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ACCOLADE * £25.99 Joystick

There is nothing so nice as messing about on the river. Unfortunately, the Viet Cong, a Colombian drug cartel and a deposed Panamanian dictator also think so. These guys are bad news. If the waterways of South America can be seen as a giant boating lake, then these are the drunken yobs in the overloaded rowing-boat - bawling rowdy rugby songs, chucking lager cans and striking terror into the hearts of courting couples. It is your job to chuck them out of the park.

Hot, wet and tight
If only it were that easy. Apocalypse Now captured the spirit of one of the dirtiest forms of war: claustrophobic, tense and immediately hostile, who knows what ambush lurks as the dark river snakes around the next bend?

Occasionally the river passage narrows until it is impassable, but the only way is forward. Three sweltering combat zones await the attention of your River Patrol Boat (PBR). Fast, powerful and manoeuvrable, these craft have been the backbone of US Naval river-combat over the last three decades.

Gunboat is essentially a blast-em-up romp with enough think-em-up complexity to provide a tough and challenging combat simulation. Report to HQ, arm your boat and embark upon your first set of missions in Vietnam. Successfully negotiate these early skirmishes and earn promotion to tougher assignments in Colombia and finally the Panama canal.

Check the map for accurate navigation. A radar blips the whereabouts of other craft. You have eight tons of fire-power crammed into a 30-foot hull, but with power comes responsibility. There are civilians and friendly troops out there as well as enemies. Ask for a target identification before firing - mistakes cannot be corrected later.

20 missions await the four person crew of your BPR. You must master the disciplines necessary to perform all four duties if you are to survive very long as captain. Take the helm as pilot, or choose to man one of the three gunning stations. Either way, it is up to you as captain to see that your mission is successful.

Is it safe to leave the computer in charge of navigation? Can gunners be relied upon to reap the rewards of your careful manoeuvring?

Somewhere down the crazy river...
Gunboat is a competent combat simulation. It is easy to get started, yet extremely tough to master. Initial straightforward blasting jaunts up the river appear ludicrously easy when compared retrospectively to later levels.

Details are the key. Will you remember to kill the engines while sneaking up behind an enemy? Should you kill your spotlights or risk getting seen? How does your boat cope on open water? Is it more prudent to stay close to the shore, or would that offer the inevitable snipers a sitting duck? The responsibility is yours.

Graphically Gunboat is not outstanding. The 3D polygon graphics are good, but not that good (as they say). But this does not matter. The hook lies in the spirit of the adventure, and this is where Gunboat picks up points. A challenge worthy of addition to your collection.


"COME IN NUMBER THREE, YOUR TIME'S UP!"
Gunboat

"Well sir, your PBR is a military conversion of a commercial craft designed 25 years ago. Three generations of PBRs have lead to the post-Vietnamese war Mark III that you seen before you. Achieving 50 knots from twin 450-horsepower engines, this baby can brake down from top speed to a dead stop in less than one boat length".
"Any Questions? Good. Leave your deposit at reception and well expect you back in an hour".


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Erst war sie ewig angekündigt, dann wurde sie wieder gestrichen, und jetzt ist sie doch da: die Amigaversion von Accolades Kanonenboot-Versoftung. Alle Mann an Bord und Leinen los - wir starten zur Jungfernfahrt!

Vor knapp einem Jahr präsentierte uns Accolade mit "Powerboat USA" schon mal eine (Renn-) Bootsimulation, die aber längst nicht soviel Spaß machte, wie man sich eigentlich erwartet hätte - irgendwie fehlten dabei einfach die Kanonen!

Von Waffenmangel kann hier allerdings keine Rede sein: Das (in drei Modellen vorhandene) River Patrolboat läßt sich vorne, hinten und an der Seite mit verschiedensten MGs und Granatwerfern bestücken.

Sicher, ganz so umfangreich wie auf einem Zerstörer (z.B. "USS John Young") ist das Arsenal an Feuerwerkskörpern naturgemäß nicht ausgefallen, aber dafür ist die Kiste auch wesentlich schneller und wendiger als die dicken Militärdampfer.

Kommen wir zu den (über 20) vorhandenen Missionen: Es gibt nämlich Vietnam, Panama und Kolumbien, wo man die örtlichen Drogen-Fuzzies jagen darf. Ansonsten tauchen die üblichen Kriegsziele und -gegner auf, also feindliche Soldaten, Panzer, Hubschrauber, Brücken etc..

Dabei wird Realismus großgeschrieben, so genügt für eine kleine Vietcong-Infanterieeinheit meist schon eine MG-Salve, während gegnerische Boote deutlich mehr Schüsse verkraften, und bei einem Heli braucht man zusätzlich immer auch eine Portion Glück.

Langeweile kommt hier also nicht schnell auf, vor allem weil der Spieler gleichzeitig als Kapitän, Navigator und Kanonier fungiert. Man kann zwar einzelne Aufgaben dem Computer übertragen, aber der Silikon-Kumpel ist nicht unbedingt ein begnadeter Seemann, und so muß man in kritischen Situationen doch wieder selbst ran - wer die vorgesehene Trainingsmission absolviert hat, tut sich schon deutlich leichter.

Realitätsnähe bedeutet hier aber auch Tag- und Nachtfahrten, oder daß, wer versehentlich auf die eigenen Leute schießt, vorm Kriegsgerichten landet. Nicht ganz so realistisch, aber dafür sehr komfortabel sind die eingebauten Optionen: diverse Außenansichten, abschaltbarer Sound und eine (abgestufte) Zeitraffer-Funktion.

Von der PC-Version wurde eigentlich nur die gute Steuerung unverändert übernommen; Tastatur und Stick sind möglich, der Knüppel ist aber fast überflüssig. Optisch wird man zwar nach wie vor mit einer sehr detailreichen Mischung aus Vektor- und Pixelgrafik bedient, aber leider ist der Ablauf spürbar langsamer geworden, und das selbst auf der niedrigsten Detailstufe.

Auch bleibt beim Stationswechsel der Bildschirm jedesmal für ein, zwei Sekündchen dunkel - das reinste U-Boot-Felling! Die Musik hat sogar stark nachgelassen, dafür sind die Soundeffekte jetzt lebensechter als auf der MS-Dose.

Wer also auf actionreiche Simulationen mit einer Extraportion Realismus abfährt, darf bedenkenlos auf so einem Gunboat anheuern - es sei denn, er erwartet sich das Tempo einer F-16...
(mm)



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Accolade get 'Nam flashbacks in this highly unusual simulation.

From the outset, Gunboat has more in common with F-19 Stealth Fighter or M1 Tank Platoon than it has with, say, Operation Wolf. It's a simulation of the uses to which American River Patrol Boats (PBRs) have been or could be used. Hence, in the scenario selection you can run on missions in Vietnam, Colombia and the Panama Canal.

The scenarios form a loose plot. Your first misions are in Vietnam because 'that's where it all began'. As you're promoted for successfully completing missions, you can move into the Colombian operation zone. The very best will be put on assignment along the Panama Canal. Designer Tom Loughry claims there's an earthquake-driven rockfall in one scenario which he put in there because he was working on the game through the aftershocks of a fat 7.1.

But you don't have to go on a mission immediately. You can practise on either the bow or stern gun positions of by your hand at the helm. There are a number of settings to take care of which fall into the category of pregame miscellany. These include setting the detail level to high or low (standard flight sim territory) and the slew rate for steering or firing weapons and choosing the firepower itself (.50 calibre Brownings and M129 grenade launchers being standard). PBRs recently sent to Panama mount the GE M134 Minigun and these too are available from the arsenal.

Once you're at station you kick power into the weapon system (or the boat itself) and begin your cruise down one more Viet-sim creek. A gunner can send instructions to the pilot and vice versa. You can abdicate responsibility for the vessel as a whole while you're familiarising yourself with any one particular piece of equipment but you'll soon feel confident enough to control every aspect of a mission. (Anyway, it makes sense to tell the pilot to rotate the water jets left to avoid an incoming missile).

One thing you have to cope with right from the start however, is night combat. To this end both gun positions are fitted with powerful searchlights, the trade off being that they give away your PBR's position. Land your cone of light on the enemy and you've as good as got them in your sights. Another habit you should get into is that of asking for target ID in order to avoid problems with 'friendly fire', though frankly there didn't seem much call for it on the early missions. Perhaps it's something which complicates more confined and difficult combat situations later in.

My first mission, I confess, felt like something of a turkey shoot. I'd had a few hours at the various stations and the only thing I wasn't familiar with was the program's time compression routine. I was soon hot tailing it (well, trying to pull a 30mph turn in a river boat) away from a jetty choc-a-bloc with the reunion party of an NVA armour unit.

I actually got out of there with boat and crew intact but wasn't in a position to do anything constructive afterwards. You can meet the opposition in almost any manner of its choosing. There are riverside concrete bunkers, Hind helicopters, infantry, sampans, PT-76s - you name it. Gunboat has as much going for it in terms of detail as many a tank or flight sim, but it's not without its problems. The graphics are a busy mix of filled polygons and what look like expanded sprites but semi-animated is the best word for the sprites, which sometimes look too large.

What really takes a bit out of the playability is the response speed which is too slow to be useful on many occasions. Much of the sluggishness is deliberate and probably conveys some of the difficulty of overcoming the inertia of the PBR. Still, enjoyable and atmospheric fun.



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Accolade/£24.99/Out Now

Amiga reviewPaul: Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Oh dear... (Okay, we get the idea. Ed.)
Some games are soooooo disappointing. Gunboat sounded such a good idea, guiding your gunboat through the rivers of Vietnam to take out some Vietcong target. Okay, so I'd rather play the good guys than the Yanks but, that apart, the chance to live out some sort of Apocalypse Now fantasy sounded unmissable.

I was wrong. Missable is exactly what this game is. For starters, it's as jerky as a Porsche running on potato whisky. This is particularly frustrating since the animated graphics only take up about a third of the screen. Updates are also more than a mite slow. Press 'M' to summon map then stare at blank screen for an age. Tap computer, listen to disk drive, ask: "Is this loading?" By the time the map appears you've lost interest.

If I had to describe Gunboat in one word, that word would be 'sluggish'. The gun version of rapid fire is fire... fire... yawn... fire. In frustration you keep hitting the fire button. The you have to wait for all these shots to be processed.

War supposedly consists of long periods of boredom and this is one of them.