Thursday, 29 June 2017

SNES Review 124: The Hunt for Red October



Given the fact that my blog kind of darts from being very game based to very film based it will come as no suprise to say that I have seen the film The Hunt For Red October after all Sean Connery is in it which I usally find to be a very good reason to give any film a bash. One of the laws of video gaming which was laid down by magazines and word of mouth when I was a kid was to never give a movie license any attention or any of your hard earned pocket money therfore I hardly even computed the fact that there was a Hunt For Red October game back in its day. As an adult though I have taken a bit more of a if you can find it cheap why not give it a bash sort of outlook and it has actually led me to a few good games some that were even better than the films they were based on. I for example hated the Bond Movie Quantum of Solace and yet I really enjoyed the Quantum of Solace xbox360 game even if it was basically Gears of Bond. So recently when I saw a cartridge only copy of The Hunt For Red October in an indy game shop I thought why not give it a bash £5 is a good price for pretty much any SNES game isent it?

So have you ever had that thing where you get an image in your head of what a video game is going to be like before you have ever played it? I guess this is harder now with so many adverts and stuff but I have to admit that in all of my years to the best of my memory I had never seen any video or screenshots or even read about The Hunt For Red October so I had kind of built it up in my mind, I had decided what it would be like, and in honesty I was pretty sure it was going to be a simulation game. There is a Megadrive game called 688 Attack Sub which is a submarine simulation in which you complete missions, its very slow quite text heavy and you have to look at maps, sonar scope readings, co-ordinates, its one of those games that you basically have to take a day off to really get in to, some find it deep some find it boring, well I was expecting this kind of thing with a Sean Connery Sprite on screen and well the plot of the movie. Well if you want something on those lines then you need to look to The Hunt for Red October on the Atari ST, Amiga, Apple II, ZX Spectrum, MSX, Commodore 64 and IBM PC as that is a combination of submarine simulator and strategy game so what did the SNES get?

Well the SNES got a shoot em up, a shoot em up made by Beam Software where instead of a space ship you have a sub, alter the graphics just slightly and you could almost think your playing any old left to right spaceship game but is it a good or bad game? I find this a little harder to answer than I would like, You see the first time I put it on I was so shocked it was a quick game to pick up and play that I kind of liked it, then when I played it a bit more it seemed rather limited but then I found myself picking it up to play it again to see if I could do better, if I could get further.

So does this game follow the story from The Hunt For Red October or even recreate the same atmosphere as the movie? The short answer would be not in the slightest. The Hunt for Red October started out as a Tom Clancy book with the following being a rough version of its story. The Soviet Union made a new special submarine called the Red October, the big deal about it being that it is capable of traveling across the ocean without being detected. If you think about it a sub with missiles and this capability could seriously mess up the world and so the captain of the Red October, Marko Ramius, realizing this decides to steal the submarine and defect to the United States (seriously taking it from one super power to another would not have been my plan I would have sunk the crud out of it.) So he has to take the sub while the Soviet navy tries to stop him, while worrying about possible KGB spies onboard worrying about if he can get the United States government to trust him. Now for all I know the instruction manual could paint a wonderful picture, heck it could have a whole breakdown of the novel in it but as far as the game goes well before the first mission your told your objective is to escape from the Soviet Union and safely reach the United States and this is all you get as far as an actual in game plot goes. You get missions none of which sound that much like anything I remember from the film and well thats that.

Ok so to break the game up into its components the graphics can best be described as bright but simple, it really doesnt feel like a heap of effort was put into them. Your sub is blue, the sky is blue, the water is blue, the ocean is quiet empty really apart from some mines, rocks and enemy subs which are also blue, although I am happy to admit they are a lighter shade of blue so you never get confused. As for the ships themselves,there is a bunch of diffrent enemy vehicles, including battleships, long submarines, short submarines, and helicopters, all of which are not all blue but deffinetly stick to a sort of blue, green silvery grey sort of colour scheme, although if you manage to get a few missions in and onto a bonus section you will be treated to orange fighter planes so there is that to look forward to. The missiles are pretty much just grey blobby lines that move along, the explosions also really are not exciting, it just feels like things are lacking well some flair. It was clear that this game wasnt able to be realistic so id have just sodded trying and given the game a bit more flavour, Id have made the Red October sub red so it stood out more, added in some more impressive explosions maybe tried to get some mode 7 style rotating in there but hey that is just me. Oh there kind of is one gimic and thats the bonus stages, you see they are not left to right scrollling affairs like the rest of the game there basically more like light gun levels you control a crosshair on the screen and shoot the things which are either scrolling along the screen or heading straight for you, and if you have a super scope you can use that to play them.

I actually really liked the music when I started playing the game, I find it quite fitting but I well I just wish it was longer and there was more of it. You see at first it sounds good but then you realise its just one or two very short looping tracks which at first sound pleasent but then begin to bore there way into your head in an unhealthy manner.

Like the music the gameplay can also be accused of being repetitive.  You control the Red October, which is sent on various “missions”,  all of which basically boil down to going right and shooting or avoiding everything. you might just reach the end of the level and thats that or youll reach somekind of base you need to blow up but its all pretty much the same. You get pretty much attacked from every direction battleships and helicopters drop bombs from above, enemy submarines will fire missiles horizontally at you, and you even have missile firing bunkers on the sea bed, add to this rocks and mines getting in the way and youll find youself weaving all over the place like a drunken pilot in order to survive. To combat this you have four types of weapon you have the straight horizontal missile, the straight up missile, the bombs/depth charges you drop, and the arching missiles.  All of these weapons are limited but you get more by picking up an icon which not only gives you more missiles but also replenishes some of your health its a sort of all purpose pick up instead of individual repair kits and bullet packs ecetera.

The Red October sounds powerful right? Well maybe it is but its still very challanging, you'll have to avoid mines which dont even seem to affect enemy ships and then the missiles fired at you and bombs dropped on you and then subs and ships basically trying to take you out by simply ramming you. The main and i mean main thing that makes this all a  bit of a pain in the rear though is the fact that you dont have lives, this is a one life one game kinda game. If you fail a misson there is no going back to the drawing board via a continue scene and starting again oh no sunshine your going to see your sub explode and then see a shot of it sunk on the bottom of the ocean then be told its game over and dumped back on the title screen, a title screen with no options or practice modes or any luxuries at all just a chance to press the start button and start everything again from scratch.You think that sounds harsh well add to that the fact your sub is not repaired between missions so get through a mission by the skin of your teeth and you could well be starting the next one a single hit away from death how unforgiving is that?

I have very mixed feelings on The Hunt For Red October for the SNES I am pretty certain if I had tried this back in the day I would have hated it but now I simultaniously like it while also seeing a lot of faults in it and having the desire to call it average. It feels like one of those games which had some good basic building blocks but was just missing something, something which kept it from greatness. I would give the game a 6 out of 10, and qualify this by saying its average but for me at least that enjoyable kind of average as apposed to the dull average, you could certainly do a lot better but you could also do a lot worse. I have seen  plenty of people trying to get £20 or so for a loose cart of this game and its certainly not worth that, I wouldnt recomend going over £7 personally.

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