The Chaos Engine 2
for Amiga (OCS/ECS)

Mr Creosote:
Company: Bitmap Brothers
Year: 1996
Genre: Action
Theme: Multiplayer / Science Fiction
Language: English
Licence: Commercial
Views: 26604
Review by Mr Creosote (2002-09-04)

Chaos Engine. The epitome of an Amiga game. Made by the Amiga company. The immensely popular first part actually found its way to the PC more than a year later after the initial Amiga release. But then there was nothing.

Jump to 1996. Commodore has long gone bancrupt, the Amiga has been declared 'dead' by evil people for two years now. A few of the classic companies still develop for this machine. And so do of course the Bitmap Brothers. Chaos Engine 2 - an exclusive (and once again typical) Amiga product.

I bet most of you (even if you're familiar with the first part) will never have heard of this game, so please lower your expectations a bit now. Chaos Engine 2 is not as we all would like the sequel of the first part to be. It's not basically the same game with new levels, new monsters and new characters. That would have been too easy for the Bitmaps. There are still mercenaries, you still control one. There's still a second one running around in the same level and this guy can (and should, it's what the game is designed for) be played by another human. But now comes the difference: you two aren't a team anymore, but opponents. Instead of friendly coop mode, deadly competition.

Unlike in so-called '3D-shooters', it's not about killing the other player though. You can do this of course, but it will just slow the enemy down and he'll be resurrected a few seconds later. At the start of each level, there is a small briefing (strangely enough held by the guy whom you 'freed' at the end of Chaos Engine 1) in which you're told what to do. Mostly, it is finding keys, activating switches and so on - all for one purpose: being the first to leave the level again, because then, you've won it.

Some kind of sport? Or does it have a deeper meaning? No idea. Let's get to the important stuff instead: the levels. They're mostly well designed with different height levels, walls, halls, doors and 'neutral' robot enemies which attack both players on spot. Both mercenaries always have the same chances, they start on equal positions. The bad thing about the levels (and the whole game) is that they're way too short. One level rarely takes longer than one or two minutes, so it's pure hectic. But not always positive hectic.

With such small levels, it is not possible for one mercenary to beat the other 'clearly' by being way ahead of him. On the one hand, that is of course good because how boring would it be to run after someone for long minutes without having the slightest chance to catch up ever? On the other hand, the opponents are always so close that it's often pure luck who wins a level. The reason for this? The level exit is mostly a locked door (or something aequivalent). One player gets the key to it. The other rushes after him, trying to kill him to get the key himself. This way, the key changes hands again and again. So far, so good, but then, one player manages to open the door. And what happens? The enemy shoots him from behind and goes through the door himself - and has won! This does happen, believe me, and it happens way too often. If a shot mercenary would just stay dead for a few seconds longer (one, two or three!), it would be way fairer.

I hate to admit it, but Chaos Engine 2 can't live up to its predecessor. I like coop mode better than killing another player anyway. And then these fatal design flaws. It is quite nice to play for a while, but it's not the challenge I (and most likely you) would have expected. By all means, get it, play it - but don't expect a masterpiece.

Finally, some important technical notes: even though it is possible to load this game from (virtual) floppy disks, it is not advisable. No matter to what speed you set your emulator, the loading from these 'disks' takes ages. Not only on the initial boot, but it also takes several minutes between each level - and since you've just read how long a level lasts, you know what that means: more loading than playing.

There is a solution to this though: you can install the game to a 'virtual hard disk'. For that, set the emulator to use a directory and install the workbench on it. Chaos Engine doesn't have a built-in installer routine, but you can get one from the great guys at WHDLoad. Install the WHDLoad to your 'Amiga HD', but the Chaos Engine 2 installer there, too, and run it. You will be guided through the installation. I tried it with these adf files (choose 'ECS chipset' on the installation, not 'AGA') and it works fine. If you need more detailed support for this, request it in the forum. You might consider this fussy, but consider this: how many PC games released in 1996 do you run from floppies?

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