[Tries to put on bodacious American accent] "Heavy Metal saves the world... Excellent!" [does air guitar pose like in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, making widdly noise... then comes to his senses.] Okay, heavy metal has had a lot to answer for in the past, dodgy moustaches (easy...), mullets, Kiss wearing gaudy pink outfits on their videos and air guitar. But all could be forgiven if only there was a good game based around the musical genre. Metal Warrior might just be that to right the wrongs of the past decades.
Metal Warrior was originally released in 1999, improved and re-released and was the first game I reviewed in the 'Retro Mart' column for Micro Mart magazine... or was it called 'Retro Computer Mart' back then? And yet my first encounter with it was after playing the Metal Warrior IV demo on one of Commodore Scene's cover disks. I remember thinking "this is pretty damn good" and, a short while later, I'd downloaded the first three parts to the story. It was this and this alone that restored my faith in new (C64) homebrew software. Almost everything else I'd found until that point was pretty poor, with seemingly only a few exceptions (Newcomer for instance).
WANT A TWINKIE, GENGHIS KHAN?
The storyline to the game is set in the near future - the year 2010 to be exact. The city is a lawless and very dangerous place, and has seen a spate of assassinations on metal guitarists and bands. Sadok, lead guitarist for the war-metal band CyberPriest, was a recent victim. His death was written off by the police as another gangland killing and his band and close friend Ian were left to mourn his departure without justice. After many days of drinking (in the true heavy metal spirit), Ian decides to take matters in to his own hands, and investigate Sadok's murder further. And it is left for you to guide him, and to save the world...!
The game is packed into an eight-way scrolling action adventure. It feels very much like one of the polished productions (perhaps from Ocean?!?) from when the C64 was at its very height. Sadly, those great days will probably never return, not without the C1 reconfigurable computer being massively successful, or the C64DTV getting back on track at the very least but despite not being as big as it once was, it's good to see that the C64 survives thanks to the hard work, creativity and imagination of many homebrew programmers and enthusiasts.
Back-tracking a little, you start the game armed with a pistol and your first task is to search the remaining CyberPriest members, gather information and get yourself better fire power. From there, the game intensifies, with more and more shoot-em-up action, kind of like Rolling Thunder, or the lesser known Rapid Fire (but much better). The storyline progresses as you delve deeper into the binary world, and there are one or two surprises along the way.
I found that the visuals slightly glitchy in places, but that is my only real complaint about this production, other than having a small niggle about there not being a save game option or password system. The loading system is intelligent and fast, and the varying audio tracks are excellent throughout - not really heavy metal, but nothing to moan about. Importantly, everything is spot on playability-wise. The main character is responsive, it's not too difficult to change between weapons (unless the C64's keyboard is more than an arms length away from you), and the difficulty curve is just right - the first few screens ease you in nicely, and you find interacting with other characters within can give you hints of what to do next.
So, what we have here is a well-presented, action-packed, sleek production that no self-respecting C64 fan should be without. It's as good or better than most commercial games from when I were a lad, and just proves that homebrew, using the right ingredients and fermentation process, can be tasty-nice and have a potent kick as well. Metal Warrior has certainly righted the wrongs from metal's past with its razor-sharp game play cutting through the air like the sound of a classic Gibson SG being played by guitar legend Angus Young. Come on now, sing along... "For those about to rock... FIRE!"