Ocean's latest is based on the God-awful movie of the same name. The movie tells the tale of a group of top-secret super agents, much in the same mould as Britain's SAS. The game follows the plot of the movie fairly loosely and sees you controlling a group of five American soldiers. There are two main objectives: to rescue the occupants of a recently shot down helicopter and then destroy a stockpile of missiles.

The game is set in the Gulf region, possibly bad timing in light of recent events there. Basically, it involves a lot of platform action, interspersed with some noisy shoot-em-up bits. The screen scrolls in four directions and most levels are fairly complex.

The American Dream
As you wander around the screen, you will come across crates that are stamped with an American flag. These contain missiles. Walking over these crates activates a timed explosive device. To complete a level, you must find all the missiles and plant the explosives on them.

Hampering your progress in this matter, are a lot of Arabian soldiers. These guys will shoot you on sight, but only if you are directly in their line of vision. Your Navy Seal dude can perform some fairly athletic manoeuvres on the obstacles and platforms. It's quite easy to knock out one of the enemy by jumping on him or swinging down right onto his bonce from a platform.

The main problem with the game is the difficulty level. If an Arab dude spots you and opens fire, it's almost impossible to avoid the bullet, mainly because your sprite is so slow to respond. The instructions on controlling your hero are a little misleading, but once you figure out it gets to be quite enjoyable.

Sights and sounds
The graphics are pretty, but they lack variety and the urge to see what lurks on the next level. The sound is fine, neat spot effects and decent samples. I think it could have benefited with some in-game music though.

Navy Seals isn't a bad game at all, but there are so many niggling problems, it seems a shame more time wasn't spent on it. With some thought and good design, this could have been a brilliant platform game. As it is, Navy Seals is average.


NAVY SEALS vs SAS
Everyone knows how hard the SAS are. They are often to be found scaling walls, fighting Russian kung-fu masters and biting the heads off Doberman pinchers. SAS troops tend to live life to the full, seeking danger and excitement wherever they may be.
In light of this, we thought it might be a nice idea to run a comparison between the SAS and Navy Seals.
Having no idea what the Navy Seals actually did, we contacted their top-secret HQ in North Carolina and spoke to agent Dave "Spanky" Scheinfeld. We told him about the SAS and asked him how he thought the two sides compared.
"Frankly," he said, "We really enjoy sitting in and watching a bit of Oprah Winfrey. All the danger stuff is a bit stressful for us.". Pausing for a moment, he added, "The action in the movie isn't like us at all, we much prefer a bit of male bonding. We're also very keen on personal hygiene".
So there you have it. The authoritive guide to the world's most dangerous secret agents.

Ocean, immerhin Spezialist für blutverschmierte Plattformen, ist mit dieser Filmumsetzung der Metzel-Konkurrenz um eine satte Gewehrlänge voraus. Damit ist allerdings nicht die Hintergrundstory gemeint, denn die ist genauso, wie man es in diesem Genre liebt und schätzt: Arabische Terroristen bedrohen den Weltfrieden, das Abendland steht kurz vor dem Untergang, aber zum Glück kommt gerade eine amerikanische Eliteeinheit um die Ecke...

Nein, was Navy Seals zu einem Action-Schmankerl macht, ist das gelungene Gameplay. Denn in den acht Leveln kann man seine fünf Männer (Leben) nicht nur mit laufen/springen/schießen beschäftigen, sondern sie auch rumhangeln und krabbeln lassen - da werden Erinnerungen an selige "Batman" Zeiten wach! Dazu ist das Spiel stets hart aber fair, ja teilweise schon fast "realistisch": Die patrouillierenden Gegner reagieren nur auf Sichtkontakt, das Zeitlimit verdient seinen Namen (kein Trödellimit!), es gibt Bonuspunkte für das vorzeitige Fertigwerden und selbstverständlich viele schöne Extrawaffen.

Im Gegensatz zur ST-Version ist die Grafik am Amiga nicht nur hübsch, sondern auch weitgehend ruckelfrei animiert. Die Stick-Steuerung funktioniert befriedigend, Musik und Effekte lassen sich ebenfalls ganz gut ertragen - wer also (viel) Blut sehen kann, darf hier ruhig mal probeballern. (mm)


No, it can't be... Can it? After a wait longer than Kylie Minogue's for a decent song, we've finally got a complete finished copy of Navy Seals. The question is, will it be worth the wait in the same way as Kylie's 'Better The Devil You Know' or, um, not. (Predictable Opening Gambi Follow-Ups No. 2).
'Nope'.

