by Sirtech Reviewed by: Bob Mandel
It is rare that I encounter a game that bombs in so many areas as this one. To begin with, the idea for the game-attempting to wipe out a virus taking over your computer-is a rip-off of an earlier effort, with the larceny so brazen that the exact name of the predecessor was used. You see, a short time ago a widely-known shareware game company named DynoTech Software released a Windows 3.1 game named Virus: The Game with the same basic storyline; I e-mailed the president of DynoTech before writing this review, and he was understandably quite upset that Sirtech had not even contacted him about this egregious, uh, "borrowing" of name and concept.
There are 15 missions in which you must locate and eradicate all of the virus scattered in various places on your computer. A variety of offensive and defensive vehicles are available for use in the game, largely built at a vehicle factory you must manage to be successful.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Although at first glance Virus: The Game appears to be like a first-person action shooter, it actually incorporates considerable strategy. You must install your base, the KB Transformer, in one of your computer's files; you must build your Vehicle Factory in a file directly adjacent to the KB Transformer; you must construct a KB Collector in order to collect enough kilobytes from your files to provide energy to your installations or vehicles; and you must build attack craft to defend your installations from assaults. The virus assaulting you appears to be absolutely mindless with no artificial intelligence, simply coming at you directly no matter what you are doing. Many of these processes need to be repeated throughout the game, and all involve a series of intricate steps none of which could be termed remotely intuitive. So instead of fluid exciting game play, you are constantly wading your way through tortuous minutia.
The customization to your own computer's file and directory structure is not done in an intriguing way. On the right hand side of the screen a window exists that shows this structure somewhat in the manner of the Windows 95 Explorer, so you can keep track of where you are in the system; and on the left (the main game play screen) you can see a 3D representation of the file where you are, with your file name in the upper left corner.
The problem here is that there is nothing necessarily distinctive about the difference between being at one file location or another, or in one directory or another for that matter. One nice touch, though, is that the walls are often covered with image files from your own computer.
Perhaps the most fatal flaw with Virus: The Game is that only the keyboard is supported as an input device. Given the type of movement necessary to play the game, using key strokes is totally inadequate. The result is clumsy and frustrating play that makes the game extremely tedious.
A bare-bones options menu allows you to determine mouse speed, set the volume levels for music and sound effects, and reconfigure the keyboard for game play (reconfiguring is needed as the default keys used for control are both unorthodox and dysfunctional). You may play the game in either single-player or multiplayer modes (in the latter, you may try via modem or network either to save your computer from the virus or become the virus yourself and try to corrupt your computer).
The only nice thing I can say about this game's graphics is that they are extremely colorful. Whatever graphics engine was used here is extremely dated, as blocky pixels are evident on surfaces and movement is decidedly jerky even on fast computers. When one attempts to fire at an invading virus, the projectile you shoot out is very poorly defined, as is the impact on the target.
The overall sound quality in the game is very poor. The music seems to consist of one theme that is neither exciting nor helpful to the mood of the game; it just keeps repeating over and over and over again. The sound and voice effects are of low audio quality and often sound muffled.
The minimum system requirements for this game are an 100 megahertz Pentium CPU, 16 megabytes of RAM, 40 megabytes of hard disk space, a double-speed CD-ROM drive, an SVGA video card, a Microsoft-compatible mouse (for game menus, not game play), and the Windows 95 operating system. With my 3Dfx logo spinning at the beginning of the game, one might have thought that the game offered support for Direct3D hardware graphics acceleration (the game uses DirectX), but the game's graphics quality showed no hint of the benefits from this support.
Consistent with the quality of the game itself, the manual included is quite poor. The instructions are extremely brief, and the section of the manual that is required for use with the online tutorial is tedious, complicated, and at times confusing. This is the first game manual I have ever seen that has a whole separate section warning users that they may experience epileptic seizures while playing the game; a warning against nausea would have seemed more appropriate to me.
I cannot in all honesty recommend that anyone purchase this game. Even if the idea were original -- which it clearly is not -- the combination of action and strategy in the game is absolutely no fun. This idea could have led to a really exciting game personalized by the differing file and directory structures of each user's computer; instead it created a truly dismal experience that I could not wait to uninstall from my hard drive.
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