Monday, July 04, 2016

Substation

The year is 1996 and Mitushi Industries have developed a new type of energy that is extracted from under the seas. All seemed well for a few years until communication was lost with their underwater substation base. So they contracted in the help of a Multi-Environment Marine from the American government. In case you are wondering, this is you - so suit up!

Upon starting, ditch the knife and hit key "2" which switches to a rather effective pistol. Now collect all the goodies here and exit. Opposite, is another room with more goodies, however, there are a couple of ghouls hiding within. So will you risk it or will you run away scared, down that seemingly empty corridor? I feel that the older gamer, who's lived through the earlier years of first person shooting, will immediately feel at home with Substation. It certainly has a familiar theme, user interface and a style very reminiscent of those golden years to feel more like an old skool shooter, like Wolfenstein. Its gameplay is centred on frantic gun-fun with a sneaky slab of role playing thrown in for good measure - and I love it!

Useful items just lying around for me?
The baddies are an intelligent bunch who won't simply home in on your location. Expect some to use evasive tactics as they shoot a few rounds and then run and take cover! Use that pistol to protect yourself, remembering to sidestep oncoming fire and don't forget to keep searching for better weapons which have carelessly been left waiting for you.

I love the various weapons, I only wish it didn't take so long to find them. The chain gun is absolutely superb and one Arnold Schwarzenegger would be proud of. However, I was left deflated by an underwhelming shotgun.

Movement is actioned with the keyboard using the arrow keys to walk and also Insert and Clr Home keys for sidestepping. Control key fires your weapon, the Space Bar opens doors and TAB drops a timed bomb. Don't forget to make use of the level map which is conveniently located at the bottom of the screen. It automatically maps wherever you walk and the keypad can be used to examine already explored areas.

Even batman doesn't stand a chance!
Graphically, I'm both impressed and unimpressed in equal measure. I love the eerie atmosphere and the use of light sourced sprites with great visual effects and all within a minimum framerate of 25fps on an 8MHz Atari STe.

However, the walls have no texture mapping because UDS opted for faster Gouraud shading to maintain the framerate. This is a little disappointing because games like Destruction Imminent and Wolfenstein 3D both prove an ST is more than capable. I feel they also missed an opportunity to have textures as an option, especially for those with faster computers.

Audio is spot on perfect because Substation uses the enhanced hardware so we're able to hear distance and directional sound effects which help to identify just where those baddies are lurking. Equally impressive are the tunes with a 25Khz playback for superb quality so crank up the volume!

Technically speaking this is one of the most impressive games ever released on ye olde humble Atari STe. A 3D engine capable of maintaining a brisk 25fps, distance & directional stereo sounds, light source sprites, networking, intelligent AI, over 30 on-screen colours and the faster your computer the higher your framerate. However, if you're expecting this to be our version of Doom then you might be disappointed. Don't misunderstand me, Substation is damn excellent in its own right and it should be treated as such. Pick up that gun and go have yourself some fun!

LINKS

 - AtariMania list Substation within their ST database.
 - I would recommend downloading the D-Bug version which is hard drive installable.
 - Do you need even more Substation action?
          -> A new and playable preview level was featured on ST Format cover disk #72.
          -> ST Format held a competition and the winning game is on cover disk #75.
          -> UDS released a Substation Trainer which is on ST Format cover disk #76.
          -> Download these 3 nifty cover disks from Exxos who has the lot!
 - Flick through ST Format issues #74 #75 #76 #77 for tips and excellent maps of every level.
 - Substation YouTube video recording right here folks (credit : Wasabim)
 - Fancy a few cheats? Of course, you do so type these codes during a game :
          -> PUNK - weapons
          -> NIRVANA - health
          -> PFLOYD - door keys
          -> FALUKORV - extra time
          -> SKRAPAN - more bombs