Prohibition Chicago can't have been a brilliant place to live according to The Untouchables movie. For a start all the girlies wore shower caps with sequins on and did a stupid 'dance' called the Charleston, and what was even worse - booze was banned! But this didn't stop some wily scamps from making their own, or even importing it illegally. And though the liquor made a massive profit for the importer, it was just as likely to taste like diesel oil and hit your stomach like a lethal dose of paint stripper.
The government set about capturing rascals like Al Capone, who was a booze importer and also pretty handy with a baseball bat. He made millions out of illegally selling alcohol, but no one could pin a single crime on him. The odd carnation, but not a single eensy weensy little crime.
No one that is, until Eliot Ness formed his band of 'Untouchables' and eventually nailed Capone for tax evasion, of all things.
Now ocean has made a game of the movie so it's not surprising that The Untouchables game concentrates on this aspect. Six of the major scenes have been adapted and pack in almost as many gut wrenchin' bullet blasting frames as were in the whole movie. Lights... Camera... Action...
Level one is an adaptation of the warehouse raid which occurs fairly early on in the film. Ness hasn't even recruited his 'Untouchables' so he's on his own for this one. It's quite a straightforward platform and ladders-type game, in which Ness must find and shoot 10 ledger-carrying bad guys, and collect the ledgers they drop. These ledgers contain vital information pertaining to Al Capone's jolly little tax wheezes. But there's no time for Ness to mess around them 'cos he's working against a clock which can make the minutes bullet by.
An arrow indicates where the ledger carrier is and this helps matters slightly. Pranging him is a different bottle of illicit gin altogether though, 'cos he keeps running away, and leaping up and down the packing crates in a bid to avoid capture. Ness isn't helped by the fact that Capone's mob have a liberal 'bullet allowance' in their wage, and all seem more than happy to share it with him. Collecting violin cases dropped by wasted baddies though, helps Ness upgrade his weapons and provides him with enough energy and ammunition to complete the level.
A BRIDGE TOO FAR...
Level Two finds Ness in the process of intercepting a cross border smuggling attempt, and being engaged in a gun battle with yet more of Capone's mob. To the untrained eye this level might look like an Oppo Wolf rip-off, but crikey no! 'Cos here your gunsight is viewed through a pair of binoculars at the bottom of the screen and the main aim of this section is not to puncture Capone's cronies but to shoot 50 bottles of booze within the time limit. Of course, Capone's lot get in the way, and in their own inconsiderate style, keep shooting and chucking bottles at you. Luckily for you, every so often a first aid box pops up which will restore his energy if he manages to shoot it.
By Level Three Ness has gathered together the rest of the 'ver lads' to reform his Untouchables team. But two of them are pinned down in some back alleys by Capone's men and need to be used in rotation to take on the baddies.
One of the characters must duck out from behind a wall, fire two shots, and then duck back behind for cover to reload his gun. If one sprite gets hit several times, it's best to change character, allowing the first to rebuild his energy supplies. In each alley a number of enemies must be wiped within a set time to progress onto the next alley near the train station where Capone's accountant is about to escape in the final eight alley. Capone himself must be taken on and beaten to progress to the next level.
Yus indeed, and they don't come any bouncier than this one. Let me explain. This level is based on the railway station scene where Ness and Stone have to take out billions of baddies whilst preventing a baby in its pram bouncing down the stairs to its death or getting shot on the way. Baddies must be shot of course, but innocent bystanders must be avoided, as killing them will drain your energy.
It's a view from above jobbie and no doubt some of you might be muttering Commando under your breath at the sight of this section. Well, yes, but yer intrepid Rambo type never had to do the baby sitting at the same time, did he? If you push the pram too hard or the baby gets shot, then a brilliantly gross sequence follows when the baby, splattered with blood, comes bouncing out of the pram and skids straight across the floor. Bleuch!
'THE BRAIN ARRIVING ON PLATFORM FIVE...'
This is what you might call a pico level. It's a straightforward shot blaster - again taken from the film's train station sequence. Seen from a first person perspective, Stone has just one shot to 'apprehend' (i.e. kill) a baddie who's taken Capone's accountant (you know, the one who's been trying to escape via the train station for the last two levels) hostage. Miss and the hostage buys it, hit and there's baddie brains all over the place.
