The Killing Cloud logo

IMAGEWORKS * £24.99 Mouse and keyboard

Imagine a time in the not-too-distant future. Industrial waste output in American cities reaches an all time high causing massive pollution problems. One example of the kind of problem facing the environment is the San Francisco smog.

One day, the morning fog rolled in from the bay and mixed with the toxic chemicals in the atmosphere to form a dense layer of mist covering the city. Slowly the citizens found themselves choking on the poisonous gas. People began to die of asphyxiation, causing many to leave the lower levels and move up to the tops of skyscrapers.

Once the streets were deserted, thugs and criminals began to group together, forming the evil and dangerous Black Angel gang. Day by day their reign of terror spread across the city. The legacy of the Killing Cloud has begun.

Let's be careful out there
You play the part of a police biker in the San Francisco Police Department. Law enforcement has changed a lot since Dirty Harry toted his Magnum .44 and invited punks to make his days. Riding across the cityscape in a Police Hoverbike - a cross between a police car and a helicopter - your task is to chase and capture members of the Black Angels.

The game begins in the briefing room of one of the SFPD's police precincts, where you are given your assignment for the day. Once you know where you are going, you can access the city map and place back-up units on the streets.

Villains must be apprehended by first capturing them in nets and then by stepping out to arrest them. There is a kind of self-piloted paddy wagon called a PUP will then swoop in to pick up the crim and take him back to the station house.

Once you've set up your mission, it's off to the armoury to kit yourself out for the mission. Here you can arm yourself with machine-guns and cannons, add an extra fuel-tank to your bike and equip yourself with a life-support suit to protect yourself from that deadly 'killing' cloud.

Bear in the air
When you're fully tooled-up, a nicely animated launch sequence appears and then it's on to the 3D flying sequence. Using your radar to spot your backup units, you can zoom down to the scene of the crime and net your suspect. Many of the gang members have accomplices that fly around making your life difficult by shooting at you, so you need to keep a careful watch!

Once the PUP has docked and you've returned to the station, you must interrogate the suspect to glean information on the Black Angels' activities. Unfortunately, the suspects have a good lawyer and some pretty hefty plea-bargaining is required to get the answers you need.

If you get the bargaining right, the the prisoner will break down and confess everything he knows, allowing you to continue the investigation. If you get it wrong he walks.

I'm a motorcycle rider
To begin with The Killing Cloud is laden with a futuristic, oppressive atmosphere which promises a great deal, and once into the 3D flying and battling section the game gets quite exciting. However there are times when the game progresses in a wildly illogical fashion. The interrogation sequence is one of the more frustrating sections, since you are told that the prisoner can trad eyears off his sentence for information.

The answers, however, are triggered by offering a certain reduction in one go, so that if you don't offer enough on a particular go, you get no info and their sentence is reduced anyway! Also, what happens to the missiles on your ship and the PUPs that return home? They vanish, that's what!

The Killing Cloud logo

Dieselben Leute, die den Amiga schon mit der Flugsimulation "Fighter Bomber" beglückt haben, wollen uns nun Flugerlebnisse ganz anderer Art vermitteln. Der Ort: San Francisco. Die Maschine: ein XB 500 Hoverbike.

In den Strassen von San Francisco ist der Nebel los! Eine 100 Meter hohe Giftgas-schicht bedeckt den Boden und macht jedes normale Alltagsleben unmöglich. Während sind die anständigen Bürger in die obersten Etagen der Wolkenkratzer zurückgezogen haben, treiben unten auf der Strasse die berüchtigten Black Angels ihr Unwesen: Mit der Gasmaske vorm Gesicht und dem Revolver in der Hand begehen sie Lustmorde, Raubüberfälle und Drogendelikte aller ar. Naja, im Dunkeln ist halt gut Munkeln...

Der Spieler schlüpft in die Rolle eines frischgebackenen Polizeirekruten, der möglichst schnell auf der Karriereleiter nach oben klettern will. Und wie könnte man seinem Chef besser imponieren, als mit einem entscheidenden Schlag gegen die Black Angels? Vielleicht findet man dabei ja sogar den Ursprung der tödlichen Wolke heraus!

Groß gesagt, handelt es sich bei Killing Cloud um einen 3D-Flugsimulator mit eingestreuten Mini-Actionszenen. Als erstes geht's zur Polizeiwache, wo man sich eine Mission aussucht und dazu gleich ein paar Informationen über die Verdächtigen erhält. Dann besorgt man sich noch einige Netze, um die Verbrecher einzufangen und "Pick-Up-Pods", mit denen die Kerle anschließend ins Hauptquartier transportiert werden.

