Genre: Action Developer: Sega Enterprises Publisher: Sega Enterprises Players: 1 Released: 1990
ESWAT was one of Sega’s many overlooked creations from 1990. You play an inglorious cop (named ”You” according to the box) in the Enhanced Special Weapons and Tactics (ESWAT) force. As a new addition to the force, ”You” are (or am I supposed to say ”is”?) a rookie trying to become the apex of the ESWAT force. What better way than to try to bust the Evil E.Y.E.- the most feared group of terrorists in the world?
The gameplay starts you off as a captain, then a chief, armed only with a standard gun. So it’s basically just walk, jump, and shoot for the first couple of stages. After that, you get to a rank so high that they give you a super suit, and eventually you get quite a few more techniques; you have a rocket booster boots that lets you fly or glide for a few seconds, then it has to power up. You can also accumulate special weapons from certain adversaries; a ground cruising missile, a rapid-firing super laser, the Fire, which hits everything on the screen then disappears, and my personal favorite, the particle cannon, a Mega-Buster style power up laser. Sound cool? Well it won’t for long……….
As I’ve said, the game starts off very simplistic- almost like one of those first 1985 action games or something (Super Mario Bros., Rastan, etcetera). It’s quite realistic at first too; the protagonist can’t jump like Mario, but instead he does realistic jumps like the main character from Flashback. Albeit Mr. ESWAT can still turn around three times in the middle of a jump. For some reason, he can shoot straight up, but not down, no diagonal directions either. The bullets move a bit slow, though, almost as slow as he walks- when YOU’RE shooting them anyway. Overall the control at this stage of the game is near-perfect until you get to the third level. Then they put you in that goofy cyber suit for the rest of the game. While it’s cool that you can hold the booster and all five weapons at once and switch with a simple push of a button, rocket boosting is quite laborious to navigate, since in the one place that he DOESN’T need to move a lot faster, guess what happens! It also takes an amazingly long time to do something as uniform as turning around- and quite a few enemies seem to knowingly take advantage of the bad control!
The backgrounds are pretty good at first. In the first stage, you can see buildings with nice lighting detail, but the background of the same few buildings repeats too much, and there’s not that much color in them. Things get much worse on the later levels, with very little variety and detail in the backgrounds. The third level is the worst of them, because the background consists of a big red block with a bunch of changes in the shape that Sega dares to call a ”city”. It looks like something a five-year-old would draw. Don’t expect anything real vivid on this game at all. But I like the dark feel of the game in general.
The vast majority of characters are pretty shallow. The protagonist resembles a member of a bubblegum pop boy band, only in a police shirt (the rest of his clothes are normal- just brown pants and black boots), until he gets the suit- then he’s in his own class of looking ridiculous. the enemies are mostly just extremely bland, faceless soldiers running at you with firearms and tiny spider-like robots with big red dots in the center of them. My biggest lament about the graphics is how ludicrously weak the enemy characters are. It isn’t suitable at all for this type of game.
Audiblly, the only consistent sound is the sound of gunshots that go ”pgghhoo”- and it doesn’t sound that good. There are a few more sounds like when walls close in and when the particle cannon is fired, but they just aren’t enough- not that I’m wishing for anymore since I’ve heard how lame the others are. But still, I would have at least wanted to hear sounds when you get hit and when something explodes. The soundtrack is also disappointing, and I’ve heard better music from non-Mega Man Nintendo games! The music just consists of some very cheap techno. The melodies often twang too much as if it were played on a country singer’s guitar rather than keyboards! The result is a very stupid sound- especially on the boss music! On most of the levels, the music starts off lively for the first five seconds or so, then fades into the background for the rest of the level until you fight a boss.
There are three levels of difficulty that just change the amount of hits you and your enemies can take. You get three continues and 1, 3 or 5 lives depending on your choice. Your health bar consists of three to five hit points. Everything takes away the same amount of health except for the cliffs of course. The 6 suit levels are harder than the 2 normal ones.
Since your character is waaaaayyyyyy too slow to actually dodge something, you just watch the patterns of the enemies and walk past or shoot their attacks. That can be annoying because some of the levels have a LOT of enemies in them, and you might just lose your patience and start rushing- which never works. That takes a huge element of strategy out of the game, since most of it is just about positioning your character correctly. The slime level and the bosses are the only things that really have depth.
ESWAT isn’t a bad game, but it’s not that good either. I gave it an extra point for trying. Sega’s always been known for it’s creativity throughout all the ages (After Burner, Comix Zone, Shenmue…..), but this is one of their games that remind us that innovation doesn’t ALWAYS go right.
SCORE: 6 out of 10