Z

Preview by Al Giovetti
Price: $50
Genre: real-time combat-strategy
Release: September, 1996
Developer: Bitmap Brothers, www.bitmap-brothers.co.uk/zindex.html
Designer: Eric Matthews
Producer: Eric Hayashi
Publisher: Virgin Interactive Entertainment
Phone: (714) 833-8710
Website: www.vie.com/z/index.html
Requirements: 486 DX, 40 MHz, 8 MB RAM, 2X CD ROM drive, mouse, DOS, Windows 95 or 3.1, z.jpg - 49.6 K

History: Bitmap Brothers (BB) have been working on this game for over three years. It is a most unique came with three robotic soldier, something like the three stooges or three of the four Marx Brothers. These fools except for you who play the Air Force team sergeant, Commander Zod (It is like you were Groucho or Moe and they were the other two "dumb" ones - Ed.).

Your two buds, called Brad and Allen, carry beach chairs to catch some rays, and are not beyond roasting a few marsh melons around a roaring fire while singing camping songs. These guys are missing part of their brains and unless you watch them carefully they are liable to do anything.

Plot: You lead a team of two other psychos on an "oddesy" of top down map perspective real-time strategy over five worlds and 20 battles. Other than that there is not much of a plot except kill everything that moves.

Gameplay: Fast and furious game play is encouraged by the way the maps are designed.

Interface: There are two basic interfaces for the game, the full screen cut scene interface and the battle interface. The battle interface is top down perspective, similar to Command and Conquer (C&C), with structures to occupy, control, and command, and units to move and attack with. On the right of the screen is a control panel that shows time into the mission, the selected character, his weapons, and connections to the other characters and a small version of the larger map view.

The bar below the map display tells you about the status of the men in the unit. Factories produce units faster if more units are owned, also like Command and Conquer. The ability to take units and structures quickly can throw the battle to your favor. Structures and terrain can be destroyed, saving your men a detour around, not like C&C.

Combat: Six robot types have their own personalities to determine how they react to different situations. The robots control over eleven types of hardware: jeeps, tanks, armored personnel carriers (APC), gattling guns and missile launchers. Robots can shoot the other robot out of the seat of a vehicle and will take over the controls, using the enemies resources against them.

Other unique aspects to the game are neutral vehicles scattered about that can be commandeered or destroyed. These weapons make the action very fast, since you need to move quick to get these guys.

Missions and Scenarios: The five theaters of action are spread across five planets: desert, volcanic, arctic, jungle, and city world. Each planet has four missions for a total of 20 missions, which are referred to as "levels." z2.jpg - 48.0 K

Graphics: The game contains over four megabytes of high-detailed SVGA graphics.

Animation: Over 35 minutes of humorous full motion video three dimension rendered cut scenes. Smooth multi-directional scrolling, combined with smooth performance of 40 different actions per character produced by 2,000 frames of rendered animation. Real-time sprite scaling and rotation

Music score: Digital stereo audio is program generated in response to the real-time state of the battle, BB calls it conditional music.

Voice actors: Give updates to how the battle is going. When the computer starts calling you names, perhaps the game designers have gone "too far" to provide entertainment. Depending on your situation, Brad and Allen could call you "Moron!," "Asshole!," or actually make suggestions like "Letís Go!," "Aaaaa!," and "We are under attack and have lost two units." ( I better pay attention here - Ed.)

Sound effects: Explosions, and weapons fire.

Multiplayer: Up to four players can play over the network in addition to the standard single player against the computer AI. Serial or phone modem link will allow two players to play head to head. Unfortunately there is no cooperative play mode.

Reviewing the reviewer: It never ceases to amaze me when games are reviewed prior to their release. In this case Z has been released in Europe and is available as of this writing, while in the rest of the world everyone has to wait. Reviewers are getting this one a little early. Jeff James says, " Bitmap Brothers is one of the most talented game developers in the business."

Conclusion: Mike says its awesome.

References:
Chris Hudak, www.gamespot.com/strategy/z/index.html, 72%.
Scott Udell, Computer Games Strategy Plus, issue 70, September, 1996, pg. 54.
Dave Stanworth, www.gamesdomain.com/gdreview/zones/screens/screen28.html
Edge, August, 1995
PC Gamer, November, 1995
PC Attack, December, 1995
PC Review, December 1995
Jeff James, Computer Player, volume 3, number 4, September, 1996, pg. 44.

Please send us your comments and suggestions.