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TEMPEST 4000 – Review


With all of the big new games releasing in the coming months, it can be difficult to look back on the past. That difficulty resides with looking at the simple pixels resembling characters and digital bass tears resembling sound, then subsequently saying” These were video games!?” It sure is a sight to behold how far we have come in terms of video games, but the past teaches us the extent of what video game design was capable of, as well as the ideas that were presented that would eventually lead to the very great games that we enjoy today. 

Robotron 2084 paved the way for twin-stick shooters. Tetris influenced how music and puzzles work together. Dragon’s Lair demonstrated that video games could be more than just computer graphics. Among the most influential arcade games of the 20th century was Tempest, the world’s first tube 3D shooter, a game that constantly gives you the sensation of peering deep into a gaming world. 

The original 1981 classic was developed by Dave Theurer, who programmed and inputted revolutionary gameplay design into the game. Tempest was the first game to introduce progressive level design, where each subsequent level was different from the last. In 1994, Jeff Minter, the founder of psychedelic game studio Llamasoft, released Tempest 2000 for the Atari Jaguar, a new update to the classic title, with brand new-3D visuals, a roaring soundtrack, and refined gameplay. 

The game became one of the most profound arcade titles of the 1990’s, and Jeff Minter would go on to work on other arcade games, including TxK in 2014.  Now, decades later, Jeff Minter & Atari have teamed up again, and despite a very rocky relation, they have released Tempest 4000 for PS4, PC, and Xbox One. After a few hours with the game, make no mistake that there are something things that cannot die, and that is the sheer fun and excitement of Tempest 4000.

Tempest puts players into a claw-like spaceship, called “Blaster.” The objective is simple. Players will descend into the deepest, darkest, most inexplicable parts of outer space, slaying wave after wave of enemies in a psychedelic quest to get the highest score possible. Players will encounter a variety of bizarre and strange enemies, looking to grab or destroy the player. 

The spaceship players will control will crawl along the stage. The stages use an interesting top-down 3D perspective, where the level endlessly positions itself towards the center.  Players will be shooting downwards towards the approaching enemy, dodging laser fire and other threats coming upwards towards them.  Players will need to use their sharp skills and quick reaction times if they hope to survive the perilous journey into the unknown.

Tempest 4000 strikes a special blend of being a game that feels both incredibly modern and historically intact. In all the iterations of Tempest, players remarked at the incredibly sharp visual presentation, which consisted of a rocking soundtrack and vector-line graphics. Tempest 4000 takes that presentation and makes it entirely new. 

The visuals for Tempest 4000 jump right off the screen, with full HD at 60 FPS. The game looks extremely smooth and is loaded with a plethora of particle effects and distortions. It’s easy to lose sight of your spacecraft in the thick of a match, especially as the game is extremely psychedelic. Laser fire and particle explosion burst with detail and passion, creating a euphoric sensation to the player. However, the presentation is nothing without tight gameplay, and I am pleased to say that Tempest 4000 the same milestone gameplay as before.

The levels in Tempest 4000 will take various forms, including letters, numbers, and geometric shapes. As the enemy crawls up these stages, players will have to dodge enemy fire and collect power-ups to survive. The power-ups include the ability to jump off the stage, use accelerated fire, and even recruit an AI companion to help quell the enemy hordes. The difficulty draws a fine line, between challenging, but fair, making Tempest 4000 great for older and newer gamers alike. Overall, between the rocking soundtrack, immersive presentation, and sharp gameplay, Tempest 400 is an absolute delight. With multiple game modes, players will have an absolutely entertaining time with Tempest 4000, and keep coming back for more.

However, there is one drawback to Tempest 4000 and that is the use of motion-controls for one particular mini-game. Between levels, players will guide their ship through a series of rings. The closer the ship is to the center, the higher the score will be. This is essential for power-ups and racking up a high score. The mini-game uses the gyroscopic motion controls of the DualShock 4 controllers to position the ship in the center. I found myself struggling to center the ship, as the orientation isn’t quite defined. At times, I hold my controller vertically, and at other times, horizontally. I have tried both orientations for the game to try and properly utilize the controls for the minigame. However, I found myself struggling. If the game properly told players which orientation to use it in, this mini-game would not be as frustrating. If this can be patched to just use the analog stick, this will make things much easier. In the meantime, there will be a sharp learning curve to properly using the motion controls for this area of Tempest 4000.

Despite that one drawback, Tempest 4000 is absolutely stellar and has quickly become one of the best indie offerings of 2018. WIth all of its elements and mechanics combined, Tempest 4000 becomes more than a blast from the past, but a reminder and encouraging confidence booster of what video games can do and what they are capable of doing. It’s presentation and gameplay remind us that games are meant to be experienced, and in the case of Tempest 4000, they are incredibly fun and memorable.

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