• When I was a wee nipper, I wanted an Atari 2600. A posh kid who I went to school with had one, and seemed to have a lot of games for it – so we all made friends with him and pretended to like him just so we’d get an invite round his house to play on the thing.

    Back in those days, stuff like Xbox Live and even the Internet were the mad ravings of a lunatic and needless to say, even with an Atari with 2 joysticks plugged into it, there would always be that long agonising wait between games, watching bored and disinterestedly as the better players in “Stewie’s Gang” racked up massive scores with mad gamer skills I could never hope to match, while I waited for my all too brief dalliance with stuff like Defender, Asteroids and Pacman.

    There were one or two multiplayer games though. Battle was one, and at least meant that a couple of us could play simultaneously, trying to blast each other’s tanks or shoot each other’s planes out of a pixellated sky. Until Stewie picked up Warlords though, there was nothing that would allow 4 players to sit down and battle it out on screen at the same time.

    Warlords allowed 4 players, each armed with a paddle (you remember those things? Spinny controller with a big red button on the side?) to enter a virtual arena and attempt to systematically destroy the other players walls and eventually the Warlords hiding behind them. At the time I’d never played anything else that allowed this kind of multiplayer fun, in fact it’d be quite some years before stuff like Gauntlet and Super Sprint would start trickling into arcades and let friends compete with each other.

    That was 1981. The moral of this sad little piece of new games journalism is that time marches on, and with the march of time comes progress. Or so you’d think.

    Warlords

    Microsoft recently bemoaned the fact that there’s too much content (hah) on the Xbox Live Marketplace, and some of it has to go. They started culling off Xbox Live Arcade titles in a “move to improve the overall quality of content” but the whole point of a cull is to eradicate the lame, the weak and the sick and not flippin’ well introduce even more. So why on earth are we still seeing titles like Warlords? Heaven only knows.

    The basic game reaches new lows, managing somehow to even look uglier and more stilted than even the Atari 2600 version of the game (at least in that version the ball moved reasonably smoothly, and not with all the grace of a bumblebee with one wing). Then in the mistaken belief that the enhanced version would be any better, I tried this only to find that the screen was so exquisitely detailed and busy that it looked like it’d been designed by the sort of person who used to spend hour after hour scalping model tank kits to find bits to stick all over their spaceship models in order to make them look more authentic.

    So in true Harvey Dent style, whichever side of the coin you choose, you’re in for something nasty and ugly.

    Warlords’ basic premise is that you have four bases on screen, each covered in a Breakout-style wall. The idea is to use your bat (we’ll call it a “Neutron Manipulation Device” in order to fit in with the mock sci-fi naffness of the enhanced game) to knock the ball (which we’ll call “the bolus of certain death”) into the enemy’s energy walls (which we’ll call “collapsible protective field matrices”). Keep chipping away at the walls without taking too many hits on your own base, and you win.

    To be fair to this ancient old arcade title, the core gameplay isn’t all bad – just the execution of same. Things can get quite tense when you’ve eliminated all but one of the AI players and are left battling head to head with this last cybernetic foe, with only a thin sliver of protection between you and certain death.

    “Perhaps the game could save itself on Live?” I thought. The prospect of recreating the scene in Stewie’s lounge where I once again went into battle against human opponents on Warlords was a tantalising prospect. Unfortunately despite many tries, not one other person on the entire LIVE stratosphere seemed to have the game, or perhaps they were so embarrassed by their purchase that they couldn’t bear to take it online. So I couldn’t test the multiplayer side of things simply because no one else in the world wanted to play games nearly 30 years old against random strangers on the internet, and let’s be frank here, who can blame them? It’s a bit of a shame because the game does have support for the Xbox Live Camera – so it would’ve been nice to have seen the disgusted expressions on the faces of random internet nonentities, to see if they matched my own.

    Warlords adds yet another stinking pile of dross to Stainless’ ever-burgeoning CV of woe. Whether you choose the dreadful attic-coded classic version or the completely over-egged enhanced version you’d be better off spending your 400 points on some of those absolutely dreadful Xbox Live Community gamerpics than you would on this pile of cat doo-doo.

    Score: 1/10

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