Sinclair User2nd January 1987
Published in Sinclair User #60
Judge Dredd is probably the best game I've seen this month. Based (as if you didn't know) on the absurdly successful character in 2000AD comic.
Dredd is part of an elite squad of law-enforcement officers, authorised to try any criminal on the spot and deliver sentence accordingly. Often it's necessary for Dredd to put a heat-seeking bullet through the kidneys of a fleeing 'perp'. Still, I guess that's the price you have to pay if you insist on dropping litter on a 21st century sidewalk.
Melbourne House has managed to pull off a game that has nearly all of the atmosphere of the cartoon. You can run along the walkways, blasting anything that moves. It's great. After running for a while, something - criminal/robot/rat/innocent bystander etc - will make the mistake of stepping out in front of you. With a flick of a button, you switch to high-explosive shells and waste the offending creature.That's crime-prevention, folks! MegaCity One is a vast sprawling city of high-rise buildings, freeways and cityblocks. these latter monstrous constructions a single one of which houses more people than a whole town of today.
Under such pressurised living conditions, we are told, tempers are frayed more easily. Crimes such as murder are rife, and are induced by the slightest things. Smoking and littering reach such remarkable proportions, they are filed as Serious Crimes.
Judge Dredd begins by displaying an overview of Mega City One. Instantly, small icon-style windows pop up over certain cityblocks. Each window indicates that a crime is in progress. The illustration contained within will give you an insight into the severity of the incident. As new Judge you may not wish to handle an armed robbery on your first assignment, whereas an old hand will quite happily wander into dangerous zones with a view to reducing the population significantly.
Once you've decided which area of the city you want to visit, highlight the appropriate block with your Dredd-selector-logo and hit Fire. Next the screen will change to show a street scene with you, as Dredd, standing on one of the platforms.
Running around below you are numerous innocent citizens. These are easy fodder and crumple up and die after a single shot.
Criminals, though, are much such years of deprivation and social pressure they have become almost bullet-proof and take a good many shots before they'll go down. The manner in which the bad guys 'buy it' is extremely pleasing. Everything is executed in comic-book style, from the Blam! of your gun to the Aarg! of the perp and his wonderfully exaggerated buckling, sprawling stance. After a few shots, they collapse in an untidy heap on the floor.
Once you've dealt with the creep at hand, you can go back to the menu and decide where to go next.
Most parts of the city found in the comic are represented, in some form or other. Even the underground bits, probably the most dangerous, as they're wholly un-policed. In such areas, you'll encounter all kinds of strange things. Robot dogs are the biggest problems. They'll bound up and clank you to death if you're not careful. These suckers take bullets in the rump without flinching. I frequently found myself crouching on the sidewalk, blasting away at an enormous on-coming monster that appeared to eat the bullets like Scooby snacks.
Dredd is great fun to play, and there's also a fair bit of snap decision making - it hardly qualifies as real thought - involved between the killing sprees. It feels like a comic strip, and scores major points in the entertainment-while-blasting chart.
Finally. A decent licence conversion. Futuristic reactionary oppression of a big scale. From 2000AD's bad good-guy.