Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Line Of Fire

We're going to war, bring a mouse!

Line of Fire was converted from the arcades in 1990 by Creative Materials for US Gold and is basically a "crosshair" shooter. It begins from behind enemy lines as we're trying to escape never-ending hoards of angry bad guys. They're annoyed because we've sneaked in and pinched their brand new toy - a Rapier Gun. Of course, we have no intentions of returning it so must now escape in a blaze of glory. A-Team style!

Gameplay is real simple: move the mouse onto the enemy soldiers and hit fire to send 'em to hell. Kill anything that looks mean, including the hardware that they use: a truck, plane, boat, or even their incoming missile attacks. Well, that's about as technical as this shooter gets - lots of frantic killing and loud explosions. Great stuff!

The map shows our escape route through the base, jungle, rocky canyon, town, etc.

And bring a friend too!

One or two players is supported for single or a (much needed) co-op onslaught of pure adrenalin. Solo is controlled using the mouse which is perfectly precise but I felt the crosshair should have been bigger because it sometimes got lost amongst the action and explosions. Try it - hit the SHIFT key to spark a nuclear explosion (aka grenade) but be thrifty because these are best left for the end-of-level bosses. Trust me, you'll need 'em all.

We begin trapped inside the enemy compound with lots of baddies are lining up the corridors all ready to kill us! The display shows our health and number of grenades - both of which can be topped-up by shooting the corresponding supply boxes left lying on the ground. There's a boss waiting at the end of every stage, be it two ugly brutes firing missiles, a plane stuffed with a cargo of airmen, or a ghost train and its endless supply of soldiers.

Okay, shall we take a stroll through the many levels of this crazy game?

- Eight Stages To Freedom -

Level 1 - The Enemy Camp

This is where we broke into the enemy camp, kicked-in their sandcastle and make the bad guys cry. However, tons of smurf-looking soldiers were alerted (very odd) and they're mean and sneaky - some even hide inside the floor panels and ceiling vents. Once you reach the end it's time to battle two enormous bad guys who are just asking to eat those grenades. Overall, I actually liked this stage albeit short with a sluggish framerate.

Level 2 - Destroy The Enemy Jungle Base

Those smurfs failed to stop us and we made it outside to jump into our jeep and head for the jungle. Lots of enemies are lurking in these muddy waters, along with choppers and planes dropping bombs of mass destruction! The action feels unbalanced for solo gamers but the helicopter boss is pretty cool and a good fight without being too difficult. Overall, this stage proves the developers used ST Basic and had no beta-testers!

Level 3 - Exit By Speed Boat

Pretty much more of the same but now we're riding the soggier parts of this massive jungle. Watch out for the soldiers hiding on the river banks and you might even see the odd Rambo impersonator. The two bosses are back but this time they've brought some help for a fatigued battle. Overall, this level is more of the same. See above.

Level 4 - Fighting In The Canyon

Like the jungle, only this time the graphics have changed to an odd-looking rocky canyon. Hmm, those walls don't look right, especially when you see soldiers hovering in mid-air! Anyhow, this level is another which is stuffed full of gun-love and there's even an aeroplane boss that lunges rockets at your face. Overall, it's probably better than the jungle levels but just as crazy with too many enemies eating away at your remaining credits.

Level 5 - Do Or Die Battle In The Desert

Landscape graphics are gone and the display is reduced to objects and sprites. It's now that I noticed the odd blue background - it really stands out and looks very strange. However, the benefit of this sudden change is a decent framerate which means it plays better than all the rest. The boss stage is a train, which is something solo players should fear! Overall, a great level and I wish the others were as fast and responsive as this!

Level 6 - Foes Await In The City's Ruins

Finally, we've made it into a rough shantytown for a terrifying urban siege. Terrifying because that horrendous framerate has returned with a vengeance - I think this stage is the most sluggish of all? To be honest, it's a bit boring and also far too tough if solo. Where's the boss stage? Overall, it's okay but all a bit... meh!

Level 7 - Evade The Enemies By Aircraft

We're on the runway and zoom off into the skies for aeronautical hell. However, this stage is tacky with a lame submarine boss - which is rubbish. Overall, this feels like a stocking filler and is the worst level so far.

Level 8 - Fly To Your Base By Helicopter

Howling Mad Murdock would love this stage! The enemy chucks everything at you for one final attempt to get their fancy gun back so don't be defeated because the end is very near. Sadly, I did, because it's insanely difficult which means I failed to save the Western World from the dreaded Terrorists. Ah well, at least I tried...

Graphics and Sounds

Visually, Line Of Fire is an oxymoron because it impresses and shocks in equal measure. Overscan is utilised with both top and bottom borders removed to provide tons more pixels. I also loved the palette which is comically bold, the sprites are huge and those explosions are just ginormous! Sadly, the sprites look like I've drawn them and the framerate is shockingly bad. In fact, it's possibly the worst performance I've seen from an Atari ST.

Audio also failed to impress. It begins with a nice title screen chiptune w/ humorous intro but it's all downhill afterwards. In-game sound effects are basically your gun and grenades. So it's your gunfire that you're constantly hearing, which sounds like a room full of dancers shuffling their feet. Ugh, turn down the volume.

Gotta take my hat off to the developers for using overscan albeit at the expense of framerate? :/

The CryptO'pinion

I must admit, I'm not a huge fan of crosshair shooters but Line Of Fire shocked me. There's no 2D landscape with pop-up cardboard soldiers waiting to be shot. Instead, we have a first-person perspective similar to something like Narco Police but in overscan. Which is kinda cool for a machine with only half a meg Ram!

However, this conversion is screwy and appears to do everything it can to make the Atari ST perform like a Vic-20. Okay, I would never compare a home computer to the specs of an arcade machine with its faster processors, sprite scaling hardware, etc but this feels rushed and should have been better. I don't understand what Creative Materials were thinking. Then again, aren't these the guys that gave us Street Fighter 2 and Days Of Thunder?

Overall, I enjoyed Line Of Fire because it's something different from what I usually play. It's better with a friend as it's not balanced for solo play, but at least it provides a few continues to keep you interested. I'm glad I didn't buy this terrible game, but I still enjoyed rampaging through the various levels. Worth playing - with a friend.

- Downloads -

Floppy - Bad Brew Crew #33 (Stonish)
Hard Disk - 8BitChip (w/ extra credits)