30/03/2012

MECHANIZED ATTACK (ARCADE)

In the late eighties and throughout the nineties, some people believed that videogames were creating a generation of murderous, rage-filled children who were being taught to kill with ruthless efficiency by these digital simulations of military combat. Anyone who thought that is an idiot, of course - if people had learnt combat techniques from arcade shooters, their rampages would have been very short indeed. These are not tactics that translate well to real-world situations, especially since you can't just nip to the bathroom and pick up a first-aid kit after you've been hit in the chest by a high-velocity sniper round. Case in point: SNK's 1989 mow-em-down-em-up Mechanized Attack.



Mechanized Attack is a lightgun game in the grand old style - anything that moves is evil, probably a Communist, definitely out to destroy America and is in urgent need of a hot lead bath so thorough that the post-battle clean-up will be accomplished using paper towels. Really, this screen from the attract mode sums up everything you need to know about the game:


Trigger = bullets. I think I can remember that. What, that's not good enough for you? You need a little more motivation? Well, here's the story.


Does... does that guy have a framed picture of himself on the wall behind him? Maybe it's his identical twin brother peering in through a window.
So, your mission is to "save captured spies". Don't suppose you'd like to furnish me with any information regarding the target? No reconnaissance footage, intel on enemy munitions, a photograph of these spies we're supposed to be looking out for because it sure would be embarrassing if you accidentally shot them in the confusion? No? Oh well, it's probably for the best that we don't get much information because our playable heroes don't look like they've got the mental capacity to remember any of it anyway.


Hey, Duke Nukem had to get started somewhere. Both these guys have truly atrocious trigger discipline: it's a wonder they haven't already accidentally shot each other, although I don't think it'd matter to the guy on the left because he's honed his natural smugness to such an overwhelming degree that it envelops him in an a protective barrier that cannot be breached by conventional weapons.
On with the mission, then. Our heroes decide to approach the island by sea...

  

Aww, isn't that nice? The azure sky, the tranquil waves, it's just beautiful. There are no enemy forces in sight, so hopefully we can sneak onto the island and...


OH JESUS SHIT A BRICK. Fire! Fire! There's a rocket-propelled carrot headed right for me and that prick behind the boat's gun turret is laughing. That's what you get for trying to wade across the goddamn ocean! Really though, what the hell kind of scale is this game working to? This water is clearly deep enough for a battleship to sail on, so does that mean we're in a boat too? Are we swimming? This is what I mean about videogames not providing a good education in military strategy. Battleships and attack helicopters are fairly large. Our heroes must have seen them but they decided that splashing around in the middle of the sea, completely exposed to any passing boat, frogman or helicopter, was the right course of action. I mean, you'd have thought that their superior officers could have least told them about the ruddy great battleship patrolling the waters, but no - the first I knew about it was when a salvo of missiles wedged themselves firmly up my backside.

Those scuba divers aren't even part of the enemy forces - they're just pissed off that our hero's military action is disrupting the fragile undersea ecosystem.
The battleship is the boss, although it's not really much different from the rest of the stage - missiles pour of out the ship faster than bullshit out of Joey Barton's Twitter account, and you've got to shoot them out of the air while also trying to hit the ship's turrets. You can also press a button on the side of the gun to throw a grenade, and luckily throwing a hand-held fragmentation grenade at a battleship is much more effective in Mechanized Attack than it would be in real life (that is to say, it's not completely useless). With enough bullets - the magical, mystical armour-piercing bullets your Uzi fires - pumped into the battleship, it explodes and you can head onto the island and into stage two.


You know... them. The forest people. Also a convoy of tanks.

I told a lie a second ago: you can't move on to the next stage until you've destroyed the tanks. I don't know if it was an attempt by SNK to fake players out by having a boss battle followed immediately by another boss battle, but it happens a few times. Luckily these tanks are even easier to beat than the battleship (that's the benefit of not fighting them whilst treading water, I guess) and once they're done with you can finally move on to stage two...


...which is presented in fabulous glaucoma-vision! I think this is supposed to simulate night-time combat: you know, the kind of night-time that hasn't really got its act together and keeps forgetting to darken small areas of the screen. Also there are Terminators now. If you were wondering why this game was called Mechanized Attack, it's because you're being attacked by a force of mechanized T-800 endoskeleton rip-offs.