THE NITTI GRITTI
Here's the last bit of mayhem - very similar to Level Three. This time Frank Nitti, Capone's main henchman, is pursued across the rooftops by Ness. Each time Ness hits Nitti, he gets a little closer to him, and Nitti I forced closer to the edge of the building. Shoot Nitti six times and he plunges over the edge, to end up, as Ness puts it in the film 'in the car'. Ho ho ho... very droll.
Sean: Am I dreaming? I must be dreaming, it's just not possible. Surely no one could squeeze that much astounding playability and coding into a modest wee Amiga. Hang about, I'll pinch myself to check. YARRGH! By gonad - I'm not dreaming!
Now readers, sorry for all the drooling, but it's not often that you come across what is probably going to be remembered as the best, most original shoot 'em up ever on the Amiga. I can think of no other way of putting it - The Untouchables is absolutely stunning. Right now, calm down and when you're sitting comfortably I'll go through all the various aspects rationally to give you an idea why The Untouchables is sooooo good. Right...
Firstly, and most importantly of all, there's the gameplay. Programmers Special FX have taken some fairly old ideas for the various sections, thrown in some completely original ideas of their own, and in every case come up with thoroughly absorbing gameplay. Take the bridge section for example. Although it looks like Operation Wolf, rather than shooting everything in sight continually, the player spends more time rolling Ness around and avoid being hit, whilst firing away in staccato bursts to hit the bottles and first aid kits. The third section - the alleyway - is definitely my personal favourite. Again, a kind of Prohibition derivative as you guide the sights over the enemy before blasting them away, but also enhanced to improve it.
This time the enhancement is in the fact that you're working against the clock with just two bullets to fire before being forced to duck behind the wall (for reloading). This gives the game a real sense of urgency and momentum which really had me gripped, and the little sequence showing the detail as Ness reloads each time, perfectly completes this excellent section.
And then there's the graphics. You will see from the accompanying screenshots just how excellent these are. Special FX have been working since the beginning of this year on The Untouchables and it certainly shows. Every section is finely detailed (just check out the details of Ness and the pram from level four) and although it sounds pseud - I can only describe the backgrounds and sprites as 'elegant and exquisite'. (Lordy! Ed.)
Then, of course, you have to take into account the variety. Each of the sections stands up as a little game in its own right (with the exception of the pico level) the first being an excellent platformy ladders game, the third an outstanding Prohibition variation, and so on. The game also brilliantly complements the movie though that's really neither here nor there, but the fact is that the mood and atmosphere of the film are captured here as perfectly as any computer adaptation of a movie is ever likely to do.
It's difficult to explain why exactly The Untouchables improves on so many old game formulas in such dramatic style. Certainly screenshots don't do the playability justice. But without doubt, The Untouchables is the best game Ocean has ever produced, and the best game Special FX have ever programmed.
Jackie: You know how it is with film licences. The software companies spend so much moolah on the licences themselves that when it comes to actually putting the game together, there's just about enough money left over to pay a programmer to program it. Thankfully, though, this isn't the case with The Untouchables. Ocean has made a real effort to get this one right and so they should have done - 'cos they've had the licence for a year. Special FX, the authors of such stonkers as Batman: The Caped Crusader have done the coding and come up with the goods. The Untouchables is, quite simply, brill.
Several game types have been adapted to make up six levels to play through, but they all have enough new ideas and elements thrown in to destroy any suspicions of staleness. Each of the sections is perfectly self-contained but at the same time they work well together and go to make a surprisingly coherent whole. It's a brill adaptation of one of my favourite movies and just like the movie, there are moments of intense mayhem followed by quiet, tense lulls in the battling. But there's no time for fingerdrumming 'cos the lulls are filled with reloading your gun or hunting for enemies lurking above, below or to the side of you, depending which level you are playing.
The graphics are outstanding in every respect - apart from the fact that the Ness sprite didn't look enough like gorgeous Kevin Costner (who played the treasury man in the movie and who could check my taxable assets any day) in my humble opinion. But overall they were amazingly detailed and thoughtfully coloured and the sprites were really smoothly animated. One thing which I did find initially, was that the game was a bit tricky to get to grips with. But once I'd got the hang of it, really opened up and I soon found myself dribbling uncontrollably and giggling with glee as each hood got a terminal puncture.
Ocean and Special FX have really done a fantastic job and I reckon it'll be quite a while before we see a shoot 'em up and film tie-in as good as this one. Better than a concrete overcoat!