Hired Guns logo

Psygnosis leave their Lemmings behind and head on down the adventure path with their old buddies DMA.

Is there someone who really gets up your nose? Someone whose limbs you would not mind separating from their torso, or whose eyes you feel would look much better hanging down their cheeks o thin tendons? Maybe there is more than one? Invite them round to your place then, and boot up Hired Guns to relieve those tensions.

Everyone has their own style of reviewing a game. Personally, I like to begin with an introduction (like that one up there) and overview, then talk a little about what it has to offer, before giving an opinion as to how well these options are implemented - with references to other products if applicable.

Well sack that! I know there is an old adage that we should save the best till last, but really - why bother? If something stands up and shouts "I am a very good thing indeed!" at the top of its voice then the world should listen.
In case you are wondering what I am getting all hot up about, it is the sound. Yes - that which usually comes towards the back of a review - the phonetics, the intonation, the diacoustics, the sonorific resonance (can I have my thesaurus back now? - Ed).
At the outset, and before each level, there are several intro tunes which are by far and away the best tunes I have ever heard in a computer game, or am likely to do for some time I suspect.
Brian Johnston, brother of HG programmer and designer Scott, has done an absolutely superb job of setting the perfect mood with this fast-moving bassy synthesised music; connect your Amiga to the stereo and annoy the neighbours - it is great! So now you know.

The game then. Well, Hired Guns is an adventure at the core, but nothing quite so common as just that. It is a first person perspective 3D adventure, and very kindly caters for up to four players.
Set in 2707 when everyone is watched by Big Brother and work is carried out by robots, there exists a band of mercenaries who specialise in bumping people off, taking on any job at the right price. One such job is to blunder brainlessly into the attractively named town of Graveyard and rescue a number of hostages who unwittingly became imprisoned on their way to Butlins in Skegness.

One, two, three or four players choose their characters from a cast of 12, all sporting different attributes in terms of stamina, fitness, brainpower and the ability to juggle a large variety of smoked cheeses. This done, it is off into the wild blue yonder - or rather, dull brown landscape - in search for hostages.

Of course, it is no coincidence that Graveyard is so named - spooky beasts and skeletons stalk around tooled up to the eyes with all manner of weaponry, just begging to be blown away. And it is here where the first disappointment occurs. When a nasty - or a friend, for that matter - is shot, all we see are a few red lines slashed around the new corpse that resemble a naughty child's homework more than a death scene.
The sound effects are good though - although Spartan, they are realistic, and add a little depth to the lacklustre 3D graphics. The problem is that the screen is divided up into four parts to accommodate the four players, making each individual playing area very small.
Fair enough, Hired Guns is a rarity in that it caters for this many simultaneous players, but it would have been great if when in one or two-player mode the size of the play area became larger. Instead, if only you enter the game, it is you who takes charge of the four characters. They can be linked to follow each other, which makes control easier, but I cannot help thinking this part could have been handled better.
Clues to the whereabouts of the hostages can be found scattered throughout, along with extra weapons, medical packs and various ultra-modern aids.

Hired guns can be split into two definitive sections: the campaign part - nearly two million cubic metres of playing area, where a clever strategy and lots (and lots and lots...) of patience is required, and the action part - 20 stand-alone levels that can be treated as individual "quickie" adventure blasts.
It is evident from playing this that a hell of a lot of time and effort has been put into making it one very large game. And indeed, it is large - so large in fact, that despite the individual levels, ultimately the tiny play area, dark graphics and the large gaps between action make it a product lacking in any mass appeal - a game that will become a chore long before completion.

Hired Guns logo Gamer Gold

Psygnosis are back! This time with an RPG that contains a bigger death count than your average Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. Lights, camera, action!

To cheer you all up I am going to talk about death. Specifically about death in computer games. Whichever piece of software you choose to spend playing you can count on there being a bit of death in it.
Now before we carry on, let us make a little pact. Make sure your parents are not in the room while you are reading this and also promise never ever to let them read this review. If you are a parent and you are reading your kid's magazine then put it down and go and watch Gardener's World! Thank you.

