Saturday, July 20, 2019

Game 4: Hovertank 3D

Name:Hovertank 3D

The first game from the boys at iD. Properly speaking, Hovertank 3D is the first FPS in how we think of FPS games. Its not rough around the edges, its just rough. As hard as it is to believe today, using the arrow keys + CTRL wasn't common and having enemies that stay dead instead of coming back was just starting to come into vogue. That's not to say its entirely original, arguably this is just a fancier version of Battlezone, which would have been 1987. Hovertank was released as part of a monthly diskette service, and for what it is, its pretty impressive.

The story, told only in a readme file, is Brick Sledge, the mercenary operator of a HOVERTANK, is employed to retrieve civilians from cities that are about to undergo "limited nuclear strikes". The reasons for this are explained in each mission's briefing, which seems to have some amount of work put into them. That doesn't matter too much when the game starts, as every mission goes roughly the same way, kill enemies with your powerful cannon, run over some hostages to save them, then go to a portal. All in under some time limit.

Enemies don't take this without a fight. You have the usual melee and ranged projectile enemies, but then you have enemies that charge after hostages. You only have your cannon, but its incredibly effective against them. Every enemy I faced died in one hit to it. You can charge it, but all this seems to do is create splash damage. Simple offense and defense. To my knowledge there's no sidestepping in this game, so you need to hope your shields can hold. The money below isn't just a score, if you take damage during a mission it depletes to show repairs being done.

This isn't a terribly complex or interesting game, and it lacks a save function. There is a level select, but I didn't find out about that originally and I don't see the latter levels changing much. I see glimmers of something, but its hampered by the necessarily crappy visuals. The sound design in the game is more about being there than sounding good. Combined with the constant swaying of the viewport and I didn't see much point in continuing the game.

You have a cannon. It kills everything in one shot. You can charge it up, but there's little need to. 1/10

You have various mutants, and other tanks. The other tanks shoot at you. They run around in some pattern that presumably makes sense to someone and sometimes kill hostages. 2/10

You have hostages/rescuees. There's a man and a woman. They stand still. The woman looks very robust. 1/10

A progressive series of gradually more difficult levels. They're not easy to navigate, mostly due to controls and colors. 1/10

Player Agency:
Tank controls. Not a joke. You move forward quickly enough, you get an afterburner if you aren't fast enough already. Backward and is slow. If something sneaks up behind you, it's annoying. You can't see it in the screenshots, but there's a swaying that is very obnoxious. 2/10

You can pick up hostages. Sometimes shields. 0/10
The effect they're trying to go for is a kind of care-free cyberpunk-ish post-apoc-ish kind of deal. It kinda works outside of the levels themselves, which feel like a something a demonic entity would trap someone in. 3/10

Graphics are typical of iD pre-Wolfenstein. Tom Hall had a distinctive graphics style that included pale-white humans, messy hair and baggy clothes. This might be more distinctive because some elements are from other games. Some of the rescuees are Dangerous Dave. The mutants are the demons in Catacomb. I'm sure I'm missing something. The walls are a single color, as are the floors. I appreciate the efforts to make the walls different colors, but it just looks like someone screwing with the palette. 3/10

The between level texts, while not much of a story, are fairly interesting to read, and sometimes amusing. 2/10

The sound is very low-quality, I suspect I'm hearing the voices of iD personal being very annoying here. You have the obvious low-quality sound samples like screaming and someone saying "The Gate is Here". You also has various gun sounds that sound like Tom Hall, the human beatbox. There's also a bumping sound that is loud enough that someone could break into your house while you are playing this and you wouldn't notice. I guess that's accurate if a tank went into...some kind of wall. 1/10

And that brings us to the final score of 16. Considering this was released on a disk for a monthly subscription service, its high quality. If you had nothing better do to for a day, it's worth a shot.

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