Friday, 1 February 2013

Sabre Team (Amiga) - Replay

Super Adventures in Gaming Replay 2013 - Game 3

Since the first home console was released 41 years ago there have been tens of thousands of video games released for over a hundred different console, handheld, and computer systems. And after two solid years of playing games for this site I've only managed to get around to 650 of them. So why the fuck am I playing Sabre Team a second time?

I'm just curious about it really, as it was a competitor to the original UFO/X-COM game from way back when they were both called Laser Squad clones, but it seems to have been entirely forgotten since then. Also to be honest this will be technically be the first time I've really played it, as the first time around I kind of accidentally quit the game on my second turn by pressing escape and apparently thought it'd be hilarious to leave it at that.

The game begins with an few images of the SAS climbing over a building and some actual spoken narration!
"Terrorists have taken control of the American Embassy in London. They have already killed one diplomat. Your team must rescue the remaining hostages. Time is running out."
Wow, I wonder how much of disk one they used up just to have those four lines.

The game was released on Amiga, Atari ST, DOS and CD32 platforms, but I'm playing the Amiga AGA version, which is different from ordinary Amiga because... actually I'm sure you either already know about AGA or more likely just don't care, so please skip ahead to the next screenshot.

The AGA chipset was the built in graphics hardware for Amiga computers released after 1992, such as the A1200, A4000, and CD32, and was roughly equivalent to the VGA hardware introduced for PCs in the late 80s in that it allowed for 256 colours on screen at once. So Amiga games made with AGA in mind tend to look similar to early 90s DOS or SNES games.

But most of the famous Amiga games were released on the old OCS or ECS machines like the A500 and A600, which could only really manage 64 colours without tricks (and half of those colours were only darker shades of the other half). These games would generally run on any Amiga (thanks to the miracle of backwards compatibility) and had graphics more like an Atari ST or a Mega Drive/Genesis game, and this is the look people tend to associate with Amigas.

So Sabre Team AGA looks a lot like the DOS version, and original Amiga Sabre Team doesn't so much.

Next time on Super Adventures: I explain what an Amiga is.

This options screen only raises further questions.

Okay I'm going to assume the arrow flying out of a floppy disk means 'load game', the parachute means 'jump into action', the people hanging out in front of a question mark is probably something to do with squad management, and the guns may relate to guns in some way.

So I'll click the squad button.

Right, I guess these miserable action heroes are the available soldiers I can choose from. I'll pick the four that seem least likely to start bursting into tears, then head on over to the weapons screen.

Oh damn that screen's just nasty. I mean it gets the job done, but I can't compare weapons stats, or even flick through my units to see what they have on them.

I suppose I should give them all MP5s and flashbangs seeing as I'm raiding an embassy. Loading them up with equipment lowers their AP though, which is probably similar to the time units in X-COM. The more crap I give them to carry, the less they can do in a turn.

Time to go back to the menu and click the parachute.

Alright, my squad is on the ground and I'm ready to move in. Just as soon as I've deciphered these buttons. Fortunately they animate when I move the mouse cursor over them and they're a bit more obvious in motion. What the hell can a wheel with an X on it mean though?

Oh right, 'end turn'. Very clever.

I'm already getting annoyed just moving the units into position, because it won't let me move my mouse pointer up into the level window. I'm a prisoner of this little iconic box, isolated from the action, forced to cycle through my guys one at a time instead of just clicking on who I want to move, then where I want to move him.

Once my units were in place by the doorway I ended the first turn and had the privilege of staring at this picture while the terrorists did their hidden movement.

Sabre Team (A500)
The original 1992 version of the game actually had a more detailed hidden movement screen giving clues to what the enemies and hostages are up to, though you'd have to decode these icons to make any sense of it. Apparently Mr Prinsosil isn't currently yelling, scratching the wall or screaming in terror, though he is walking to the west. And he's taking his bloody time doing it.

Seriously if you ever find yourself with an urge to try this game out, don't play it on an old Amiga 500, the wait between turns is insane. Also don't play X-COM on it either, or anything with AI that has to think about its next move.

Alright, I'm back into the action! Wait, no, I've been put onto some kind of options screen instead I guess. I wonder what happens if I click the faces.

I guess this photo of T.L. Roderick was taken during his failed modelling career, before premature hair loss ruined it all and sent him into a spiral of depression leading to him joining a special forces team to get bloody revenge upon the world.

He's an excellent marksman though, apparently he's found his true calling here. So that all worked out in the end.

Sabre Team (A500)
The original low colour character art is along the same lines, though somehow the sabre team is even more ridiculously ripped. Oh in case you were wondering, yes every soldier looks identical.

Right, I suppose I should quit stalling and go take my second turn already.

Weirdly I wasn't able to see into the next room until I was inside it and the way they've cut the ceiling away here is pretty confusing. That dotted line on the floor presumably marks the wall and anything past it is in the room next door.

I split my team into two-man squads, positioned them near the doors, then clicked 'end turn' to refill my action points.

Sabre Team (DOS)
Here's what the game looks like on PC by the way. They've changed the carpet! There's also a slightly different view due to VGA's shorter resolution, so the level's in widescreen now.

Alright I am READY, time to kick this door in and rescue some hostages, fuck yeah! Gonna send this thing flying off straight off the hinges then charge in through the cloud of splinters to unload half a magazine's worth of 9mm rounds per second into anyone even remotely diabolical. Okay let's do this, YEAH!

