Robosport logo

The new hook-up from Maxis takes competitive sport into a new arena - the computer paintball game. Is RoboSport really the adult version of the shoot-em-up, and will we all get completely hooked?

Departing from their normal style of simulation games, Maxis move into the territory of multi-player war-gaming, with surprisingly effective results. RoboSport is an all-weather affair that you don't have to leave your seat to play. The control is one of brain-power rather than brute force, and the blood 'n' guts has been replaced by bolts and bytes.

Playing with time
In a nutshell, RoboSport takes slices of time (usually around 15 seconds long) and lets each player decide what to do with their robots during each time-slice. The players plot the routes of their robots: planning sneak attacks, laying covering fire, searching for enemy robots, and so on.

Each player can check and re-check the actions of their team so that when the 'actual' 15 seconds is replayed, everything goes according to plan. RoboSport has a terrific time-manager display which makes all of this really simple.

When everyone has decided what they're doing during the time-slice, the Amiga combines all the plans and calculates their outcomes. This is displayed as a series of movies which can be replayed just like a video.

Each movie is 'filmed' from a different player's point-of-view, so that nobody knows where their enemies are - until they pop into visual range. On a single Amiga, this involves a lot of turning your head away (and no peeking), but when you have two ore more Amigas hooked-up together each player gets their own planning and movie-viewing screens, safe from the gaze of their rivals.

The contest is one of brain-power rather than brute force

Stop-start action
The movies form the foundation for your next round of attacks. Another 15 second time-slice to fiddle about with - another plan to tweak and hone - until you're ready to switch to 'real' time and see what happened.

Each round you work on what you you remember from the movie - where was the last enemy position, what direction was he going in, did he plant a bomb perhaps? Tension builds surprisingly quickly, especially when you're hooked-up.

There are plenty of different strategies to play, thanks to the varied scenarios and game-styles provided. You can play games like 'capture the flag', 'rescue a hostage', 'last man alive' and even a deadly version of baseball. There are three different map styles depicting suburbs (for inner-city clashes), rubble (for that Sarajevo feel) and the guts of a computer. Maps come in eight sizes, so anything from a skirmish to an all-out war can be played.

The human factor
RoboSport is much more exciting than anything Maxis have done before. The graphics come in high-res and low-res forms (but you need 2Mb for high-res) and although they're not spectacular, they are better than Maxis usual style. Sound, too, is improved, thanks to the use of samples which add to the atmosphere of destruction, and don't immediately have you reaching for the volume knob.

There are a few niggles, but usually these are a result of waiting for other human players to finish, or ensuring they're not sneaking a look at your display when you share a computer. That's not really RoboSport's fault though.

Things are much better in a hook-up situation (RoboSport can play over a modem, a null-modem link, or via Commodore's Workbench 2 Ethernet add-on), but if you wish, you can always play against computer-controlled teams, each with their own style of battle-management.

RoboSport is probably going to attract adults rather more than kids, because the game involves planning and patience, but that's not a criticism. The great thing about RoboSport is its versatility, there are plenty of different ways to play, making it ideal for a group of people. A small skirmish may take an hour or so to complete, but huge campaigns can be saved and continued at will.

The key to extracting your money's worth is making it a party-game: playing against people makes everything so much more fun. RoboSport is the shoot-em-up with infinite social-lives, so go out and buy some.


Robosport logo

Wie spätestens seit "Speedball 2" jedermann weiß, werden die Athleten im nächsten Jahrtausend überwiegend aus rostfreien Edelstahl bestehen. Im vorliegenden Fall wird allerdings kein Fußball gespielt...

Überhaupt hat Maxis' futuristische Materialschlacht wenig mit den heutigen Sportarten gemein, es handelt sich eher um eine besondere Form von "Kriegsspiel". Statt richtiger Soldaten kämpfen gefühllose Roboter, die man auch nicht trainieren, sondern programmieren muß, bevor sie auf eins der drei Schlachtfelder rumpeln.

Dabei wird festgelegt, welche Aktionen (marschieren, warten, Bomben legen, schießen) die einzelnen Robbis ausführen sollen. Der Computer berechnet dann das Ergebnis und führt anschließend eine Art Film vor, der die Kampfhandlungen auf dem labyrinthischen Spielfeld zeigt.

