Commodore User1st September 1986
Published in Commodore User #36
Some games get a lot of hype. Some live up to it and some don't. Infiltrator certainly got its fair share of hype and, to be honest, CU was not behind the door in getting excited about this one - with a colour spread preview in last month's issue.
So does 18 year old Chris Gray's mega game deliver? Well, I must say at the outset the game was not helped by the instructions and scene setting - a whole load of drivel designed to endear you to the game's hero - Captain Johnny "Jimbo-Baby" McGibbits.
You are expected to swallow that this guy is an "Ace helicopter pilot, ballistics expert, neurosurgeon, rock star, motorcycle racer, and a devil-may-care-all around good guy with a nifty haircut". I already hated him even before the disk loaded.
It became worse when I read that even his mother Mary 'Mom Baby' McGibbits says he was a beautiful baby and the Queen says he is cute. "Cute" - I mean, I ask you. What a cheek. As if Her Royal Highness is going to use a wimpy American slang word like cute.
But what really got me about all this blurb was that it was not separated from the instructions. You had to endure all this bull to find out what you were supposed to be doing. And in Infiltrator, that ain't easy.
Furthermore, none of Johnny's other skills are actually used in the game. He doesn't, for example, cut any records or dash off to Washington on important business, or Hollywood to decide whether Meryl Streep or Jessica Lang gets to play alongside him in his next film.
What he does attempt to do is to stop the Mad Leader destroying the world. To do this he needs to complete three missions - each loading separately off the disk version of the game that we tested.
You must fly to the 'Mad Leader's basee in your chooper or, as the instructions call it, the Whizzbang Enterprises Gizmo DHX-1 Attack Chopper - or Snuffmaster for short. I have to admit it is pretty advanced with Cannon Guns, Heat Seeking Missiles, Anti Radar Chaff, Flight Computer and sophisticated communications systems and boosters, Artificial Horizon, Automatic Direction Finder, and various warning lights.
One of the first things you must do is set your ADF. You find this by going to the Tactical Map. You're now set to fly to the outer perimenter of the Mad Leader's base.
His planes will buzz you as you approach, requesting your ID on your communications screen. If they twig that you are the Infiltrator it's time to reach for the missiles for a fight. If they do finish you off they like to rub it in with some nice friendly little message like "Die you Capitalist Scum".
This part of the game is a bit like a flight sim and may appear a little repetitious to those not accustomed to this type of game. You see, you have to go through the set sequence of button pushing every time you take off and fly - there's no point in wandering around to see what you can see and blast what you can blast. You've got to use the controls - all of them - just like a flight sim.
The graphics are, without doubt, brilliant. But I still had an overriding impression of repetition and tedium. This was not helped by the 50 second delay between crashing the Snuffmaster and being able to take off again. Things improve when you get to the enemy base. You can start to use the various items you have picked off an inventory screen. Like the stun bombs to get past the guards, the mine detector, papers for ID, explosives and camera.
On your first raid on the base you have to photograph the enemy plans and fly safely back to the base. You will then by given your next Mission Briefing, a small matter of flying back to the Mad Leader's base which this time is protected by even more 'Overlord' jets. Your instructions are to destroy the Interballistic Missile Control Centre and tracking station.
Just as in your search for the plans, you need to search the various rooms of the centre, watching out for the guards and various booby traps. Once the missiles have been disabled, you need to find a captured scientist and fly him back through fierce 'Overlord' attacks to the safety of Jumbo's country residence base.
The final mission is simply stated: go in and destroy the Mad Leader's base. But don't expect to come face to face with the great evil one. The game's creator, Chris Gray, told CU that he is saving his face-to-face showdown for the sequel.
So that's the scenario and I have already told you that the graphics are excellent - so how does it fail? To my mind, the chopper flight part of the game falls between two stools - it is neither a flight sim not a shoot-'em-up. True, the graphics are awe-inspiring, far superior to the graphics in the rest of the game, but the chopper section is plain dull to play. What you really want to do is have a right good dog-fight with the 'Overlord' choppers and jets - but the game doesn't let you.
In its bid to be sim-like with its many sophisticated controls, it substitutes simulation for shoot-'em-up. I for one would have preferred to see Mister smart-arse McGibbits go out there and shoot the hell out of the Mad Leader's squadrons.
The room-search part of the game is nothing to write home about having been used in dozens of Impossible Mission clones in the last couple of years. The graphics are not quite so impressive in this part of the game either, though I did very much like the inventory screen with the various tools for Johnny to choose from.
Infiltrator has all the hallmarks of a real quality piece of software. Excellent attention to detail, some brilliant graphics, and good sound effects but somehow, despite all this, the parts just don't hang together. I just couldn't get to like it and the scenario was pure garbage.