Ah, that’s better, I can see what the hell’s going on. So yeah, Terminators. It was the late eighties, so if you need a remorseless killing machine to feature in your videogame then what better than the ultimate remorseless killing machine? They make up a large percentage of the enemies from here on out, some appearing in their skeletal forms and some who have been given a fresh coat of flesh, which you can shoot off them in a nice display of visible damage. There are still regular human soldiers about but let’s be honest – they’re just there to make up the numbers, and I imagine they feel pretty pissed off about being forced into battle when they have access to an army of super-strong deathbots at their disposal. I know I’d be pissed off, but then again I wouldn’t join an evil paramilitary organisation unless the pay was really, really good.
Speaking of visible damage, you can shoot a lot of the background components to smithereens. I suggest you do this whenever you get the chance, because the leaders of this army took lessons on item storage from Castlevania and hid health packs and ammo in various walls, security cameras and unmarked cardboard boxes throughout their military base. The health packs are useful, as are the extra grenades, but despite having my finger clamped to the trigger for the entire game so firmly that my index finger now has a permanent crook I never once ran out of bullets. That’s probably because I died roughly once every thirteen seconds and continuing restocks your ammo, though.


The boss is a large man in body armour who moonwalks across the screen throwing grenades at you. This being a lightgun game, you have to deal with these grenades by shooting them so that they explode harmlessly about four feet away from your head. Wait, what?


Oh, they did give me a picture of the captured spies after all. I’m sure that Mister Spy here can make his way off the island full of killer cyborgs on his own, it’s not like he got captured earlier or anything.


What the hell have I been doing for the last two stages?


Now we’re out in the open, trudging across the enemy airfield. Notice how those Terminators in the background have formed a highly advanced cybernetic conga line. The enemies in Mechanized Attack do this with some frequency, presumably so you can experience the thrill of sweeping a line of Uzi fire across them, which is very nice of them and all but is hardly going to help their plans for world conquest.


This time the boss is slightly more effective than one man and his bullet-proof vest: a trio of newly-hatched baby jump-jets launch out of their nest in the ground and introduce themselves via the magic of air-to-ground missiles. Again, to survive you’ve got to shoot their missiles out of the air. If these bad guys had invested less money in replicating Cyberdyne’s most famous product and a little more in bulletproofing their missiles and grenades they could have conquered the whole southern hemisphere by now.
Not that there’s any defence against our hero’s Uzi, a weapon so powerful it can shoot through battleship armour and human flesh with equal ease. Uzis really were the hot weapon of the late eighties and nineties, weren’t they? Again, I blame the Terminator. The use of Uzis also makes it easy to see that while MA is very similar to SNK’s own zombie-based shooter Beast Busters, (with identical graphics in some places,) its main ancestor is Taito’s 1987 Rambo-em-up Operation Wolf. They’re both lightgun games using fixed-to-the-cabinet Uzis with buttons on the side for chucking grenades where the player battles through a military base packed with soldiers who have yet to learn that jumping out in front of someone firing a submachine gun is not going to do their chances of advancing through the ranks any favours.


Stage four takes us through the underground base / model railway portion of the game. One poor, deluded Terminator has reached the end of his rope and decided that if bullets, grenades missiles can’t put a stop to our rampage then maybe throwing a knife at my head will. It’s the final act of a desperate robot, and I feel like I’m doing him a favour by gunning him down and putting him to rest. Any other (non-cutlery) tricks up these guys’ sleeves?


Well, they’ve got a battle train, which is like a normal locomotive but with rocket launchers glued to the sides. For some reason it lurches backward and forward at you like a cat pawing at a dangling string – look, those tracks clearly go all the way to where I’m standing so why not just run me down? My Uzi might have the raw, rending power of Mjolnir itself but even that couldn’t stop a train from running me over if it got a shift on. It doesn’t do that, though. It just wobbles back and forth and lets you shoot it. They could have at least put a Thomas the Tank Engine style face on it: then they could have died knowing that the encounter would have left me confused and possibly vulnerable to more rockets.



