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
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
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!
NOW IT'S GETTING GOOD
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.
GET READY FOR THE FIGHT
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
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.
A LITTLE TRIVIAL?
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!
SSI (US GOLD)
Disk. Price £24.99 (ST)
Price and availability of XL/XE version not known at present.