13-Aug-2001 It's the follow-up to Metaltech Earthsiege. It has a blindingly original title. And it's inspired Patrick McCarthy to come up with an equally original introduction.
For those of you unfamiliar with the concept behind the Metaltech games, it goes like this: Stupid Scientists Of The Future (SSOTF) create an advanced form of artificial intelligence with neural connectors and a biological model.
Well done, SSOTF. SSOTF now have a choice. Do they combine this advanced artificial intelligence with cute little robots who could be used to do the washing-up, empty shit from bedpans and write scripts for Goodnight Sweetheart, thus relieving much of the grinding toil of existence for poorly-paid human drudges? Or do they combine the artificial intelligence with powerful weapons of destruction, ever mindful of the fact that they're likely to get a far larger government research grant? No contest. Despite the presence in the local library of a number of historical sci-fi novels, computer games and films that take great pains to warn against the perils lying dormant within this very area, they stick the aforementioned intelligence into an armour-plated robot the size of Tooting, then equip it with more death-dealing weaponry than a government minister would sell to Iraq. And that's the last we see of the SSOTF or, indeed, of all the cute little hopping, crawling, swimming things on earth - bunnies, pussy cats, ants, worms... er, jellied eels - and most of humanity, too. Because the newly-created cybrid decides, within approximately 0.0001 seconds of being switched on, that no, it isn't going to empty the bedpans and hoover the dog, it's going to build some friends and kill every living thing on the planet. Basically, if something's body isn't made of tempered steel, it's now an endangered species. You, as someone who is keen to carry on living, decide to join the small band of remaining humans who are fighting against these '80s-style aluminium over-achievers.
It's exactly the same set-up and has a plot that's identical to the first game. Apart from a token 'and now they're back, for one final try at wiping out everyone whose testicles don't clank when they walk' type thing. And basically, the whole structure of the game is the same too. Despite, presumably, having defeated the pesky cybrids at the end of the last game (or else we wouldn't even be here for the follow-up) you still have to start from scratch again with one poxy little robot.
The previous game's tenet was that the surviving humans were fighting a guerilla war with little or no technology of their own, using spare parts salvaged from the cybrids they blew up to learn about and create new hercs, a bit like a futuristic Womble. There's a strong resource management element - 'salvage' works like an abstract currency rather than consisting of actual bits of machinery, and you use it to repair any existing hercs as well as build new ones.
But, since you start the game in exactly the same situation as the first one, one can only assume that after beating back the cybrid forces last time, you went straight out and trashed all the stuff you'd built. (Saying, 'There! Beat them! We won't be seeing their like again, I'll warrant. And we certainly won't be needing this old thing!... I'll use the parts to make a much-needed hoover, hairdryer and cigar lighter.')
The poxy little robot you start off with really is poxy. The cybrids you'll be fighting against make your herc look like the robot that does the housework in The Jetsons, so that the game becomes pretty hard fairly early on, and you need as much salvage as you can get - but you can opt for the customisable one-off missions, but basically the career mode is difficult. You'll find you set off on a seek and destroy mission with your cute little herc with its three weapons, walk over a hill and see nine heavily-armed office blocks waiting for you.
The one difference between this game and the previous one is in the landscape and graphical presentation. For example, instead of still pictures showing people standing around while you read your orders from the text, you get little fmv-movies of a bloke telling you your orders, then read all the other details. In the first version, you were fighting on what appeared to be a gigantic billiard table that had been liberally sprinkled with pyramids. These were 'hills'. You weren't allowed to walk on them - they were for hiding behind when you'd had the shit blown out of you and six Pitbull cybrids were still on your trail. Technology has moved on, though, and this version looks rather splendid, with gorgeous rolling hills and dales and everything in glorious hi-res. Alright, so it's understandably post-nuclear in aspect, but it's also strangely reminiscent of Yorkshire. You wouldn't want to live there (again, rather like Yorkshire) but all you need is a couple of blokes with their arms up cows' arses and it would be like an episode of All Creatures Great And Small.
What I'm saying is that at least now we have proper hills, there's some kind of excuse for giving these robot tank things legs. In the first version, a set of casters would have done the job just as well, and at least you wouldn't have continually fallen over when your legs were shot away from under you. But even in this version, the Stupid Scientists Of The Future would have to admit that tank tracks would do the job just as well.
There's not really a lot more to say.
If you've seen and liked the first one, you'll like this, because it's exactly the same. Basically, it's less of a sequel, and more of an 'exactly the same game, but the technology now allows it to look rather better'. There'll be a short term for that one day. Oh. And I forgot to mention that it's Windows 95 only.
(How conscientious - Ed.) Z
Still difficult, but it looks better than the original.