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Zzap! Issue 5, September 1985

JULIAN RIGNALL and GARY PENN have been looking at what could possibly be one of the best, certainly fastest, games on the 64. It comes from PAUL WOAKES (Novagen, designer of the superb Novaload and the highly underrated ENCOUNTER, the fastest 3D battlezone game) and has the fastest 3D vector graphics ever seen. When you see this you just won't believe your peepers!


Mercenary, or to give it its full name: Mercenary - Escape From Targ, puts you in a futuristic situation on a planet a long way from Earth. It's not a particularly nice planet and you want to escape from it, the trouble is, as in life, if you ain't got the dosh then it's tough luck matey.

The game is set during a war so to raise some money you can sell yourself to either side and become a mercenary, a free agent who operates just to gain wealth. The two warring factions are the Palyars who are good and live in a city floating above the panet and the Mechanoids who inhabit the surface in the city they stole from the Palyars. You can join either side or defect from one to the other if the opportunity arises. The trouble is that if you start changing from one side to the other then there will be a certain lack of trust...but then can you blame anyone?

The game itself is set round the city which the Mechanoids have overrun (although there are still Palyars around). The city is very large and is situated in the middle of a desert. In this city are approximately eighty different large 3D vector constructions. They all have different purposes, some recognisable, like airports, but others like two familiar computer logos are shrouded in total mystery.

Some buildings have underground complexes beneath them and you can enter these by landing and going down in a lift. You can then walk round them and explore. The complex we saw was like an aircraft hangar and it even had a streamlined futuristic craft suspended in it. There are corridors connecting the rooms and you can stroll around these to see what is going down. There will be about a hundred rooms underground and the city has about 256 sectors, each containing roads and buildings.

Above the city is the Palyar's large floating city. Viewed from the ground it's just a little dot high up in the stratosphere but once you obtain a good enough ship to be able to reach a suitable altitude you can go and explore it!

As you fly around, BENSON, your shipboard computer and communicator, will give you information and pick up messages. Using him you can converse with the outside world. He will also tell you about your status and how well you're doing.

Once you get into Mercenary you are asked to perform all sorts of tasks, for example one of the first is to accompany and protect a Palyar ship as it flies over the Mechanoids' city. If you are good then you'll do it and collect the money.If you're really evil then you can do something rather wicked...

Aerial combat becomes part of the game once you are good enough and there are also air-to-ground attacks to accomplish. Ground-to-air fire threatens your ship but this can be neutralised with good play.

There are all sorts of minor tasks to keep you busy like checking your fuel and supplies while you play the game just to constantly keep you on your toes. Money plays a very important part and if you get enough then you can buy a better equipped craft if you wish. A save game feature is included to allow you to keep playing and playing.

There are loads of elements to the actual game itself and many have to be discovered by constant playing. A strong adventure bias is contained for those who are interested or, if you want, you can just fly about and explore.

This game has many, many features which are only discovered with swiping your friend's datatape - you may miss something rather special!!! Mercenary will be out for the PCW show and available shortly after. We can't wait to get our mitts on it!

C64 cassette games were reknowned for taking an eternity to load (the worst case that I remember was 20 minutes), and several companies came up with fast-load methods for speeding up the loading process. One of the most successful was Novaload by Paul Woakes (mentioned above).

Due to the low processing power of early home computers, 3D environments were created using vector graphics, in which objects were represented by a number of straight lines joined together. Due to the 6502 processor employed in the C64, it generally struggled with vector graphics and C64 owners were particularly humiliated when the famous Elite was released in 1985 at the same time as Starion on the Sinclair Spectrum. Whereas Starion had stunningly quick and smooth vector graphics, the C64 Elite had graphics that were very slow and flickered badly. The Mercenary vector graphics were far better than Elite's and were smooth and quick, hence the title of the above preview.

Issue 5 was a classic issue of Zzap!, with the great Summer Games II and of the most original tie-ins ever, Frankie goes to Hollywood gaining Gold Medals. The Sizzlers included the C64 conversions of Hypersports and the Atari legend Rescue on Fractalus (the first game to make use of fractal-generated graphics), together with Skyfox and the C64 version of Finders Keepers, the first in the Magic Knight series of Mastertronic games. Big (British) sports stars also featured, with Nick Faldo, Graham Gooch and Ian Botham all giving their names to (fairly average) games.

Transcribed by Peter Young, 19-Nov-98
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