It's funny the sort of thought processes that happen while evaluating a game. Often you start off with a wrong impression or expectation only to find, over the course of days, weeks even, that things are different, that your initial judgement was either right or wrong. With Citadel my mind changed several times and just prove I am not alone, so did the opinion of the rest of the office too.
There's absolutely no reason why I should tell you about the plot of Citadel, because if you don't have a handle on first person perspective Doom-style games by now you're either genuinely not interested, in which case you shouldn't be reading this, or German, where the laws of the land proscribe too much violence in computer games.
Suffice to say that the aim is to create a game atmosphere with so much realism that it seriously excites the adrenal glands in a way that no top-down or side-on view shoot 'em up ever has.
When Citadel was originally previewed it was a bit of a mystery. Having been used to blocky graphics in both Gloom and Alien Breed 3D, Citadel came as a surprise. Even up close, most of its features remained solid and the enemies, from marines to the ubiquitous floating worms looked convincing enough, even though their animation was a bit dodgy.
Adding to the mystery was the fact that all of the text was in Polish )the developers, Arrakis Software and the unfortunately named VD are based in Gdansk), including the options and loading screen and the on-screen prompts.
On screen prompts? Yep. This is a bit of a departure for Doom-esque adventures. Citadel finds itself sitting (somewhat uncomfortably I found) on the fence between an old style graphic or text adventure and the new breed of shoot 'em up with which it so readily identifies.
Not only does a little Reuters-style scrolling text bar at the bottom of the screen let you know what you've picked up when you run over an object, if you press fire without a weapon in his hand your character will 'examine' an object, area or wall.
Sometimes this yields something onto another set level, you can choose one of two which are accessible. In this way you can get more experience of the maze.
I've said it's difficult and it is, so thankfully Arrakis have included practice levels for each part of the Citadel. To have a hope of getting through the game you really need to play these practice levels first. Indeed, in many ways, true Doom seekers will enjoy the practice modes better than the real game because they are absolutely filled with handy weapons and dastardly enemies.
Runs on A500s
The really big news about Citadel though is the fact that theoretically it will run on an A500. You need 1Mb of RAM but yes, we've tried it on one and lo and behold it loads, it moves, it plays. That's something which AB3D, Gloom or Fears don't have! Though Mark Sibly is promising an ECS version of Gloom.
I say theoretically because although strictly speaking it does, i.e. it loads up and you can start playing it, it's pretty cheesy in fact it's like wading through a vat full of hot Gorgonzola with no peg on your nose. If you've ever seen the part in the A-Team where everyone goes into slow motion while there's a battle going on you'll have a rough idea of what Citadel is like on a basic Amiga, even if there isn't a battle in progress.
Luckily you can scale the screen down to one fifth of its normal size and reduce the detail. This actually results in a faster game on an A500+ than on an A4000 040 in full screen mode. Unfortunately by this stage the playing screen is the size of a postage stamp, but boy does it fly. A pair of binoculars would be handy.
The news isn't that much better on an A1200, believe it or not. It's still slow compared to either AB3D or Gloom. Only when you get into speed realms of about 50Mhz (in either 030 or 040 form) take your pick) does Citadel really shine. Its speed is really top class with a decent machine behind it.
There are many things I don't like about Citadel though. The text bar at the bottom of the playing screen does get annoying from time to time for instance. When you bang into the wall it starts spewing out statements like 'ouch!' and 'watch where you're going' which are, quite frankly, very unamusing.
The other thing about crashing into walls is that Arrakis have chosen to completely ruin their lovely close up graphics by deliberately corrupting them if you hit a wall. There is no need for this. A game like Citadel is supposed to convey at least some sense of realism, but the last time my sense went all fuzzy simply by banging into a wall (and I don't make a habit of this sort of thing readers) was when I braked too hard on my bike and went flying over the handle bars, age 12.
Another thing I didn't like was lack of power in some of the weapons. A double barrelled shotgun looks impressive, but isn't. Also, although effective, the flame gun simply lights up your enemy but doesn't 'down' them and if they touch you you'll lose power points.
On the up side though Arrakis have built in a brilliant mouse/joystick/keyboard control system that warmed my fingers with delight. With any game of this ilk, aiming your gun using the direction keys is a bit difficult, but using the mouse, precise shooting could be initiated.
As I said at the beginning, opinions on Citadel shifted like sand. One moment it was slow and rubbish, next it was 'take a look at this, it's much better on an accelerated machine'. So it's a difficult one to score. On an standard A1200 it's worth about 78% and as a Doom clone it's worth about 70%. But then again, Arrakis never intended it to be a direct Doom clone, it has too much of an adventure angle to it for that.
If you look at it as a shoot 'em-up/adventure hybrid and whack it onto a machine with oodle of fast RAM or a decent accelerator, it's worth about 85%.
Finally I'm really going to stick my neck out here, but there is just no alternative to Citadel for A500 owners at the moment, despite the minuscule screen size you have to play it on. So get it.