Friday, 6 January 2012

Genetic Species (Amiga) - Guest Post

It's another Amiga FPS!

But, mecha-neko, they're all awful! Is this one awful?

That would be telling!

So, guess how the game opens!

With a seven minute long pre-rendered epic space battle! (Click to watch on YouTube)

Mega-global corporations rule the Earth. And the moon. And the entire solar system. Rival corporations wage war on a galactic scale. Corporation employees are subjected to mind-controlling implants to ensure absolute loyalty.

It is the year 2208, and things are a bit rubbish.

Out of sight of the corporations (somehow), the Counter Force Alliance plots to release the human race from the threat of corporate greed. (They're like the Red Faction, except competent.)

The Moon has exploded and I'm sent into the last corporation facility left standing to figure out why.

I'm greeted by a cheery female voice saying "Welcome to Cantex!". It's a bit drab for the reception area, but then again I did land on the roof rather than go in the front door and the entire Moon did just explode yesterday, so a bit of disarray is to be expected.

RoboCop up there starts shooting me, so I shoot back.

Have you noticed how much NOT like Fears, Gloom, Death Mask or Alien Breed 3D this looks? I'm running this at 320x240, the game's highest resolution. It claims to have a 640x480 mode, but it's just upscaled. That would have been nice to know before I wasted hours puzzling over Amiga graphics drivers when I didn't need to.

It oughta look good. It came out after Quake, Quake 2 and Unreal...

I'm running this on an A4000 with a super snazzy CPU and all the trimmings, and it's running beautifully. I'm a complete dunce when it comes to these workstation-style Amigas. To me, if it's not a standalone wedge-shaped keyboard that takes floppy disks, it's a bit strange to call it an Amiga. How can it have a tower case, a zillion interface boards, an external keyboard!!, and still be an Amiga?

My first mission is to find the Command Centre. Where is it?

I've found a green key, so I'm off to a good start. Here's a guy dressed as a builder that I found in a cupboard. Hostage? Innocent? CFA Contact? Does he know where the Command Centre is?

His corporation implants must have kicked in as he starts shooting me.

And shoots the orange thing on the ground by accident, blowing himself up. Well, damn.

Nice explosion, though.

At this end of this corridor lies a door that claims to need a green key, but doesn't want to accept the green key that I just picked up. It looked green when I found it, but now it's grey. Maybe that was a palette thing?

I don't have the gizmos needed to play the game's CD music properly (CD music? Amiga game?), but I did download the game's soundtrack and I've got it on in the background. It sounds a bit like... I dunno... Pink Floyd doing the soundtrack to Blade Runner, and it's surprisingly high quality stuff. You can listen to all the music on YouTube.

All the other doors in the opening area claim to be 'opened elsewhere', except one that leads to a lift. Going down!

Everything's on fire in the Cantex cargo storage area!

I can't see anything in this darkness, but I can hear enemies shooting at me from the far corners of the room. And then I can see the enemies blowing themselves up with the gas tanks.

There's a switch for the sprinkler system on the wall behind me, but it's 'broken'.

Seems to be working here though. I had to shoot a line of barrels to get through this corridor. I hope I don't have to do that very often because I don't have much ammo left.

There's another green keycard door up ahead. Something's clearly wrong here. When I set up the controls, there were options for selecting items from 'bag'... so...

Yep, there we go. You have to select keys from your inventory manually to open doors. You have no idea what colours of keys you're carrying because unselected items appear in greyscale. This also means keys take up one of your three weapon slots. The green key disappeared after I used it, but this is going to become troublesome if I ever find a second gun.

Whoa, hold up! Blue rendered guys, RoboCops and a floaty robot thing! Back, back around the corner!

Turns out the orange thing that the builder exploded himself with was an ammo container. That sounds like something I should really try to prevent, considering how infrequently I find them. There were probably tons of them in the cargo area, but the enemies blew them all up.

After killing the blue guy, the remaining enemies turn and flee!

I chase after 'em. They wanted a fight, so I'm giving them a fight.

They lead me into a giant room full of floating jet robots firing pretty green lights of death. I'm at about 8% health. This would normally be a problem in an Amiga shooter thanks to the crappy joystick controls... but, get this, Genetic Species has fully customisable controls!

I've been playing with WASD keyboard movement and mouse turning and shooting. Being trapped in a room full of enemies is no problem at all! Plus, if I died here, I'd have to remember how I got here and I can't.

There's loads of doors around here, but they all take keys that I haven't found yet. The only way through is another lift down. I'd better be able to open something soon because my inventory is full of keys and low on bullets.

