Editor's Choice Award Winner! VrE Online
Time Commando from Activision
It's about time you check it out!

Rating: graphics 90, sound 92, interface 90, fun factor 96, overall 92
As Stanley Opar you've never had quite an experience as the one you're in right now. The Historical Tactical Center (HTC) developed new technologies in Tachyon Physics which allowed military personnel to travel back in time for strategic training. Only now you're the one who has been transported back in time. A rival company introduced a Predator virus into the Tachyon computer which entrapped you and other scientists. The virus now threatens your very existence. Starting with only your bare hands you'll have to fight your way through 8 time periods to get to the virus itself and put an end to this temporal nightmare. You must hurry before the virus infects the whole computer for if it does, you're history.

Time Commando Time Commando is a 3rd person, 3D tour de force that will likely be the new standard by which all action/adventure games will be measured. Activision and Adeline (those guys who brought you Alone in the Dark 1-3 and Relentless-Twinsens Adventure) have teamed up to create an adventure through time unlike anything ever accomplished before. Time Commando seamlessly combines pre-rendered 3D environments with real-time, gourad-shaded, 3D people, machines, and animals to create a stunningly realistic world. What breaths life into this microcosm are the motion-capture techniques employed; everything moves with fluid, realistic motion that looks and feels natural. Add to this the excellent sound effects, music, and an easy to use interface and you can see why Activision has a hit on their hands.

Time Commando is a fighting/action game unlike any other. The goal of Time Commando is to travel through 8 different time periods and ultimately destroy the Predator Virus. Unfortunately there are many computer-generated foes that are more intent on stopping you than leaving you alone. You'll have to bash your way past saber-toothed tigers, parry your way past Spanish conquistadors, and blast your way past robot guards. In each time zone you'll start out with your two bare hands. After defeating some foes you can pick up their weapon and use it! From the swords in the medieval era to the semi-automatic machine guns of the future wars, you'll get to play with a lot of weaponry. You'll need it because there will be many times when the monsters will gang up on you (4 against 1 seems fair, eh?). Fortunately the computer never attacks you with more than 2 opponents at any one time.

Time Commando is the first game of its kind to combine real-time 3D objects within a pre-rendered 3D world. The environment that you travel through uses similar technology as that found in Rebel Assault but takes the effect one step further. The 3D people that inhabit this "movie" can walk _behind_ fences, pillars, corners and anything else _while_ the "movie" plays. At the same time if the camera angle of your environment changes, so does the perspective of your character_very impressive. The only limiting factor is that since the background is in essence a movie the backgrounds have a tendency to appear blocky. Additionally, there are times when the environment feels jerky. This is simply a physical limitation of today's technology. I'm sure Activision could have made a 640x480 environment for you to travel through in 30+ frames a second but it would require a machine that will be built 2 years from now.

Time Commando One limitation to the environment playback technique is that you cannot go back to where you've been. That is to say that you may walk forwards through your environment but you may not walk back to pick something up that you forgot to get. I'm sure the technology could be altered to accommodate walking forwards and backwards through the environment. For example you pass up some health because you don't need it, but then you get your clock cleaned for you by some centurion guards and don't feel as good as you once were. You cannot go back to pick up the health you left behind. Hopefully this will be fixed when Time Commando 2 is released.

The music and sound are what you would expect from Activision_excellent. The music for each time era is a modification based on a theme that is played throughout the game. The sound effects are also very clean and sound exactly as they should. However, there was a problem with the stereo sound effects getting reversed. I don't know if it's a problem with my Sound Blaster 32 or with Time Commando but the game offers the option of reversing the stereo within the game so the problem wasn't too bad.

The interface is very simple to use and master. You use the directional keys to move, a key to attack, a key to search/use, and a key to dodge. Thankfully you are given the option of changing the default keys to any combination which suits you best. Unfortunately, however, you may not use a gamepad or joystick to play Time Commando. I don't know why Activision didn't provide the option to play this action game with a gamepad. The game feels like it would be just as playable with the joystick as with the keyboard and maybe even more so. Alas, the option does not exist.

Time Commando Okay, so the game is technically impressive, the graphics are fabulous, the music is great, and the interface is simple, but how much fun is it really? It's very fun. You will gleefully waste away a considerable number of hours in front of your computer whacking those 3D enemies into the next world. When you've mastered the Very Easy level, you can work your way up in difficulty through Easy and Normal difficulty levels onto Hard. Let me tell you that the Normal level is very difficult to master the first time through. I highly recommend that you play the game on Easy or Very Easy the first time through so you can hone your blocking and dodging skills. On the more difficult levels there are more monsters and the AI gets downright mean.

My only complaint on the fun-factor that the most difficult opponent you'll face in the entire game shows up in the middle of the game! Half-way through you'll encounter what I like to call Skeletor. He's a 7-8 foot giant skeleton warrior with a huge axe. The only weapon that hurts him does very little damage so you must hit him repeatedly. While one swipe of his razor sharp blade causes significant damage to you. No other creature in the game is as difficult to defeat than him and it can be a little frustrating.

Time Commando is an action game that will take you on a journey through time that you won't soon forget. The fluid, motion-captured creatures will haunt you in your dreams as you hack away at them, trying to survive. The music and sound effects will help capture your imagination as it thrusts you into the 3D universe. All the while you'll be mumbling to yourself about how you'll stop after just one more level; and your spouse will asking you when you're coming to bed.

-- Louis Stice
-- louis@psyber.com

System requirements: 486/66, 8MB Ram, 10MB Hard drive, 2x CD-ROM, MSDOS 5.0 or higher, Sound Blaster or Compatible, 1MB VESA video card, (Also runs in Windows 95)
Recommended: Pentium 90 or better, 16 MB Ram, 4x CD-ROM

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