Armageddon is a situation in which nobody gets to have a summer holiday. Beaches wold be curiously uncrowded and Coke wold no longer be It. Your job, according to Martech is to stop the world nuking itself into extinction. If you can't do it, nobody else can, because you're the Supreme Commander of a United Nations-type organisation called the UNN. That means your shoulders need extending to carry all the pips.
Martech's high-powered team of economic and strategic analysts have been staying up nights. Using high level data and a Philips School Atlas, they've devised a world of the not-too-distant future consisting of sixteen primary nations including the USA and Russia (known as Eastern Block).
But they've made some perceptive changes. We now have a United Europe. Arab states have formed the Islamic Alliance. There's a Black African Republic covering most of Africa, and Central American banana republics have formed out huge banana republic called the Central American Alliance. China has also become a more potent force.
This is a strategy game in which you must keep all sixteen countries smiling at each other. Instead of telling them non-racist jokes, you must actively promote good relations between them and with yourself.
You also realise that countries will be less disposed to pressing fire-buttons if they're economically stable and generally doing very well, thank you. A few more weapons might also help smaller states feel less vulnerable. And a few timely warnings might stop angry words turning into transcontinental rubble or a conventional war turning into a holocaust.
Being Supreme Commander gives you sufficient power to achieve all these aims. The real skill lies in making the right decisions when you employ what's at your disposal.
The screen depicts a large world map, with icons to the bottom and left. All information appears in windows and always involves simply choosing an option from a list. The whole thing is joystick driven and very easy to control.
Here's what each of the icons offers you:
You get six laser defence satellites and three reconnaissance ones. Simply deplot them where you think fit on the map, i.e. potential trouble spots. The reconnaissance satellites will give advance warnings of military buildups. The laser defence type, if positioned correctly, will destroy missiles already fired and may consequently stop a war escalating.
This gives figures on foot, missiles and technical resources for each country. Not surprisingly, the USA and Eastern Block comes top in all categories. China has become pretty hi-tech but the Third World is still well down on food. Such information will be useful whenever countries request food, arms or resources from each other. Figures in red represent a deficiency whilst green shows that all is well. You decide whether or not to allow a request and what the consequences may be.
Select this icon and then choose which of the sixteen countries to send the taskforce to. Remember that countries won't take kindly to having them around for too long, but the Force will make them that bit more disposed to do what you want.
In And Out Tray:
Countries are constantly sending you letters and it's wise to read and act on them. You can also send a variety of letters ordering countries to reduce or increase arms, telling countries to behave, reprimanding or supporting, and sending food.
This natty little device lets you tune into countries' broadcasts and maybe glean some valuable information. There are two ways of using it. You can set to scan any one of the six band frequencies and print out messages when it finds them. The trouble here is that they're in code and you have to set a row of filters to unscramble them. The other way is to input the exact frequency for a country (you'll have to find it out). These messages can be read immediately.
Throughout the game, memos are constantly being flashed onto the screen, no matter what you're doing. Some just provide information on what various countries are getting up to and some ask you to make a decision. You can ignore, support, criticise or ask for talks.
The longer you play, and the more memos you read and letters you receive, the greater becomes your grasp of the needs and aspirations of each of the countries. This gives you the basis for decisions on whether to provide food, weapons or resources, and what action to take when countries become aggressive.
Obviously some events can be foreseen by use of the satellites and radio. Nipping something in the bud not only stops events escalating but gives you more credibility. At intervals, an assessment of your performance is flashed up.
You start as 'adequate', with a radiation level of 'background'. Make a few bad moves and your rating can easily go down to 'disastrous'. My rating suffered badly when Pakistan managed to destroy Libya. I also intercepted a radio message from the USA asking HQ to replace me - so I sent in the troops.
Only two criticisms, a few action scene interludes wouldn't have been amiss - like controlling the satellite to zap missiles. As it is, there's no action at all. You simply carry on making and implementing decisions. Lastly, there doesn't seem to be any real end to the game. It seems to me that, if you're good enough to control all sixteen countries, you simply carry on playing.
Despite that Armageddon Man is an absorbing game. And when you think about it, it's not really that naïve in its view of the world.