Monday, July 04, 2016


You'll need a 25MHz PC for this one...

I remember the days when the ST was getting on a bit and, ahem, the Falcon didn't quite cut it. Not only that, but all my mates had left behind their Atari STs and Amigas for overly expensive PCs. They were bulky and incredibly ugly but I also remember how gutted I felt when I saw Wolfenstein (I almost died of shock the first time I saw Doom!!).

Anyhow, we still had our moments, and the Atari ST had a decent selection of first-person shooters by the mid-90s. In 1995 along came a company called Unique Development Sweden, who decided that our old 16-bit computer wasn't quite dead yet. They graced us with Substation which was about to change everything we thought possible. Read on...

The story goes that Mitushi Industries has developed a type of new energy that can be extracted from under the seas. All seemed well until communication was lost with their underwater substation base. Oh no... So, they contracted the help of a Multi-Environment Marine from the American government. In case you are wondering - yes, this is you!

Righto, that's the basic storyline that wasn't really needed so let's take a gander at the first screenshot...

The mission update screens are superb with tons of information.

When a 1989 computer blows you away!

Upon starting your first game, it's a good idea to ditch the knife - hit key "2" which switches to a rather effective pistol. Now, collect all the goodies you see lying on the floor and open the door; outside, is access to more goodies but there's also a couple of ghouls lurking! Will you risk a fight or run away scared down that seemingly empty corridor?

Movement is actioned with the keyboard: arrow keys are used to walk/turn around with Insert and Clr Home keys for convenient sidestepping - this works so brilliantly using a real computer!! Control key fires any weapon, the Spacebar opens doors, and punching the TAB key drops a bomb. Don't forget to make use of the map located at the bottom of your screen: this automatically tracks your movements and the keypad can be used to examine the explored areas.

The baddies are an intelligent bunch who won't stupidly head straight for you. Nope, expect some to use evasive tactics as they shoot a few rounds and then run away and take cover! So use that pistol to protect yourself, remembering to sidestep oncoming fire! Other weapons can be found and the chain gun is absolutely amazing - Arnold Schwarzenegger would be proud to carry it. In fact, each of the weapons is superb - I only wish it didn't take so long to find them all.

Tell me you aren't excited to stop reading and play this baby for yourself? Wait, come back I've not finished...

I know what you're thinking and no, there isn't anything wrong with the colour!

16 Colours are enough!

Graphically, I'm both impressed and unimpressed - in equal measure. Firstly, let me say that Substation has a freakish amount of atmosphere! This game is scary with something nasty around most corners. Anxiety levels will be high thanks to its superb design using amazing visual effects - like the use of light-sourced sprites. The frame rate needed to be smooth for a game like this to be playable and the basic 8MHz Atari STe zooms along at 25fps - which is outstanding!!

Sadly, the walls lack texture mapping because UDS opted for Gouraud shading to maintain the smooth framerate. This is understandable but also disappointing because games like Destruction Imminent and Wolfenstein 3D prove the ST is actually capable. I feel UDS missed an opportunity to allow for optional textures on faster computers.

The audio is spot-on perfect. And I do mean perfect. Substation utilises the enhanced hardware so we're able to hear distance and directional effects. This helps to identify where the baddies are lurking surprisingly well. Equally impressive are the tunes played at 25Khz - excellent quality. You're gonna love it so crank up the volume!

LOL I love this screenshot that I managed to take just as he was getting blasted!!

The CryptO'pinion?

Technically speaking this is one of the most impressive games for ye olde Atari STe. Think about it, an 8MHz computer capable of running a first-person engine that maintains a brisk 25fps. Not only that but it features distance and directional stereo sounds! There are 30 on-screen colours, light source sprites, and intelligent enemy AI. Heck, you can even play against others over a network and those with faster Atari computers will support smoother framerates.

Substation is superb - a fantastic shooter with great weapons, challenging AI, and interesting maps. It's not an easy game but each mission is as tough as they are enjoyable. However, if you're expecting Substation to be "our" Doom then you will be disappointed because it's more like Wolfenstein. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a criticism. Just understand that fact.

Oh yeah, this is one seriously awesome first-person shooter so pick up your guns and have yourself some fun!!


Download on floppy or best of all for your hard drive.

ST Format featured a basic preview level on cover disk #72.
They also held a competition and the winning game is on cover disk #75.
Fancy a trainer? ST Format cover disk #76 has all the answers!
[ all ST Format coverdisks can be downloaded off Exxos ]

Substation tips and maps can be found in ST Format issues #74 / #75 / #76 / #77.

We all love cheat codes and to get all weapons just type "PUNK"
"NIRVANA" gets you extra health and "PFLOYD" unlocks doors.
"SKRAPAN" credits extra bombs and "FALUKORV" allows extra time.

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