by Atari

Those of you familiar with the history of the Jaguar should remember the original pack-in, Cybermorph. At the time, Cybermorph was arguably the best game of its kind. It was a polygon based 3D shooter that was enormous, and it wasn't on rails! It allowed free 360 movement, and it single handedly made 'gouraud shading' a household term. Although it was deep, intriguing, and fairly ground breaking, it just wasn't all that fun. Fortunately the programmers at Atari realized some of the problems and fixed them in Cybermorph's sequel, BattleMorph.

BattleMorph takes place many years after the original title. Unlike the 'save the pods' nature of the first game, BattleMorph's theme is a little more malevolent. This time you're heading into Pernertian territory in an attempt to wipe out their home worlds. We're talking about mass genocide here, and the game reflects it!

Game play and control are both right where they should be. BattleMorph doesn't exactly forget it's roots. It's still business as usual collecting pods, but now there's alot more action and variety in your objectives. Sometimes the objective is to find 1 or 2 particular objects... possibly enemy plans or parts to a new weapon. Sometimes the objective is to shut down a power source for a force field. Sometimes the objective is simply to find something and blow the living out of it! BattleMorph also introduces bosses. Once you've cleared all planets in one cluster, you get to fight a Pernertian General on the main planet in that cluster. Prepare yourself to lose a couple War Griffons as the Generals are almost impossibly difficult to kill until you discover their weaknesses. Once you find their weaknesses, however, you'll be able to take them out in a matter of seconds, and virtually unscathed. The level of control in BattleMorph is simply unequaled in any other video game. Limits are placed on how high you can climb and how low you can dive, but you can otherwise move freely about in this 3D environment. Your new War Griffon can travel underground (in caves) and underwater. Many underwater areas are much larger than they first appear and some will even either damage or heal your ship! Buttons on the regular Jaguar joypad control forward movement, reverse, left/right, and your basic dual-shot blasters. Keypad functions include 5 different views, cross hair display, maps, and specialized weapon selection. The War Griffon has 4 bays in which to carry specialized weapons that you designate for each individual bay. 'Don't want decoys in bay A? Put mines there instead! The Jaguar Pro Controller is supported, and makes weapon selection much easier. The one thing that made me realize just how much control you have on this game, however, was the volume level screen. BattleMorph has 6 adjustable volume levels! 1 for music, 1 for Skylar, 1 for video sequences, etc. I guess if your day at work involves taking out the entire Pernertian society, you may as well be comfortable while doing so, right?

The graphics in BattleMorph are something of a mixed bag for me. The game is full of gouraud shaded polygons and both static and animated texture maps, but I actually like the plain looking graphics of Cybermorph better. At first I though it was because they had mixed gouraud shading and texture maps instead of going completely one way or the other. I then realized Missile Command 3D does the same thing, and it looks absolutely stunning! I have therefore come to the conclusion that they just did it wrong. All the polygons are dull drab colors, but the texture maps are rich and bright. The t-maps look beautiful, but simply don't mix well with the surrounding scenery. Horizons now have 2D bitmapped images, which helps distract from 'pop-up,' and other highlights include incredible underwater scenes! The graphics underwater look like they're underwater. Visibility diminishes quickly and everything has a wavy similar to MC3D. 'Very well done! The full motion video is nice, and it's interesting enough to watch. Luckily, Atari seems to have this habit of using tasteful, small amounts of FMV in their games.

The sound on this CD is nothing short of spectacular. All the effects, and especially the explosions, have a real bass rumble to them. I suggest you hook up your Jag to the stereo and crank it! Just be sure to remove all fragile valuables from the room before you do this, though, because the room WILL shake. The music is mostly made up of groovy soft rock beats and really enhances the mood of the game.

Overall, BattleMorph is an excellent sequel to Cybermorph. The game is HUGE and offers tons of replayability. Though the Pro Controller is supported, it's not a necessity for this game. A memory track, however, is! Without one, you might get sick of BattleMorph in a matter of 1 to 2 weeks. The graphics are nice, but just don't mix all too well. The sound is incredible, and music is groovy. The thing that possibly impresses me the most about BattleMorph, though, are the load times. There aren't any! Well, there are, but they only last 1 or 2 seconds when they happen at all. The changes from air to water are instant! The changes from tunnels to rooms are instant! It seems the only loading takes place between levels, but that doesn't take long at all. Considering the size of this game, and the minor complexity of the graphics, it should take much longer that it does. However Atari accomplished this, I'm glad they did. It's a definite plus for this game!

Title Battlemorph
Publisher Atari
System Atari Jaguar CD
Overall Score 8
Reviewer Brian C. Bessemer

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