There is nothing so nice as messing about on the river. Unfortunately, the Viet Cong, a Colombian drug cartel and a deposed Panamanian dictator also think so. These guys are bad news. If the waterways of South America can be seen as a giant boating lake, then these are the drunken yobs in the overloaded rowing-boat - bawling rowdy rugby songs, chucking lager cans and striking terror into the hearts of courting couples. It is your job to chuck them out of the park.
Hot, wet and tight
If only it were that easy. Apocalypse Now captured the spirit of one of the dirtiest forms of war: claustrophobic, tense and immediately hostile, who knows what ambush lurks as the dark river snakes around the next bend?
Occasionally the river passage narrows until it is impassable, but the only way is forward. Three sweltering combat zones await the attention of your River Patrol Boat (PBR). Fast, powerful and manoeuvrable, these craft have been the backbone of US Naval river-combat over the last three decades.
Gunboat is essentially a blast-em-up romp with enough think-em-up complexity to provide a tough and challenging combat simulation. Report to HQ, arm your boat and embark upon your first set of missions in Vietnam. Successfully negotiate these early skirmishes and earn promotion to tougher assignments in Colombia and finally the Panama canal.
Check the map for accurate navigation. A radar blips the whereabouts of other craft. You have eight tons of fire-power crammed into a 30-foot hull, but with power comes responsibility. There are civilians and friendly troops out there as well as enemies. Ask for a target identification before firing - mistakes cannot be corrected later.
20 missions await the four person crew of your BPR. You must master the disciplines necessary to perform all four duties if you are to survive very long as captain. Take the helm as pilot, or choose to man one of the three gunning stations. Either way, it is up to you as captain to see that your mission is successful.
Is it safe to leave the computer in charge of navigation? Can gunners be relied upon to reap the rewards of your careful manoeuvring?
Somewhere down the crazy river...
Gunboat is a competent combat simulation. It is easy to get started, yet extremely tough to master. Initial straightforward blasting jaunts up the river appear ludicrously easy when compared retrospectively to later levels.
Details are the key. Will you remember to kill the engines while sneaking up behind an enemy? Should you kill your spotlights or risk getting seen? How does your boat cope on open water? Is it more prudent to stay close to the shore, or would that offer the inevitable snipers a sitting duck? The responsibility is yours.
Graphically Gunboat is not outstanding. The 3D polygon graphics are good, but not that good (as they say). But this does not matter. The hook lies in the spirit of the adventure, and this is where Gunboat picks up points. A challenge worthy of addition to your collection.