Roadwar 2000

Reviewed by John Sweeney


Issue 31

Jan/Feb 88

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John Sweeney concludes his look at two similar games - last issue he tackled Autoduel

"In the year 2000, bacteriological warfare has ripped apart the very fabric of American civilisation. Cities have turned into gangland prizes, the highways into battlefields."

The screen fills with a small portion of a map of North America. Your gang is represented by a car in the middle of the screen (the complete map is the instruction booklet). You press G to check out your gang's status and discover that you have one hardtop sports car manned by an Armsmaster and seven Bodyguards, enough food to last four days and enough fuel to travel nine squares. To survive in this frightening future you will need more men, more food and gas, guns, ammunition and antitoxin, not to mention more vehicles to carry them all!

Your prime options are C(ity) to find out who's running your current location, V(ehicle) to try and find more transport to commandeer, L(oot) to search for supplies, and P(eople) to gain recruits, special supplies such as antitoxin from special people such as healers and, most important, clues about your quest. Unfortunately the people running the city will almost certainly object to virtually all of these activities if they catch you at it! Their objections will normally take the form of an attack. In this kind of fight you play no part — just sit back and watch the results flash up on the screen.

Your sole objective at this point in time is survival! Apart from the bacteriological war which has being going on, someone has been dropping nuclear bombs on the major cities so life is neither easy nor pleasant. If the local residents don't get you, then you can be sure that the cannibals, the mutants, the diseases, starvation or the roving road gangs will! You should expect a number of false starts before you learn enough to survive.

Next item on the agenda is to get control of a few towns yourself, since until you do so the powers that be won't give you your mission. Once you find out where the GUB (Government Underground Biolab) is situated you should get there as soon as possible since only then can you start on your real mission — to find eight missing scientists/agents and bring them safely to the GUB so that they can save the world. Some you will find easily, some you will get clues about and have to search for long and hard. For the last one or two you will be given a Radio Direction Finder which makes life ever so much easier!

The list of commands available includes F(ix Tires), H(eal sick with antitoxin), T(ransfer supplies to or from a cache), and E(mpire Status) which tells you which cities you control and how much progress you have made in your quest. Travel between the cities is done one square at a time across terrain such as roads, farmland, deserts, plains, forests, etc. All activities, including travel (which is affected by terrain) take time. In bad weather they take even longer. As you make each move the time and date are updated. Each night your men eat up food, each square you move (approximately 75 miles) your vehicles eat up gas. Keeping up your supplies can be a full time job in itself!

There are numerous locations where special things happen — you may find towns where they are handy with cars and improve your vehicles characteristics — make note of these, or where you find useful companions. You will need a doctor to reduce your casualties, a politician to help you in your recruitment, and a drill sergeant to improve the quality of your men — after each encounter a certain percentage of your surviving men will be promoted up through the ranks from Escort to Dragoon to Commando to Bodyguard and finally to Armsmaster. You will also have to make decisions. Will you let your men visit Disneyland or Fort Knox? Will you let them gamble in Las Vegas? When you reach wine country how much wine will you distribute? The right decisions will improve morale, the wrong ones will lose you men. You will also learn which places are dangerous, either because of the residents or, for example in certain parts of Mexico, because of the food!


Given all the foregoing, you already have a perfectly adequate game, but I haven't got to the good bit yet! The other major element of the game is the fights with the road gangs. You have three options for playing these. Your first choice is whether or not you want a detailed, tactical fight. If you decide against this the computer will very quickly play the fight out for you and tell you the results. Although this is easy and quick it has a number of drawbacks. First, you can't apply any of your skill to improving your chances so the outcome could usually be better, second you don't have the opportunity to capture enemy vehicles and third it doesn't change your limit of six vehicles.

I found the limit of six vehicles very restrictive and the only way to raise it is by playing out and surviving a detailed, tactical road combat — each win raises it by one up to a ceiling of 15.

If you have glanced at the rules and don't yet feel ready for the full combat, there is a middle route. Say Yes to detailed, tactical combat, say Yes to auto-deploying (individually placing each of 200 men into the top or interior of each vehicle can be very tedious if you don't!), and also say Yes to Quick Combat. This overcomes the first drawback as you can now enter parameters to control how often you ram and which parts of the enemy cars you wish to aim at. A little thought here should improve your gang's chances. The computer will then play the fight out quickly for you.

