Action Force II

by Andy Green, Martin Wheeler
Virgin Games Ltd
Crash Issue 52, May 1988   page(s) 12,13

Producer: Virgin Games
Retail Price: £7.95 cassette, £14.95 disk
Author: Andy Green and Martin Wheeler

The city is in a state of tension. Terrorists, backed by the evil organisation COBRA, have taken a number of innocent citizens hostage and are hiding them on the roofs of a series of derelict downtown buildings. Two members of the Action Force team are assigned to the mission. Their task: to penetrate enemy ter ritory, locate the hostages and rendezvous with the chopper acting as air support. Quick Kick, expert in unarmed combat, attempts to scale the walls of each hideout, while Airtight (the player), provides protective cover fire.

The game is divided into several levels each of which comprises an empty apartment block. Advancing through a landscape of shattered windows, deserted fences and graveyards of abandoned oil drums, Quick Kick makes his way slowly up a network of rickety fire escapes. Disembodied eyes peer from the windows - their owners ready to drop lethal bombs; commando-style terrorists people the splintered doorways, and innocuous looking bins invariably contain highly trained and heavily armed fighters. Careful positioning of his superimposed target allows Airtight to shoot them before they attack.

As Quick Kick climbs each building he loses energy. Shooting the Stars and Stripes visible on the walls of some screens boosts his health. Should energy drop to zero, one of three flves is lost. A status panel shows energy remaining, current level and score as well as a magnified view of the target area.

Following the successful completion of the first level,Airtight can choose between three powerful weapons: machine gun, bazooka or bio gun. Each of these have slightly different properties: the bazooka fires more slowly than the machine gun but has a more devastating effect, while the bio gun quickly and efficiently reduces its victims to skeletal remains. However complex the weapon, however, the ultimate fate of Quick Kick and the hostages depends on the accurate coordination of Airtight's eyes and hand.


Joystick: Cursor, Kempston, Sinclair
Graphics: superb. Every screen is packed with detail, and colour! The animation of all the characters - especially the deadly dustbin men - is smooth and realistic
Sound: although there's no title tune the spot effects are original and atmospheric

Action Force II is a definite improvement over its predecessor (35%, Issue 46). Not only is the presentation very polished, but the gameplay is equally smooth. The colourful graphics are detailed and effectively animated, particularly the eyes peering warily from the windows and bins as they cautiously case the joint. The action itself is highly addictive and entertaining. The target is realistically difficult to place and constantly needs a steadying hand; you have to control the gun, not just position it. The need to replenish energy as well as eliminate the enemy calls for some fast manipulation of the joystick. The whole process is made tense by the fact that the target moves more slowly than the terrorists; movements from one end of the screen to the other - although quite swift - seem agonisingly slow. Success therefore depends on careful planning, delicate control and a modicum of luck. The fact that it looks much easier than it actually is to complete makes it all the more compelling. Highly recommended.

Comparing this to the original Action Force game is like comparing gold to the stuff you find at the bottom of all the mugs in CRASH Towers! This is absolutely fantastic. The graphics and the sound are excellent and colour is used extremely well in the game - and the loading screen (eight colours to a character square isn't bad!). Action Force II has the novel idea of swapping the role you play: instead of directing the main character that appears on-screen, you play yourself and have to cover your compatriot with a wide selection of guns. Some of the larger targets in the game such as the choppers, tanks and prison cells are all full of detail and do take some bashing! When you miss a baddie and he kills your little friend you have to start that level all over again, which does get a bit tedious. But whichever level you're on there's plenty to do, like electrocuting the hit-men and blowing up the dustbins! Action Force II is a brilliant action-packed game - buy it today.

This is a tremendous improvement over Action Force. The graphics - the main drawing point of the game - are incredibly detailed and coloured, bringing back memories of Dan Dare (also by Virgin Games). It's good to see the programmers using the Spectrum well - all aspects are exploited to their full. Even the game perspective is a bit different from most - you don't go out looking for trouble, it finds you. The game features many interesting enemies, from maniac dust bins to irate building inhabitants who throw weights out of the windows. It's bound to be a great game for high scoring arcade players, although I doubt the addictiveness will last as long among the rest of us.

Presentation: 90%
Graphics: 92%
Playability: 89%
Addictive Qualities: 89%
Overall: 90%

Summary: General rating: The ultimate in protection games. Great graphics and a mound of playability - the only thing it lacks is definable keys.

