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Tina Hackett dodges the napalm as she reports from Virgin's latest war zone, Apocalypse.


Not content with the success of their recent war-'em-up Cannon Fodder, Virgin seem to be continuing on the warmongering path with this, their latest offering, Apocalypse. Borrowing many of its ideas and looks from the film Apocalypse Now, the game suggests the scenario of the Vietnam war. Political correctness is abandoned as you take control of your helicopter, massacre enemy soldiers with a vast array of weapons and destroy their bases and artillery.

The game was the original idea of development team Strangeways, who disbanded the project leaving it to the capable hands of Miracle Games. Their aim was to create a product for the Amiga that was worthy of an arcade machine. And now after what seems like an eternity the title is finally here. But was it worth the wait?


Mission Apocalypse. Rebel forces have invaded the insignficant island of Majipoor taking hundreds of prisoners. Chosen from one of the Tlie, it is your mission to destroy the enemy forces and rescue as many prisoners of war as possible.

Find the five key enemy bases situated in the dense jungle, attempt to blow up the battleship docked somewhere on the island and rescue your best buddy being held in a ruined temple in the heart of the jungle.

Above all, rescue captured scientists and military experts. A medical team is at your disposal. Use your piloting skills and the multitude of weapons available to you get get through this arduous task.


Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind
John F Kennedy to United Nations Assembly, September 25, 1961



However intentional it was, the game can be closely related to the Vietnam war and so a title of this nature will inevitably raise questions on moral implications. As the conflict was so controversial in the first place and comparatively recent, the game could cause offence. More so perhaps across the Atlantic than here, but even so, it is perhaps worth considering the inspiration behind the game.

The routes of the conflict can be traced back to 1954, to the Geneva Convention when Vietnam was split into the Communist North and the Pro-Western south, right up until 1975. It was later known as "America's longest and most unpopular war". For the first time the full horrors of war came under the scrutiny of the general public via the new medium of television. Anti-war protests broke out, some resulting in outbreaks of violence.

One such protest took place on October 15, 1969. This was the Vietnam Moratorium, and was the biggest anti-war demonstration ever organised in America.

The war resulted in the loss of 200,000 South Vietnamese soldiers, one million North Vietnamese soldiers and 500,000 civilians. Losses were also high on the American side with 56,555 US soldiers killed between 1961-75, a fifth by their own men.

For instance, in August 1966 20 US soldiers died when US planes accidentally napalmed their own troops. Neutral Cambodia also suffered, estimating one million killed or wounded by US bombings.



A great deal of the atmosphere has been conjured through the excellent sonics resulting in an almost chilling realism. From small details like the background jungle effects to the many different weapon noises, they all combine to portray an authentic war zone atmosphere. A vital factor in a successful shoot-'em-up is how accurate the weaponry sounds. Apocalypse creates this well.




Apocalypse is a multi-directional parallax scroller which makes for a technically stunning game. The backgrounds update at the same rate as the helicopter flies giving a convincing feeling of flying over the terrain.

Jungle settings have been cleverly used to recreate the terrain almost to the extent of looking like a scene form the aforementioned Apocalypse Now. The immense amount of foreground and background detail make Apocalypse astoundingly authentic.

However, the multi-layered backdrops and different levels of platforms used cause problems, especially when gameplay becomes hectic. One moment's lack in concentration and you find yourself exploding into the ground as it's sometimes difficult to make out which is merely foreground detail and which is a landing platform.

Sprites are well-animated and despite their size show a great amount of detail, displaying all the gory effects of explosions.




As far as being a highly realistic war game goes, Apocalypse looks and sounds the business, evoking a powerful image of war. But it does verge on the excessively difficult side, and although this provides longevity, the game becomes exceedingly frustrating.

It's also let down by the fiddly control system, and although the helicopter is easy to fly, the Fire button serves the same function for both weapons and changing direction resulting in firing accidentally - sometimes at your own men.