Für Abwechslung sorgen -zig Einstellmöglichkeiten bei Schwierigkeitsgrad, Spieldauer und -regeln, Teamstärke etc. Richtig lustig wird es aber erst, wenn man sich nicht bloß mit der/den Rechner-Mannschaft(en), sondern mit den maximal drei von Menschenhand gesteuerten Teams herumbalgt, via (Null)-Modem kann man auch einen Fernkrieg führen.

Leider wirkt die Steuerung über Maus-Menüs und Tastatur etwas überladen und verlangt vor allem von Anfängern viel Einarbeitungsarbeit.

Lohn der Mühe ist eine farbenprächtige Grafik, die trotz netter Details eher zweckmäßig wirkt und auch das Maxis-Typische Ruckelscrolling aufweist. Soundmäßig gibt es neben der Titelmusik nur sparsam verteilte, dafür umso lautstärkere FX.

Bleibt die Frage nach der Motivation, und da fällt Robosport gegenüber den Simulations-Knüllern von Maxis deutlich ab - aber für ein paar zünftige Wochenend-Schlachten reicht es auf Fälle. (pb)

Robosport logo

Maxis make the move away from SimSomethings and venture into the murky world of weird robot strategy warfare things.

Oh no, what is wrong? A game from Maxis that does not have the word 'Sim' in the title. Whatever can they be thinking of? SimCity, SimEarth, SimAnt, SimLife and SimFish and SimFarm in the pipeline... You do not have to be a lexical genius to realise that RoboSport does not fit into the neat linguistic progression. Success must have added the old corporate brain. Dear me, is nothing sacred?

But some things never change, and you can rest assured that the latest offering from the masters of simulation still provides enough strategy and statistics to keep you up late into the night. And as with SimAnt, it tries to throw in a bit of humour to lighten the laborious load. For labour you will. Despite the seductive explosions on the game's box, and the promise of a mixture of chess and guerrilla warfare (very attractive), it is all a bit of a trial to play.

The concept is easy enough to grasp. You control a bunch of robots who have to achieve certain objectives depending on the game you have chosen to play In the simplest game you just have to wipe out the enemy, and in more advanced scenarios, you have to capture the enemy's flag, pick up treasure or rescue hostages. The game's parameters are entirely user definable, so much so that the Quick Start menu gives you a stock of pre-set scenarios to save you the bother of customising your own. You can decide which weapons you and your opponents are armed with, the type of landscape the battle is to be fought on, and the size of the playing area.

The game is turn-based, which means you give out orders, and then watch the robots carry them out. A slick point-and-click control system makes it easy to hand out commands, and because each turn is a limited length (up to 40 seconds), each robot can only be given a limited number of orders. You tell the 'bots where to move, where to look, where to fire, who to fire at, and when to duck. The computer or human opponents do the same and you sit and watch the results.

It tries to throw in a bit of humour to lighten the load

Obviously, you cannot see where the enemy robots are while you are programming your team, and that is where your brilliant strategic and tactical thinking comes in. You have to guess where the enemy 'bots will move too, and set cunning traps accordingly. One of the best tactics is to hide behind a building and wait for them to walk around the corner. Not a particularly brave or exciting strategy, but effective nevertheless.

Having made all your moves, it is time to set the wheels in motion and commit your team to action. End your turn and the computer generates its moves, and the results of the combat. To see what has happened, you switch to the movie section, where the positions at the start of the turn are shown. Hit play and you see the robots perform their manoeuvres, waste the enemy and get wasted themselves. It is a peculiarly voyeuristic feeling - good attacks are played over and over again (you can even save them to disk to show your friends if they are not around), and bad mistakes are brushed under carpet as you move swiftly on to the next round.

It is very much like Laser Squad really. The gameplay in both games is essentially the same - it is just the graphics and control system that are different. RoboSport has some neat touches, such as the sound effects that play while the moves are being generated at the end of each turn. It is all quiet, you know that nobody has come under fire, but if you start to hear crashes and screams, you know that the two teams have exchanged fire and that somebody's robots have been severely dented. This adds a bit of extra excitement when the movie starts - you know someone is going to get in the neck, you just do not know who.

It is very much like Laser Squad

But then again, if you have paid enough attention to the stats, you should know who is going to get it. Success or failure on this battleground depends on what type of armour you have, the type of gun you are using, how far from the enemy you are, and whether you are standing, ducking or crouching. Throw all those variables into the grey matter up top, shake your head around a bit and the chances are you will be totally nonplussed by the whole affair. But if you have got a head for figures you will probably love it.

