C&VG1st November 1988
Published in Computer & Video Games #84
Nineteen Part One
It's been a long time coming, but 19 is finally here. By the time it's in the shops it will have been a year in the making - from one PCW Show to the next - and while this four-event military training simulation has several good things going for it, given that much time it should have been not just acceptable, but astounding.
Inspired by the Paul Hardcastle song of the same name. 19 is the story of a draftee drawn into the Vietnam war. He looks pretty miserable about it on the title screen, but so would you if you'd had all your hair shorn off.
You don't get any of the battlezone atmosphere here, though - in part one what you get is several training exercises, similar in style and content to Ocean's coin-op conversion Combat School. After an astonishing Rob Hubbard rendition of the music, complete with synthesised helicopters, gunfire and screams, you can select and name up to four competitors. In each of the four training exercises to come, you will be assessed in three areas. Your accuracy in shooting, jumping obstacles, driving and fighting give your co-ordination rating, your stamina is calculated from how long you compete in each routine, and your morale from your overall performance. After each event you earn a rating from 1 (Abysmal) to 10 (Exceptional) and your overall score can be saved and used in the forthcoming sequel 19 Part Two: Combat Zone.
First, the assault course. On this left-to-right scrolling even there are eight courses, each to be completed against a decreasing time limit. The trick is to gauge your position and time your presses on the fire button correctly so that, as you run up to each obstacle, your power meter rises to the correct amount to get you through. Among the challenges is a brick wall, vaulting horses, stepping posts, ditches and monkey bars. Animation in this section is fairly good, but control is a little tricky - you find yourself plummeting off the bars as soon as you build up a decent speed.
Part two, the shooting range is impressive technically, but a little dull to play. An enlarged section of the background is shown through your infra-red sniper scope as you pan around the view. Using your limited ammunition supply, you must knock off the pop-up soldiers, while avoding taking out women or children, which will decrease your score by 1,000 points (unlike in the real war, where they gave you medals).
Next up is the jeep driving section. We've seen plenty of these scrolling-roadway efforts in the past, and this is basically just more of the same thing: accelerate along the road, pick up helmets, boots, ammo boxes, dog tags, jerry cans and stars for bonus points, avoid the sides of the roads, haybales, cones, tyres and fences which slow you down, and the rocks, logs, tree-stumps and fences which bring you to a standstill. Each bit of damage shows your jeep down, and if you sustain total damage you're out of action.
Lastly, unarmed combat. Though this is a decent one-to-one beat-'em-up routine, there's nothing new to it: fight eight bouts with the instructor against end of a bout, you're out.
As you often find, the Spectrum version of the game has a nicer feel to it, despite the colour and sound limitations. The real problem, though, is that 19: Part One is basically a compilation of four unremarkable games rather than one good one. Maybe the proposed 19 Part Two: The Combat Zone will prove better value for money.