More depth in the gameplay, rather than just an advanced shoot-'em-up, would have benefited the game, and a save game option would have removed some of the frustration.

However it is graphically brilliant and the realistic, sampled sound effects make the game stand out above others in this genre.

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Yes, it's time to flush your conscience down the pan of sin once again and slaughter a few more digital men.

Shoot 'em, strafe 'em, singe 'em with jets of flame, fire your rockets at them, drop mines in their path, or land on them with your big, heavy chopper - you know the score. Actually, helicopter shoot-em-up Apocalypse makes the genre more involving than usual, and to play it well, you have to have a plan.

At some point or another we've all been so hacked off by Defender that only one thing eased the frustration - killing the good guys for a change. This was all very well when the good guys were just blobs, but Apocalypse encourages a more humane approach because when one of your men takes a hit, he stays agonizingly wounded in the field, so you are a scum-sucking git if you don't rush paramedics to the scene.

Each level of Apocalypse takes you to a different part of enemy territory where the good guys are being held captive. As you take out various buildings, either enemy troops or your own Gis flock from the ruins. If the former emerge then you blow them away. If it's the latter, you pick up survivors and take them back to your local headquarters or to the nearby hospital.

Rumble in the jungle
Be warned that Apocalypse is not in the slightest bit easy - particularly after level two where there seems to be a constant hail of bullets heading your way. Counter this establishing air supremacy. After that, you can search thoroughly for escapees without losing your rotorblades.

The arsenal of weaponry includes rockets and heatseeking missiles, and there are more tactical modes of offence available such as flamethrowers for totalling enemy dwellings and mines which can be dropped to protect your boys on the ground.

Unless there is an incredible amount going on at once, things rarely slow down in Apocalypse. Your chopper swings about with the greatest of ease and you can control the precise direction of fire.

The jungle atmosphere is pretty authentic with dense forest, glittering waterfalls and the chirrup of insects through tropical mists. On a later level, enemy stockades are replaced by the turrets of a huge ship and it's this variety in the environments, and neat touches such as tiny stretcher bearers clambering aboard, keep you hooked.

But above all, Apocalypse is very involving. It's an impressive blend of shoot-em-up action and mild strategy. Easy to get in to but a real challenge once you are there.

Apocalypse logo Amiga Joker Hit

Start frei für ein gelungenes Classic-Revival in doppeltem Sinne: Während der Titel dieser Heli-Hatz an den C64-Klassiker "Fort Apocalypse" erinnert, gemahnt das Gameplay eher an Broderbunds ebenso klassischen "Choplifter".

Der Spieler findet sich hinter dem Steuerknüppel eines bis an die Zähne bewaffneten Kampfhubschraubers wieder, um im fiktiven Inselstaat Majipoor amerikanische Geiseln aus der Hand böser Dschungelkrieger zu befreien. Dazu müssen massig Feindinstallationen zerbombt werden, womit die Aufgabenstellung der von "Desert Strike" ähnelt. Doch nach Missionsbeginn zeigen sich die Unterschiede zu Electronic Arts' Actionheli.

Hier wird die Landschaft aus der Seitenansicht gezeigt, und die Luft ist weitaus bleihaltiger - im Kampf gegen feindliche Apache-Helikopter oder die Luftabwehr wird dem Reaktionsvermögen wirklich alles abverlangt. Doch auch strategisches Feingefühl sollte der Pilot mitbringen, denn wer zu viele Geiseln auf einmal befreit und so mangels Transportmöglichkeit einen Teil der Leute im Feindgebiet zurücklassen muß, kann bei seiner Rückkehr vielleicht nur noch Leichen aufsammeln.

Schließlich darf man nicht erwarten, daß der Gegner Kaffeepause macht, nur weil man sich selbst gerade auf dem Heimflug zur Basis befindet...

