Title The Killing Cloud Game Type 3D Combat Sim Company Vektor Grafix/Image Works 1991 Players 1 Compatibility All (With Patch) HD installable Yes (With Patch) Submission Angus Manwaring Profiled Reviewer Review The Killing Cloud can be described, for the most part, as a highly accessible 3D flight simulation, and partly (but only partly) an adventure game. You play the part of a futuristic rookie cop in a chilling and lawless San Francisco of 1997; the game was released in 1991, you see. Somebody or something has created a huge and deadly cloud of poison gas (the Killing Cloud) which drifts over the entire bay area, leaving only the upper levels of skyscrapers safe for human occupation. In addition, a mysterious gang known as the Black Angels, led by the even more mysterious Trinity, are attempting to wipe out what's left of the city's law enforcement, and they are making a pretty good job of it too. Your task is to patrol the city in your flying XB500 hover bike, completing your assigned missions and attempting to discover more about the Angels and their fiendish intentions. "Ambitious" is the first adjective that comes to mind as far as The Killing Cloud is concerned. The Vektor Grafix team who also brought us highly competent conversions of the two original wire frame Star Wars arcade games, the slightly dodgy Fighter Bomber and the impressive but scarily detailed Shuttle, have created an entire city and more, in the Killing Cloud. The terrain is truly three dimensional with elevated areas rising above the lowlands and the surrounding bay. The buildings are highly varied, there are tree lined roads, bridges, separate areas of the city that are all accessible without any of that reloading nonsense. If you fly around long enough you'll find, amongst other things, churches, hotels, harbours with boats, monuments, traffic lights, traffic cones, and the different districts have different flavours; there are a lot of pagodas in China Town for example. Even the island of Alcatraz is out there if you can find it. In several ways the game is strangely similar to the Sony Playstation game, G-Police. Flying a small but heavily armed vehicle through a veiled cityscape, trying to get to the bottom of a mysterious conspiracy and pursuing a sinister group of law breakers. Coincidence? Perhaps not. The game starts, as does each of the 10 missions, with a briefing screen that allows access to the city maps, the files on various hardware you will encounter, dossiers about the various individuals you must pursue, and finally the Armoury, where you tool up your hover bike. The maps bring me to an important element of the game and one which was rather controversial at the time of the game's release. Your missions will often require you to capture an individual and bring him back for questioning. This is done in an unusual way. You capture people buy firing a Net missile at their vehicle, which traps it by deploying a large net, and then waiting for the PUP (a sort of coffin-shaped human delivery system) to collect your prisoner. What some reviewers complained about was the need to deploy your Net Missiles and PUPs before leaving the station, and then collecting the missiles en route to your objective, and hoping that the limited range of your deployed PUP would be sufficient to guide it to the appropriate location. You can deploy multiple PUPs but as most of your equipment is in extremely limited supply throughout the game, and the PUPs and Net missiles are never replenished, this would be unwise. Personally I had no problem with the system, and all it really means is that some care and experience is needed to deploy equipment effectively. Once you leave the briefing screens you are (optionally) treated to a short animation which shows you stride purposefully to you hover bike, and hop in. When this ends you enter the 3D environment, sitting in your hover bike, out on the roof of the Precinct Tower that you are based at. From here you'll use your radar to get a fix on your ordnance and your objective. As you throttle away from the Precinct, you'll see the upper structures of many other buildings standing above the sickly yellow cloud that obscures the city itself. Probing cautiously into the fog you'll initially see nothing at all, but after a moment the streets and buildings of the city will emerge from the reddish haze. Originally the game would not readily work with modern Amigas and would not install to hard drives. Thanks to the efforts of the talented patcher Ralf Huvendiek, however, a JST patch was produced, remedying this problem. More recently, John Girvin has produced a WHDLoad patch for the game, and John has concentrated on persuading an uncooperative game to run at as high a frame rate as possible. He has been successful, and the game runs a lot faster now, not only feeling better but making control of your headstrong XB500 significantly easier. Its well worth forgetting about your missions at some point, and having a good old explore around the landscape. If you stick religously to the missions, there is a lot here you will not see. I completed the game in a fairly short time which indicates that it is not particuarly difficult; I have lots of unfinished games. The mission based structure of the game works fairly well, but I would personally like to have a less linear arrangement. The tasks you must perform are generally straightforward, and it would have been nice to have muddied the waters a bit by creating some more depth in the game, like the possibility of trading or enhancing your ship for example. In a way, the game's impressive urban backdrop is under utilized, and I feel more could and perhaps should have been done with it. Originally the game was to include a rather unpleasant interrogation sequence where you could torture your captives to make them disclose their grubby secrets. Apparently Amnesty International got wind of this and understandably insisted the sequence be removed. Not to be beaten, Vektor Grafix replaced the 'stick' with the 'carrot' principle, and now you must offer your captives a reduced sentence in order to get them to spill the beans. I wasn't too keen on this initially, but after completing the game, I grudgingly admit that it works quite well. After several missions though, I was beginning to find things a little repetitive, but fortunately the game design anticipated this and interest was quickly restored with some more varied missions. The game does include some 'up close and personal' dogfighting, and this is good fun, and a little reminiscent of Star Crusader, also patched by John Girvin. The Vektor Grafix team certainly take the prize for more complex 3D shapes however, and when you consider the game was released in 1991, I think its fair to say that their 3D engine was cutting edge technology in the 16-bit entertainment market. If you look at screenshots of the PC version of the game, you'll notice that some of the cockpit monitors have been removed from the Amiga version which makes navigation that much more difficult. This is odd though, because the monitors in the PC version obscure the 3D terrain, which I would have thought (in my ignorance) would have worked to the Amiga's advantage. Its not uncommon to find yourself in a scrap with several opponents, and while they are not exactly in the Luke Skywalker class, the AI is fairly good. Some chases can be very spectacular, with your adversary seemingly trying to catch you out by diving down through narrow streets and frantically banking round skyscrapers in the, all too realistic, hope that you will make a mistake. Finally the game presents you with a couple of enjoyable and satisfying completion screens that compensate your efforts and help you to discount the minor frustrations experienced in the completion of your missions. A worthy and rather impressive game then, and aside from some niggles regarding depth and utilization of the 3D world is still highly enjoyable, thanks in no small part to our friends the Patchers.