Your Sinclair

Action Force II
By Virgin Games
Spectrum 48K/128K

Published in Your Sinclair #30

Action Force II

Hmmmmmm, Action Force 2, hey? A game based on little plastic figures, hey? Programmed by the Gang of Five, hey? Good loading screen. hey? Amazing title screen, hey? Pretty graphics, hey? Good animation, hey? Incredibly addictive, original and slick, hey?

Hey! This game is brilliant.

Cobra, the slimy evil enemy of Action Force, has nabbed some innocent hostages, and is holding them on the top of certain buildings in the city's slum areas (inner-city development She called it...). And, as all goody-goody, anti-terrorist squads should, Action Force have dispatched only two of their best men to combat the millions of enemy troops. First is Quick-kick (quick by name, quick by nature - fnar), who must climb the building to rescue the hostages, and second is Airtight (until he eats beans for tea). who has to provide cover-fire for Quicky.

Action Force 2

You play Airtight, and must use the crosshair of your weapon to blow away any obstacles in Quick-kick's path as he marches on obliviously. Yep, ol' Quick-kick although mean, hunky, and good-looking is a teeney-weeney bit on the vacuous side - in fact he so dense that he doesn't even know that a man wearing a sadistic grin, pointing a smoking gun at him, is dangerous.

Obstacles are quite varied - stuff like fings-being-bunged-outa-windas, trash cans, kamikazee soldiers and assassins (you know the general rambo-esque stuff), - all of which are represented with superb animation and refined graphical detail. Little things not apparent at first, come to your attention gradually: the windows open, evil eyes appear... they blink -and a one ton weight plummets downward! The bomber reaches into his pocket for the next bomb to bung at you, and when you rescue the hostages at the end, they emerge, hands tied, blindfolded, and hopping along, a huge ball and chain in tow. Brillo!

Colour isn't missed out either. Clever use of screen design enables colour to be used in each screen to restrict the blandness of monochrome.

As Quick-kick ascends the skyscraper, inching up ladders and along platforms, his energy slowly diminishes. For some reason, this supply can be replenished by patriotically blowing away the American flags that are plastered everywhere. Another nice touch is the way you can choose a new weapon at the end of the level. The machine gun is the fastest, but tends to jolt about too realistically. Bazooka - a fave of mine - is the slowest, but allows you to blow away huge chunks of scenery as well as nasties - luverlee! The Bio-Gun causes obstacles to electrocute happily in the air, and is really juicy. What's more, the way something dies differs in accordance with the weapon you're using - yet another nice touch.

In this game, the tension comes with the unpredictability of each screen. You, the player, have to guess which window is going to open, which dustbin is going to explode, and from which doorway the assassin is going to come from. You'll often zoom your crosshairs down to a dangerous-looking crate, only to have a greater peril emerge from the hole in the wall you just left. The screens are not random, everything is staged so that when Quick-kick climbs that ladder, blah-blah will appear in that door. In this way you can prepare yourself for each screen and get a little further per game -the essence of playability, n'est ce pas?

Another attraction is the new shoot 'em up angle employed by this game. No longer is it an all out and out blast anything that moves, but what could be termed a "strategic carnage" game. You must control your outpouring of violence, deciding which is the most dangerous enemy and what to eliminate next, or else you may miss the object of your hatred or shoot Quick-kick himself.

All this addictiveness, playability and all these graphics are complimented with a splattering of attractive special effects (just look at that title screen), that tone up the game and provide an added incentive to complete each level. After a bad patch, Virgin seems to have regained its former glory. Dan Dare was brill, Dan Dare 2 was exceptional and Action Force 2, well it's transcended!

Strategic carnage with snazzy programming and natty graphics. On a par with Cybernoid and Rastan.

David McCandless

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