What does a government do when it wants to let its hair down? In Zeugma, the answer was to build itself a huge, computer-controlled leisure complex on a particularly ugly moon. This appeared to be a good solution, and all went went - until the computer went wrong. This colossal machine got bored of the filth and degradation of the Zeugma population having a good time, so it sent out Cycloids to eradicate the people.
After the fighting died down, and a considerable proportion of the ruling party had kicked the bucket, a Tracker squad was sent in to regain control of the complex. To do this, the central computer has to be blown to bits.
The complex consists of a central sector, containing Centrepoint (the computer centre) and two concentric rings o sectors around it. Each sector consists of inter-connecting passages called trackways, along with a communication centre. The sectors are linked only at a few points, called link trackways - and where the trackways meet, they form a node.
Up to eight members of the Tracker squad can be in play at once, and an infinite number of replacements are at your disposal. The Trackers are accessed by pressing their corresponding number on the keyboard, and can be moved in three different ways. They can be told to go to a specific part of the map, in which case they work out the best route themselves. Or, every time they get to a node they can be told which trackway to travel down next. Lastily, they can be steered directly with the joystick.
The screen consists of three sections or bands - the top band is equipped with a short range scanner showing the area of trackways around the squad member selected; the middle band shows how many members of the team are on the surface, and also indicates their present energy level and the number of Cycloids; the bottom section shows a map of the complex, or, if in combat mode, it shows an 'out of cockpit' view of the trackway.
The central computer tries to stop the player destroying parts of the base by producing Cycloids - which it sends out against the Trackers. The Cycloids move faster than Trackers when you use autopilot, but they can be out-run using combat mode. In combat mode, shield energy is lost by colliding with walls or enemy fire - energy lost in combat is slowly replaced though.
A new Tracker can be beamed down when a fellow Tracker is at a node, but nly if that sector contains no Communications Centre. The Communications Centres are destroyed either by moving Trackers over all the links between that sector and the neighbouring sectors, or by moving to the centre and dropping a bomb. The Tracker must leave the node within five seconds or face destruction. If all the Communication Centres in neighbouring sectors are destroyed, a 'safe' sector is produced which the Cycloids cannot enter.
When all the Trackers have been destroyed, or Centrepoint has been blown up, an evaluation has been blown up, an evaluation of the player's performance is given in terms of Trackers lost to enemy destroyed.
There is no way you can play this as a simple shoot-'em-up, as blowing up the Cycloids is rather tricky (and very tedious). Therefore, you need to keep retreating back to the outer sectors to replace men - most annoying, and quite dull. I would have come back to this game again and again if the arcade element had been any good. But as it is, I feel that this really lets the whole game down, and makes the hefty price-tag rather hard to swallow.
If you read the instructions and scenario, Tracker looks like it's going to be something pretty special. Unfortunately these initial impressions hide the true story: beneath the glossy packaging is a very boring game which offers little in the way of satisfactory action.
The arcade sequence is very repetitive and consists of flying down a 3D trench waiting for one craft to come into view so it can be shot at. Graphically and sonically the game is bland, giving an overall lacklustre appearance - something I don't expect from a game that costs fifteen quid.
I'm not impressed with Rainbird's policy of dressing games up in big, fancy boxes with glossy booklets - just to create a favourable impression. This is all very well from a marketing point of view, but it's usually deceptive - and this is certainly true in Tracker's case.
It's phenomenally overpriced for what it offers. There's not much strategy involved - and not enough arcade action to compensate. To make matters worse, the pace is slow and monotonous, and it didn't hold my attention for very long. If Rainbird spent more time concentrating on the contents of the package, rather than its appearance, they wouldn't end up with such substandard produce.
Flashy packaging, including a worthless story-book.
Functional, but not overly varied.
Sparse - mostly bland, white-noise spot FX.
Over-complicated and confusing instructions may lead to frustration.
Unrewarding and rapidly repetitious.
Value For Money 26%
Ridiculously overpriced - more time appears to have been spent on the package than on the program.
An original, but very dull program which lacks interesting content.