Award: Crash Smash

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 30, Jun 1988   page(s) 50,51

Reviewer: David McCandless

Hmmmmmm, Action Force 2, hey? A game based on little plastic figures, hey? Programmed by the Gang of Five, hey? Good loading screen, hey? Amazing title screen, hey? Pretty graphics, hey? Good animation, hey? Incredibly addictive, original and slick, hey?

Hey! This game is brilliant.

Cobra, the slimy evil enemy of Action Force, has nabbed some innocent hostages, and is holding them on the top of certain buildings in the city's slum areas (inner-city development She called it...). And, as all goody-goody, anti-terrorist squads should, Action Force have dispatched only two of their best men to combat the millions of enemy troops. First is Quick-kick (quick by name, quick by nature - fnar), who must climb the building to rescue the hostages, and second is Airtight (until he eats beans for tea). who has to provide cover-fire for Quicky.

You play Airtight, and must use the crosshair of your weapon to blow away any obstacles in Quick-kick's path as he marches on obliviously. Yep, ol' Quick-kick although mean, hunky, and good-looking is a teeney-weeney bit on the vacuous side - in fact he so dense that he doesn't even know that a man wearing a sadistic grin, pointing a smoking gun at him, is dangerous.

Obstacles are quite varied - stuff like fings-being-bunged-outa-windas, trash cans, kamikazee soldiers and assassins (you know the general rambo-esque stuff), - all of which are represented with superb animation and refined graphical detail. Little things not apparent at first, come to your attention gradually: the windows open, evil eyes appear... they blink -and a one ton weight plummets downward! The bomber reaches into his pocket for the next bomb to bung at you, and when you rescue the hostages at the end, they emerge, hands tied, blindfolded, and hopping along, a huge ball and chain in tow. Brillo!

Colour isn't missed out either. Clever use of screen design enables colour to be used in each screen to restrict the blandness of monochrome.

As Quick-kick ascends the skyscraper, inching up ladders and along platforms, his energy slowly diminishes. For some reason, this supply can be replenished by patriotically blowing away the American flags that are plastered everywhere. Another nice touch is the way you can choose a new weapon at the end of the level. The machine gun is the fastest, but tends to jolt about too realistically. Bazooka - a fave of mine - is the slowest, but allows you to blow away huge chunks of scenery as well as nasties - luverlee! The Bio-Gun causes obstacles to electrocute happily in the air, and is really juicy. What's more, the way something dies differs in accordance with the weapon you're using - yet another nice touch.

In this game, the tension comes with the unpredictability of each screen. You, the player, have to guess which window is going to open, which dustbin is going to explode, and from which doorway the assassin is going to come from. You'll often zoom your crosshairs down to a dangerous-looking crate, only to have a greater peril emerge from the hole in the wall you just left. The screens are not random, everything is staged so that when Quick-kick climbs that ladder, blah-blah will appear in that door. In this way you can prepare yourself for each screen and get a little further per game -the essence of playability, n'est ce pas?

Another attraction is the new shoot 'em up angle employed by this game. No longer is it an all out and out blast anything that moves, but what could be termed a "strategic carnage" game. You must control your outpouring of violence, deciding which is the most dangerous enemy and what to eliminate next, or else you may miss the object of your hatred or shoot Quick-kick himself.

All this addictiveness, playability and all these graphics are complimented with a splattering of attractive special effects (just look at that title screen), that tone up the game and provide an added incentive to complete each level. After a bad patch, Virgin seems to have regained its former glory. Dan Dare was brill, Dan Dare 2 was exceptional and Action Force 2, well it's transcended!

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Graphics: 9/10
Playability: 9/10
Value For Money: 9/10
Addictiveness: 9/10
Overall: 9/10

Summary: Strategic carnage with snazzy programming and natty graphics. On a par with Cybernoid and Rastan.

Award: Your Sinclair Megagame

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 74, May 1988   page(s) 11

Label: Virgin Games
Author: Gang of Five
Price: £7.95, £14.95 disc
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins

Pigs fly! The moon turns blue! The Labour party wins an election! All sorts of other impossible things! And, to top it all, a game licensed from a series of toys proves to be ultra-spiffacious.

Action Force II is an altogether different box of ferrets from its predecessor; it's original, it looks great, and it promises many hours of rewarding gameplay.

