Harvesting controversy. (soon-to-be-released computer games) (Game Insider) (Column)
by Peter Olafson
If nothing else, Merit's forthcoming SVGA horror game, Harvester, is likely to be controversial. I'm not even talking about the skull-and-spinal-column video that grabbed people's attention at Winter CES. This CD-ROM role-playing game, designed by Gilbert Austin (who wrote the stories for Origin's Wing Commander II, Strike Commander, and Privateer) and the Maelstrom team, ultimately offers you the option to become a killer.
"The censors can't wait to get their hands on it," said Roddy McGinnis, Merit's director of product development.
It sounds like something out of a movie. (Indeed, an MPEG full-motion version is being considered.) You wake up in a bizarre small town straight out of "Leave it to Beaver." The only person you know is The Girl Next Door (evidently your fiancee). She disappears. Evidence points to an odd lodge in town, and let's just say it isn't the home of the Shriners.
The perspective in this adult-level adventure is split between that of a filmed character and a view similar to the one in Mortal Kombat. You have the ability to fight in modest fashion (with a baseball bat), as well as in more dedictedly Mortal Kombat-like fashion (with a sickle). Look for it late this summer.
Also in the works from Merit is The Fortress of Dr. Radiaki--a 30-level would-be doom rival that aims to better the original in terms of background detail and animations. Stills from this work in progress suggest the designers are going for a more photorealistic, and more bizarre, effect.
Merit also has under wraps an as-yet-unnamed flight sim said to be accessible in the style of Comanche: Maximum Overkill, and to use Gouraudshaded graphics and a virtual cockpit. The game will sport a range of interesting missions, from capture-the-flag to cooperative ventures.
Cooperative? Yes, it will be sold in a single-player version, but you'll be able to call Merit for a code to unlock the network version, which permits up to eight players per side.
Also look for a new version of the free-scrolling horror-comic Isle of the Dead that tunes up the sound and music, and a major upgrade to Command Adventures: Starship, which will include a mission disk. Finally, Merit has picked up the U.S. rights to Sink or Swim, a Lemmings-like arcade/puzzle game from England's Zeppelin label that finds you saving fire-hydrant-shaped passengers from a doomed liner.
Slings and missiles. VR Sling-shot has the feel of a flight sim, but it's more like a virtual sport. In this airborne duel from Ixion (originally released for the Amiga and due this summer for the IBM), you and a human or computer opponent square off in triangular craft in an environment graced with a very persuasive simulation of physics. Flight is as smooth as you could wish, but the underlying math makes it feel real, and with 3-D glasses (which plug into a parallel-port adaptor that's available separately), the game takes on an incredible you-are-there feeling. You don't fly through this space so much as inhabit it.
The game has undergone some changes since its original Amiga release. It's now fullscreen with improved sound (the Gravis Ultrasound works great with it), and the IBM version has two full games--Energy Duel, where you try to wear down your opponent's power, and the new Cyberball, a sort of virtual hybrid of air hockey and racquetball in which you try to butt and shoot a faceted sphere through a Stonehenge-like goal.
Simmering sequels. How do you follow up an act like Doom? With a game called Doom II: Hell on Earth. Id's CEO, Jay Wilbur, indicates that it will pick up where Doom left off, on a devastated Earth populated by really evil things, and have "everything that Doom had, and more of it." Levels will be much larger, and the game will no longer be episodic. Expect it for Christmas from GT Software.
Armored Fist, NovaLogic's new tank game that uses the Comanche voxel space technology, should be available soon. Set in the future, Armored Fist places you in command of an armored infantry company using hardware from either the U.S. or the former Soviet Union. You can control the U.S.'s M1A2 Abrams and M3 Bradley, or the Russian T-80 and BMP 2. A wide range of scenarios isplanned, and the included battle construction set will allow you to create your own challenges. From preliminary screen shots, it appears that the smooth hillsides and detailed images here are even crisper than those in Comanche.