General Douglas MacArthur once said: "In war, there is no substitute for victory." Access Software's General E. E. "Bud" Dink apparently disagrees, because in Heavy Metal you can lose every battle and still win the game.
Heavy Metal is an arcade combat game, not a disk filled with Quiet Riot and Twisted Sister songs. It places you at the controls of an M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank, an Air Defense Anti-Tank system, and an XR311 Fast Attack Vehicle.
With the computer's forces outnumbering you almost 2 to 1, it's almost impossible to win the war. The game becomes a struggle to reduce the enemy's superiority.
You begin the game as a Cadet with the ultimate goal of getting enough points to be promoted to Five Star General. Before Heavy Metal will allow you to play the strategy game, you must complete three arcade combat games. After achieving a minimum score in each, you are promoted to Second Lieutenant and can assume leadership of a field unit.
When you choose the strategy option, you must maneuver four units on the battlefield against the overpowering enemy. You issue commands and monitor the progress of all four units on the Tactical Command Center (TACC) screen while protecting your headquarters from enemy advances. When a unit becomes low on ammunition or fuel, you must order it back to headquarters to resupply. While your units square off with the enemy, the program lets you know how well you're doing by displaying the enemy's advantage at the beginning of play compared with its current edge. The smaller the advantage, the more points you'll rack up.
Fire quickly in Heavy Metal or your tank will be reduced to a pile of molten metal.
You could sit back and watch the battle take place on the TACC screen, but your forces will suffer a humiliating defeat, and you'll become bored with the game if you do. It's important to join the fight. Joining any of the four units takes you to the arcade sequences, but this time you're not just shooting at planes and tanks at random, you're trying to reduce the total number of enemy units.
The tank units are the most difficult to master. You'll want to keep the game's keyboard reference card nearby. Besides shooting and controlling the tank's direction, you must select targets, regulate the tank's speed, rotate the turret, move the gun barrel up or down, and choose from three types of shells. These commands are scattered around the keyboard, requiring you to frequently look away from your monitor, which can be fatal.
The easiest unit to command is the Air Defense Anti-Tank (ADAT) system. It's almost too easy, because the missile launcher uses a laser-tracking system to find the target and shoot it down. This modern technology makes you feel less a part of the action. The ADAT also has a 30-mm cannon, which does require you to line up the targets in the crosshairs.
In the third combat scenario, you drive across a desert landscape in an armed dune buggy. Your Fast Attack Vehicle speeds across the terrain while you fire at or try to avoid obstacles.
Heavy Metal supports CGA, Hercules, and EGA graphics boards. However, the 3-D landscapes lack variety and character, even in EGA mode.
You can pause in the middle of battle to catch your breath or start your own resupply movement (head to the kitchen for a snack). If you find yourself playing late into the night, you can save up to ten games on disk to finish later.
You can install Heavy Metal on your hard disk. However, the game uses a soft copy-protection scheme that requires you to match an onscreen outline of a tank with one of 16 shown on an included chart. Several of the tanks look similar, and the silhouettes on the sheet are difficult to see. Like other games using this procedure, getting the program to run turns into a game in itself.
It's a long, hard road to Five Star General, and you'll lose many battles before achieving that rank. But if you like the challenge of being the underdog, you just may succeed on the Access battlefield.
IBM PC and compatibles with 384K and CGA, EGA, or Hercules graphics—$44.95 Commodore 64/128—$39.95