I don't get two feet away from the lift before troops pile out of the side doors and I have to fight them all off with no ammo.

The worst part is it wasn't the enemies that killed me in the end. I think I backed into one of those green laser fences accidentally while dodging these shiny guys. Instant death.

These controls are really sensitive. This is the first time I've ever considered turning 'always run' off.

Back to the start!

Now that I know how to use keys, I decide to go through the door at the end of the corridor with the glowy lights on top of it. Using the only useful key I've found so far on the door right next to it is probably a better idea than carrying it all the way to a different door on a different floor. That's how folks get stuck.

This honking huge depth charge is actually a 'hand grenade'.

Alien mutant enemy spider guys. These must be the titular 'Genetic Species' I've been hearing absolutely nothing about. I'm rather glad that they're stuck in this cage.

Where's the bloody ammo!?

I'm dead again. What a mess.

There's one thing I haven't tried. When I was setting up the controls, there was a 'launch probe' action that I never tried.

Waaaaargh!

It shoots out my face at the speed of light and blinds me with a psychadelic light show. I can steer it around corners but it's way too fast for me to do anything useful with.

Hmm. I'm not doing very well at all in this game. Time for me to hit the manual!

Ohhh... that makes a lot more sense.

According to the manual, I'm a Bio-Shifter, which means I can take control of the corporate implants of others by shooting the probe at them! I'm not supposed to run around like a fool shooting everything and wasting my ammo, I'm supposed to be taking over people and using their skills to do special things. I'd found a couple of doors saying 'Security officers only' but I assumed that referred to keycards.

Now I am the engineer that was hiding in the cupboard! Hoorah! When you switch characters, you can see your old body keel over. The first guy you play is one of the shiny RoboCops I've been blasting. If I was just an ordinary Cantex trooper, I wonder why everybody was shooting me unprovoked.

Never mind. With this undefeatable disguise, I'll...

Oh, this trooper must've seen me switch or something. Well, axe to you!

I test to see if I can take over the flying robots as well. Yup! It's starting to look like I can take over any enemy.

This shiny blasty laser cannon is considerably better than the first guy's pistol. The orange ammo boxes are good for whatever my current weapon is, like PowerSlave, regardless of what I'm playing as.

BLURP, WHAT.

Um, ok... I have absolutely no idea what I did to trigger this. Was it switching to the engineer or the robot? Or running out of ammo?

I'll hide in the cupboard where the engineer was!

It counts down from 10. Then it says it's looking for me. Then it says it's found me.

Then it kills me instantly.

This is probably the kind of prank that these mega-global corporations like to play on their employees for fun. It's not fun for me because I haven't worked out how to BLOODY SAVE YET.

I have, however, worked out how to use the map, which is awesome.

So, here we are again, new game, floating laser robot. Green instant death laser beam corridors. No matter what form I have, the enemies shoot me on sight. For shame.

I couldn't find anything down this way that let me use these wrong keys I found. I did find a replacement green key though, so I can go back up to the starting room and open the door there.

Hand grenades + weak wall next to the spider cage = OH CRAP WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING.

Even though I'm a floating robot, the spiders surround me and I can't move. There's only one thing for it.

Hammer the probe button until it takes. Now I am a teeny tiny spider! They're still after me, but I'm faster now. I really need to find a better thing to be. Spiders don't have much in the way of weapons, though my hand grenades and key have travelled along the probe with me. Grenade spider saves the day.

'Cannot handle the hand grenades'. Blah.

The spider cage leads to creepy off-map tunnels full of switches. I can still manipulate switches as a robot, thankfully.

Spiders! You're not getting me this time! This robot came with tons of ammo!

Ugh, I've been everywhere, looked in every place I can, and all I find are instant death laser fences. I need to go back and look for any keys I've thrown away. Again.

In the meantime, I've worked out how to save! You need to find a save point in the world and you pick it up as an inventory item. When you select it as a weapon, it saves. There is only one save. If your inventory gets full, you can switch one of your secondary items (your character's primary weapon is permanent) with the one on the floor by holding Ctrl and selecting it.

I can't imagine how they could have made this any more inconvenient.

If I don't see any sign of this command centre soon, I'm gonna quit.

"Command Centre located."

Yay!

My mission here is to either find a red keycard or take over the base commander, then activate the comms system to allow CFA to see what Cantex have been up to.

My plan was to take it slow, killing the enemies one by one. The bad guys had other ideas. As soon as I opened a door, the enemies heard the noise and ran straight towards me single file. At some point I managed to snag one of the blue troopers, giving me an automatic pistol, but I think I killed the base commander instead of capturing him.

