Necrodome  February 1997
Publisher: SSI   Developer: Raven Software   Required: Windows 95; Double-speed CD-ROM drive; Pentium 60; 8MB RAM; 1MB SVGA   We Recommend: Quad-speed CD-ROM drive; Pentium 90; 16MB RAM; Supported sound card; Joystick   Multi-player Options:   

Amid the crush of first-person shooters and me-too action games, SSI has teamed up with Raven Software to create a no-frills combat driving game that delivers down-and-dirty gameplay and a few new twists on the genre.

The object of the game is to drive your heavily armed and armored car, blast assorted bad guys, and activate several switches on each level to open up gated areas, then retrieve the flag for that level. Return the flag to your starting position, and you win the level.

Since youíre in a car rather than on foot, the game takes place in wide-open spaces, with lots of room to maneuver your vehicle. The level maps are relatively flat, but what makes Necrodome more interesting than some other combat-driving games is the fact that youíre not confined to a track. The terrain varies from flat stone arenas to bumpy hills, patches of slippery ice, and pools of dangerous lava and toxic waste. You can even smash through trees and other game objects that get in your way.

Still, for the bulk of the game youíll be driving around with the pedal to the metal, running over little men and shooting at turrets -- and at top speed, even Necrodomeís wide-open spaces are simply not big enough. Youíll often find yourself coming up against dead ends and other obstacles, and within these confines, the sensation of speed canít be maintained for long.

To get around that, the designers gave you the ability to get out of your car and explore the map on foot. When you run around Doom-style, with gun in hand, you can ascend ramps too narrow for your car to climb and locate additional power-ups and concealed switches. But donít think youíre jumping out of an armored-car game and into Doom -- other than flipping the occasional switch, thereís not much to do while youíre hoofing it.

Besides this switch between driving and running, you can choose from external or internal views of your car. Sometimes the car is easier to control from the external view, since your vehicle is ponderous and tends to get caught on corners. A variety of opponents will confront you: foot soldiers, who stand around and are easy to run over; flying soldiers; and eight different vehicular enemies. Necrodome also gives you the standard gamut of weapons (plus a few cool ones), and about thirty levels to play on.

Necrodome also has a good set of multi-player options, including both cooperative and competitive play. In co-op mode, two players can share the same vehicle, one driving the car and the other operating the rotating turret. This makes for some interesting combat, where teams of two-on-two compete not only with their reflexes but with their ability to work together. The smokescreens are also cool in multi-player mode.

Necrodome supports Windows 95ís DirectPlay across the Internet and can also be played on the Total Entertainment Network. Having this capability, in addition to the standard IPX-network and modem play, should give the game a longer life and wider appeal than it might otherwise have.

Necrodome is well thought-out, the physics are good, and it has many nice touches, but the constant stopping and starting, entering and exiting and looking for switches interrupts the action and detracts from the excitement. Necrodome might be worth taking on a test drive, but there are too many other good action games on the market right now or on the horizon to recommend this one unconditionally. Still, if youíre looking for a Car Wars type of game to play on the Internet, this is your first choice.

--Jason Bates

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Frequently, youíll have to stop and get out of your car to retrieve power-ups or flip hidden switches.

The external car view is often easier to control and play.

FINAL VERDICT
84%
HIGHS:
Many play options; Internet support; lots of things to smash and shoot.
LOWS:
Murky, circular levels; too many stops and starts.
BOTTOM LINE:
Fun and playable, but not really remarkable.
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