Before declining the Quick Combat option and playing the full detailed combat you should carefully read the manual at least twice and study the Vehicle Table. You should also not expect to win your first few fights – make sure you save beforehand (the whole game is so deadly that you should save frequently anyway!). The instruction booklet is generally extremely good, and you should read all the notes from former gangleaders carefully since they contain many clues (there is also a good clue to a useful location on the back page!). However, in the explanation of moving and boarding especially I feel it could have been a lot better. There is a lot of detail left out, and no examples. You will need to experiment a lot to fully understand all the movement, firing and boarding rules.

The abbreviations shown on the screen are SP for speed, AC for acceleration, M for manoeuvrability, B for braking. You will need to watch these carefully and understand their interrelation in order to master movement – the faster you are going the more moves you get during each movement phase, but the less likely you are to be able to turn. You are highly likely to lose cars during your first few fights by crashing them into obstacles such as wrecks or buildings! If you can't tell which way something is facing check the screen for its FC or Facing – this number correlates with the compass points on the map and tells you which way you are going. Also the use of N(ext car) and Q(uit) in transfer operations is neither documented nor clear – use Q rather than N if you want all the options.


So, once you have placed your men in their vehicles and armed them (firearms and crossbows only in this game I'm afraid) you get the chance to deploy your vehicles around the board. You will now have a bird's eye view of a small part of a large scrollable map. The terrain will depend on where you were when you were attacked, it could be a city maze of buildings and roads, farmland littered with trees and fences, an oilfield complete with derricks, rocks and mud, a road littered with wrecks, or one of many other terrains, each with their own tactical problems. At this point the only thing you know about the enemy's position is that they are somewhere off the screen to the right, so your main concern is placing your vehicles in such a way that they can avoid both each other and the immediate obstacles once the fight starts.

The rest of the battle consists of movement phases (including ramming), firing phases – each vehicle can fire two volleys so it is important to swing them round so that at least two of the sides of each vehicle have a view of the enemy, transfer phases, which allow you to move men up and down within a vehicle, or even between two vehicles if they are adjacent (this can of course be deadly!) and a boarding and melee phase – you control the boarding. If you have vehicles adjacent to enemy vehicles you can try sending men across to capture the enemy vehicle – if they get across then the computer resolves the melee and lets you know who's won.

There are 20 different vehicle types from motorcycles, through sports cars and limousines, right up to buses, tractors and trailer trucks. Each one has 21 different attributes, some of which, such as protection factors and manoeuvrability, can be improved if you find and/or loot the right cities. These factors affect not only the movement of the vehicles but also details such as how many men can fire out of one facing – from 2 on a motorcycle up to 26 on a bus (which can be quite devastating at close range!), how many can board from each facing or from the top, how many men and supplies can be carried, how many tyres they need and so on. The detail is superb and makes the detailed road combat into a complete sub-game in its own right – especially when you have a dozen vehicles, carrying hundreds of men, on each side.


The only slight criticism of Roadwar 2000 is that the quest is a little trivial compared to the scope of the game. Trying to find the fifth and sixth scientists across over 120 cities once you have mastered the mechanics of the game and built a super-gang can go on a bit but even though I have finished it I keep going back to have more detailed road fights! One detail I might warn you about – each time you die and restart (rather than recall a saved game) it re-initialises and moves the GUB!

I played Roadwar 2000 on an IBM PC, then checked out how it looked on an ST at my friendly neighbourhood Atari shop – Intoto. The user interfaces have been completely revamped for the ST. On the PC the battle results scroll up line by line, so if 200 die in a battle you get 200 lines scrolling up at 2 or 3 a second! I made some notes that what they should really do is simply display the total statistics at the end of each round and, lo and behold, on the ST all results are flashed up instantaneously in windows – magic! The only catch on the ST is that it goes TOO fast. Make sure you set the speed as slow as possible to start with or you'll never work out what's going on. I would rather they had included an option to allow you to control the passage of events with the space bar. The ST also tends to use the mouse to pull down windows and point at commands. I personally find that this technique is not efficient if you wish to issue lots of single key commands in quick succession, the keyboard is much better – that is what it is designed for after all! Unfortunately they have not implemented all the commands on the keyboard, for example you can press P to search for People but the submenu you are presented with will NOT allow keyboard input.

Roadwar 2000 is without doubt an excellent game of its type – it won't be everyone's cup of tea because of the level of detail and the fact that you need to study the rule book so thoroughly. But if you give it a chance I am sure you will get addicted.

An Atari 8-bit version is planned but has not yet been released. Watch out for it and watch out for Roadwar Europa –coming soon!

Disk. Price £24.99 (ST)
Price and availability of XL/XE version not known at present.