Wild Metal Country
There's a saying which advises: suffer periods of disappointment, abject failure or just plain old mediocrity, and the great moments, when they eventually come, will seem all the more sweeter. I have to believe that -I follow a third-division football team. And you'd better believe it too if you're gonna get into and persevere with Wild Metal Country. This game, you see, can be hugely entertaining at times. Problem is it can also be (whisper it) brain-numbingly dull. But, hey, let's not get ahead of ourselves here (Bit late now - Ed).
Wild Metal Country has a plot, of course (some nonsense about a futuristic civil war between intelligent machines), but Charlie covered that in our preview last month. All you really need to know is that eight different coloured power cores (glowing crystal things) are scattered over each of the game's 28 vast, mountainous levels. To complete each level you have to collect all eight power cores and dump them at hovering stores, either one at a time or in bulk. And that's it-no resource management or specific mission objectives here, matey, oh no.
Out to stop you getting to the power cores is an ever-expanding assortment of land, hover and air units which, having spent "thousands of years in isolation" (and, hey, that's some rustproofing they've got), have become "almost animal-like". This means that they look and sound a bit like metal animals and (supposedly) hunt in packs; it does not mean that they pester for food, sit on your lap or lick their balls.
Tanks A Lot
You get to drive a futuristic armoured vehicle, initially from a choice of five, each with varying speed, defence and stability. Whichever you choose, control is tricky at first; forget your mouse or joystick, this game is keyboard-only. There are separate forward and reverse buttons for the left and right tracks (which, of course, enable you to turn very sharply), and an independently controlled turret (which the game 'camera' is effectively fixed to). The trajectory of shots, meanwhile, is determined by how long you hold down the fire button. Like I said, control is tricky, but you do get used to it.
Weapons include standard shells, bouncing bombs, homing missiles and various mines. And you'll enjoy using them - the explosions are lovely. In fact, the physics of the game engine is fantastic, full stop. Mines bounce down hills, tanks roll over, objects topple and tumble when hit... Beautiful, beautiful stuff.
Also impressive is the sense of scale: when you're high up on a mountain, you feel high up and can see for what seems like miles. As you might expect, scoring a direct hit from a long distance is extremely satisfying (even if it is your twenty-third attempt), but the close-quarter combat is fun too.
It should almost go without saying that this is a good multiplayer game. Lots of tanks, lots of ammo, lots of big explosions... Had to work, didn't it? It's almost like a real-time 3D version of Worms.
Tracks Of My Tears
Sadly, while the graphics (particularly the lighting effects) are generally pretty smart, the landscapes are as barren as Les Dennis's joke book. Aside from the odd structure (enemy guard towers and sentinels, oil pumps, communication masts), there really is little to break up the monotony of the grassy and sandy wastelands. The thing is, this lack of landscape detail can make orientation extremely tricky.
Sure, you're equipped with a radar/head-up display (and you can drop beacons), but when you're out roaming the mountains the radar only works over a short distance, showing only the long-range direction of all the remaining power cores when you're positioned under one of the hovering stores.
Generally, most of the eight cores on each level are fairly easy to locate, although as they're often heavily guarded (sometimes by electric fences which need to be deactivated), collecting them is somewhat trickier. Occasionally, however, there's a power core you just can't seem to find anywhere (later you find that some are hidden inside mobile enemy vehicles, and you begin to wonder how cruel game designers can be). The radar may indicate the direction you need to go, but that's no use, as the mountain ahead is impassable. Do you go around to the left, or right? Hang on, just how far round is this path taking me? Do I need to go even higher here? Can I get up that climb? Er, what direction was I heading again? Argggh!
Take it from me: when you're stuck driving over and around endless mountains (big-bastard mountains, not hills) searching for a final bloody power core, with very few geographical clues, it's pretty tedious.
Remember: you're in control of an armoured tank-type vehicle, not a 4x4 off-road racer. Or a plane. We're talking, like, 30kph. Yes, that's 30kph. Don't be surprised if you find yourself looking for a turbo-boost button. Strangely enough, there is one... but only in the multiplayer game. What bastards!
Make no mistake, if you persevere with Wild Metal Country it offers some great gameplay (the combat is good fun) and some truly memorable moments. I can vividly recall the precise point when I realised that aircraft hovering above weren't necessarily friendly. And I remember being blown away when I first heard the sound of an enemy sprinkler attack (the sounds effects are excellent throughout, incidentally).
Ultimately Wild Metal Country a great game, but flawed. You have to decide whether you're prepared to work through the tedious bits to get to the action.
I mean, would you stick with a pretty but dull girlfriend just because she's fantastic in bed? On second thoughts, scrub that. Dumb question.
Download Wild Metal Country
PC compatible, P-100
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode