Their life is so cheap

Laser Squad logo

CADETS for the armed services' Special Forces are hand picked from regular units. They undergo rigorous and extensive testing and training before they are given a permanent position. Only the very select go on to command such a cadre.

Until now that is, because for a modest fee Laser Squad will put you in such a position. Just think, you're missing out on all that yomping through minefields armed with a forked stick, spending winter nights in the Cairngorms with only a Tesco carrier bag for shelter, climbing the Himalayas in your underclothes at night with a knapsack full of bricks, and so forth.

Even better, this is the elite service of the future, armed with all sorts of death-dealing weaponry from light sabres to heavy duty laser gear. Unfortunately, this of course means that the other guys have it too. Nobody said it was going to be lemon-squeezy.

There are five scenarios: An assassination attempt, an assault, a prison breakout, a defending action and a sort of forced march thing. This gives a fairly rounded sample of the sort of stuff these blackened-face and balaclava johnnies get up to.

The first thing to do before going on a very dangerous mission from which nobody is likely to return is to phone HQ and see if they haven't made some sort of administrative error. The second thing to do is to equip your men.
Since you are working for a band of rebels - born to be free, just like the fish in the sea - you are a bit short on the necessaries. Typical, isn't it? I mean, just because making money out of the honest sweat of peasants is against their ideals doesn't mean that Rebel High Command can't bung something away in the Nationwide Anglia against a bit of serious weaponry.

Your team will consists of five or more members, some of whom are better than others at specific tasks. Unfortunately, you won't be able to find out what they are good at before the action starts, so you'll have to guess when you are equipping them.
Generally the corporals are better shots - except for Corporal Clegg, who has been excused from duty on account of his wooden leg - so give him the best weapons.

Another quibble is the deployment phase. Before the action starts you are allowed to choose where to deploy your men, but you aren't allowed to see the overhead map, so there is no way to plan your strategy. This might be all right if you are penetrating an enemy installation, but surely you would know your way around your own base?

There is an option to play against a friend r the computer. The computer can be programmed for varying degrees of skill depending on which scenario you have chosen. It gets tough at the top.

In terms of tactics, realism and the way your troops interact with each other and their equipment, Laser Squad is very true to life, although enjoyment is slightly limited by the small number of scenarios.

A good attempt to produce a role-playing game, combing graphics, gameplay and realism.


Laser Squad logo Format Gold

BLADE £19.95 * Joystick or Keyboard

8-bit wargamers received something of a gift a few years ago when Firebird released a £1.99 game called Rebelstar. It became an instant cult hit and fans of the game pestered the author Julian Gollop for more of the same. Laser Squad eventually appeared on the smaller machines and now, after a long wait, it is finally available on the Amiga.

If you are unfamiliar with the game, it is a one or two player tactical wargame played over a set number of turns, viewed in pseudo-3D. Each player controls a bunch of troops - the exact number depending on the scenario - and the idea is to accrue enough victory points, by destroying specific items or numbers of the enemy, or achieving other objectives, such as making it from one side of the game map to the other. Each and every member of your forces has a set number of 'Action Points' which are used up by movement, firing, changing weapons and other actions. Combat occurs whenever two enemies spot each other and the screen display changes to allow the attacker to position a cross-hair sight on the target and then choose a variety of shots depending on the weapon and amount of action points left.

For example, a member of the blue team spots a member of the red team and elects to fire at him. Blue then has the option of either automatic fire, a snap-shot or an aimed shot: the more accurate the shot, the greater the cost in action points (the automatic option only appears if the character has a weapon with automatic fire capabilities).

There is also an option called opportunity fire, which occurs whenever a member of the opposite team wanders into the line of sight of one of your troops who has at least half his action point left. So the whole game revolves around the player trying to achieve his objectives without leaving his forces stretched and quite possibly defenceless.

There are five scenarios on the original disk with expansion scenarios planned. The scenarios include The Assassins in which the player has to break into a base and eliminate one Sterner Regnix and Rescue From The Mines in which the player must rescue some imprisoned comrades. Obviously, in two player mode one side is always trying to stop his opponent achieving his objectives. The game ends when either the set number of turns expires or one side gains enough victory points.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND

The graphics are not exactly state of the art but they are colourful and everything is well drawn; and besides, it does not need outstanding graphics to play well. Sound is limited to either a tune which plays throughout spot effects, both of which are fine. For a game of its type it is a heck of a good looker.

JUDGEMENT

The game system is simple but very effective and it does not take long to get to grips with. The seven difficulty levels for most scenarios will keep you playing against the computer - which takes no prisoners - for a long time.
It is even better in two player mode when your human opponent makes some unexpected move! Laser Squad is a terrific game that is superbly playable and can definitely be recommended as one for the library of any gameplayer.


Laser Squad logo

Ein Erstlingswerk wird natürlich immer besonders kritischen Augen betrachtet: Hat der neue Label "Blade Software" mit diesem taktischen Kriegsspiel sein Meisterstück abgelegt, oder sind die Jungs gar schon durch die Gesellenprüfung gefallen?

Als Befehlshaber einer Lasertruppe darf man sich durch fünf Verschiedene Szenarien kämpfen, die alle in ferner Zukunft angesiedelt sind. Es gilt, verschiedene Aufgaben zu lösen, wobei einem entweder der Computer oder (im Zwei-Spieler-Modus) ein menschlicher Gegner in die Quere kommt.

Ein Auftrag besteht nun beispielsweise darin, den Chef einer Waffenfirma auszuschalten, der seine Angestellten und Wissenschaftler drangsaliert. Wer sich das Leben unnötig schwer machen will, kann beim Kampf gegen den Computer auch höhere Schwierigkeitsstufen einstellen, aber keine Sorge: Man kommt auch so schon ganz schön ins Schwitzen!

Zu Beginn werden die Akteure mit Rüstungen und Waffen versorgt, bis der Verteidigungsetat erschöpft ist. Anschließend positioniert man seine Männchen auf der (gut scrollbaren) Landkarte, die sich über mehrere Screens erstreckt.

Gesteuert wirdt mit Joystick oder Tastatur. Über drei verschiedene Modi kann man die aktuellen Werte seiner Getreuern (Strength, Actionpoints, Stamina, Moral, etc) abrufen und sodann deren Aktionen festlegen. Die Handlungsmöglichkeiten sind wirklich sehr vielfältig, kein Wunder also, daß auch die (dreisprachige) Anleitung sich seitenweise diesem Thema widmet. Bei den Bewegungen heißt es, sich vorsichtig an den Feind heranpirschen: auf dem Screen taucht er erst auf, sobald er in Sichtweite ist. Die gleichen Bedingungen gelten natürlich auch für den Gegner, aber wer will das bei einem Computer schon kontrollieren?

Kommt es zu so einem unverhofften Zusammentreffen, sollte man möglichst noch ein paar Actionpoints in petto haben, um die Konkurrenz auszuschalten. Gewonnen hat schließlich, wer die gestellte Aufgabe als erster löst - wie könnte es auch anders sein!

Die Grafik ist durchaus gelungen, und ein softer Sound begleitet das Unternehmen angenehm unaufdringlich - Action-FX sind allerdings Mangelware. Etwas gewöhnungsbedürftig gibt sich die Bedienung des Auswahlmenüs mit dem Stick, da schießt man allzuleicht übers Ziel hinaus, was sich dann nicht mehr rückgängig machen läßt.

Unser Testexemplar erhielten wir samt Mini-Anleitung in einer eigentlich recht hübschen Box - der Vertrieb teilte uns jedoch mit, daß sowohl Anleitung als auch Verpackung vor dem endgültigen Release noch geändert werden. Nun, "Modellpflege" ist ja niemals zu verachten, zumal wenn sie einem Programm zugute kommt, dem gewiß echte Erfolgschancen beschieden sind. Der realistische Handlungsverlauf macht soviel Spaß, daß in absehbarer Zeit mit dem Auftauchen von zusätzlichen Szenario-Disks zu rechnen ist.

Laser Squad ist also die beste Empfehlung für die weiteren Games des englischen Newcomers - wir sind schon mächtig gespannt!


Laser Squad logo CU Amiga Screen Star

Blade Software
Price: £19.99

When the original 64 version of Laser Squad was released in March this year, it received a more-than-healthy 92% and entered the CU hall of fame. The April deadline for the Amiga version came and passed and little has been heard since then. Until a new software outfit by the name of Blade announced their forthcoming Amiga release - Laser Squad.

It was simplicity which made Laser Squad such a successful game. The graphics are workmanlike, as is the sound, but the concept and the execution are exceptional. You are in charge of the crack Laser Squad and you have a number of missions to complete, whether they involve assassinating a drugs baron, laying siege to a major office block or rescuing buddies held prisoner in a mining complex.

At the start of each mission it is your responsibility to equip your team. There are various types of armour to choose from and a large selection of weapons and ammunition. At one end of the scale is the Marsec Auto Pistol, which is very low powered and cannot penetrate tough armour whilst on the other is the rocket launcher which can take out just anything.

The deployment phase is next. Your troops need to be placed in set locations by the entrances to the map.

Each troops has a set number of Action Points which diminish with every action, even if you drop an object. If a player ends a turn with more than half of his total Action Points he automatically goes into opportunity mode (that is to say if the enemy passes his field vision he gets what is effectively a free strike, so long as he is quick).

Essentially, Amiga Laser Squad bar from some improved graphics and its extremely atmospheric sound effects is identical to the 8-bit game. One final improvement has been to include the two original 8-bit expansion packs in the 16-bit version. No actual expansion packs are planned for this version.

Laser Squad is excellent. Although I cannot help but feel slightly put out by the lack of improvement to the original. But if you are somebody who likes the idea of plenty over-the-top violence, explosions and some thinking you won't go far wrong with this little baby.


Laser Squad logo

David McCandless knows a thing or two about the current music scene and all things street-cred so who better to play Blade's new sci-fi strategy Laser Squad which, er... has really got nothing to do with trendiness or sounds.

For most people the title "strategy game" conjures up the image of a dull, terrifyingly boring game and middle-aged gents with long, curly moustaches mobilising around a table coated with lots of little hexagons. Well, if you're like most people then be prepared to change your views, because Laser Squad is an example of how strategy games can be fun, fun, fun (even when your father has gone and repossessed the T-bird).

Laser Squad is interesting and different for three reasons:
a) because it has five inricate sci-fi scenarios to choose from;
b) because it actually has a suspense element; and
c) ...er , because I say so.

The first thing to do in this game is delegate weaponry and armour to your squad members. You have a certain amount of 'credits' to do this with. The difficulty level determines the numbers of credits you start with, ranging from fabulously rich to National Health(Oooh! Bit of politics there! Nice one).

Top of the range in the artillery department is the heavy cannon (a huge industrial laser gun) to the Marsec pistol (a weedy domestic handgun). You can also get your fair share of grenades, mines, ammo, machine guns, rocket launchers and light sabres. Once your squad is all 'gunned up' then it's well and truly mission time.

THE MISSIONS
-THE ASSASSINS - Target: mega corporate, high rank, big director type person, Sterner Regnix. This man has embezzlement and espionage for breakfast and then moves on to government manipulation and drug dealing for lunch. Tea-time could spell the end of the galaxy. Laser Squad is deployed to pop Regnix's corporate cork. But he is extremely well protected by his planet fortress and an elite squadron of combat droids.

MOONBASE ASSAULT - Target: the omni-corporation's moonbase on a far away planet, concealed right in the bowels of the galaxy. The moonbase cheekily houses the movements and secrets of rebel groups like Laser Squad. Laser Squad values its privacy (and has some rather unsavoury connections with the planet Soixante Neuf) and so deploys itself to put the nosey corporation's conk out of joint.

RESCUE FROM THE MINES - A jumped-up group of 'amats' (Laser Squad jargon for 'amateurs') have fluffed up an important mine-installation blow-up job. Luckily (or unluckily depending on how annoyed you are at the amats), three members of the squad have been imprisoned. They have vital information about the rest of the mine complex. Laser Squad miss their tea-break to boldly go and free the prisoners.

THE CYBER HORDERS - A rebel planet installation is being attacked by a squad of frumpy combat droids, intent on disrupting the seismic equilibrium (that's volcanic activity to you) of the planet. Laser Squad must 'dig in' and give 'Jerry' a damn good British whipping.

DEPLOYMENT
You get a God's eye view of the level which slices away all the roofs of buildings, detailing all the flora and fauna, tunnels, corridors, objects, toilets, doors and computers. In fact it shows everything except your enemies' positions. Those you never get to see (the screen blanks while the computer moves them) reamain invisible until one of your teams has eye contact.

Laser Squad is quite a civilised game. You and your opponents actually take turns. Each member is allocated a number of movement points - the initial number is governed by how much the character is carrying, how agile he is, and whether he's a pencil-necked shandy man or not.

Rotation on the spot costs one point per direction, moving across normal terrain (corridors, space, etc.) costs even more. If you come across an enemy (or 20) then you have the choice of firing. This changes the on-screen map. Gone are the vegetation and fascinating wall murals, here are the most tangible (i.e. shootable) objects, represented by blobs and bigger blobs (for trees). You have to direct a crosshair over your intended target and then choose a shot type.

AUTO gives you a raking machine gun effect but is very inaccurate while AIM is more precise but costs on the old movement points. SNAP is a sort of compromise between the two. The last option, THROW, is an option to throw your weapon at an aggressor. This, unfortunately, is all very stupid.

And so the game continues... Lots of sneaking around corridors, educated guesses as to the whereabouts of enemy locations, lip-biting during fire-fights in narrow corridors, lots of sweaty trigger fingers and swearing when your men get caught in ambushes. Laser Squad avoids tumbling into the pitfall which 90% of all strategy games have fallen into - that is, having too much "strategy" and not enough "game".

Amiga reviewLaser Squad is initially quite hard to get into. There are a few menus to wade through, a few title screens to go "Cor!" at, and a few key decisions to be made before you're "dug in" on the battlefield. Even then the first two or three 'moves' are quite turgid really, with menial tasks like arming to carry out. But as soon as your first enemy pops out of the metal work, your blood boils and your kettle runs cold (if you know what I mean).

The graphics are fairly diagrammatic but detailed - they wouldn't stand on their own but they do look quite good all together. However, Laser Squad's lasting appeal is not in question. With game lengths ranging from half an hour (for a good massacre) to two hours (a good balanced conflict), seven skill levels, five scenarios and the option to plot your strategies against an unwitting chum, Laser Squad should keep you computer-motivated for at least two months.

The soundtrack is excellent - sort of Pet Shop Boys meet some sampled farmyard grunts. Although, it's a jangly jolly sort of tune, things start to become pretty annoying when you miss the music-off option, and you're committed to having it blaring out continuously throughout the game.

My vast (hem!) experience with the 8-bit version of Laser Squad set me in good salivating stead for this review. If the game was brilliant on the Spectrum, the 16-bit incarnation had to be out of this world. And it was... and, er, it wasn't. (Pardon? Ed.). The 16 bitter has everything its predecessor had - the graphics, the gameplay, the suspense, the skill, the challenge, the characters even - but that's the point. I kept getting the impression that I was playing a Spectrum game on an Amiga monitor. Nothing's been changed. Okay, so there's a dab of colour here and there, and the odd sampled clash of thunder in the background but I couldn't help thinking, "Where's the Amiga?".

However, Laser Squad still remains a brilliant game, even though the Amiga could probably sit back, have a cigarette and clean out the fluffy bits between its toes while running the game. I think half the attraction of the game is the suspense element (What's awaiting round the next corner? Will the enemy find me? Where's Keith Chegwin?) and the intellectual ego-massage you can give yourself when you do finally defeat the computer (who plays a mean game).

Laser Squad has that elusive lend of excitement, challenge and addictiveness all mashed into one. Definitely on the short list for all time classics and definitely the best strategy game you'll find in the shops today. Stop


STORYBOARD
"Right my little lads, my little cherubs, mes petitis onions. We are out here (in the vacuum); they are in there (in the warm). They're defending the shield generators!" said the Sarge, choking on the cigar-smoke slowly filling up inside his space helment.
"Right lads. Two-four-six-eight who do we completely hate? ALIENS!!!"
Laser Squad: Locked Door
Laser Squad: Toilet Scenery
1 It took us several hours to get through the airlock. The Sarge said we should blast our way in like true commandos. We used up 4000 rounds trying to destroy the door when Private Jonlan pressed a button labelled "OPEN AIRLOCK" and the portal opened. Who says the army is full of vegetable heads? 2 I forgot to go before I left so when I spotted a toilet, I nearly peed myself with glee. "Can I go to the toilet?" I asked the Sarge. He exploded. "Anymore of that 'bladder' talk from you and you're in trouble my lad!" I was quite frightened by this and suddenly realised I woudln't need the toilet afer all. "Besides," Sarge added, "It's just a useless piece of scenery."
Laser Squad: Enemy Encounter
Laser Squad: Mine
3 Our first sight of the enemy! The scum crept up on us from behind. The Sarge went ape with his laze-cannon and fired thousands of rounds down the corridor. When the smoke and ozone had cleared, we saw that the Sarge had disintegrated two flower pots, a wardrobe, matching chest of drawers, and Jenkins and Anderson, our reard guards. He missed the enemy completely. 4 Our next mission was to rescue three squad-ettes who had been captured and imprisoned in a mine. Apparently, they were "close friends" of the Sarge, and he kept muttering on about "photographs" and "sheep". His idea was to plant a thermo-y nuclear charge and blow the whole mine into the next galaxy, but I knew we could use grenades to break the prisoners free.
Laser Squad: Prison
Laser Squad: Paradise Valley
5 We found a prisoner at last. The Sarge primed and planted the grenade outside the cell door. I said that perhaps we should warn the prisoner to stand back. The Sarge mumbled something about "joking" and "blackmailers" and "sheep" again. We detonated the grenade but unfortunately it killed the prisoner and the five squad-members, left behind to "check it went off properly". The Sarge said it didn't matter because they were shandy-drinkers anyway. I respect the Sarge. 6 Despite the annihilation of three-quarters of the squad, not to mention the demise of the three prisoners we were meant to rescue, the Sarge declared the mission a complete success. But now we have to cross Paradise Valley, infested with aliens and venomous splurges. The Sarge has tied me up and told me to walk ahead so I can fall into the posionous swamps before he does. I'm so proud... eek! Splash!