THE SAME OLD SONG AND DANCE
I don't know, you'd think after taking such a long time over it, Ocean would have made sure that this was a damn good product, but it hasn't happened. Navy Seals is the kind of game that software houses used to churn out by the barrow-load a couple of years ago - a runny-jumpy-shooty platform thing with no real innovations but lots of straightforward action to keep the punter happy just long enough to the next one to come out. (Cynical old sod, am I not?)

It was all very well at the time, but most of us saw through this rather obvious ploy a couple of years back, forcing game's companies to come up more original releases every now and again. Now though, and rather worryingly, Ocean seem to have decided that the market is ready for an encore performance. First came RoboCop 2, then Total Recall, and now this, the latest in a disturbing line of remarkably similar games, all movie licences with resemblance to (or feel for) the respective films.

What really bothers me, though, is that they seem to be getting slowly worse. There was a time, very recently, when Ocean was a company that could be relied on for classy, polished products. Sadly, the days of , Pang, Plotting, Midnight Resistance, Battle Command, Batman and (of course) Rainbow Islands - all excellent games, and, indeed, nearly all of them fixtures in our All-Time Top 100 - seem behind us now and the standard has slipped alarmingly.

But before I get off the subject entirely, what about Navy Seals? Well, it's not that bad. Which is to say that it's pretty bad, just not altogether terrible. In its favour it's got some very nice animation and a decent level of challenge, but drawback include a lack of depth and some of the worst juddery scrolling seen on an Amiga for years. And that's it. Except that I've got another page to fill up yet, so I suppose 'd better expand on things a bit.

First off, all of you out there with runaway testosterone levels will lap up the scenario. The Navy Seals are the US equivalent of SAS, so there's plenty of scope for square-jawed, muscle-flexing, homo-erotic antics to thrill spotty inadequates everywhere. The plot, such as it is, involves massacring large numbers of unspecified 'terrorists' (although they all look suspiciously Arabic), rescuing weak and helpless hostages (a captured helicopter crew in this case), and then slaughtering your way subtly through downtown Beirut to destroy a stockpile of captured Stinger rockets. (Actually, that 'subtly' bit was a lie). Alternatively, of course, you could simply pretend that Beirut was Baghdad, the Stingers were Scuds, and the Arabs were Iraqis (no great leap of imagination called from there), and recreate Operation Desert Storm in the comfort of your own home, if you're sad enough.

BIG, HARD, CLEVER AND AQUATIC
So that's enough scenario. How about the actual gameplay? Well, as it happens, it's pretty much Navy Seals' strongest point. The platforms-and-ladders-and-shooting-things style isn't anything new, but here it's at least been fairly well executed, with lots of acrobatic moves both possible and necessary.


Navy Seals is the kind of game that software houses used to churn out by the barrow-load

Your performing Seals can certainly leap around with no little aplomb, although for the hardest men the US armed services have to offer they're surprisingly weedy when it comes to falling distances greater than about six feet. It's not perfect though - certain irritating bad guys shoot at you before they have the nerve to show their faces on screen, killing you nine times out of ten (of course) and making it necessary to learn where they are so you can be ready for them next time. As regular readers will know, this is one of my least favourite gameplay devices, and it's particularly unfortunate and lazy in a fast-reactions arcade game like this one.

Also indicative of lazy design is the extremely tight time limit on every level - something which usually feels artificial and intrusive, though in this case it actually works quite well in keeping the excitement going. (I'm not sure why, possibly because it distances the thing from its complete lame movie tie-in aspect and makes it feel more like a pure game).

Presentation? Well, yes, it's got some. Ahem. There's a strange kind of shizophrenia displayed here (well, no stranger than your everyday run-of-the-mill shizophrenia, but you know what I mean) - each level is preceded by a pretty little cameo screen, but on completing it there's nothing, nothing at all. You get a few bonus points and that's it, not even a 'well done' message. The ending is also utterly, utterly feeble.

Sound? No it isn't. The music is useless and the FX are perfunctory, to say the least. And that's all I can bring myself to tell you about them.

