The Chaos Engine Preview - PC Review

The Bitmaps have been rather quite of late. But now they're back. At the recent ECTS show, their new game was causing quite a stir. Tony Dillon take a look at their latest and greatest.

ABSOLUTE CHAOS

The Chaos Engine is machine that was placed on Earth in Victorian times to bring terror and disarray. It also happens to be the name of an exciting new product from the Bitmap Brothers, coders behind
Xenon 2, Gods, Magic Pockets and Speedball 2 to name a few. The Chaos Engine should be something really special, especially when you consider that it's been in production for two years.

 "I guess you could say that The Chaos Engine has been heavily inspired by Gauntlet", says Bitmap main man Eric Matthews in their East London office. "To our mind, there has never been a game that has completely captured the essence of it, so that's partly what we're trying to do. You know, the atmosphere generated as you race around a maze, all trying to find the exit while helping each other blast away masses of nasties."

 No one can say that they're doing a bad job of it, if what they have completed so far is anything to go by. It can best be described as an arcade blaster with a few puzzle elements, but there is a hell of a lot more to it than that. You and a friend are combat heroes, dedicated to destroying the Chaos Engine. Before you can do so, you have to wage bloody war over dozens of levels, destroying everything in sight.

 But hang on, doesn't this sound just like every other eight-way scrolling blaster? What makes it all so special? "The one thing that took the most time was working out all the intelligence routines. All of the bad guys have minds of their own and each has a different purpose. Some are placed to guard particular items, whereas others simply home in on you."

TWO PLAYER MODE

"The biggest task was getting the computer player to react in the right way. The game has been designed for two player blasting, and if you don't have a friend to play with, then the computer steps in. However, we didn't want the typical computer player, who always aims perfectly and follows rigidly defined routes. We wanted this player to act in exactly the same way as a human, so that you feel like you're playing with another person."

 "One test we did was to set someone up playing a one-player game in a room by themselves, and then we brought people in to watch. Most couldn't tell which of the characters the person was controlling. I think that says a lot."

 That's not all. Other new elements include a fair scoring system. "How many times," asks Eric, "have you played a game like Gauntlet with someone else, only to have to fight everyone yourself while the other person steps in and steals all the bonuses?" It's true, most people do follow that strategy, but it won't work in Chaos. At the end of each level, the computer looks at how much carnage you caused, and how much of the actual level solving you did, and then divides the score accordingly. If you do most of the blasting, then you get most of the cash.

 The Chaos Engine is being coded by the familiar team of Steve Cargill, Dan Malone, Simon Knight, Eric Matthews and Richard Joseph. As usual, music is provided by a Rhythm King artist, in this case dance band Joi. The Chaos Engine will be released in November priced 25.99. We'll have a review soon.

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