Jetzt noch schnell das Hoverbike mit Sprit und Waffen (Maschinengewehr, Bordkanone) ausrüsten, dann kann man auch schon abheben. Das Starten und Landen funktioniert wie bei einem Senkrechtstarter, in der Luft benimmt sich das Hoverbike aber wie ein ganz normales Flugzeug. Es gibt hier zwar all möglichen Features wie Außenansichten in sämtlichen Variationen (aus Verfolgerperspektive, mit Zoom, usw.) und sehr kompliziert klingende Cockpit-Instrumente (Smog-Sensor, Verbrecher-Radar, etc), trotzdem fliegt sich das seltsame Gefährt absolut problemlos.

Um einen (wortwörtlich) ins Netz gegangenen Verbrecher zu verhaften, steigt man von seinem Hoverbike, marschiert auf ihn zu und liest ihm seine Rechte vor. Geschwindigkeit ist dabei alles, denn der Sauerstoff ist knapp, außerdem ist das Hoverbike im Stillstand wesentlich leichter zu beschädigen als sonst - und die Ganoven sind ziemlich gut ausgerüstet und gar nicht zimperlich!

Wieder zurück in der Polizeiwache, verhört man den Delinquenten und versucht, möglichst viele Informationen aus ihm herauszulocken. Besonders beeindruckend ist die Genauigkeit, mit der die Stadt dargestellt wird: Bei einem Bummel durch San Francisco kann man sich sage und schreibe 2429 verschiedene Gebäude anschauen! Zusätzliche Pluspunkte sammelt Killing Cloud durch seine detaillierte 3D-Grafik, die atmosphärische Musikbegleitung und das ausgefeilte Gameplay mit den vielen kleinen Gags.

Wer auf Action und Abenteuer steht, wird an dieser Mischung aus Flugsimulation und Adventure ganz bestimmt Freude haben! (Kate Dixon)

The Killing Cloud logo

The classic that, erm, wasn't. The Killing Cloud had the potential to be the best game in the mag - it's still technically superb, but lazy thinking screws the gameplay a treat.

Blimey! The inhabitants of the once great (and not at all weird and freaksome) city of San Francisco had better not even bother getting out of bed tomorrow morning. Why's this? Well, according to the scenario for The Killing Cloud, good old SF will be slimed by a toxic fog before New Year's Day 1997.

The reason for the arrival of the fog, or, as it is more affectionately know, the 'Killing Cloud', is swathed in myth, in legend, Green politics and poisonous rumour. It may well have been caused by the vile, crusty, rotten way in which we treat the planet, or person or persons unknown may have whipped it up to start a major crime wave and get rid of all the Californian hippies. Who knows?

Actually, apart from getting in the way and making life difficult, the cloud plays little part in what you have to do during the game. In fact the whole thing should really have been called something like The Dirty Low Down Black Angels Get Tough and, erm, There's This Toxic Stuff Too, but the name would have been far too long to fit on the packaging.

The Killing Cloud has this habit of not actually doing what you think it's going to do. Visually, it's a delicious five course meal with coffee. All 3D filled vector graphics offering dizzying flying sequences, altitude perspectives, and a real feeling of danger in the majority of the ten scenarios. Howa torture scene included in the game until Amnesty International objected, and it was cutever, and that's 'However' with a capital H, it is also riddled with some frustrating inconsistencies.

Try this one out for a starter. Your main task in life, as a hi-techn San Francisco cop, is to catch members of the Black Angels gang. You are not allowed to kill the beggars unless they shoot first - in fact you have to catch them in order to interrogate them. That, as any torturer worth his or her salt will tell you, means getting them alive. (To digress for a moment, there was in fact a torture scene included in the game until Amnesty International objected, and it was cut. End of digression). You achieve the capture by way of nets - for a fuller explanation see the box over there on the bottom.

Now, instead of carrying these nets with you in your XB500 hoverbike, you have to leave them scattered about the city, and here's the rub - you have to do the scattering before going on the mission. Why? Why oh why, if you're so damned technologically advanced, do you have to do this? Why isn't there a tiny area of the bike in which to store the net? (For instance).

It's stupid. Maybe a few more scenarios and no net collecting would have added to the buzz of what is potentially a superb game.

If there wasn't such a genre as the shoot-chase-catch-talk-'em-up' before, there is now.

Still, one positive side about the nets, or Nets as they are known to the SFPD is what you can use them as landmarks via your on-board radar. You have to do this because some stupid

hoverbike designer forgot to provide an ob-board map. If you don't know your North Beach from your Nob Hill, and find yourself flying around the city with diminishing fuel (in the vague hope that you might be headed in the right direction), they might actually turn out to be your only chance to get home!

