The Final Gate logo CD32

Reviewed by Dan Whitehead

Utter pap. Just so you're in no doubt as to the quality of this game. I'll repeat that. Utter pap. Utter, utter pap. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me describe the game to you. Final Gate is in the broadest terms, a shoot-'em-up. Pumped up with a Full Motion Video hose, you sweep down a river in a speedboat and blast away at the approaching baddies before they collide with your face. Snipers line the riverbanks and take pot shots at you, requiring you to blow them out of their waders at a moment's notice. Operation Wolf a la mer., with a garnish of 'interactive movie'. In theory.

Described thus, Final Gate actually sounds quite exciting. But, oh no! It's not. For a start, the description I gave you might suggest that this is Miami Vice-style action. But from the moment the FMV chugs into life, it becomes clear that this was actually filmed on some grimy canal in industrial England. The hideous monsters who hurtle towards you could have easily wandered from a Space Invaders machine circa 1981.
They lurch towards you, and unless you shoot them they just sort of vanish. This apparently means they've hit you and a bit of energy is lost. As they move quickly, and the gunsight doesn't, this happens a lot. The only consolation is that they appear in exactly the same place each game, so you can soon predict what's coming next.

The hideous monsters who hurtle towards you could have easily wandered from a Space Invaders machine circa 1981

The 'actors' on the riverbank are highlighted by a half-box gunsight, presumably to help you pop their clogs. Very kind of them, but perhaps collision detection might have been more useful. Many times I held the gunsight over the fella in question, with the fire button firmly depressed, sending bullets all over the general area as I sped past. And still I missed. Maybe I'm rubbish, but the fact that you can't use a mouse makes it very frustrating when you have to haul the sights over the screen with the joystick. Should you manage to shoot them then some bloke appears and gurns at you saying "Good shot". You then get to see the gunmen fall over and your boat continues down the river.

And that's pretty much it. It's basic, but that's usually a blessing for most games. Add the myriad defects here though, and it's a recipe for disaster. Some of the other annoyances that depress me too much to discuss in any depth are the tiny playing area, the use of the generic Amiga font throughout the game, the way you have to restart at the beginning of the first level every time you die, and the way the whole game resets when you run out of lives.
One of the most painful games I've ever played.

Final word

This is truly hideous. Unlike most FMV games this one doesn't even have the decency to hide behind nice graphics. If Final Gate was a TV show it would be on ITV at about three in the morning, just before Jobfinder. And that's where it belongs.

The Final Gate logo CD32

It is terrible. It is tiresome. The acting is laughably mediocre - but hey, that is enough about Steve McGill...

Games with Full Motion Video (FMV) are still being flagged as the great white hope in some videogame publishing quarters. The ethos behind FMV's unfounded implementation is that it is one of the best methods of attracting adult audiences toward the interactive videogame medium. Videogames, after all, are more associated with Toys 'R' Us, monopolistic practices, and spotty 14 year old kids.

Realistically speaking, FMV in a game represents tenuous thinking at best and a total waste of resources at worst. You could probably count the number of people on the fingers of a thumb who think that Rebel Assault has high entertainment value.

Yet, that is not to say that FMV games are necessarily a dead loss. Take The Final Gate on the CD32 from Alternative Software. A threadbare plot suspended by disbelief above a chasm of raucous laughter holds the whole production together.

You are a rubber suited hard dude placed at the bow of a powerboat armed with a big gun. The powerboat embarks on a dangerous journey up-river. Your job is to shoot computer generated objects heading toward the craft. It is reminiscent of the poor man's Space Harrier used in Microcosm. Which basically means that the core of the game quickly becomes tiresome.

But strangely, it does not quite make it into the realm of exceedingly boring. For there are real people lurking on the banks of the river intent on shooting you too. Returning the favour produces the best laughs of the game. If you shoot the potential assassins - the baddies are framed in half a rectangle - a 'Good Shot' cutaway comes into play. Following on from that are the parts of the game which, if Alternative are not careful, could easily give it a cult status. The shooters fall over in a mock death that can only be described as laughable.

Hopefully, Alternative do not think we are being cruel in the criticism of the game. It is terrible, but not so terrible that it lacks charm. I have really warmed to it and made a point of showing it to as many people as possible. The death sequences are something special and the actors look as if they have graduated from the Ed Wood school of mediocrity. Hilarious.

On the downside is the fact that the game resets after just three lives, works inside too small a window to be comfortable for a Space Harrier derivative, and does not give the player the option of using a mouse.

With a bit more thought, it could have been real fun. As it stands, it is firmly resident in the also ran camp of CD32 FMV releases. But somehow that still does not stop The Final Gate from being just a little bit lovable.