Aw fuck it, I have no idea which of these buttons opens the door.

I tried clicking on the 'pull pin' icon, gambling that it was a generic use icon and not specifically used to prime my grenades, and nearly blew myself up. So that was no help. I'm not desperate enough to try shooting the door down (yet) and just walking it didn't work either. I can't believe I may actually have to look this up, because I am totally stuck here.

Oh wait, I'm an idiot. See, this is what happens when you play too many video games with cryptic icons. It honestly never occurred to me that the door button on the top right... was literally for doors. I assumed it meant abort mission!

Oh shit, there's a terrorist in here. I only took a step forward, but it feels like I've wandered halfway into the room because of they way they draw the walls as lines.

But I know exactly where the shoot button is, so this tango is as good as neutralised.

Holy shit!

The guns aren't loaded? They didn't load their guns before coming out? Do I have to do everything here? Shit I forgot to check if their shoelaces were tied too. Did I even remember to pack their lunch?

Well the gun is now loaded and I still have just enough action points left over to shoot this motherfuc... what?

"Target is not in the line of fire"? Oh shit, yeah, he's hiding behind that giant hand! How could I have missed that. You know, I think it actually wants me to turn my soldier to face him manually before it'll let me shoot him. I'm so sorry I ever said a bad thing about X-COM's combat.

Seriously? I can understand having to make a choice of shots, but not a number of shots. Though I do appreciate the counter having double digits. Always nice to know I have the potential for overkill.

I think I'll take just a single shot now and then maybe make a follow up shot or two if the enemy's still standing. Assuming I even have the action points for two shots.

And after all that drama, this is how the combat plays out. On the map screen. A little white dot going from S to E.

You know I actually think I'd prefer it if the entire game played out on this screen, if the map was extended to fill the screen and I could see which way I'm facing. I have a much better idea of where I'm actually standing in the room from this view.

Ah, it turns out that I actually can see into the next room to a limited degree, but only enough to see enemies (if I'm lucky.)

After I take this guy out I think I'm going to have to scout this place out a little with the map and figure out the layout. I'm finding it hard to tell what exits each room has and it's hard to scroll the view around when it won't even let me bring my mouse pointer up from the row of icons.

I really wish I could zoom this map out a little, I can't even see an entire room at once here. Plus now it won't even let me scroll the view over any further for some reason. Oh wait, I've figured it out, scrolling the map USES ACTION POINTS.

I just used up my poor bloke's entire supply of action points this turn and now he's entirely helpless. Looking at a fucking map.

Well okay maybe he's helpless, but I skipped the turn before moving the other troops, so they had enough action points left over to defend him during the enemy's turn. This unfortunate terrorist wandered too close to an archway and was met with a shower of sub-machine gun fire from my firing squad. Though unlike in X-COM these kinds of overwatch shots aren't automatic, I have to aim and fire myself.

In fact I'm glad I left most of my troops with full AP last turn due to that unpleasant business with the map, as some of these enemies are taking a fair number of hits to kill.

Crap, don't tell me there was an enemy standing in that doorway the whole time and my team couldn't see him until they... walked to the opposite side of the room with their back to him? Well I've unwittingly sent the top unit to stand right into the enemy's line of fire, but hopefully the bottom guy has enough action points left to run over and save his life.

Not that it even mattered in the end as this other guy opened fire on me next turn from the room next door and started cutting through all my dudes.

It's really easy for enemies to sneak up on me in this because I can't exactly glide around with the camera to scout out the area. Unless there's a button to do that and I just don't know about it.

Oh crap, now this guy's aiming at me too! Who even knows where this he's popping out from? Well, it must be somewhere over to the right of the building I suppose, looking at the window.

I tried getting my last surviving guy into position to take a shot at him, but sadly he didn't make it. My failure is now complete.

Mission failed. Final score: I made it three rooms into the embassy and saved no one.

But I'm not going to give up that easily! I really really want to give up, but I'm determined to give this a fair chance so that I never have to play it again.

Failing the mission brought me back to the main menu, where I was able to gear up my remaining four soldiers and restart the mission. This time I'm grouping my team up close and covering all the angles. No one can sneak up on me this time.


Oh shit, where did he come from? Well obviously he must be in the room above and to the left of me, judging by his aim. But I had no idea at all he was there.

He on the other hand had no trouble at all finding all of my guys and putting them down.

I can save the game mid-mission like in X-COM, and reload in case of disaster, but unlike in X-COM I don't really want to. Any joy I could find in this game has been annihilated by its dated interface and general clunkiness.

Wow, I did even worse second time around. Absolutely bloody disgraceful. Still, I must have gotten at least twelve kills looking at that chart, assuming it's 250 points per kill. That's like a K/D ratio of 1.5!

I can't really dismiss Sabre Team as being a terrible game as I'm sure there must be some nuance to the gameplay I haven't grasped yet, something obvious I've overlooked. Plus it's not exactly my favourite genre in the first place, so I'm not the best person to judge it. But honestly I'd rather punch myself in the face than play this again. Which is fine, because I'm sure you'd all want to punch me in the face if I ever wrote about it again.

NEXT TIME ON SUPER ADVENTURES: I replay a football game.

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1 comment:

  1. Oh man, I'd forgotten about this game completely.


Semi-Random Game Box