Normally, you would not be able to walk out in the street and start shooting people, but via the magic of your home computer your fantasy can at least be tasted and acted out. I do not condone violence in any waym but I can still say that I do not mind playing games with it in.
Some of the best selling products of all time have been incredibly violent. Operation Wolf, Operation Thunderbolt, Moonstone, Elvira 2 and Syndicate all have more than their fair share of death and violence contained within. Even cutesy games are violent!
OK, so there is no blood to be seen, but from the inside of your cutesy, wide-eyed, happy-go-lucky character is a promising mixture of Charles Manson/Charles Bronson/Hannibal Lecter and almost everybody that starred in Reservoir Dogs.
Violence is fun! Err, but only in games you understand. I do not want you lot running about the streets causing panic and mayhem by turning into dribbling psychos.

Hired Guns is violent and death is around virtually every corner. For instance, after you have loaded up the game and selected what needs to be selected, your team of four adventurers are faced with what looks a bunch of harmless puppy dogs (similar to the one out of the Andrex advert).
Your first thought is "ahhh", but wait ten seconds and your next thought will be unprintable. They set upon your team with astounding energy and try to kill everyone in and out of sight. If you stayed still for jjust one minute it would be game over.
Nestling in your warm and eager mits is a machine gun. It is fully loaded and ready to fire. A doubt crosses your mind as you playfully finger the trigger and you think about the soppy Andrex advert with the dewy-eyed dog.
Feelings of power spread across your whole body as you blast that little fluffy ball into oblivion. Blood flies all over the place. That is when you suddenly think "Yeaaahhh!". Ok., shooting innocent puppy dogs may not be very human,e but Hired Guns brings the psycho out of you and this is all just after a couple of minutes' play.

Right, my stress levels are going through the roof at this moment, so let us sit back, be calm and serene and take a look at a Psygnosis' product that is about to change the RPG genre as we know it.
The first thing you have to do in Hired Guns is choose a squad of adventurers. You get to select four from a collection of 12. There are a couple of robots, slapped in there along with the baddes, meanest, downright scary humans ever to walk the Earth.

The first impression you get when the game finally kicks into action is that it looks very similar to previous RPGs. Captive and Dungeon Master are just a couple of examples that spring to mind. The main screen is split into equal quarters, one for each of the members on your team. If you decide to play Hired Guns with a friend, you will each get two team members to control. If you have got the necessary equipment for a four-player mode, you will only have one team member to worry about.

The trouble with Dungeon Master was that all your adventurers had to walk around together. The difference with Hired Guns is that each of your characters can go in different directions and operate separately. This means that there are a number of ways you can play the game. You can, for instance, send one character ahead to check for traps, and take a good look around the area or send in another one to cover the first character. If you want to, send them all in because as the old saying goes "there is safey in numbers", why not, especially if you have got plenty of firepower to deal with any enemies you might come up against. Obviously, there are advantages and disadvantages to whichever system you choose.

The main mission takes place over a massive territory which has been split up into a series of multi-levels, all of which are selected via the digitised map. The eventual objective is to locate four fusion power core rings which can then be used to trigger a thermonuclear explosion and supposedly destroy an entire planet - do not ask wy, it is just another one of those wacky game scenarios that you will forget as soon as you load the product up.

Liberally strewn all over the planet are boxes that contain various bits of equipment including key-cards which are essential if you want to progress through the mission. Among the keycards are other btis of equipment like guns, medi-kits, lasers, flame throwers, stunners and mini-guns. Put it this way - it is more than enough firepower to keep the A-Team happy for one episode!

Each character's quarter of the screen is very similar to a data-card filing system. If you are confused about what I mean then take a gander at the screenshots! Each screen can be selected by clicking on the title of the card. The first card is the game screen where you can see all the action happening. The second is the store card where you, umm, store all your objects and equipment. You can discard, pick up or get information on the objects just by clicking on the relevant icons.

The next is the DTS card which is basically a map which lets you know your whereabouts in a level, but unfortunately does not tell you where your team-mates or enemies are.
Last, but not least is the stats card which tells you information about your character (name, sex, species, job). It also keeps track of your fitness, physique, agility and experience levels as well as how much weight you are carrying.

Control is via either mouse, keyboard or joystick. The best and easiest option is to use the mouse. When you place the pointer on the screen, depending where it is, a direction arrow will appear.
Clicking once will take your character(s) in that desired direction. Moving the pointer to the middle of the screen will give you the option of either targeting an enemy or picking up some vital equipment.