Whinging aside, there are thrills to be had, and even a little brain athletics to indulge in, before you finish The Killing Cloud. It is far from being a plain shoot-'em-up. In fact it's rather difficult to categorise. On the one hand you have some wonderfully animated chase and fifth scenes - rapid seat-of-your-pants flying with little time to think and massive calls on your skill as a pilot.

On the other hand, there is strategy, nerve-end jangling tension, and a neat interrogation-cum-plea bargaining scene. If there wasn't such a genre as the shoot-chase-catch-talk-'em-up' before, there is now.

It is also riddled with some frustrating inconsistencies

While playing it I kept finding myself wishing someone had made a film out of it first. If only some decent script writers had got hold of the plot and said: 'See here guys, this just doesn't make sense. Why can't you do so-and-so? What possible reason can you have for such and such?'

An example, once you've been in the briefing room and placed your nets you go into the armoury to chose your weapons. Perhaps some explosive tipped MG ammo and some armour piercing shells would be a good idea? Or maybe you'd be better off taking a GEP MkIV armour suit? Hang on, let's go back through the door to the briefing room to check that out the mission again before we decide. What? We can't?

No, all we can do is to launch off on our hoverbike into the mission proper, quite possibly sure in the knowledge that we've cocked it all up from the outset by not having put the nets in the right places, by having taken the wrong equipment with you and so on. There's no possible internal game logic for it to deny you the right to prepare yourself properly before you set off. How very unnecessary, and how very, very annoying.

The Killing Cloud really is like one of those movies which has superb special effects, excellent ideas, great sequences and a half-blind mule of a plot. It's like Batteries Not Included or The Black Hole, or hundreds of others we could both probably mention. A good script writer would have knocked some sense into it for sure, but a better special effects set-up would be hard to find.

But there I go, griping again. In many ways it feels rather churlish of me to complain too much - after all, it's all too apparent that the plot writer(s) did intend to create a solid, believable and atmospheric world in which to play out your role. The action is fast and furious. The feel of the whole venture smacks of quality and thought. It's just a shame that the occasional illogicality lets it down.

The Killing Cloud: User interface explanation
  1. Here's where your computer displays messages to you, like, erm, where you're going, for instance.
  2. Your Cloud Altimeter - shows how far you are above it, how deep it is (and so on).
  3. The fuel gauge - important, as it is incredibly easy to run out.
  4. How many Nets you're carrying.
  5. Radar (Bad guys re shown in red).

Even though you're oozing hardness (which hides compassion and a love of flying because it unites you with your inner spirit) your major weapons in the fight again the Black Angels are Nets and PUPs. Net stands for 'net', while PUP looks like it should be an acronym, but it is actually named after those small dewy-eyed creatures which follow you around. Pups are in fact mobile holding pens which are planted throughout the city.

The idea is that, during the briefing period for each of the ten missions, you check out the lie of the land, and (rather illogically) you then plant the nets and PUPs around the place. That's right, instead of bringing them with you, you plant them from the briefing room. Remember to make sure that the PUPs are planted near to the nets, though. Why? Because they don't have a wide range. Your first task after launch is not to get to the criminals with your limited fuel; nope, you have to re-locate the nets.

Once you've done this, you pick the net up in the form of a missile which you then arm. Next, find the foe, drop the net, land and walk through the 'Killing Cloud' in order to read him his rights, then re-call the PUP. Bureaucracy? We love it.

Three points to bear in mind here: Firstly, yes, there's a lot of pointless running around. Second, don't be fooled into thinking that the ten PUPs and nets you have at the start of the game are replenishable - they're not. You have a set for each mission. (In fact, when I tried to lay more than four in one go, the Amiga simply locked up). Third, the Black Angels will steal these unreplenishable tools if they can. Don't be frustrated, just kill the little scamps.

The Killing Cloud
Right, here we are, flying around San Francisco in our 'hover bike' (i.e. plane)> There seems to be some sort of bridge ahead - it could be the Golden Gate, but I rather doubt it (that's red), unless they've repainted by 1997 of course...
The Killing Cloud
I know, let's fly a little closer and check it out. Ah, look, the computer's sussed it - this is the Bay Bridge apparently, and not the Golden Gate at all. Let's see if we can fly under it, shall we?
The Killing Cloud
Right, here we are a bit further on, heading for somewhere called 'Nob Hill'. You might be wondering what all that pinky stuff is - it is the 'Killing Cloud', of course, which hangs around the place at just over floor level.
The Killing Cloud
Whee! Let's make a low-level run through Chinatown. (By te way, only a cynic would suggest they put all this cloud stuff in so that they didn't have to bother drawing all the ground in filled 3D!)

Andy Craven is the boss at Vektor Grafix, and while he didn't personally do a great deal of the actual work on The Killing Cloud, he did oversee the whole thing. Who better, then, to ask a handful of questions about it?

