Game sequels are a right pain to review. The problem is that the second version of any game is invariably the same as the first only with the bugs removed, so everything I'd like to say was said in the first review. (Honours in this case go to Jonathan Davies in AP44, whose in-depth and exhaustive review covered Zeewolf comprehensively).
You'll appreciate this makes my job more difficult, so forgive me if I moan at any great length. That aside, I want to make something quite clear from the outset. If you have an A1200, then buy Zeewolf 2 because it's great. But if you haven't, then don't.
Zeewolf prides itself on being compatible with all Amigas and, in the sense that it runs on them, that's true. However, as was noted in the original review (9% for A1200s, 74% for A500s), the running speed's so low on anything but the 1200 as to make it little more than a demonstration of the graphics. Even on a 1200 the game slows down noticeably when the action throws explosions, rockets and numerous vehicles onto the screen, while on a 500 it practically stops.
As with its predecessor Zeewolf 2 has 32 missions based around your hi-tech helicopter. The mission objectives are strikingly similar to EA's Desert Strike, and take the form of rescuing soldiers, moving equipment using a winch with the vehicle slung under the chopper, escorting friendly planes and helicopters and, of course, blowing things up.
No, I'm bloody well not
The graphics are hugely reminiscent of David Braben's Virus, with a mufti-directionally scrollling patchwork of squares sliding in and out of the darkness that borders the play area on all sides.
The most noticeable differences between this and the original are aesthetic - the presentation and scenery clearly rejuvenated in the sequel. The screen dressing's much better, with the map and weapon boxes now bordered by a suitably militaristic display. Of this I approve. The scenery has also benefited from an extra year of thought, with the plain bunkers and huts now complemented by cottages, oil rigs, pyramids, tower blocks and other larger structures.
Some of these affect the game (anti-aircraft guns, for example, are frequently mounted on concrete plinths, making them invulnerable to low level rocket attacks) but most of them just look pretty. These may be subtle improvements but the combined effect of the smoother coastlines, varying terrains and larger vehicles is impressive. Zeewolf is a visually stunning game.
Like a piece of resubmitted homework, the obvious errors of Zeewolf have been corrected. Blissfully, enemy vehicles DO now vanish from the scanner once you've destroyed them, your semi-automatically targeted weaponry NO LONGER locks on to burning hulks instead of live and mad enemies and EVERY level has a password.
In and out of the darkness
Now consider this - all that I've mentioned so far amount to mere modifications. A new game requires new ideas and, in this case, it's remote-controlled vehicles. In the course of the game you can land the chopper next to a remote-link tank and control a transport chopper, a VTOL plane, a tank and a gunboat.
Although not exactly a new idea (Jungle Strike did pretty much the same thing) it does open up all sorts of possibilities for different tactics - like driving the tank into an armoured bunker to protect it from an airstrike for example, or sscooping a floating object out of the water. Unfortunately, the idea's been weakly implemented and largely wasted, which is a crying shame.
I put it down to those age-old problems of in-house playtesters and lack of vision. Playtesters, used to controlling the extra vehicles, are unlikely to go barging into buildings, coastlines or other geographical features. Players unfamiliar with the game are likely to crash them to destruction even before they've had so much as a sniff of the enemy.
The extra craft have a similar amount of armour to the Zeewolf, but while the helicopter and plane can duck and weave through enemy fire three dimensionally, the boat and tank tend to enter the enemies' field of fire and stay there until they're mashed.
I love the boat with its groovy torpedoes, but can't get it through narrow channels without grounding it, and the tank's hard-hitting, "one shot kills all" shells are amazing, but I never got to sue them for more than a minute. Only the VTOL's truly useful, and even then it's virtually the same as fying the Zeewolf itself.
And then there's a level where you use a remote-controlled enemy chopper to drop a bomb on the enemy base. The bomb's something approaching a nuke, so I tried a running attack in a bid to escape the blast. No go - the cable wouldn't release. Then I tried dropping the bomb and hoofing off before it exploded, only to be told that my control was inhibited. Now the nuke thing's a great idea but surely it would've been better to give me a chance to escape the blast rather than waiting around to get vaped?
Most of them just look pretty
At another point you're offered a transport helicopter to evacuate large numbers of soldiers from enemy buildings, but instead of looking like a transport helicopter, it's just a slightly fattter cannon-only Zeewolf.
Now wouldn't it have looked more impressively transportery if it'd been a lumbering twin-rotored Chinook instead? And better still if, instead of flying and firing exactly the same as the Zeewolf, the transport chopper had side-firing door gunners, so you could fly in circles around a target and pour down a steady stream of fire? A few more imaginative touches would have gone a long way to making each vehicle behave differently.
Notice I said that you're offered a transport helicopter, because the fact is that the extra vehicles are completely disposable. Later levels force you to use them by giving the Zeewolf meagre ammo and fuel, ut that's a naff way of utilising slightly feeble extras. Unless you're forced, there's no need to play them. It's frustrating enough to make me grab my hair and go, "Eek".
And there are still a couple of horribly obvious problems. Hitting some of the scenery causes your vehicle to recoil slightly, and all too often, this bangs you into something else. Time after time, I've blasted my way through the enemies' defences only to clip a house and lose all my armour in a stacatto burst of hitting the house, hitting the ground, back to the house and BANG, I'm dead. How infuriating.
Stay there until they're mashed
Although you're given a wonderfully detailed briefing at the start of the level, the in-game briefings are needlessly sketchy. Am I likely to remember which bunker I'm supposed to pick up the commandos from ten minutes after the briefing? No I'm bloody well not, and the lack of a dot on the map marking their location has been enough to force me to abandon the mission and start again.
And then if I've accidentally wasted them all with a poorly aimed missile, (thus preventing me from completing all my objectives, thus preventing me from finishing the level) at no point does it inform me that I'm wasting my time. That's just sloppy.
And one final thing, I was only given the first six passwords which, in itself, is a bit barmy. Codes for levels 15, 22 and 30 would have been far more sensible. However, as I battled through to the half way point, I noticed a sinister change in the mission structure. The gunfests, where it's just you in a thrilling battle against eight or nine enemy choppers, have disappeared.
Instead, you start with 20 cannon shells and are forced to scrounge around looking for extra rockets here or three missiles over there. Not only is this no fun at all, but it's also an odd idea for a semi-auto-targeting game. What happens if I line up on a supply dome, but my gun locks on to a nearby tank and my final shells are wasted? I have to restart the mission, that's what happens. I've a nasty feeling that this sort of tedious ordnance accountancy plays a major part of later missions, which would be tragic.
Looking back, this seems a long list of gripes for a game that's exciting, gripping and thoroughly absorbing. I loved Zeewolf to death, and the new version loads quicker, runs faster and looks far, far better. But it's just a new version, not the new game I was hoping for and disappointing that the new features are such a damp squib. Moaning aside, Zeewolf 2 is a fantastic game but, with a smidgen more imagination, it could've been flawless.