Although you can play out the whole thing from start to finish, there is also the option to have a "quick" go. If you have got things to do and people to see, you can select a short mission where you have to complete it in a limited amount of time.
The game is billed as an RPG, but is fact so much more than that. At various points you will be wasting away so many enemies that you would be forgiven if you thought you were playing Operation Wolf.

Hired Guns simply oozes class and style. From the highly impressive music and delightful interlace graphics you are whisked away to an incredibly exciting and atmospheric RPG with suicidal shoot-em-up tendencies.
It is great fun as a one player, but Psygnosis' latest adventure really enters into its element when another player is asked to join in. There is an excellent level of difficulty and because the game is big it will keep you entertained for along time to come.
DMA Design have injected a breath of new life into a stale genre and created an absolute corker of a product. Depending on how many people take to it, it could well become a classic.

Hired Guns logo Amiga Format Gold

It has been a long time coming, but now that it is here, the tense, moody and magnificent Hired Guns has staked a claim for the title of Game Of The Year...

Are you absolutely sure that rock is really a rock?"
"Yeah, it is a... blatta-blatta-blat! Burrrrr! Ding! Pow! Rock."
"Fine. Where now? Down the dark tunnel? Into the underground river? Behind that glowing door with the big brown thing with teeth?"
"Down the dark tunnel!"
"What's that noise?"
"Oh, just a sound effect of a big thing with claws."
"Turn the lights on for a second. Let us have a beer."
"What was that noise?"
"Come on let us go out here and go for a beer."
"No you go and have one. I have just got to pick up that flamer from your skeletal corpse"
"You mercenary swine."

Memories are made of this. Hired Guns is one of those transitional games. It is one of those games that puts together an end to one genre - the 16-bit Bug Hunt - by tapping it and doing it as well as any game of this heavy-fire, nasty-atmosphere, cruel sound effects and neat control system could ever hope to do. And then it looks forward to the games that will come after it.

Hired Guns puts an end to one genre, and then looks forward to the games that will follow it.

Shoot to thrill
Basically this is Eye of the Beholder for people who cannot abide gnomes and paladins. But it overrides EOTB's control system with a slickness that we have come to expect from DMA. It is also Laser Squad from the perspective that we have desired for years and years.

The games it looks forward to will come with the 32-bit Amigas, with the Amiga CD32 as well as the addition of texture mapping and 360-degree views.
There is one thing that I have never said in a game review (and I have written loads of them) and that is that the programming team must be proud of this as an achievement. You can tell this most of all by the fact that they have even built in a long term retention device in the form of customisable graphics. That is right, with a copy of the ubiquitous Deluxe Paint, you can build in your own characters in the form of dear old Amiga IFFs (DPaint's own file format). Now if that is not a bunch of developers saying: "Go on, get even more out this game. Get really involved in this!" then I do not know what is.

So, aside from all this praise, what is the game about? Well, there is a plot. There are even four manuals, one of which is a novelette detailing this plot. Reality Break! Four manuals. Four nicely put together, shiny paper and missing apastrophe manuals each with its own binding. Is this not just a little excessive? Could we not have got the whole lot in one manual and save on cost? Could Psygnosis not also have built the copy-protection sheet in the same manual?

Back to the plot. Hell, you are on a planet. It is full of genetic freaks. They want to kill you. You are being paid to kill them. There would appear to be no room for conversation or even the occasional game of football at Christmas: GeneFreak City v Mercenary United played out between the DNA-fractured trees and the strangely-formed rock outcrops. No, as I said, this is a Bug Hunt. Your character motivation (hey, if Amiga games really are taking on movie-type qualities then why the hell should you not play up like Al Pacino?), your motivation for all this killing, mayhem and generally mature behaviour is that you are a mercenary. In fact, you are four mercenaries. In fact, you can be one of four, or two of four, or three of four. And if four of you want to play Hired Guns, well just do it.

You can be a mercenary with a soul, a mercenary with a dark secret, a mercenary with a workstation for a mind, a mercenary with poor dress sense, a mercenary with a beard, a mercenary with cramps every 28 days... but most of all you can be a mercenary with a gun and with the desire for dosh.

