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PC Magazine -- October 8, 1996

Win 95 Games: Revolution or Evolution?

We still have yet to see a steady flow of native Windows 95 games, and the ones we do see are a mixed bag indeed

Michael E. Ryan, Bernard H. Yee

Microsoft Close Combat

Your armor is ablaze and your bazooka teams are wiped out. Had you reacted faster, your men might still be alive--along with the offensive you're supposed to be leading.

When you play Microsoft's Close Combat, you'll know this feeling on a regular basis. Unfortunately, in this game of real-time tactical combat your reaction time is secondary to the game's processing speed, which is extremely slow.

Close Combat starts you off on D-Day as you and your troops have just hit Omaha Beach. Over a series of battles, you'll lead your troops against German forces as you try to keep the Allied offensive alive. You can also play the German side in the struggle, trying to stem the Allied advance.

The action plays out from overhead, with your tiny animated troops running, crawling, and shooting their way across the detailed maps. The games' graphic detail is impressive and brimming with well-animated soldiers, vehicles, and explosions. Everything happens in real time so you must scroll around the map giving orders to all of your troops. If you leave them idle for too long, they'll act on their own initiative.

This is not always a good thing, as we regularly saw our 2-man scout parties storming buildings that were packed to the gills with Germans. Also, it's easy to get lost under the barrage of information Close Combat throws your way. We immediately found ourselves longing for the relative simplicity of Command & Conquer.

Finally, the game proceeds at what can only be described as a snail's pace. On a Pentium/166, Close Combat ran at barely tolerable speeds; on a Pentium/90, the experience was painful. --M.E.R.

MissionForce: CyberStorm

In the growing sea of first-person giant robot games like MechWarrior 2 and EarthSiege 2, MissionForce: CyberStorm takes a different perspective on the battlefield--literally. MissionForce is a turn-based strategy game in which you command a force of HERCs (Sierra's name for big, killer robots) through a series of battles. This game has more in common with X-COM than it does with real-time games like Command & Conquer and Warcraft II.

The scenario should be familiar to any veteran of the EarthSiege games: humanity is at war with the alien Cybrids, duking it out in huge mechanized robots armed to the teeth. MissionForce allows you to take part in this struggle not as a pilot, but as a general. You get to purchase and customize your HERCs with weapons and gadgets. Depending on your progress through the game, you will come across new technologies and robot types. You will have to juggle your budget and choose between a variety of missions while maintaining your HERCs and Bioderms (genetically engineered pilots).

The game's SVGA graphics look fabulous--the finely animated HERCs sway as they walk and recoil when hit by missiles.

But MissionForce is not perfect. Despite a helpful online manual (a recent trend in Sierra titles), real printed documentation would have been more useful. And the game design can lead to frustration. For example, even if a HERC has plenty of action points in a given turn, you'll be forced to watch helplessly as kamikaze opponents waltz up to the HERC and detonate.

On the positive side, Sierra includes in the package an extra game CD that a friend can use to play you in a head-to-head match over modem or LAN.

MissionForce: CyberStorm is a mouthful to pronounce and a handful to master, but it is fun. And who can get enough of these big ol' robots, anyway? --B.H.Y.

NHL PowerPlay '96

Virgin's NHL PowerPlay '96 enters a niche dominated by Electronics Arts, whose latest title, NHL 96, is a thing of beauty. Remember the odds against the USA's Olympic hockey team in 1980? Virgin's odds are longer... .

Okay, so NHL PowerPlay '96 has a lot going for it. For one thing, it includes a great world tournament mode, where you can lead your favorite country against the rest of the world. And the game includes real-world players, such as Pat LaFontaine, Steve Thomas, and Mikko Makela (oh, and some guy named Gretzky, too).

The actual game play is very smooth, with your team skating fluidly up and down the one, overhead fixed view of the ice. Despite the chunky low-resolution graphics, the animation is commendable. The flow of the game is fairly realistic and does seem a bit less predetermined than in NHL 96. But it is also a whole lot easier to beat the computer in NHL PowerPlay.

One very welcome twist is the coaching menu, which lets you select a style of play for your team. For example, you can choose to carry the puck into your opponent's zone or play a dump-and-chase game. NHL 96 does not provide this feature.

But the big drawback here is NHL PowerPlay's paltry array of statistics. Wins and losses are counted, and the stats for your current game are fairly detailed, but you cannot track stats over the course of a season or tournament.

Still, this is a good hockey game. But in a very small market already occupied by an all-star like NHL 96, NHL PowerPlay is a definite minor- leaguer. --M.E.R.


Quick Clips

Lemmings Paintball

They're back and they're armed with... paint guns. You guide your Lemmings as they try to capture the flag in this entertaining Lemmings sequel. $49.95 list; Psygnosis; 800-438-7794.

Mortimer and the Riddles of the Medallion

Using the Rebel Assault graphics engine, Mortimer is a fast-paced action game for kids 5 and up. Great animation and a wisecracking snail highlight this one. $40 street; LucasArts Entertainment Company; 800-985-8227.

Tracer

Best described as cyber-dominos, you use multi-colored tiles to build a safe path through 50 levels of grids, mazes and obstacles in this puzzler. $30 street; 7th Level; 800-884-8863.

Final Doom

More carnage for hardcore DOOM fans: This closing chapter includes two new 32-level episodes. A DOOM fix for folks lacking Quake-friendly systems. $40 street; GT Interactive; 800-610-4847.

MISSIONFORCE: CYBERSTORM ..... $54.95 list. Sierra OnLine, 800-757-7707, www.sierra.com. MICROSOFT CLOSE COMBAT ..... $40 street, Microsoft Corp., 800-426-9400, www.microsoft.com. NHL POWERPLAY '96 ..... $50 street. Virgin Interactive Entertainment, 800-874-4607, www.vie.com.

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Copyright (c) 1997 Ziff-Davis Inc.