The Final Gate: Box 1
1 The best part of the game is shooting real people on the side of the riverbank. If you hit them then see boxes 2 and 3. If not look out for boxes 4 and 5.
The Final Gate: Box 2 The Final Gate: Box 3
2 Mr. Happy appears if you make the hit. 3 Then you are treated to the best acting in the world.
The Final Gate: Box 4 The Final Gate: Box 5
4 If you miss, Mr Happy is not so happy and he cuts away. 5 It is very hard not to die after a human hits you.

The Final Gate logo CD32 AGA Only

Hanz aufs Herz: Wer hätte nicht schon mal einen neidischen Blick auf Multi-media-Spektakel à la "Rebel Assault 2" geworfen, die im Amigareich immer noch Seltenheitswert besitzen? Tja, der Neid bleibt, auch wenn nun eine Video-Ballerina aus dem Alternative-Ensemble zur "Freundin" kommt.

Die verquicking von Musik, Videos und interaktiven Elementen auf einer Silberscheibe hat die Welt nicht nur um ein neues Modewort bereichert, sondern auch das Computer-Entertainment kräftig vorangebracht. Wo viel Licht ist, muß man aber auch nach dem Schatten meist nicht lange suchen - einen zumindest zweifelhaften Ruf genießen z.B. Jene Full Motion Video-Ballerspiele, bei denen die CD lediglich als Datenträger für eine fertig vorberechnete 3D-Landschaft dient: Die Hintergrundkulisse wird ähnlich wie ein Videoclip abgespült, das Programm baut auf dem Screen nur noch das eine oder andere Gegnersprite als Kanonenfutter ein, fertig ist die 08/15-Action.

Die Einflußmöglichkeiten des Spielers beschränken sich dabei natürlich auf das schlichte Anvisieren und Abballern der Ziele, während von aufrüstbaren Waffensystemen, dem Verlängern der Flug- bzw. Fahrbahn und damit einen klassischen Gameplay meist nicht die Rede ist. Daß so etwas trotzdem sehr hübsch aussehen und für eine Weile sogar recht unterhaltsam sein kann, bewies "Microcosm", das erste und bisher auch einzige Amiga-Programm dieser Art.

Während man damals durch den menschlichen Körper düste und sich dort mit Bakterien, Viren etc. anlegte, rast man hier mit dem Schnellboot über einen Fluß, der sich durch eine nicht näher bezeichnete Ecke der englischen Insel schlängelt. Per Fadenkreuz knallt man unterwegs die auftauchenden Gegner ab, natürlich möglichst bevor man selbt beschossen wird oder mit den flott heranzoomenden Objekten kollidiert und dadurch etwas von seinen knapp bemessenen Energiereserven verliert.

Das Erlegen der ebenfalls vorrätigen, silbrig glänzenden Extra-symbole bringt einen zwar kräftemäßig wieder nach vorne, nur leider läßt sich dieses Kraftfutter bloß wahnsinnig selten auf dem Screen blicken. Und wie das im Video-Genre so üblich ist, durchpflügt man auch ständig dasselbe Fahrwasser in immer gleicher Richtung - nur ab und zu wir der arglos dahinplätschernde Spielfluß durch eher nichtssagende "Cut-Scenes" unterbrochen.

Da sieht man dann etwa, wie das Boot unter einer Brücke durchfährt, oder ein plötzlich erscheinender Kopf verkündet mit dem jeweils passenden Gesichtsausdruck, daß man soeben ein besonders wichtiges Ziel getroffen bzw. verpaßt habe.

Unser ansonsten fixfertiges Presse-Testmuster hatte noch keine Anleitung, daher können wir Euch auch den tieferen Grund für diese kriegerischen Bootsfahrt nicht verraten. Obwohl, interessant wäre es schon, zu erfahren, wieso man hier manchmal auf ganz normale Gangster schießt und dann wieder auf absolut lächerlich wirkend Totenköpfe oder Kreisel im prähistorischen DreifarbenLook.

Dafür kennen wir bereits die Antwort auf drei nicht minder bedeutsame Fragen: Warum kann man hier nicht abspeichern oder wenigstens via Level-code in höhere Spielabschnitte gelangen? Warum muß man nach dem Verlust jedes einzelnen der insgesamt drei Anfangsleben wieder ganz von vorne anfangen?

Warum funktioniert die Steuerung ausschließlich per Stick, obwohl der Mausbetrieb eigentlich viel praktischer wäre? Antwort: Die CD ist gerade mal zu einem Viertel bespielt, und da Videofilme berüchtigte Speicherplatzfresser sind, blieb für die Feinheiten des ungefähr 15 Minuten andauernde Gameplays eben nicht mehr viel übrig...

Das bleihaltige Geschehen spielt sich in einem arg kleinen Fenster ab, das von riesigen Score- und Energieanzeigen umrahmt wird. Ansonsten hat man sich in Sachen Präsentation aber schon angestrengt, denn zahlreiche Kameraschwenks und unterschiedliche Perspektiven sorgen für optische Abwechslung, dazu gibt's packende Begleitmusik bzw. -effekte und sogar ein paar Brocken Sprachausgabe.

