Batman's sexy graphics and superb gameplay led to talk from Ocean of a new commitment to 16-bit games. Now The Untouchables is here we can test the game against the hype. You've played the demo on November's Cover Disk, now grab a look at the real thing...
The fight against the Mafia is exploited yet again in The Untouchables. The Mafia have raged war and been a convenient enemy in one game plot after another, from Actionsoft's Capone to Mirrorsoft's tedious King Of Chicago. Their presence has become predictable, unoriginal and boring.
The Untouchables can hardly claim to look at 1920s Chicago in a new light, but with a strong film behind it, sales are guaranteed - even if gameplay isn't. So what exactly do you get for your dosh?
The Untouchables is structured on the same model as Batman. You move through a succession of different levels in your quest to crush Al Capone and his henchmen. In fact level one could almost be the first level of Batman with different sprites.
Elliot Ness has discovered the Mafia in a derelict warehouse, which is the cue for an eight-directional scrolling platform level where you must wipe out Capone's thugs and collect vital evidence.
This level sees you confronting Capone's henchmen and book-keeper. Everything you shoot, the bookkeeper (a vicarious thrill for all those having trouble with the inland revenue) he drops a ledger which you can use as evidence against Capone. This must be collected before it disappears, and then a new accountant enters the level.
To help you find the book-keeper there's an arrow in the top corner of the screen which tells you whether you should move up or along. The book-keeper is unexpectedly agile, so catching him often means leaping up and down levels with gun at the ready. Unfortunately this isn't as easy as it sounds because the levels are saturated with thugs, blasting at you and reducing your energy levels. The thugs are easily killed but there are so many of them that you can forget about going straight for the book-keeper. Kill the thugs first and they drop bonuses such as rapid fire and extra bullets - essential if you're going to keep hitting the book-keepers.
In the second level you're on a bridge, flat on your stomach attempting to thwart illegal trade in liquor. To defeat Capone's henchmen as they fire bullets and toss bottles in your direction, you roll backwards and forwards across the ground, lining up your sights on them and firing. To complete the level, you need to shoot all the bottles of liquor that appear around the bridge. Winning in this scene is all about keeping on the move. At the first sign of thugs, shoot and roll out of the way.
Level three is the alley scene given away on our Cover Disk in issue 5. You're under constant fire in a tricky ambush as Capone's men pump round after round in your direction. Fortunately, you've got your pump-action rifle and as your attackers appear from behind windows you use the impressive weapon to blast them to shreds.
There's a short time limit to this level so you need to line up your sights and fire as fast as you can to win. After every two bullets fired, you must re-load your gun. This takes up valuable time so you can't afford to mindlessly blast everything in sight.
In this level, you can switch through the four Untouchable characters, giving you four lives. Untouchables who aren't being used regain energy - unless they've died, which means the key to success is using them in short bursts.
In level four you take up the baby protection racket. One of Capone's accoountants has let rip with a gun and a pram is heading down a long line of steps in time-honoured Eisenstein fashion. The pram moves on a constant downward slope and to slow it or move it you must stand in front of it. The aim is to avoid Capone's men who are firing all over the place and still prevent the baby's pram from falling over. If it does, or if you get shot, you lose a life.
One of Capone's men is alone at the railway station in the next level and has taken a hostage as protection. To win the level you have a short time in which to score a fatal hit, but everything moves around so fast that it's hard living up your sights.
The final level is played on the rooftop when Capone is in court on trial. His hitman, Frank Nitty, is still loose and you chase him across the roof, trying to kill him. This level is similar to the alley scene with you hiding behind walls before dashing out ready to fire. You have six bullets in your gun and to re-load them you move back against the wall and hit the spacebar.
Nitty hides behind chimney stacks and other obstacles on the roof, leaping out occasionally and giving you the opportunity to hit him. You have to score several hits before Nitty eventually dies.
Many of the graphics in Batman were large and fast. The Untouchables has moved on a step further with brighter bigger and better graphics. In the alley, bridge and rooftop scenes you play with a massive character, clearly drawn and smoothly animated.
The same can't be said in the pram scene where sprites are much smaller but the backdrops are still consistently detailed.
Sound, like many of the Ocean games, is absolutely horrendous. Spectrumesque beeps and tedious sound chip effects remind you of the key beep on an Oric. All that impressive firepower sounds more like a mild bronchial attack. Whatever happened to state-of-the-art music?
Most of the levels are fun to play, particularly the opening one where you move around the platform shooting book-keepers.
You're encouraged to chase the book-keepers up and down platforms, which keeps your finger bolted to the fire button.
Sadly there's not a lot of depth to some levels, which quickly increases the boredom factor. This is particularly apparent in the alley and rooftop scenes where the only objective is to line up your sights on the enemy and blast away - not a particularly mindboggling experience.
The pram scene is more interesting since (like a true loving parent) you can leave the baby, dash off down the steps, kill a few thugs and then return to the pram before it crashes.
Although it's difficult to find some of the levels exciting for long, they all have an element of originality in them. The unusual control methods which see you rolling along the floor, hiding behind walls and leaping in front of a pram are a lot of fun to play and, with great graphics as well, The Untouchables is very addictive. Looks like Ocean might be on the right track at last.