The red keycard was safely stored nearby behind a door which I just happened to have the right colour key for. The game doesn't tell me what it was that I went to all this effort to find out or what do to next. Guess it's exploration time.

If I didn't have the map activated, I would have never in a million years suspected that that was a door.

I also would have never have suspected that it was going to require a blue key. I haven't seen a blue key in ages. Didn't I leave one near the spider cages? Through the bronze tunnels? I have no idea! Somewhere, halfway stuck through a wall in the midst of a pile of flaming barrels lies my old blue keycard. And now I have to go back to find it.

This isn't the way back to the spider cage! Argh! I must've used the wrong lift.

Cargo dock? ARGH! I'm completely lost, even with the map on!

Through sheer luck, I find a blue keycard in the cargo dock regardless. Along with tons of ammo! Woo!

I'd really like a save point, please.

There's hundreds of mangled mini-Gundams waiting for me in the blue hexagon zone. It's awful funny how the enemies are always bunched up just around the corner, waiting for me, no matter where I am. It's like a surprise party every five minutes.

I take a Gundam for myself and we have the best robot laser fight ever.

The Moon's already suffered significant damage, but... I'm at a reactor, it's a computer game. Best believe that this thing is going down.

Argh! Only engineers can activate the switch! And they're all dead! I even found the Tazer so I can stun people properly now! And the Gundam can't even use it! AAAARRGGHH.

So, after saving at the local save point, (which is deep in the kill-you-very-fast irradiated zone within the reactor itself) I go mad and fire lasers and throw my last remaining hand grenades at everything I see.

Which sets off the 20 second countdown for the reactor meltdown anyway.

Nice!

I've got twenty seconds to run to the lift before the Moon explodes and it would be much easier if these stupid Cantex troops would join me in evacuating rather than standing in my way.

THE MOON IS GOING TO EXPLODE, GUYS.

Aha, so we did get useful information from the communications system. That's good.

A kind of plague which infects employee implants that turns the victim into a mindless and insane slave of the enemy...?

That sounds... exactly like Bio-Shifting to me. The plot thickens!

This game requires an incredible amount of patience. It takes a some elbow grease to get the thing started, and you really ought to read the manual and set the difficulty to Easy if you want stand a chance at getting past the first building. The game seemed kind of confusing when I played it but, looking from without rather than within, the first level wasn't really that complicated after all.

The price you pay for having non-linear levels with multiple routes is never knowing exactly where to go, and the ability to jam the works if you start using one route's puzzle pieces in the other route. Even with keycards and characters to spare, there's almost certainly still a chance that one wrong move is going to make your game unwinnable. Being able to switch to other characters when you're low on health sounds like a great idea, but without a stunning weapon (or with a character that's unable to use the stunning weapon) all you can do is hammer the probe key until the enemy is damaged enough for it to stick. And then you're stuck in a nearly dead enemy! If you pick up a save point at the wrong time, it's not easy to drop it without activating it. It's tense enough on the first level; how bad is it going to be by the end of the game?

Well, when I was looking around for information on how to get the music working, I found a forum thread discussing the game. On the last level, you die instantly and inexplicably (happens a lot in this game) when you press some of the switches in the wrong order. Over the course of nine months, the forumgoers came to the conclusion that the last level is impossible to complete by regular means. The only way to do it is to use an explosive in one specific place so that the explosion travels through the wall and hits an otherwise inaccessible object. Then the level designer for the game showed up and said that the game was indeed unwinnable normally due to a bug in the game scripts. And then they added that first release of the game was incorrectly duplicated and has messed up audio tracks.

So if you want a game that's difficult to get working, runs only on Amigas that fill rooms and cost millions of pounds, ridiculously hard, with glitched up music, easily made silently unwinnable through regular gameplay and ultimately unwinnable by normal means, Genetic Species is for you!

I spent this post considering Genetic Species as a real game, rather than being absolutely mystified at how it came to be, so it's way better than a lot of the other first person shooters I've played. Consider restarting the current level as part of a learning process rather than as failure and you'll probably have fun!

If you really want to give it a go, the game is freeware and can be downloaded at Aminet! (external link)

4 comments:

  1. > You can listen to all the music on YouTube.

    This link is broken.

    ReplyDelete
  2. "Workstation-style Amigas" rule, I can't put my Video Toaster addon card into a puny A500. :P

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nothing a soldering iron can't fix! (Maybe. I honestly haven't got a clue. Don't break your Amigas trying this at home, kids!)

      Mmm toast.

      Delete

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