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When the going gets tough, the tough start Abusing, as Ben Vost discovers...

Although Abuse is a good game, it would have probably sunk without a trace. Electronic Arts brought it out for the PC just after Doom hit the streets in a big way and although it had user-customisable weapons and levels (and even comes with a level editor), nobody today would probably know about it, least of all on the Amiga.

However, at the start of this years, along with loads of other software companies, Crack Dot Com (sounds like a pirate organisation, I know) decided to put Abuse out to pasture and give away the source code.

Although Doom got all the press, then Descent, and then Quake, it would be a mistake to ignore this quirky little platformer which not only has plenty to offer in its own right as a game, but is also more suited to the leisurely pace at which most Amiga processors amble.

For those of us with a machine on which Quake can be played enjoyably, there are bells and whistles that can be turned on, like the lightning effects, but it will quite happily run on an '030, even though it slows down somewhat when the action really hots up. Installing it is a simple matter of coping all the files to your hard disk and then you're ready to rock.

We had no trouble with it whatsoever on any of the machines we tried it on, ranging from an '030 with 8Mb RAM to an '060-equipped A4000. The game takes advantage of the hardware you have available, using AHI and RTGMaster for sound and graphics cards respectively, although it does offer native AGA screenmodes too.

For those who can't determine what sort of game Abuse is from the screenshots, I'll tell you that it's like Turrican set in Aliens, but played with the keyboard and the mouse. Got it?

It's a platform-based shoot--em-up stealing liberally from James Cameron's meisterwork, but unlike Turrican, it allows you to shoot in any direction. You see, you control your little blokey (Nick Vrennaby by name, shooty monster by nature) using the keyboard to get his little legs to make him run left and right, jump and call lifts, switch switches, press buttons and the like. Meanwhile, your mouse hand controls the direction in which he aims, his shooting and speeding up.

...there are a number of other baddies, like gun turrets, big robots and scenery-based nastiness

You have a variety of weapons at your disposal, from the fairly standard pulse laser and grenade launcher to the more esoteric guided rocket launcher, flamethrower and others. Shooting the Alien lookalikes sometimes results in them dropping useful ammo packs.

You see, unlike the aliens in Aliens, these little blighters have guns like you do, but fortunately they're are a lot easier to kill and don't appear to have acid for blood. In addition to the Aliens (sorry, aliens), there are a number of other baddies, like gun turrets, big robots and scenery-based nastiness (long drops, lava, one-way corridors and the like).

The gameplay doesn't alter much over the course of the game, but neither does the gameplay in Doom. The only problem that I can see is that you're only allowed five saves to do the whole game, although you do get a nice thumbnail picture showing you where you've saved.

All in all, Abuse isn't a great game, but it is a very good one. It isn't first person perspective, it doesn't have polygon-based bad guys and it doesn't have an eerie CD soundtrack, but it's still a corker with the bad guys waiting for you around every corner.

What's more, it's still very cheap thanks to the fact that the main executable is Freeware, and you can even try it out on AFCD30.

Techie stuff

Abuse is based around Lisp, the same language that was used for Commodore's Installer program. It's not nice to use, but it can be pretty powerful if you spend some time on it. Even if you comment it heavily, it can be a pain to try to unravel someone else's script so you'll have your work cut out for you.
Having said that, we fully expect to see your extra Abuse levels and weapons on upcoming AFCDs, so get a move on and learn how to program!