Um hier mit all den Flaks, Radarstationen, Panzern, Hekkenschützen und Infanteristen fertig zu werden, steht ein umfangreiches Waffendepot zur Verfügung. Das Bord-MG ist dabei unbegrenzt munitioniert, mit Brandbomben, Lenkflugkörpern, Raketen und Bodenminen muß man dagegen haushalten und den Vorrat immer wieder durch Einfangen von Fallschirm baumelnden Nachschub austokken.

Die hierfür nötigen Manöver gehen dank der genialen Steuerung locker von der Hand, sogar Rück- und Seitwärtsflug sind machbar. Schade bloß, daß selbst Besitzer von Zwei-Button-Sticks zwecks Extrawaffen-Auswahl auf die Tastatur ausweichen müssen, wie der Komfort überhaupt etwas kurz kommt.

Weder Titelbild noch Optionsscreen sind vorhanden, weder Zweitläufer noch Festplatten werden unterstützt, zudem war der Testlauf am mit Zusatz-RAM erweiterten A1200/A4000 nicht von Erfolg gekrönt. Schwerer noch wiegt der herte Schwierigkeitsgrad:

Ballernovizen werden nicht zuletzt wegen der fehlenden Continues ihre liebe Mühe haben, eines der drei Leben bis in hohere Levels zu retten.

Profis hingegen dürfen sich auf überzeugendes Parallax-Scrolling, fabelhaft ausgearbeitete Schlachtschiff-, Dickicht- und Tempelszenarien sowie Animationen vom Allerfeinsten freuen. Wenn der Helikopter abhebt, Geiseln ihn herunterwinken oder ein Feindflugi brennend abstürzt, ist das wahrlich sehenswert; die erschreckend blutigen Todesstürze durchlöcherter Soldaten sind allerdings Geschmackssache.

Zusammen mit der realistischen Soundkulisse aus Urwaldlauten, Rotorgeräusch und Waffengebrüll ist Virgin somit ein atmosphärisch dichtes und enorm spielbares Ballergame geglückt - weshalb wir für diese Apokalypse trotz der etwas fragwürdigen Gewaltdarstellung und der kleinen Mankos den Hit zücken! (rl)

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Some people think games like this are too violent for you to play. What a bunch of muddy funsters they are, eh chums?

Did anyone watch RoboCop on TV a few weeks ago? How we laughed. In a tribute to censors the world over, and in light of recent developments in the videogame biz, the rest of this review will (for your own protection) be written in the style of a film shown on ITV at half past ten on a Saturday night. Thank you.

('Flip' - Ed) me! What a ('Freaking' - Ed) great game! There's all these ('Crumbag' - Ed) soldiers running around ('Kicking' - Ed) loads of hostages, right, and you fly all over the place in your helicopter and ('Shout' - Ed) at them with your ('Mischief gunk' - Ed). Sometimes the nasty little ('Cork servers' - Ed) launch ('Mistletoe' - Ed) at you, though, so you have to fire off ('Rococos' - Ed) and completely ('Annoy' - Ed) them with ('Napkins' - Ed).

Sometimes, the hostages get ('Short' - Ed) by mistake, though, and lie on the ground oozing ('Absolutely nothing at all' - Ed) all over the shop, so you have to fly back to your hospital tent and bring some people with stretchers in to carry them away before they ('Diet' - Ed).

The game starts off being quite tricky, but the later levels are real ('Melon farmers' - Ed), with some real ('Bus stops' - Ed) of enemy fortifications making your life incredibly hard. Many was the time I yelled ('Flaming heck' - Ed) and ('Pinched' - Ed) the wall beside my desk as I plunged to the ground in a ball of ('Confusion' - Ed) after being hit by a well-camouflaged ('Bulletin' - Ed) from a hidden ('Nun' - Ed) position. I hate those sons of ('Ladies' - Ed).

