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Friday, August 02, 2019


Hellgate is yet another first-person shooter for the Atari ST/e. It's been created by David Walters of Smartsoft and is an impressive attempt to develop Doom using STOS. Of course, it'll take more than our humble 68000 processor to deliver decent framerates especially when I remember a friend's 25Mhz PC not being all that impressive.

Wait a moment... Hold your horses, Marine!! Did I just say that Hellgate was developed using STOS?? That is something else... Okay, don't get me wrong, this is a brilliant tool which has certainly proved itself more times than I care to mention, however, can it actually handle a 3D engine running at a decent framerate?

Firstly, please remember that this is shareware and I've only found an 'unregistered demo' which may not be the completed product in terms of its programming. It's also missing a few bits 'n' bobs like a rocket launcher and extra episodes. After scouring the internet, I failed to find a registered game so I'm praying Hellgate isn't lost!

Liking the iWatch menu. Then I romped through the level successfully - killing everything!

The year is 2196 and we plucky humans have somehow terraformed the ice giant Neptune. However, the planet's largest city is plagued with high levels of crime, so our mission is to investigate this. Now, I'm no military expert, but I think that means we grab our weapons and kill everything in sight. Well, I'm sold so count me in!!

Firstly, we need identification so enter your name into a simple but sweet screen. The audio here is great but I'll say no more to risk spoiling it (but I thought it was cool). Next, there are three difficulty levels to choose from:
Dead Easy: which the documentation hilariously says is for kids and your granny!
Well 'Ard: which is kinda like an equivalent of Doom's "Hurt Me Plenty".
Suicide: is for those with Godlike skills but even the docs advise against this nightmare!

The pistol is good but nothing compares to the shotgun. Just ask Doomguy, he'll tell ya!

Once you begin, everything has a familiar feel to ID's iconic shooter (cough...cough...ripoff). The episode screen displays just where you are in Neptune's city complex and the in-game status bar shows health, armour, ammo, keys and even your ugly mug in the middle. Well, I guess there's no shame in using a tried and trusted format?

Controls are performed using the mouse: pushing upwards will walk forward and I'm sure you can guess what pulling back on your chunky grey tank will do? Moving left/right allows our marine to look around the city - unless you hold down the right button to enable strafe. Sadly, the keyboard is only used to flip between your weaponry and to open doors. Yup, you're stuck to using the mouse to get around which is incredibly frustrating at times.

Look out for medkits, armour, ammo... You'll need them all against these blocky dudes!

So almost everything feels similar to what you'd expect. And so is the gameplay: we begin the mission with only a pistol but our personal armoury can ultimately include Shotgun, Minigun, Rifle, and Rocket Launcher. However, I never got to see the Rifle as I lost my bearings, which you can see at the end of my video recording... This takes me onto the automap: there isn't one. As much as I tried hitting the TAB key - it did nothing. Sigh...

Look out for pickups to boost your health and so on, but there are a few hidden rooms just as in Doom and Wolfenstein! This is how I found the shotgun on the first level. Also, some doors are locked and need a specific key to unlock them... Yup, there's nothing shockingly new here but familiarity is no bad thing here whatsoever.

Always keep on eye out for secret places. This gave me armour, health and the shotgun!

Graphically, things are pretty poor and not only in comparison to Doom (which is understandable) but also to ST shooters, like Wolfenstein, Destruction Imminent and Substation. Everything looks crude with a sluggish framerate and more than a few glitches. Interestingly, the robotic enemies are made from polygons which is kinda cool and not what I was expecting. However, they are a bit thick and I would still have preferred demonic monsters!

Sound effects are sparse using fuzzy samples for firing, pickups, doors, etc/etc. What I did find odd were our robotic enemies who scream when dying! Sadly, there's no music for ST dudes but lucky STe owners can enjoy gorgeous Mad Max chiptunes alongside their sound effects. This actually works really well and suits the style.

Two missing episodes lost forever? :( ...and THEN the screen turns red and I fall to the ground DEAD!!

Hellgate was an interesting download but sadly, it's not good enough in comparison to the other FPS shooters already on the ST. A faster computer, like my Mega STe nicely compensated the poor framerate but it couldn't fix the mechanics, bugs, nor the psychic robots who always seemed to know when I was about to show up. Ultimately, the dreadful mouse controls are the real game killer here and that is such a massive shame...

Overall, this was fun to play for a few hours but I doubt I'll return to it anytime soon. However, let's remember this is probably unfinished and developed by one guy using STOS. That fact alone blows me away!!

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