You know Action Force - they're the little plastic men with names like Windbreak and Toenail who do heroic things to defend the world against the scourge of the evil COBRA terrorists. In this particular game, the baddies are holding innocent civilians hostage. Quick-Kick, an expert in unarmed combat, is assigned to climb through the landscape of ruined buildings, ladders, walkways and rooftops to seek out and rescue the hostages. And what do you do to control him? Nothing! Not a bally thing! He's quite happy to climb around all on his own without any aid from you. But hold on - what's this? Emerging from windows, from doorways, from dustbins even - nasty leadspitting terrorists! Quick-Kick gets the chop!

The trick, and the whole point to the game, is that you must provide covering fire while Quick-Kick does the business. Move your gunsights around the screen, and blast the baddies as they show their eyes from the windows, dustbins and doorways. Because the speed at which you can move your sight is limited, you need careful planning to cover the whole of each screen so that Quick-Kick can finish it without finding himself fatally perforated. On some screens, you will find also American flags, which you must shoot in order to restore Quick-Kick's energy. Since the flags are pretty close to walkways, you must be careful not to blast Quick-Kick in your enthusiasm.

Once you've worked your way right to the top, the hostages will emerge from captivity, a helicopter will whisk them to safety, and you get to choose your weapons for the next phase. Machine Gun, Bazooka and BioGun all perform in different ways, so it's important to make the right choice for each successive level.

After freeing two groups of hostages, you get to blast away at an enemy tank. You have a very small number of seconds to hit this mechanical monster 39 times (why 39?) by waggling the joystick back and fore. The secret here seems to be smoothness of waggle rather than sheer speed.

Action Force II is full of wonderful little touches; bullet-holes appear in the brickwork, torches on the walls burn, your gunsight judders as you hold down the trigger. Quick-Kick expires convincingly if the enemy manages to shoot him or drop weights on his head. If you remember to shoot the dustbins, keep blasting the flags to restore energy, and keep your cool against the tank, the early levels are fairly straightforward. But as it gets harder and harder, Action Force II just gets better and better.

So far my best performance rating is 'Bullet-Bait,' but AFII is the sort of game which makes you want to perform at your best. A winner.

Overall: 10/10

Summary: Amazingly good game licence which combines originality with graphic sophistication.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

ACE (Advanced Computer Entertainment) Issue 10, Jul 1988   page(s) 63

Virgin have another bash at some baddies.

Watch out Cobra, here come the Action Force (again). This Prohibition-type shoot-em-up puts the life of one of Action Force's best men in your hands. You play the part of upstanding Acton Force agent Airtight, and it's your job to protect your buddy Quick Kick from Cobra terrorists.

The evil Cobra fiends are holding a whole bunch of hostages in the slums of the city. Quick Kick starts his rescue mission at the base of a building and will climb his way to the top, regardless of any hidden dangers. It's up to you then to look out for him and ensure he comes to no harm by guiding an on-screen cross-hair sight and picking off the Cobra terrorists who appear in windows, doors and even dustbins.

If Quick Kick makes it to the top of the building some hostages will be freed and picked up by an A.F. helicopter and ferried to safety. The player then gets to choose what weapon he should use for the next building. The weapons include a machine gun, a bazooka and what's called a Bio-gun. Each weapon has its advantages and disadvantages, so choose carefully. Every third level of the game puts the player up against a Cobra tank. To defeat this the player has to waggle the joystick to fire a set number of shots within a time limit - fail to do this and Quick Kick loses one of his initial three lives. Failure to shoot the terrorists before they shoot at Quick Kick also loses him a life, as does allowing him to run out of energy. Shooting Action Force flags pinned to the walls enough times replenishes the energy.

Although the game style is not original and it doesn't take long to learn the whereabouts of the enemy on any particular level, it's playable stuff with plenty of that "just one more go" addictiveness.

Reviewer: Andy Smith

Spec, £8.95cs, £14.95dk, Out Now
No other versions planned

Predicted Interest Curve

1 min: 80/100
1 hour: 90/100
1 day: 90/100
1 week: 60/100
1 month: 30/100
1 year: 15/100

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Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 7/10
IQ Factor: 1/10
Fun Factor: 8/10
Ace Rating: 754/1000

Summary: Frustratingly addictive - at least in the short-term.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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