The very best bit of all, though, is when ('This passage has been 'edited for scheduling reasons'. - Ed) - is that brilliant or what? Yes, this is a game of ('Violins' - Ed) in more ways than one. Censors, eh? What a load of ('Publishers' - Ed). I can't stand self-appointed moral guardians of any kind (even given that 'right' and 'wrong' were ay kind of scientific absolutes, which they're absolutely not, what makes Mary Whitehouse, say, any better judge of them than, say, Madonna?), and it ('Parks my car' - Ed) that they're starting to creep into our little world now too.

Six little geezers in your chopper at once

Apocalypse is almost certainly the kind of game that would get a '15-17' in the new videogame rating system ('realistic' graphics, little people getting wounded as well as killed, the screams of the dying, politically sensitive plot scenario, whatever), and I'm not really sure quite where it's all going to get us, save for making the industry look more 'responsible' in the eyes of a group who don't really give a ('Fig' - Ed) anyway.

I mean, if you're a parent, what really worries you more - the fact that little Jimmy's seeing a bit of splotchy computer blood in Mortal Kombat, or the fact that he's forking out 60 quid for it in the first place? Exactly. Anyway, back to Apocalypse.

Apocalypse, as I'm sure you all know by know, is an updated version of Choplifter, a hugely popular shoot-'em-up from the early days of the C64 and the Atari 400. You pilot a helicopter into enemy territory, blast open prison huts, and ferry the thus-released hostages back to the safety of your base in your chopper.

Enemy units (tanks, infantry, helicopters, gun positions) try to shoot both you and the hostages, and there endeth the plot. It's a straightforward and old-fashioned arcade game, and Apocalypse doesn't mess with the winning formula.

As well as being a strength, though, that's possibly the game's greatest weakness - what's alright for a fiver in 1985 doesn't necessarily make for a good deal in 1994 at £30. Apocalypse is beautiful while it lasts, but you only get five levels, and there's a limit to how many times you can go back and play them again before it gets a little dull.

I'm getting a little ahead of myself, though. Let's talk about the gameplay for a bit (go on, you know you want to). Like I said, it's Choplifter with a few frills, namely some power-ups and some pretty scenery. But what pretty scenery - Apocalypse's lush greenery and mist-shrouded mountains conjure up the image of the best Vietnam movie you've never seen.

Level two is especially lovely, with waterfalls cascading into shimmering pools beside terraces of jungle huts snuggling together underneath sky-scraping machine-gun towers but every level (well, the four I've played) is a verdant symphony of mellifluous - er, sorry, getting a bit carried away there. It's nice, anyway.

It's a satisfyingly difficult game, too. You start off with no continues, earning one only for saving every single hostage on a level. Without them your chances are minimal, because Apocalypse starts off hard and gets exponentially harder, but there's always a way through - so long as you keep plugging away you'll always get somewhere eventually.

It helps to discover the best order to destroy the various buildings in - for example, on level one you can save yourself an awful lot of trouble by taking out the big gun mounted on the hillside and then the enemy radio hut nearby, which prevents enemy choppers from being summoned to attack you every time you land to pick up hostages. This is pretty much the only element of strategy in the game, so make the most of it.

The only annoying thing about the gameplay structure, in fact, is that you can only carry six little geezers in your chopper at once (or two if you've got a medical team on board to pick up the wounded). This is, of course, a deliberate ploy gamewise, but it's a bit of a pain on the second level, where the only sensible way to play is to wipe out all opposition first, then release the hostages and take them back without the danger of accidentally wasting them in a firefight.

The problem is that there's 40 of the little bleeders, so you have to do seven trips laboriously trudging backwards and forwards across almost the entire length of the stage, and it's a bit pointlessly dull.

Um... anything else I can tell you about Apocalypse? No,, don't think so.


Here are just a few of the hilarious helicopter-based antics you can get up to.

Yes, I know you can't tell from the screenshot, but I'm going backwards. Honest I am.

Okay, so you're having to take me on trust again, but I'm not moving here. Really. No, really.

No, wait, hang on, I've had an idea - look, I'm firing upwards, you can only do that when you're flying in reverse. See, I wasn't lying. Ha.

