This is it! The first console game (apart from Burnin' Rubber) to fall into our grubby little mitts! Eagerly, we plugged it into the console. An incredible screen instantly appeared, then, unable to contain our collective excitement, we went straight into the game (no tiresome loading or waiting any more!)
It's another 3D driving game, but a very different one to Burnin' Rubber, the game bundled with the GX4000 console. You're on a winding road, heading at 240mph towards the city of Megapolis. The reason is clear; a dangerous group of terrorists has decided to gatecrash the Third International Conference for Peace, being held in the city. It's almost a pity to try and stop them; these Peace conferences are so boring. But anyway, stop them you must, and you have a pretty potent weapon to help you.
You're commanding the Thunder Master II. It's a car. No, it's a plane. No, it's both. Whatever it is, it certainly has 850 horsepower, and is able to convert itself into a genuine airborne attacker, equipped with 30th ionic phasers and a missile launcher. You'll need both to stop the terrorist convoy from livening up the Conference.
Flying and driving this beast is easy. Unlike Burnin' Rubber, you can't come off the road, so you can cruise at speeds approaching those of Royals on the M4. There are a great many technologically advanced opponents who must be avoided or destroyed. The ionic blaster, button one on the joypad, is fine for blasting most of the nasties, but for heavy duty firepower, you can press buttons one and two simultaneously. This launches a missile, which homes in on the biggest target in front of you.
The variety of enemies which confront you is amazing. There are dozens of different machines, any one of which could theoretically destroy you. Destroying some of the enemy is a formality, because they are pretty hopeless at evasion techniques. Others are evil to the core, and might be armoured heavily enough to take almost all you can throw. Perseverence and brute force will see them reduced to blackened lumps of steel, though.
Many of the terrorist craft are airborne, and in order to kill them you must leave the ground too. Press button two and the car lifts off, if you're going fast enough. You only have a limited flying time, so it's best not to linger in the sky for too long. All the weapons systems operate in the same way, but the battle is now in a third dimension.
If you avoid the road mines and destroy the droid craft buzzing in your direction, you get to have a crack at an end-of-level guardian. This is a large, well-armoured truck, which will absorb your worst efforts for quite a while. Keep at it, though and boom - destruction, and on to stage two.
You're getting nearer to the city now. You can see it on the horizon. The terrorists are upping their efforts to stop you intercepting their nuclear warhead. This is the firework they are planning to let off at the party. And they are very determined to do it. The hardware ranged against you is getting larger and more sophisticated, and your flying and driving skills had better be up to it. It is safer to fly for much of the way, but you must be quick to dive and cash in on extra fuel pods and missiles situated on the road. Running out of fuel is the most ignominious way of ending your mission.
Fire And Forget II is a thoroughbred arcade game. Everything about it smacks of coin-op. If you aren't careful, you'll be trying to put 20p pieces into the ports of your console to get another game.
The introductory screen is excellent. During the break between stages, the leader of the terrorists appears, and taunts you for not killing him (yet!). It's another great piece of artwork, and fires you up even more to go and get him.
The game's graphics are as fast and as smooth as Burnin' Rubber. You see the back and occasionally the sides of your Thunder Master II as you manoeuvre, avoiding the enemy craft - which whizz towards you with a great sense of speed and realism. The cartridge system appears to be excellent at displaying large, beautifully detailed sprites with amazing speed. And there are so many of them! As you progress through the levels, it seems as if you are meeting a different set of enemy vehicles with each encounter.
As with many coin-ops, there is a tune which burbles to itself quite happily. It's fine. It's not intrusive and detracts nothing. The game sounds are excellent. Decent noises for the car, and the terrorist craft and the violence. There's also some nice stereo effects to be heard on the new monitors. Check it out.
The difficulty is pitched just right. It's possible to progress at a satisfactory rate, without finding things too easy. You can tailor your playing style to suit your temperament. Survival by avoidance is not as much fun as wanton, indiscriminate violence, though! The joypad is perfectly acceptable as a control method, and the ability to use fire button one, two, or both together adds quite a few possibilities for the firing of different weapons.
So, overall, the first cartridge game we've seen is a good 'un. It isn't a revolutionary idea for a game, nor does it have the imagination of many current and recent software releases, but it plays beautifully and it looks good.
The only thing left to worry about is the price. Nearly £30 is one hell of a lot compared to the £15 or so of traditional disk-based CPC software. But if that's the price you gotta pay for console games, that's the price you gotta pay!
A race-'em-up with violence!