1046 North Rengstorff Ave.
Mountain View, CA 94043
512K Disk $39.95
by Steve Panak
The underlying theme of this new game from SSI is somewhat less than original. Lately we've been inundated with post-nuclear disaster worlds filled with rebel gangs and mutants battling on the highways and byways of tomorrow. I've seen it in a number of books and movies, most successfully in the Mad Max series. Because of this large customer base, any game trying to cash in on this guaranteed market is going to have to be really good. Fortunately, Roadwar 2000 goes that extra mile.
The time is the year 2000. The place, North America. Your goal, to control the continent and save the world. Your obstacles are numerous foot and road gangs, including cannibals, renegade national guardsmen, and mutants. A biological, rather than nuclear, attack has turned the clocks back hundreds of years and made our land one in which only the strong survive. Of course, later, when we're weakened, is when the bombs start dropping, poisoning the cities and ecosystems, and generally lowering everyone's standard of living.
Roadwar 2000 starts with this popular premise and adds ease of control to create a game that is both intriguing and enjoyable to play. After booting the disk your screen display fills with a map of a region of North America. The right portion of the monitor contains a status area showing your group's vital statistics, such as the amount of supplies and fuel your band possesses. At the top are a number of pull-down menus from which you issue all of your commands. If you so desire, you can also control the game with the keyboard. Throughout most of the game, you use only four options. By clicking the mouse in the direction you wish to move, your army advances down the road (or, sometimes, as circumstances require, off the road).
After each move (which will cost you time, fuel, money, and possibly the lives of your entire band), you usually will want to do any or all of the following: search for loot, search for people, and search for vehicles. You require loot to keep moving (gas and tires) and to keep alive (food, medicine and weapons). You require new and stronger vehicles and people to replenish those lost in combat.
The main object of the game is to bring together eight agents who will hopefully be able to produce an antidote to the disease that has infected the populace. You do this by assembling a group containing a number of fighters and vehicles, as well as a doctor, a drill sergeant, and a politician, who increase party health, morale, and charisma, respectively. As you build your army, you move between North America's major cities, looting, recruiting and controlling these metropolitan areas. Only after 50+ hours of conflict will you complete this game. Maybe. But if searching and looting were your only tasks, this game would quickly become a bore. Fortunately, (I guess) you are not the only ones on the roads.
From time to time as you travel down the highways, you'll run into rival road gangs. When this occurs, there is no negotiation, no surrender. You must fight, and only one gang survives. As each confrontation occurs, you choose one of two combat options, tactical or abstract. An abstract battle simply computes and displays the winner. But if you choose tactical mode, you control all aspects of the skirmish. You disperse your men among the vehicles, arrange the vehicles into battle formation, and then engage the enemy. In tactical mode, you can choose a quick resolution, which makes all the combat strategy decisions for you, or you can completely control the fight, training fire on, and ramming and boarding enemy vehicles of your choice. Upon the successful completion of full tactical combat, the number of vehicles allowed in your gang is increased by one, up to a maximum of 15.
In addition to searching, moving, and fighting, other menus contain even more play options. Of course, you can save and restore games in progress. What is really great is that the game disk is unprotected (let's not pirate it!), and on your back-up copy you can save your position. This makes saving quick and effortless, with no need to ever swap disks. As far as play options go, you can examine the strength and size of your gang, get up-to-date statistics on supplies, transfer supplies in and out of storage caches (which may be established in cities), fix tires, and abandon vehicles and supplies.
Being a simulation, this game allows for a high degree of realism. You have the choice of 19 vehicles, from motorcycles to tractor-trailer rigs. Each vehicle is rated for speed, maneuverability, armor, as well as crew, supply, and fuel capacity. Similarly, each member of your gang (which could number in the thousands) is rated and promoted through five ranks of increasing skill. Injured people and damaged vehicles may be repaired, and throughout the land there are certain special items, such as snow tires, which help you along your way.
If all this sounds like a Jot, rest assured it is — and that's why the game is so good. The ease of play keeps you in high gear. You quickly learn the operation of the pulldown menus, and choices are made effortlessly with the mouse.
Unfortunately, learning what to do is another thing. The manual, while superbly written, concentrates more on telling a story than explaining how to play the game. Even after reading it cover to cover you still may not know just what you're supposed to do. I would have liked to have seen some sort of quick-start chapter, defining the goal and providing useful hints.
Due to the long nights I spent trying to conquer this game, I have to give a thumbs up to Roadwar 2000. Although its goal was not immediately apparent, it was easy to play, and, best of all, easy to enjoy. It is just another in a long line of games for the ST which establish the machine as the premier gaming computer available today. Jump behind the wheel of Roadwar 2000—you'll love the ride.