Originally released in the arcades in the 80s by Atari, Missile Command is a surprisingly ominous and nerve-wracking game, in which you have to defend your cities and missile silos at the bottom of the screen from incoming nuclear missiles raining down from above.
The original arcade version is of course very primitive, featuring simplistic visuals made up of mere hundreds of blocky pixels, but it works, because it replicates the actual military technology of the time. Like the real-world military tech of the time, the visuals are symbolic and brutally primitive looking, but this works wonders for the player, as it means that the action all takes plce inside the player's head. It's all too easy to imagine that you *really are* sat at a nuclear defence station, deflecting incoming nukes as they home in on cities and defences... the coarse blips and bleeps that make up the sound effects (there is no music, just silence) only adding to the tension and realism.
the game mechanics are simple, but immensely addictive. incoming missiles leave tracers behind showing their downward path, and you must fire up your own missiles, which explode in the places you designate, taking out any enemy missiles that get caught in the radius of their explosions. Satellites and Jets fly past dropping more missiles at you, and the game requires you to think ahead, planning a move, executing it and moving on to the next threat, and so on.
It's a futile effort, in that the players always lose- total nuclear annihilation is assured. All you can do is see how long you can hold off for. As said above, due to the symbolic nature of the visuals, its hard not to imagine that that little pile of pixels that just got nuked was not a real city, full of millions of people, now writing in flames. It's a dark and unforgiving game, full of tension and nihilistic horror, acting like made for TV Movies 'Threads' and 'The Day After' to hammer home the importance of immediate nuclear de-escalation and disarmament. Its ultra-simplistic, addictive nature means you can play it for hours, getting lost in a nuclear nightmare that is as fascinating as it is terrifying.
This later PC version has much brighter, upbeat visuals and animation, as you would expect, plus a pretty decent thumping techno soundtrack to boot. otherwise it's exactly the same, and though playing with a mouse is no substitute for the joysticks and buttons of the arcade machine, its great fun all the same. That said, the original version is by far the best, combining the retro charm of the erly video game days with the deeply ominous atmosphere of the days of the Cold War, and it can be played free of charge, legally, and without having to download, from IGN's website. Give it a go, and tell me the hairs on the back of your neck aren't standing up by the end.
I have always liked Missile Command, and clearly remember many a 10p piece being pushed down the slot of one of Atari’s arcade cabinets and rolling that trackball like mad trying to intercept those incoming missiles. Still, time moves on and now Hasbro has reincarnated the old shooter with a new version. There are two modes of game play with Missile Command, traditional and mission based. Traditional is an updated version of the classic, missiles fall from the sky leaving behind long vapour trails and it’s your job to launch your missiles and intercept them. Unless you have a trackball connected to your computer, the best controller for this game will be the mouse. Move your curser, in front of the falling missiles and launch your interceptors, hoping you have timed it right. This is the classic 2D game, but with bright new graphics to give it a fresh look. Mission based game mode is where the main differences come in. There are hardware accelerated 3D graphics supporting Direct 3D and new 3D landscapes to defend. Being mission based there must be some kind of mission and yes there is, but its no more than having a certain number or type of city’s left at the end of the assault. Your missile bases are no longer ground based; but flying aircraft with you launch your defence. Because this game is 3D you can rotate the landscape left or right, something you will have to do, as your cities are no longer positioned fully in front of you. A radar display helps you keep track of missiles off screen. When a level is completed, you then have the chance to strike back at the enemy. Transported into space, you fire and dodge missiles at a large central spaceship. Movement is limited to rotating around the central spacecraft. This is purely and arcade shooter, there is no depth to the game play as with many modern games and it is unlikely to keep you hooked for hours. However, if your into nostalgia or just want
a quick blast to kill a few minutes here and there, this is a retro style game that will do the trick.