And finally, the graphics are... alright. The animation is lovely in some parts (climbing up crates, swinging along under platforms) and dire in others (running, climbing ladders, swinging up onto platforms), while the backdrops are fairly atmospheric but maybe a little on the formulaic side.

When it all comes down to it though, Navy Seals' biggest flaw is a lack of variety. The eight levels are all as near as makes no difference to being completely identical. The difficulty only increases in numerical terms (either more baddies or more rockets to destroy) and, while addictive in the short term, this rapidly leads to the onset of boredom. Technically the game looks like an ST port (I thought we'd seen the last of those) and generally the feeling is one of overwhelming indifference.


For the unitiated among you, Navy Seals is the title of an all-action war film starring hunky, chunky ex-Brat-Packer, Charlie Sheen, and veteran of the Aliens battle on Acheron, Michael Biehn. Together with the likes of another of Aliens' Colonial Marines, Bill Paxton, they form part of a crack group of commandos, the Navy Seals (Seals, by the way, stand for Sea, Air, and Land. Quite what happened to the 'E' I don't know, but Navy Sals isn't half as butch) of the title who are basically an American version of our SBS.

The film, and consequently the game, revolves around the antics of the crack troop as they are sent on a series of deadly missions, and the player is given control over a band of five members and must guide them safely through the eight stages that make up the game.

Although it's split into a series of smaller levels, Navy Seals is basically a game of two distinct missions. The first involves negotiating a hostile Arab-controlled base and rescuing a hostage from the centre of their HQ, whilst the second takes the unit to the terrorists' base in Beirut where the majority of the rebels must be annihilated.

Needless to say, along the way, loads of towel-wearing stereotype baddies get offed, but unlike, say, Commando or Dogs Of War, in Navy Seals a certain amount of strategy is needed if you are to avoid the unwanted attention of the enemy.

The levels span roughly forty screens, and your movements around them are monitored with the screen scrolling to follow your progress. Each of the Seals is controlled using the joystick, and can be made to run and crawl from left to right, and jump from platform to platform. In addition, the agile heroes can also swing under the platforms to avoid detection or avoid being hit.

Similarly, each of the team is armed with a small hand-gun to pick off the sentries and guards, and this weapon can be upgraded by blasting a specific style of crate and stealing the gun inside. These extra weapons are essentially faster-firing machine guns, but the most devastating by far is a napalm-squirting flame thrower which reduces anyone in its path to glowing ashes!

The neat thing about Navy Seals is that, as in the film and - I suppose - the real life escapades of the Seals, stealth does play an important part in the proceedings. It's no good running across a level, blasting all and sundry, as it takes just one bullet to prematurely end a Seal's mission. Instead, by mastering the simple controls, real skill is needed to leap and swing from the ledges and sneak up behind the guards, and this really raises the game above its many counterparts.

In addition, another particularly nice touch is that once a guard has been shot, they stay down. This means that there are no miracle rebirths just as you are getting into the mission and, thus, no unnecessary loss of life. My only real grouse with the game is that the collision detection between the main Seal sprites and the enemy bullets is dubious to say the least. There can be a good centimetre between your sprite and the enemy fire, but the Seal will still be killed.

This doesn't spoil an otherwise excellent game, but does make you slightly more wary than you possible need to be. In all, though, Navy Seals is a playable film licence and a welcome addition to the platform and shoot 'em up genres.


ARMY MOVES
The main sprite is a versatile fellow and, like his movie counterpart, he performs lightening moves with ease. Providing there is a suitable ledge above him. The Seal can swing along it until he is below an adversary, and can then leap up and kill him instantly (presumably with a hidden knife). In addition, he can crawl and run and fire whatever weapon he is holding. These weapons range from a repeat-firing handgun to a larger, quieter rifle. By far the most visually impressive and deadly armament, though, is the flamethrower which incinerates up to two people per shot.
THE FILM...
Combining the talents of ex-Young Gun, Charlie Sheen, and Aliens favourites Bill Paxton (who had been pencilled in for the lead role in Hardware but had to cancel due to Seal commitments) and Michael Biehn, Navy Seals is an all-action, guns'n'noise film, with the usual array of big bangs and one-liners. The film has yet to be released over here, but from the short trailers we have managed to see, it looks to be typical fare in the vein of Arnie's Commando and a good dollop of Aliens-esque camaraderie.