Dadurch fühlt man sich tatsächlich ein bißchen im Jagdfieber wie James Bond, der die Bösewichter vom Rennboot aus aufs Korn nimmt. Und ganz wie beim Agenten Ihrer Majestät sind die Feinde viel zahlreicher als die Ruhepausen, so daß sich auch geübte Schützen anstrengen müssen, um das Happy-End zu erleben.

An sich verträgt sich das Game problemlos mit (dem CD32 und) jedem AGA-Amiga, der über ein CD-Laufwerk verfügt. Sofern dort kein CD32 Emulator installiert ist, gestaltet sich allerdings die Startprozedur wegen des fehlenden Starticons etwas umständlich: In diesem Fall bringt man The Final Gate über die Shell oder durch einen Doppelklick auf das File "Boatlevel" zum Laufen.

Auf dem A1200er macht sich zudem die Anwesenheit von Speich-erweiterungen oder Turbokarten durch heftiges Flackern bemerkbar. Das vor dem Startbefehl eingesetzte Shell-Kommando "cpu nocache" schafft dieses Phänomen auch nicht völlig aus der Welt, lindert aber wenigstens die Krankheitssymptome.

Unter dem Strich hat Alternative also nicht gerade einen Meilenstein des Genres vorgelegt, doch bei der Wertung wollen wir dennoch Gnade vor Recht ergehen lassen: Erstens macht das Spiel auf beim zweiten und dritten Durchgang noch erstaunlich viel Spaß, zweitens existieren dazu auf dem Amiga zur Zeit nun mal wenig bis gar keine Alternativen. (rl)

The Final Gate logo CD32

Full Motion Video - not quite the breakthrough we'd anticipated.

Alternative have missed the point with The Final Gate. What they should have done was market it as a sort of interactive music CD, with some funny graphics as an added bonus. The music is, unsurprisingly, a high beats per minute techno affair that's actually quite good. And the great interactive bit comes when you press the fire button which activates a rather awful shooting sound. By using your skill and judgement, you can beat in time to the rhythm of the music..

And that's it. Boot up The Final Gate, whack up the sound and spend half an hour pressing the fire button in time to the music. Cool. But then again, fifteen smackers is a lot of money when you consider buying a decent music CD for much less, and hammering a biscuit tin with a wooden spoon would be as much fun.

"Ah, but then you wouldn't have the game to play!" you all cry. (And believe me, after playing The Final Gate you really will be crying). Yet all the game involves is using the joypad to direct a cross-hair sight around the tiny window in which runs FMV featuring a couple of chaps on a speedboat, rushing down a river.

Every now and again you have to move the cross-hair over some funny graphics of faces and thigns that come towards you, pressing the fire button to destroy them. Unfortunately, these faces and things are reminiscent of stuff that appeared on the Spectrum.

But there's more to The Final Gate than that. For example, you can't go around just shooting whenever you want because there is a small energy meter at the bottom of the screen which decreases with every shot (annoying when you're trying to shoot along to the music) so you have to conserve your shots.

You also lose energy every time you fail to destroy one of the funny faces (occurs frequently because using the joypad to move the cross-hair around makes it painfully slow). Energy can be re-gained at certain points in the game when you see an E on the screen. Shoot the E and you get more energy.

As advanced as Pong

The other main gameplay feature is shooting baddies at key stages of the journey along the river. Failure to do so and you'll lose a life and have to start the journey all over again. Hopefully though, you won't have to go right back to the beginning when you might be really far into game, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the re-start points (if there are any) are few and far between enough to really get on your nerves anyway. Still, that's adding gameplay value, surely? I mean, you don't want to be able to complete the game first round do you?

Of course, once you do manage to shoot the highlighted baddies a FMV close-up of some bearded chap's face leering at you appears with the words "Good Shot!" Then, you are required to continue your journey down the river to face more of those other funny faces and things that look like weird birds and crap missiles.

Actually, if you miss the baddie you get to continue anyway but you have a penalty energy loss imposed on you which is severe enough to make it nigh on impossible to continue. Once you've lost your three lives it's game over and you have to do it all again. Hnngh.

So that's about the size of it. The Final Gate is dreadful. There's no fun to be gained from playing the game and I don't know what possessed Alternative to think that, just because they've got some FMV playing the background, people are going to be captivated by it that they'll put up with a gaming idea that's as advanced as Pong.

Even with the turbo button on my gun thingie is firing at a faster-than-the-soundtrack rate and my cross-hair's dancing all over the highlighted baddie that it is very hit and miss as to whether I well, hit or miss him. Don't buy this game, even if you know all the people in it.