Cyberspace rears its electronic head again in the latest game from Graftgold. Set in the far future the game envisages a time when wars will be fought inside computer simulations, digitally generated battle matrices where doom and destruction are just tricks of the light.
Rather than utilising present day warfare involving tens of thousands of soldiers and many thousands of casualties, battles are settled within the computer by using one or two skilled pilots, each trained and psyched to the peak of their ability. You are one such pilot. Can you save your nation and win the war?
There are thirty combat zones to blast through the objective being to destroy power generators dotted around the playing area on each level. Each zone is made up of a maze of tiles, forming platforms and walkways, complete with a smattering of enemy forces, ranging from bog standard mouse-like craft that fire randomly to huge tanks fully armed with homing missiles. Stationary enemies such as gun turrets harass you constantly, and the aggro is only heightened by the airborne attacks from planes and helicopters.
Luckily, you control the latest in fighting machines. The Surface Reconaissance Vehicle (SRV) - the ultimate expandable metamorphic attack craft. Swing wings allow you to change between a tank and an aircraft, and easily fitted modules add extra features such as Fire and Forget missiles, a Target And Display system, a series of speed ups increase your engine power and an ECM device lets you jam enemy homing missiles.
The game is viewed from behind and slightly above your craft, with the bottom third of the screen taken up with a status panel, showing which weapons and defence systems you currently have, how many generators remain, a radar and a four way shield display.
The playing area is made up of some of the fastest and smoothest filled polygon graphics yet seen in a game. Thanks to clever programming techniques, the graphic generator can run up to 252 objects at once, with impressive effects such as fast, solid filled objects with shadows and light intensity shaded surfaces. Explosion effects are created by a partical controller that can generate and move 100 individual particles. What you end up with is a stunningly realistic game with a greater sensation of movement than most flight simulators. The sound is a little weak in places. But there's always a fair bit going on, so things get very noisy at times. A lot of the explosion effects are tinny, which takes some of the satisfaction out of killing things, but that's well compensated by the amazing graphics.
Simulcra is a simple game to understand, but bloody hard to play. In a simulated universe where everything is against you, you have to keep your guard up at all times, and it tends to make you a little jumpy when you travel along a long empty walkway and you haven't been attacked for a few seconds.
Simulcra is one of those many games that aims to become a classic - and it looks like it just might manage that status. The sheer size of the game means you'll be at it for quite a while. An impressive product, and one that I can heartily recommend. Good, clean violent fun.
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