Both strategies could meet with a surprising amount of success, or on the other hand...
I must admit I did enjoy playing Sabre Team at first, the graphics are surprisingly good for a game like this. The controls are very easy to use and you think there is a lot to it. After all any game where you can shoot a suspect in the back without asking any questions and then go and stomp the body and nick any weapons worth having cannot be all bad? No, it is not (all bad, that is).
One major, major problem though, is the speed. I know it is a strategy game and so you do not expect to see 50 frames a second, but when the computer is working out its moves it can take absolutely ages. We have been assured by Krisalis that it is as fast as the Amiga can handle but I feel sure that it could have been done differently - look at the legendary Laser Squad if you want proof. As it stands it is a major hold-up and gets really annoying after a while.
Aside from this, though, there is nothing wrong with Sabre Team. The celar display and good graphics are attractive and easy to use. You will find it no problem to send your team wandering all over the place. Combat is just a case of spotting the enemy and deciding how much ammo to use on him - too much and you will waste it and have to use up action points reloading sooner, but not enough and he won't be dead, and then you will be sorry. When the enemy are making their moves they can attack you as well but providing your men have enough move points left over, and their reactions are fast enough they may get a free shot called an Opportunity Move.
The ideas in the game work really well and it is quite entertaining to play, if it was not for that damn slow computer thinking. If you like games that will make you think but are easy to get to grips with, then start looking at this. If however you do not like to be kept hanging around for ages doing nothing while the computer works out a move then look in the opposite direction before you turn to stone. Although the speed lets the game down badly there are some interesting elements of gameplay that will hopefully attract both strategy and arcade fans. This is nice.
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