And look, this is me five minutes after screenshot number two, and I'm still in exactly the same place. Hovering. See?

(That's enough hilarious things you can do in your helicopter. - Ed)

Apocalypse Apocalypse

My favourite thing about Apocalypse, I think, is that enemy ordnance (as Cam would call it) has the same effect on everything in the game world, not just you. Hence, if an enemy chopper is chasing you around and a big howitzer on a far-off hill fires at you (Fig. 1) and misses, the shot can actually blow up your opponent instead (Fig 2), or land on the ground below and take out infantry or hostages' huts.


Yep! Another blow struck for realism in computer games! War is stupid! Oh, the horror! And so on!

An internal misunderstanding leads to some of the hostages being wounded by 'friendly fire'.

But it's not all over yet, oh no.

A recently-privatised team of paramedics rushes to the scene and carts our heroes off on stretchers.

And delivers them safely to a BUPA tent somewhere in the jungle. "That'll be £478.50 including VAT, mate. Oh, he appears to have died of heart failure. Flip."

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After months of hanging in mid-air, Virgin's big chopper is ready to land. Tony Dillon can do a good impersonation of a helicopter by swinging his hair about, so...

At last, it is here. The one we have all been waiting for. Virgin's Apocalypse is now a year late, and many of you have probably forgotten the highly playable Choplifter clone that featured on our coverdisk all those months ago. Quite why it is so late is anyone's guess, but let us forget the history, here is the present.

The plot is a standard tale of ruthless dictators, violent warzones and one man armies that used to feature so highly in the arcade machines of yesteryear. You go out into enemy airspace in your slightly-armed 'copter, and take on the whole of the opposing army, rescuing POWs and doing all the other heroic things you are normally expected to in these situations.

There is a familiarity about this sort of game that always drag me back to the days when I would shamelessly shovel my pennies into gloriously-painted cabinets in the arcade halls.

However, there is one major difference between the good old games and this - Chopflifter, and its many incarnations, were playable, exciting and most of all fair. You always had a chance to beat the enemy, no matter how slight, and the game was always a test of your reactions and skill - not luck. You see, it does not matter how fast you can switch directions on the joystick, the only way to finish the first level of Apocalypse is by pure luck.

To explain: You begin on the right-hand side of the map, overlooking the glorious jungle. On the far left of the map, which, incidentally, is about eight screens long, is a howitzer, which fires very large and very fast shells in your general direction.

Unfortunately, you cannot see it firing until you are right up next to it, which means that at any point a shell can come screaming in from off the screen and knock you out of the sky, or even more infuriating, destroy while you are actually sitting on your landing pad.

Sure, you can destroy the Howitzer, buy you have got to get to it first. In three games I wasted a total of five lives (and you only get three to start with!) just flying from the right to the left with the aim of knocking the gun out, usually only to be destroyed the moment I start climbing up into the air.

The controls onApocalypse are easy enough - push in a direction to move that way, and press fire to fire your cannons. It is a shame they could not be a bit more responsive, or the chopper could react a little faster, because that half a second pause between pushing up to take off and actually taking off means that nine times out of ten the enemy helicopter you are trying to avoid will have reached you.

It looks good, though. I will give it that. With just 32 colours, VIE have managed to come out with a superb-looking game. The helicopter is smoothly and convincingly animated, and everything is clean and recognisable. The scrolling is a bit gammy, but you cannot have everything, can you?

This might sound like a really tough game, but I have only described the first level. Level two has armed guard in towers who can shoot you out of the sky before they have come anywhere near being on screen, tanks that only need to shoot twice before you come crashing out of the sky and helicopters that come up behind you and blow you apart with machine guns.

I like a challenge but this is nothing but unplayable and frustrating. Anyone who has ever played football with a deflated ball will appreciate how I feel about Apocalypse. It is slow, hard and you can barely get the thing into the air. I was hoping for a lot but despite its undoubted good looks it is a bit of an empty shell.