If you have played the demo of Hired Guns on the cover of AF44 then you will be aware of the perspective and control system. If you are new to Amiga Format, welcome, and what you have been missing is one of the most atmospheric, enclosed and socially appealing games of the last few years. Yes, Hired Guns really is that good. In fact it is the best Amiga game of this year, and perhaps even any other year.

It is one of the most atmospheric, exciting, tense and challenging games of the last few years.

Hired and emotional
The only places you cannot look or fire are up and down (I hope that DMA tweak this for CD32 - a big tweak, I know but if it can be done on Jurassic Park from Ocean, I do not see why they should not have a bash at CD32 Hired Guns). Apart from this restriction the rest of the Hired Guns world is your rather rank and life-threatening oyster.

As for the control system, put it this way, before Psygnosis deigned to represent us with a review copy in fully finished form with box and manuals, I had been playing the pre-review copy for weeks without reference to anything but what appeared on the screen. And I had been loving every minute of it.

This review is not a manual, so I am not going to explain how everything works here, you will have to find that out for yourselves. Suffice to say that it is the most seamless control system of its type that I have ever seen on the Amiga. Brilliant.

That really is that. Hired Guns is all about strategy, violence, intelligence, problem solving of a superbly weighted standard, atmosphere, and playability. If Amiga games are really taking over from pop music, then Hired Guns is Their Satanic Majesties and DMA are The Stones. We have only just begun.


Hired Guns logo

Es ist soweit, jetzt machen die DMA-Designer von Psygnosis da weiter, wo Mirrorsofts "Bloodwych" einst aufhörte - mit einem Multiplayer-Rolli für bis zu vier Söldner! Was lange gärt wird endlich Blut?

Nachdem den DMA-Psygnosen mit "Lemmings" eine Gigaseller gelungen ist, waren die Erwartungen an dieses futuristische Quartett natürlich sehr, sehr hoch gesteckt. Vielleicht hat es deshalb von der ersten Ankündigung bis zum Erscheinungstermin so lange gedauert, vielleicht ist man deshalb jetzt vom Ergebnis ein wenig enttäuscht:

Ein Söldnerteam, bestehend aus vier knallharten Jungs und Mädels, hat den Auftrag, auf dem Planeten "Graveyard" (passender Name...) illegale Biolabors in die Luft zu jagen. Dazu werden an vier strategisch wichtigen Punkten händliche kleine Atombömbchen plaziert; für jede erfolgreich absolvierte Mission gibt es Erfahrungspunkte, die jedoch keine Auswirkung auf den weiteren Spielverlauf haben. Immerhin steht für das Himmelfahrtskommando anfänglich eine Auswahl von 12 Bombenlegern zur Verfügung, von jeder individuelle Charakterwerte wie Treffsicherheit und Hitpoints mitbringt; außerdem ist die Bewaffnung sehr unterschiedlich. Das ist nicht zuletzt deshalb von Bedeutung, weil neben den reinen Sprengarbeiten auch etliche Forts, Lager und Laboratorien gestürmt bzw. erobert werden müssen.

Auf einer Übersichtskarte wird zunächst der jeweilige Einsatzort angewählt, schon findet man sich auf dem vier-geteilten Screen mit eigener 3D-Perspektive für jedes Teammitglied wieder. Jeder Held für Geld verfügt über sein persönliches Radar der näheren Umgebung, um bei der schrittweisen Exkursion durch das unbekannte Territorium nur ja keine der vielen verschlossenen Türen, versteckten Schalter und fiesen Aliens oder Androiden zu übersehen. Sind alle kleinen Rätsel (wo ist die Codekarte zum Lüftungsschott?) gelöst, alle herumliegenden Waffen gefunden und alle Echtzeit-Monster vernichtet, muß noch der Ausgang erreicht werden, um sich für den nächsten Auftrag zu qualifizieren.

