Missile Command Classic Mode
The revitalized Atari goes to the well again and updates one of its most famous classics, Missile Command, for Windows PCs. One of the greats in both the arcades and on the 2600 and 5200 consoles, just about everyone who was into gaming in the early 80's was exposed to this incredibly simple yet tirelessly addicting game.

For most of the late 1970's and early 80's, space shooting games dominated the arcade landscape which began with Space Invaders. While most of them were slide-and-shoot contests similar to Space Invaders (Galaxian, Galaga, Moon Cresta, Phoenix), Missile Command was unique in both its presentation and gameplay.

Ultimate Pic 1

The object of this updated version of Missile Command is simple and still the same. Your planet is being attacked by alien forces who are out to destroy and seize the planet. In preparing for the invasion, Earth has built a powerful defense system. Several antiballistic missile (ABM) bases have been created, and it's your responsibility as base commander to protect and defend the cities. The enemy begins by firing interplanetary ballistic missiles which are aimed to destroy your cities and missile base, and it's your task to stop the enemy before your happy and harmonious planet is destroyed.

The enemy attacks in a series of waves, with each consecutive wave being faster than the one before it. You cannot fire away at will like in most other shooters -- you only have a set amount of ABM's at your disposal, and if you run out of them at the end of a wave, you're out of luck! To make matters worse, you also need to protect your three launching missile bases from enemy fire. Once a base is hit, all of its contents are destroyed.

In the PC version, you use your mouse as a target control for your ABMs. You move the mouse around to move the on-screen cursor to the place where you want your ABMs to explode. The "A" key on your keyboard fires missiles from the left base, with the "S" and "L" keys launching them from the center and right bases, respectively.

Ultimate Pic 2

The freshened-up version of Missile Command gives you a choice between Classic Mode and Ultimate Mode. As you'd expect, the Classic Mode gives you the privilege of experience an accurate version of the the arcade original. The graphics have been slightly upgraded, but the game itself is identical to the classic. In addition, it also offers head-to-head and cooperative play modes.

The Ultimate Mode is the full-blown, 3D rendition that adds new play action, weapons, enemies and bosses. The playfield has also been altered in that the entire action no longer takes place on a single screen. Because a lot of activity is happening outside of the main viewing area, you'll be constantly relying on the radar (a-la Defender) to keep a tab on where all the missiles are coming from. Finally, you're not saddled with the same 'ol ABMs for long... you have the ability to get better weapons as you progress in the game. You'll need them too, because the enemies also get correspondingly smarter, faster and more deadly.

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Graphically, while the modern remake certainly eclipses that of the original 1980 edition, it doesn't exactly measure up to some of the better 3D accelerated PC games of late. The level of detail won't blow any Quake player away, but then again, best sellers like Roller Coaster Tycoon don't have cutting-edge visuals, either. Similarly, the sound effects and music are run-of-the mill, although the inclusion of most of the original's sound samples is a big plus in the eyes of this classic gaming enthusiast.

As far as gameplay goes, there's a lot going for it. I use a Kensington Trackball Mouse as the controller of choice, and it played beautifully. I would expect that using a mouse would not in any way detract from quick and precise cursor control, either. As in the company's remake of Pong, Atari has done a clever job of adding in some very cool boss stages that tie-in nicely to the play mechanics of the regular levels. They're quite difficult, too!

All in all, Missile Command is yet another update done right, and is good enough to stand on its own without having to rely on its namesake to draw attention of modern game players. It's easy to learn and addicting, and now, by virtue of the numerous enhancements to the game, you can add another vocabulary to Missile Command -- deep.

Title Missile Command
Publisher Atari
System PC
Graphics 6
Sound 7
Gameplay 8
Overall 8
Reviewer Keita Iida

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