Quake. Brilliant. The tension, the levels, the monsters, the sound, the experience. Almost everything about the game's brilliant. Almost, because you need an amazing Amiga to get the thing to run at all and, even then, one of the game's biggest features is inaccessible to 99.9% of Amiga owners - the network option.
Even for that 00.1% of people who could get their go-faster Amiga networked, they'd better stick to only playing other Amiga gamers because the machine's simply not fast enough to take on anyone who's got a decent Pentium in front of them. Just ask Ben about all the tears of frustration he's cried...
Genetic Species is much more accessible to the Amiga gaming public. Sure, you need a decent slice of memory and an accelerator card is going to be very useful, but you don't need a graphics card to get the thing to move at a decent speed - your ordinary AGA chipset is fine and you'll be able to get all the enjoyment from the game, allbeit at a lower detail level and at something less than the full screen.
So what's it all about then? Well, you can probably make up your own storyline but the official one's something to do with a space
All the usual elements are included - you start off with a simple .44 Magnum and get to find and use better weapons as you explore the levels.
Talking of exploring, Genetic Species really needs a map. There's a simple area map that can be called up whenever you lot onto one of the orange computer terminals that are scattered around. However, these are very general and i's very easy to get yourself lost as you sneak or run about the place.
... you start off with a simple .44 Magnum and get to find and use better weapons as you explore the levels.
Even when you've been told that a level's clear of enemies so you can breathe a sigh of relief and go back and try to find all those extra energy and ammo packs you saw earlier but were unable to pick up, it can be annoying because you can waste an awful lot of time wandering around very similar-
This could, arguably, be a gameplay feature. "Well, it's like real-life where you don't have a map anyway", could be the argument, but it's not washing with me. We've become used to maps in games of this type and though Quake didn't have one, that was because you didn't really need it much.
The levels were not all full of identical corridors and it was quite easy to remember how to get to that balcony you passed a while back because, although large, the levels were easy to navigate as they were in proper three dimensions.
As well as having most of the elements present in the game in the shape of ammo packs, extra weapons and energy boosts, GS's level progression is fairly familiar.
Thankfully, the game doesn't allow you to pick up extra energy when you're topped up so you can come back for any packs you were unable to take onboard when you first found them - if you can be bothered to go and find 'em, that is. Ouch, that's a bit harsh.
Essentially, you'll run around everywhere that's accessible, clearing any baddies out of the way, and then you'll concentrate on getting through all the doors that were denied to you previously. This means the familiar routine of finding and tripping switches and hoping they relate to the door that you wanted (there's no small visual clues to show you what effect you've just had).
Like most of the better games of this type though, the enemies you face are never in their thousands. Sometimes you come across packs of them, especially the spider-
You're never going to be very far from something that needs killing, and you can eventually guarantee that every new room or corridor you enter has at least one baddie.
However, the fewer and further between approach makes this much more of an exploration/
And again, as you'd expect, there's lots of scenery to interact with. Fuel tanks, barrels of nuclear waste and what have you can usually all be blown up (don't stand right next to them, though, eh?). It's worth noting the placing of them as you're moving around the levels because they're often the keys to unlocking otherwise inaccessible areas which you wouldn't normally be able to get to. Let's take the first level as an example as it tidily deals with the game's saving structure too.
Fuel tanks, barrels of nuclear waste and what have you can usually all be blown up (don't stand right next to them...)
There you are on the first level, you've had a good look around, got into a couple of scraps and found enough ammo and health-
The game only allows you to save your position at certain points. There are these swirly white clouds in certain areas - enter the cloud and you're allowed to save your position.
On the first level you can see one of these clouds in a room. The weapon you've got at the moment isn't powerful enough to blow open the cage door (this can be done on certain doors on later levels if you've found yourself a powerful weapon).
However, there are a couple of fuel tanks nearby. Get the picture? Retire to a safe distance and fire a couple of shots into the fuel tanks. Hey presto, you've done what you're supposed to (cue Michael Caine, "You're only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!"), and you can now safely save your game.
That doesn't mean you can walk into just anything though. Some things are extremely bad for your health and unfortunately you're probably not going to know if it kills you until you walk into it, so err on the side of caution and assume everything's going to kill you.
If you really want to find out if those green bars are as painful as you think they might be, the best thing (obviously) is to try to save your game immediately before.
One thing Genetic Species doesn't do too well is allow you to carry different weapons. There are some exciting weapons to find, but say you come across some hand grenades when you're already carrying the Tazer (what a useless piece of kit that is - stun the guards a couple of times and in about one second they're back up and shooting at you - grr!) then it doesn't let you pick the grenades up.
Well, that's what happened to me, and I couldn't find a way to drop the Tazer so I had to go and use a keycard on a door that I didn't want to yet, simply to get a slot free so I could pick up the grenades.
And is it any fun to play? Mostly, yes. There are some annoying bits - you tend to be very bouncy when you're walking and running around and that can make targeting the baddies a little difficult at times.
Fortunately you don't have to be pixel accurate to kill off the enemies but it's easy to waste shots when you're moving and the last thing you want to do is run out of ammo. If that happens, you're stuck. Usually the only solution is to go and explore a new area of the level (which is bound to be crawling with baddies, just when you don't want it to be) and hopefully find some quickly.
This means the familiar routine of finding and tripping switches and hoping they relate to the door you wanted...
OK, so maybe I've been a bit harsh on Genetic Species in places. It is a good game and though it's not Quake, at least it's playable on a machine that doesn't need all sorts of extras to get it running satisfactorily. The graphics are good throughout, though the baddies aren't generally the best drawn in the world and the animation is jerky.
There are some lovely special effects, especially when you're shooting and blowing things up. The sound is fine but not astounding, and the game plays as well as any of the other Doom clones that have appeared lately.
At the risk of getting Vulcan miffed though, I'm going to stay shy of awarding this a Format Gold. For me, the game just didn't have the atmosphere and tension a game like this needs. Sure, it's big enough, sure, it's tough enough and sure, it's fun to play once you get into it.
The unfolding storyline does help you become more involved but when you're actually playing the game you can't help feeling you've been here many times before.
Alien Breed 3D II is, for my money, a better game. It may not look as nice and may not run as well on a lower-end machine, but it was just more enjoyable to play.
If you've had your fill of AB3DII if you just can't afford all the extras you need to get Quake (and any of its add-ons) to run, then I can certainly say you won't be disappointed with Genetic Species.
It's got everything that all good first person games should have and it's certainly hard enough to present a decent challenge to anyone (even on easy mode) and it's certainly well worth buying.
It's good but it's not an all-time classic, and much as I want to reward Vulcan for their efforts and much as I adore the glorious, long, animated intro at the beginning, I just feel it's lacking something.
The best thing to do is buy the game (you're going to enjoy it anyway) and then drop me a line and let me know whether you think I've been too harsh.