Alle vier SF-Rambos lassen sich einzeln steuern oder folgen im Teammodus einem frei wählbaren Anführer; kämpfen muß allerdings jeder für sich alleine. Dazu gibt es für Trockenübungen auch Trainings- und Einzelmissionen, dennoch hinterläßt Hired Guns eher zweispältige Gefühle: Die Spielidee ist reizvoll, Features wie überflutete Gänge und zahllose Waffensysteme halten die Motivation unter Dampf, und der tolle Sound garantiert auch ohne die etwas karge Grafik ein schon düstere Futuro-Feeling - aber dieser wahnwitzige Schwierigkeitsgrad! Und wenn sich dann noch vier Leute gleichzeitig um Maus, Joystick oder Tastatur drängeln (vom Monitor ganz zu schweigen), ist Frust bei den happigen Echtzeitgefechten schon vorprogrammiert...

Ein innovatives Konzept also, das leider in der Praxis nicht ganz so gut klappt, wie man das von der vielversprechenden Theorie erhofft hätte. Aber für trainierte Söldner-Familien mit Hang zum Rollenspiel ist Hired Guns natürlich der ideale Windersport! (mic)

Hired Guns logo

The long-awaited-four-way RPG, where you take charge of the hiring - and firing.

Think about your all-time favourite movies. "What was it that made them so good?" I find myself asking in a rhetorically erudite type of fashion. Could it have been the identification factor - you related to the characters, their environment or their situation? Perhaps it was a particularly ingenious plot? It may even have been a pyrotechnical synaptic overdrive of intensely-furious, visually-extravagant special effects that stroked your trodes. (What? - Ed). All of these things are certainly contributory factors, but not enough. No, the answer I was looking for was 'atmosphere'.

Without atmosphere, how can you possibly hope to relate to a confusion of images flashing past your eyes at 25 frames a second?
Atmosphere is conducive to that synaethestic fusion of sensation, rationality and disbelief resulting in total immersion of self. (Don't worry, we don't understand any of this either. But it sounds good. - Ed) Your favourite movies are probably the ones with atmosphere s that made you feel you were there, as participant or observer.

One case in point is Alien or Blade Runner (That's two cases in point. - Ed) In both cases it's pathos-inducing atmosphere that makes them so wonderful. Both have a restricted-luminance palette (They're not very bright. - Ed), and both are very claustrophobic, too. Alien in particular has you sitting on the edge of your seat, dripping cold sweat and totally unsure of when the next big fright is coming. So it is with Hired Guns.

The plot (yes, it is worth mentioning) bears more than a passing resemblance to Aliens. This time, though, the habitable planet is deliberately producing dangerous bio-engineered organisms. Your job, as part of a mercenary crew of four, is to reconnoitre (Look at. - Ed) various locations and render them safe. Four of these locations are particularly important in that they contain fusion power core rings which enable you to blow up the aliens' distribution point.

From the very beginning you know you're in for a rare treat. The opening music spins a web of tense anticipation. Already you feel as if you're trapped like a fly in the ointment.

The character selection procedure is a very slick scrolly menu with monochromatic (Black and white. - Ed) pictures and minimal info. It's up to you who you select, but different parties will be more successful than others in different situations. I chose the two battle cyborgs because (a) they look good, (b) they don't drown, (c) they can carry more equipment and (d) they've got the best arsenal of destruction kits.

From the beginning you know you're in for a treat

Once you've actually made your selection, the influence of RPG games like Dungeons And Dragons and Traveller will become apparent. Each character has a unique set of statistics which dictate how much damage they can absorb, how much they can carry and that sort of thing. In fact, if Hired Guns had been around when I played D&D, the lead figures, rulers, dice, rule books and scraps of paper would never have seen the light of day. (The same can be said for the group I was with, but that's another story).

Movement is pretty much in the Dungeon Master mould - i.e. you move six feet at a time with every click of the mouse or push of the joystick. The control interface is useful and doesn't get in the way of the action, which there's plenty of. Of particular note is the game's facility to let up to four players play all at the same time, each controlling their own character. You could even try to kill each other if you wanted to. There's even an option to play with Sega joypads if you have access to them - you've got to modify them with a soldering iron(!) so that the Amiga will read all three buttons, but believe me, three fire buttons can make a big difference to the speed of the mundane things like picking up equipment you've found on the way.