And because one train wasn’t enough, the boss is also a train. Like all the best toys, though, this one comes with a hidden character. It’s a man with a heavily-armed jetpack strapped to his back! He’s the real target, because he’s the leader of this villainous crew. I’m assuming he’s the leader, anyway: there’s only one guy with a jetpack in this game and if the leader doesn’t get to use it then what’s the point of being in charge? I guess we’ll find out if he’s the head honcho once I’ve killed him.


Oops.
I feel a little guilty about it, but I can’t help but read that text in the voice of a stereotypical angry old Chinese man. Although judging by the beams of light illuminating our heroes as they kneel penitently before some unseen speaker, God himself is relaying their orders or has at least delegated the task to one of the more senior angels.
Now that I know God is on our side, I’m filled with a renewed sense of confidence. We can do this! Let’s track down the true leader, because with our Lord looking out for us there’s no way we can fail!


Except if you run out of continues / coins to feed the machine with, because the final stage is non-stop barrage of flying lead and surprise Terminator attacks.


There’s just so much going on, so many sources of impending death, that you simply cannot destroy them all fast enough. I’m convinced that no matter how good you are, there are points in the latter stages of Mechanized Attack that you cannot get past without dying. Of course I’m probably wrong and I’m just not very good at videogames, but what I’m saying is a single-credit completion of this game is unlikely.
I don’t think it’s the bullets that get you in the end, though: judging by the graphic that appears when you die, the stress becomes too much for our hero and he suffers a massive coronary.


“HHNNG!” Don’t worry, another coin in the slot and he’s back on his feet. Which is good, because we’ve reached the final boss!


Ahh, a supercomputer with missile-firing tentacles controlled by a brain in a jar. Yeah, I can live with that. I’m going to assume that’s Hitler’s brain in there: the game never states this outright, but really, who’s brain is it going to be otherwise? Napoleon's? No, because then the computer would have a silly hat on. The boss battle plays out the same as all the others – you’ve just got to pour bullets into it while shooting down its projectiles. Once it explodes, you’ve finished the game and this vaguely-defined menace is no more!


Yeah, they didn’t really have a lot of follow-through on this plan. Well, time to relax with a prolonged period of physical therapy designed to un-bend my trigger finger and counselling to help me with the horrifying flashbacks of the things I’ve done that come to me in my sleep.

But wait, there’s more! Yep, you get Ghosts’n Goblins-ed and have to replay the entire game to see the “true end”. The game is the same except for a slightly higher enemy density, and in the interests of compulsive completionism I battled through the whole thing once more.


Yeah, I probably could have skipped that.
This is not a difficult game to sum up. If you like shooting things and don’t have a long attention span, then you’ll probably enjoy Mechanized Attack. It’s not a lengthy game and it’s hardly bursting with originality, but for half an hour you’ll be pleasantly diverted. I’d like to tell you about the music but I don’t think I heard any of it over the constant rattle of my gun, although I can say that the death-scream of the final boss is pretty neat. The graphics are nice in that big, cartoony SNK manner, and visible damage is always a fun thing to have in a shooter.


In conclusion: if you really want to shoot a bunch of robots with an Uzi, Mechanized Attack will hopefully provide enough catharsis to prevent you from going on a rampage in on car assembly line.

Bonus!
In keeping with the Terminator theme, the Japanese arcade flyer rather cheekily implies that you will be playing as Arnold Schwarzenegger.


No clue who the other guy is supposed to be, but he looks a little like Nathan Fillion to me. Or maybe one of the Estevezes. Estevi?

Recently on VGJUNK:

6 comments:

  1. I see Christopher Lambert in the other guy. Or even Dolph Lundgren or Van Damme from Universal Soldier, but that was released in 92.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I can definitely see some Lambert in there. I think it's the pensive stare...

      Delete
  2. Pretty sure that's Michael Biehn as Kyle Reese on the left.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. See, Michael Biehn *would* make sense, but the problem with that theory is (to me at least) that illustration looks nothing like Michael Biehn.

      Delete
  3. It is Christopher Lambert circa highlander

    ReplyDelete
  4. It is Christopher Lambert circa highlander

    ReplyDelete

VGJUNK Archive

Search This Blog

Followers