Battle Chess 4000. (computer game) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by David Sears
Not long ago, Interplay revamped chess, giving the classic game a whole new look and feel. Instead of stoic bishops and banal queens of plastic, ivory, or stone, the original Battle Chess brought pieces to luscious, violent life and breathed a bit of magic into the standard affairs of play. Today, Interplay takes us far beyond the medieval visions of its earlier offering, beyond the Asian feel experienced in its Chinese variant, and headlong into an unearthly future. A.D. 4000, here we come!
If you're familiar with classic chess, you'll be right at home in Battle Chess. The primary graphic innovatio is obvious, with each piece a futuristic humanoid of some sort. These pieces possess their own unique characteristics: rough-and-tumble queens that always mean business, leechlike pawns that squish around the board, self-assured bishops that practice a science so advanced it seems magical. When the pieces clash, a combat sequence is certain to follow, so keep your eyes on the screen. In Battle Chess 4000 these combat sequences run on the hilarious side. The rook--which transforms from a tiny, inert form into a towering, ambling robot--seems to have the greatest sense of humor. Unfortunately, the combat ends as you might predict; the attacking piece always wins. This predetermination, common to all versions of Battle Chess, marks the ceiling for innovation. Everyone knows a monster robot will squash a leech. As a variant, Interplay could offer chess with more tactical considerations, such as how many attacks a rook can sustain before collapsing or how many attacks a bishop can make before he needs a recharge. Even in A.D. 4000, Battle Chess remains merely computer chess with impressive graphics.
The graphics here are outstanding. The SVGA version provides extreme detail, right down to the grimaces and smirks on the pieces' outsize faces. The overall look seems a bit cartoonish, but that, in turn, makes the explosions, decapitations, and general violence more acceptable. Some may find it disturbing that both this game and Spectrum Holobyte's National Lampoon's Chess Maniac 5 Billion and 1 both feature violence at the level of decapitation.
An outstanding array of options including moves by the book, forced moves for the computer, and hints on demand makes Battle Chess 4000 a chess game for everyone. It allows you to take back moves, explore what-if possibilities, and choose from a list of more than 300,000 moves. When the combat animations lose their appeal, you can activate the standard two-dimensional playing field, the familiar face of computer chess. We can hope, however, that the next version will allow us to adjust the speed of the animations. While watching the rook unfold into a robot and walk across the screen proves initially delightful, after only a game or two, the time required for the animation is just aggravating.
If you haven't encountered Battle Chess before, you might want to pick up a copy of Battle Chess 4000. If you tastes run toward the more exotic or to the medieval, consider the other members of the product line. Any version of Battle Chess provides a worthy computer opponent for potential grand masters.