But back to that all-important atmosphere. Just as in Aliens we've got a restricted palette resulting in a broody, foreboding (Scary. - Ed) sense of imminent danger. The various buildings and corridors feel genuinely claustrophobic. In true Psygnosis style, the surroundings are visually beautiful in an unsettling, macabre H.R. Giger-type way.

The beauty of the environment, of course, would not be enough on its own were it nog complemented by a plethora of very high quality sampled sounds. I defy anyone not to be impressed by the sound of the shotgun and its consequent reloading click when you hit the right mouse button, or the constant thrum of electrical power as you walk through troubled corridors.

Being new to the office. I've been getting lots of advice on how to make my reviews sound different from all the others. So, occasionally, once of my traits is going to be a discussion of a game's Gestalt factor (Uh-oh. - Ed).

According to this very important branch of psychology, our btains form mental pictures, opinions etc. from the sum of the parts that make up a whole. Theoretically, the whole should be greater than the sum of the parts. So what's this got to do with Hired Guns> Loads actually.

Jack yourself into the game with a pair of headphones (I had to, Stuart was playing his 'special' music extra loudly). Turn down all the lights until you're sitting in absolute darkness. Start exploring and terminating aliens with extreme prejudice. Before you know it, you're no longer sitting in front of an Amiga, you're right there in dangerousville with your chosen party.

Happily for old man Gestalt, Psygnosis have indeed created a whole greater than the sum of the parts with Hired Guns; consensual ('Reacting according to stimulation of another part' according to the dictionary. - Ed) graphics, top-notch sound-effects, intuitive control system and well-thought-out party parts.

On the subject of parts, I'll leave you with a quick summary of particularly impressive details that help create the aforementioned synergetic experience.
All of your mapping is carried out by a DTS (Digital Terrain Scanner). Don't lose it. Psionics freaks are well catered for with a veritable cornucopia (A lot. - Ed) of psionic devices. There's enhanced sound on two Meg Chip RAM machines (410K's worth, apparently). Plus super trooper weapons systems: grenade launchers, proximity mines, sentry guns that shoot anything within ten feet, shotguns, fluorine blasters (They immobilise aliens by making all their teeth fall out, I think. - Ed) and so on. And finally, finally, there's enough weapons systems here to bring peace through superior firepower to any spatial outback. Whoopee for that, eh?

Hired Guns logo CU Amiga Screen Star

From Lemmings to Walker, super coders DMA Design can't put a foot wrong. Closet chiropodist, Jon Sloan, gives their latest game a pedicure.

Most role-playing games set their storylines and gameplay in some mediaeval fantasy Kingdom where Princess Flatulence has been kidnapped by an evil wizard with a pointy hat. That's all well and good but after you've rescued your 20th damsel in distress, things can get a bit samey. So, where do gamers go if they want a similar game with a radically different plot?

The answer lies in Scotland, specifically designed in the studios of DMA Design. Some of this decade's most explosive games have appeared from their fertile brains and this latest effort looks like easily matching their established high standards.

Hired Guns puts you, and up to three mates, in control of four battlehardened mercenaries dropped onto a remote planet populated only by psychotic mutant creatures. The planet was in the process of being terraformed when an automated production plant went haywire and started releasing mutant organisms into the environment. These creatures are now threatening life, love and the American Way and you've been hired by The Company to go in and sort 'em out - in 13 days or less. Well, it makes a change from roaming dragons and wicked witches!

DMA have come up with a unique four-way split screen which allows you independent control of all four characters. This is something RPGers have been screaming for - the chance to use some detailed strategies instead of the usual 'Let's all walk down this dark corridor together even though there may be a huge hairy monster at the end of it', favored by other adventure games. You can select this option if you want to by highlighting one player as the leader so that all the others will automatically follow him.

This control interface must be one of the easiest I've ever come across. It's very intuitive and can be learnt without the need to refer to the manual. At times, though, it can be a little fiddly, especially when you're under attack. In that situation it's very easy to shoot another team member when all you want to do is run away. I've lost count of the number of times I've loosed off a few shots whilst trying to step forward just because my cursor wasn't over the correct hot spot. This is, though, a minor niggle with an otherwise impeccable control system.

To ease you into the action you can choose to take part in a training mission. If the campaign itself sounds a bit long-winded there's a choice of 16 short-action missions where all you need to do is make it from one end of the scenario to the other in one piece. These are actually tougher than the campaign as not only do you have to contend with hordes of creatures baying for blood you're also up against a timer.