The main trouble with RoboSport is that it does not hang together well. There is lots of pointing, clicking and hammering at the keyboard to program your robots, then there is a pause while the moves are generated, then you have to watch a movie of the battle, and then there is another pause while you go back to the programming section. It is all so disjointed - the game just does not seem complete. Rather than being one coherent strategy to achieve a single objective, the game is at times reduced to being a series of one-off engagements with the main aim being to avoid being hit by enemy fire.

Ultimately, it is not a particularly satisfying game to play. Sure, there are plenty of statistics and game variations, but the basic game and game structures are not smooth enough to keep you hooked - there is no real flow to the proceedings. The small attempts at humour are moderately engaging for a while, but it is not long before you are turning away to find either a more substantial challenge in the shape of something like Civilization or some real action.

RoboSport is trying to be the "thinking man's shoot-'em-up" and to a certain extent it succeeds. You have to think, and things definitely get shot. But that does not mean it is very much fun, and anyway, we have already got Laser Squad, Breach 2, Paladin 2...

Into the fray in an effort to destroy all the other teams in a four-player game of survival. The progress of my valiant band of robots is plotted as they sweep remorselessly southwards, destroying enemies as they go.
  1. Your men start in the dock at the top, and their first move has to be into the shaded area below. Your opponents strt at the side and the bottom.
  2. Make good use of your missile-carrying robot. Give him covering fire and he can pick off one of the enemy robots with a well-aimed shot.
  3. Crouching robots are harder to hit, but move slowly and cannot climb walls.
  4. After seeing a bunch of enemy robots on the first turn, it is time to make a confident move south. Trouble is, it seems the enemy can see you coming. They cannot, of course, but you cannot stop that feeling of paranoia.
  5. It is pretty quiet down this side, so this guy can sit here and wait for something to happen. Make sure he is facing the right way though.

Robosport logo

Have Maxis created the ultimate in Hide-and-Seek games? Tony Dillon goes into a corner and counts to a hundred.

Living in the universe created by the Maxis team isn't all hard work, no matter how it may seem. There is more to life than building and maintaining, you know. There is war. There is sport. There is cheese, ham, pepperoni and pickle rolls. Most important of these is war, of course, and as humankind works its way to its own destruction, it only seems logical to assume that robots will at some stage play a large role in battle. A battle robot would need to have a heavy amount of intelligence if it is to succeed in its task, and as far as the Maxis team can see, this is where things start to break down.

The robots have been made far too intelligent, and have realised that war between humans and robots is pointless. The robots can't be hurt, humans can. Simple as that. So, after many years of pointless and one-sided destruction, a giant battle computer stops the fighting once and for all, with the introduction of the Robot Games. As they are a computer simulation, the games offer humans a chance to compete in battle with no danger of ever being hurt.

If you haven not already guessed, Robosport is a strategy title where teams compete against each other in organised wargames. You know the sort, usually played out by advertising executives with paint-firing guns. There are five different games to play here, from the standard Survival, where your team has to be the last one standing, to Catch The Flag, where you have to steal your opponent's flag and return it to your home base, along with new ones like Baseball, where you have to try and tag all four bases for a home run.

The game works like this. Each team takes their turn in ordering their robots about. Once all the orders have been made, the battle commences and you can see the results of your actions. The interesting thing about the game is the way you control your units. Each team starts with four units, and on each turn you plan the actions of separate units for the next 15 seconds by programming a series of moves.

Clicking on a location moves the unit to that point, and using the icons on the left of the screen lets you choose between the various firing moves. Everything you do takes time, and as you program, a clock tells you how much time you have left to fill. Ingenious.

The nicest thing about this system is that it calls for some heavy strategies. The robots have no initiative, so if you think that there is an enemy on the other side of the wall, you have to tell the robot to open fire when they reach the other side. Watching the battle as you proceed, you are either going to be pleasantly smug as you watch your unit round the bend and take out an enemy robot right where you thought it would be, or start worrying as you watch your unit fire into space.

For a strategy title, it is simple to the point of perfection. The control method is so easy to master that you will find yourself hooked within minutes, and the only game that ever did that for me was Connect 4. The graphics and sound might not be the hottest ever, but Robosport is a hot piece of software. If you like Laser Squad, you will drool over this.


Robosport is the kind of game that is best played against human opponents rather than computer generated ones. Up to four can play at once, in a variety of ways. Either four can take turns on the same machine, or you can network machines using either null modem cables for a two player game, or connect up to four machines using Commodore's TCP/IP networking system or equivalent. The game plays exactly as before, only now no-one need leave the room!