What do you think about the controversy over the torture scene that was cut out of the finished game?
To be honest, I think it's a lot of fuss over nothing. I didn't think it was over the top at all, but in the end it wasn't my decision and it was taken out. I think it's a bit of a shame.

Other than that, are you happy with the way the game turned out?
Yes, I'm very happy wit it. It's got loads of atmosphere and there's tons of stuff in there that you don't discover even right up until the final level. We're very proud of the AI routines for the baddies too. They can actually 'see' buildings and obstacles (and you) and they'll try to avoid them, using realistic techniques. The feel of San Francisco is really good too.

Ah yes, San Francisco. How true to life is the city map?
It's fairly close actually. The shoreline is extremely accurate and we've included most of the major landmarks. There are actually something like 2400 real ground objects featured. A little undocumented tip is that if you press the '6' key during the first level, the fog actually clears and you can see for miles.

Where did the storyline come from?
Well, the story was written in-house. We also did a special A4 comic that Mirrorsoft are distributing as a point-of-sale thing, which is partly do to with the game and partly an advert for Vektor Grafix. We have a guy on our books who used to work for Marvel, so we were able to do the whole thing ourselves.

Are there any plans for Killing Cloud 2?
Obviously, it depends on how successful this one is. If we were going to follow it up it would be nice to extend the gameplay and missions a bit, and improve the look of the fog and suchlike. We only used a very small fraction of the scenario we wrote in the game, so we've got lots of scope for sequels, but when we wrote it with other things in mind.

Like what?
Wel, through Activision we've got links with the movie industry, and we'd like to see what we could come up with in that direction. It would certainly make a change from the way these things usually go, but again we're just waiting to see what happens.
Stuart Campbell

The Killing Cloud logo

Imageworks, Amiga £24.99

21st century San Francisco has come under siege from a mysterious smog which has earned the name Killing Cloud by poisoning thousands. With the smog has come the Black Angel gang and rumours are rife that the two are connected. It's the responsibility of the police to find the connection and provide a solution.

But as the department's newest recruit you're only too aware of how limited its resources are. A handful of hoverbikes provide law and order only for those rooftops that break through the smog.

With the confidence of youth it's your determination to free the whole city, a task which involves ten missions. Once you go into the smog infra-red goggles are vital to see in the darkness, and for aiming your machine guns and cannon. Suspects wander the myriad of city streets and do their best to evade the Police; which is where (for capturing the perp) and Pick-Up Pods (PUPs -automated police wagons) come in handy.

After scanning the map for the criminal's location you position nets and PUPs in the area. You then fly in, pick up the nets and, if all goes to plan, capture the suspect and call a nearby PUP to take him back to the station.

The problem arises when you land to arrest the suspect: your time limit in the smog is limited to 20 minutes with a life support suit (20 seconds without!) and it's all too easy to lose your hoverbike in the smog, or see it destroyed by the Black Angels. Another worry is that fuel, nets and PUPs are limited - run out and you're out of the force.

The first of the ten assignments serves as an introduction to the game -three droids are wandering Chinatown and one of them is an Angel surveillance droid which you've got to pick up. Simple enough so long you don't collide with the buildings! In assignment two the suspect's a human with a nifty hover vehicle.

Succesfully capturing a criminal leads to the interrogation room where you can extract information for a few years off the prison sentence.

Extract enough information within the time limit and it's off to the next assignment, leading you further into the Killing Cloud and its mysteries.

Robin Hogg Vektor's graphics just get better and better, but this time there's a novel concept too. The idea of exploring a devastated city is a strong one and looks stunning with all the buildings turned on (albeit at the cost of a dramatic reduction in speed). Intelligent adversaries provide a good challenge with plenty of mission variety -watch out for the perp who sneaakily leads you towards buildings in the murk; check out the all-out arcade action in Assignment Four with four heavily armed hoverbikes! The interrogation is admittedly a slideshow to all the 3-D action but it's thoughtfully done, connecting each Assignment and keeping the overall story moving along. For the atmosphere alone this game is great! (And see my tips in the Piggy section.)
Stuart Wynne Cloud draws obvious inspiration from Blade Runner with its cyberpunk static screens and flying police vehicles. So far, so good but the densely detailed heart of a city provides a tough challenge for anyone's 3-D and Cloud's urban setting is a bit barren with the detail turned off for speed. Nevertheless the hoverbike itself is superb, as are the other vehicles which behave with real intelligence. Pursuing the perps recalls Resolution 101, but Cloud is far superior in graphics and gameplay. Ambitious, innovative and intriguing Cloud has its flaws, but anyone interested in the theme it provides an utterly compulsive challenge.