I tried Guns out on an '040 A4000 and found the first action game almost impossible to complete; everything was too fast for my brain to cope with. (No surprise there. Ed).

On a planet teeming with bio-engineered creepy crawlies you'd expect there to be one or two to blast. Well, you would if you'd forgot that DMA's last game involved you crushing hundreds of tiny humans under giant robot feet before mopping up the rest with a huge machine gun. To carry on that tradition Guns is absolutely overflowing with nasties and they all want to take a chunk out of your team. They're all generated from eggs that look like a cross between those things in Aliens and a pile of manure. Find these and you'll know how many creatures there are to blast. Don't let appearances fool you, though, 'cos whoever designed the creatures sure had a sick sense of humour, along with giant lemming mutants there's packs of cute little fluffy woofy Andrex puppies. Don't even think of stroking them, just blast them with your Fluorine Laser.

On the subject of weapons your team all come ready equipped with some very nifty and unusual weapons. These range from simple body-mounted chain guns to weird psionic amplifiers that can send out blasts of energy. Initially, I felt like I could handle anything but when I met a couple of mutant fish creatures it became obvious that I'd have to use every weapon available. When I realised that ammunition was finite I began to panic!

Hired Guns has had an incredible amount of thought put into it. Sometimes, with RPGs, it's obvious that certain sections have been rushed just to make the delivery date. Not so here, every ounce of the game has been carefully weighed and tested until only a quality product remained. The sound effects and tunes are brilliant, in fact DMA recommend that you have 2Mb of Chip RAM to enjoy them to their fullest. The graphic style is different, it's not exactly to my taste, but it is well put together. There's even an option to port your own character designs from any paint package into the game. The difficulty level is high, but not frustratingly so and the campaign game is probably the easiest to get into.

Guns is, without a doubt, a masterpiece. I started playing Guns over three days ago and have barely looked up from my Amiga since. So, if you like bags under your eyes and sweaty palms, buy a copy today.

The main interface is extremely easy to grasp - just point and click. Move characters around by placing the cursor over their view window. As you move it away from the centre of the screen it will change to a directional arrow, so you can step forward, back, to the side or rotate 90 degrees.
Considering just how much information DMA needed to squeeze onto a standard Amiga screen they've achieved no small feat. Each character has four card index-type screens that can be clipped by clicking on the label. My team members below each have a different window open.
Hired guns: Play window explained
1. Store Screen: This screen gives you four options. Placing an object in your hand allows you to use it, pick it up or drop it or, finally, find out more about it. Sorting through your goodies is simple; just click on the scrolling arrows.
2. Main View Window: From here your character looks askance at the world around him. Move the cursor around and watch it change from crosshair to directional arrow. In the top left you'll see a little portrait representing the character. In the top right there's a compass to help you navigate and above that your energy bar. Too much red and you're dead!
3. Digital Terrain Scanner (DTS): Virtually all the team carry one of these beauties and if they don't there's a good chance that there'll be one lying around somewhere. If you haven't sussed it by now it's an auto-mapper, that tool beloved by adventurers everywhere. The main design flaw is that it doesn't show where the mutants are!
4. Character Statistics: This last screen is the one you'll probably use the least. It gives you all the biographical details you could want, including how fit the person is and how much experience he's got. Be careful only to check this screen when you've got a quiet moment 'cos the mutants don't stop attacking just 'cos you're taking stock.

Hired guns: Character selection
At the start of each mission you'll be given a choice of four mercs to take in with you. There's 12 heroes to choose from, ranging from Kiurcher, a 49 year-old human marksman to Miyriel Torre, a 100 year-old cyborg; each with his/her/its own special characteristics. The upside of this is that they're all experienced fighters and come well equipped. The downside is that, until you've played the game a few times, you don't know what they're carrying. I would have preferred to see a detailed inventory for each character along with their portraits or, better still, some cash so that I could choose what weapons to take.
The portraits for these tough dudes are some of the most impressive piece of artwork I've seen on the Amiga. As you can see from our screenshot, they're incredibly atmospheric and brooding. Let's see more from this artist - Jamie Grant.