Genre: Racing Developer: Supersonic Software Publisher: Codemasters Players: 1-4 Released: 1996
Micro Machines 2: Turbo Tournament is a memorable game, not only for its tight gameplay but for the J-Cart innovation that allowed four players comfortably (and eight more awkwardly) to play the game together. Four player games were around before, but most were sports titles and required an extra accessory to play, in addition to the extra controllers. My family had three and a Master System controller, so it worked. I had played the original Micro Machines first, but Turbo Tournament was where most of the enjoyment was had. The game acted very much as a precursor to the fun that would later be had on games like Mario Kart 64 with the four-player, split-screen option. It was also the cause of many fights, resets and my Mega Drive getting beat-up by being pulled off its table.
Micro Machines Military followed Turbo Tournament ’96, and I was immediately sold on the idea. With games like Rock ‘n Roll Racing including weapons, it was great to see Micro Machines doing the same. Also, I imagined multi-player would be truly improved with weapons, but like with any great idea, it all comes down to execution.
If you had followed the series up to Military, you would already know most of what you need. Micro Machines Military is just like the previous games, only fitted with weaponry and painted with camouflage. The characters from the Micro Machines 2 return in various types of military uniforms and fatigues, the vehicles are now all military themed and the music is more reminiscent of that heard on a parade ground. The races or battles do still take place in areas themed around a domestic environment such as breakfast tables, backyards and bathtubs.
The gameplay remains as smooth as ever and practicing and memorising the tracks is still the best way to win. Outside of what is almost literally a coat of paint, the game now allows players to attack each other. This usually works by shooting projectiles like bullets or tank shells and by dropping mines on certain stages, depending on the vehicle. Getting hit usually results in a temporary spin out or being knocked back. In the challenge modes this means that being in front now requires watching your back and being ready to dodge projectiles and those at the back now have an easier way of getting back in front. In my experience, the beginning of the race is usually where the fighting begins and ends. Anyone who can get out in front and maintain the lead does not have to worry, especially since stragglers will often benefit the race leader indirectly by attacking each other. In the challenge mode, the ability to attack adds very little to the game and is more a gimmick that temporarily interrupts rather than improves the mode.
The new battle arena mode is much more suited to the combat theme and almost like an enhanced version of the Atari 2600 classic Combat. In single-player the task is simply to survive for a certain amount of time and then clear the vehicles from the arena. This goes through a number of different levels and vehicles. Multi-player is a lot more enjoyable and where the concept is used most effectively, with up to four players battling simultaneously in a number of different vehicles on multiple arenas. Some arenas are open with all-out fighting the only option and others have cover and allow for more strategic play. The vehicles used also add nuance as it is much harder to hit a jet or a helicopter than an APC or a tank. It is a shame that the vehicles used can’t be mixed as it would have added a bit more variety to the mode. It would have also been nice to play in larger areas.
Other modes include time trial and a few tournament options along with “pro” options for challenge, time trial challenge and battle area. Most of these modes return from previous games and there is nothing outside of the introduction of combat and the battle arena that is new. This is the biggest problem with the game as apart from the Battle Arena, the military concept does not much differentiate the game from its predecessors. There could have been a variety of combat modes or at least some more options with the battle arena. The military concept is also not well suited to racing and doesn’t work nearly so well as it does in a game like the aforementioned Rock n’ Roll Racing.
Micro Machines Military is not by any means a bad game. It plays mostly as the previous games do and is a definite recommendation for people who have played the previous three and still want more. However, the military concept is not much more than a gimmick that certainly doesn’t build on the previous games or carve a path of its own. The battle arena was a great idea, but some genuine though about how the concept could be used and a one or more new modes reflecting that would have made the game a lot more special. If I had to choose, I’d stick with one of the earlier games.
SCORE: 7 out of 10