Atari 5200 Review: COUNTERMEASURE

by Atari

Countermeasure Pic 1
One of the few games released ONLY for the Atari 5200 (as far as I know), Countermeasure takes advantage of the 5200 controllers, instead of being taken advantage of by them, as is sadly the case with too many games for this system. Countermeasure utilizes both fire buttons and six keypad buttons! While Countermeasure does use many of the buttons on the 5200 controller, it's not a great candidate to showcase the sophistication and originality of the 5200 game library. While Countermeasure may be one of the reasons not too many other original games were released for the 5200, it's still a pretty good game in my opinion.

Terrorists have captured a missile silo complex and are threatening Washington with a nuclear attack. Armed with your supertank (after all, the 5200 is the supersystem) you must either 1) destroy all seven silos in the complex before the launch timer reaches zero, or 2) enter a silo and guess correctly the fail-safe code to stop the launch. Time is not your only enemy. The terrorists use pillboxes (gun turrets), cruise missiles, jeeps, and tanks (but not supertanks) to hamper your progress. A unique control feature of Countermeasure is that the second fire button controls the movement of your turret, and the programmers at Atari cleverly force you to use this feature by making your forward cannon fire at half the range of fire in any other direction.

Countermeasure Pic 2
That there is a second way to complete your mission is what makes Countermeasure a good game and not a bad one. You may choose to enter any one of the 7 silos in an attempt to "crack" the code, but usually it's a good idea to wait until you know two of the letters first (a letter and it's position are revealed when you refuel at one of the seven fueling depots). The code cracking sequence is pretty cool. With a fairly accurate map of the world (Rand McNally?) showing the progress of the missiles raining down on Washington as a background, you must enter the proper code. If you fail, Washington is blown up and there's some cool "death" music and a giant skull and crossbones to remind you of how foolish you were to try to crack the code. Why didn't you simply destroy all of the silos like you would in any other game? The answer is sobering: your supertank moves so agonizingly slow over most terrain that you happily risk world destruction rather than seek out all seven silos. This sadly slow movement is the Achilles heel of Countermeasure.

After every mission, the speed of the turrets and enemy vehicles increases. The range of your cannon (and those of the pillboxes) also increase. Couldn't the speed of the "super"tank have also increased; at least a little bit? As long as you don't try to knock out all seven silos, this is still a pretty fun game. The higher levels are especially fun, as you must actually think about how to avoid enemy crossfire, instead of simply plowing forward (at a snail's pace) and pegging the pillboxes one by one. Also, the countdown timer is much faster, giving you that frantic feeling in spite of the supertank's unfortunate lack of speed.

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Overall, even though it seems that Atari was more concerned with creating a game which used more than one button than with making Countermeasure a really fun game, it still manages to be enjoyable. Slightly better graphics, a four letter code (instead of the easy 3 letter one), and a speedier supertank would have made this game much better, but it's still decent despite these detractions. This game is very common and as such should not cost more than $3, so pick it up. A decent early effort by Atari to make an original game for the 5200.

Title Countermeasure
Publisher Atari
System Atari 5200 SuperSystem
Graphics 6
Sound 7
Gameplay 7
Overall 6
Reviewer Karlis Povisils

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