Game of the Week (8/12/18) – Countermeasure

One thing that the Atari 5200 was not necessarily known for was its list exclusive titles. A lot of what was available was simply better looking versions of what could be found on the 2600. However, one exclusive title that quickly comes to mind is “Countermeasure”. In Atari’s “Countermeasure”, you take control of a “supertank” that has been employed to protect Washington D.C. from a terrorist attack. These terrorists have seized control of one of the United States’ missile silo complexes (‘doh!) and your job is to save D.C. from total destruction (no pressure) as the terrorists plan to launch our own missiles at our capital city. To accomplish this goal, you must move your supertank from the bottom of the screen to the top, blasting the missile silos until they are all gone.

On the ground, you will see a number of figures and graphics meant to represent certain aspects of the complex. The dark green ground represents clear paths for your tank to maneuver around on. The light green paths indicate taller grass that slows your tank down. There are also trees and building which do the same to your tank, slow it down to a crawl which leaves you a sitting duck for enemy fire. There are blue boxes with rotating arrows inside called “pillboxes”. These are controlled by the terrorists and shoot at your tank. Since they rotate, you can gauge when it’s safe to approach them to fire but there is always a significant risk with these enemies as their shots appear to be able to travel further than yours so you can’t assume that because your fire cannot reach them, they cannot reach you. Additional enemies may be present, such as tanks, jeeps and cruise missiles, depending on which skill level you are playing at. Unlike pillboxes, jeeps and enemy tanks are not stationary but the good news is that your shot can travel further than theirs. Cruise missiles will home in on you but cannot pass through trees or buildings so that must be considered when escaping cruise missile fire.

Also on the screen will be two stationary objects that do not fire. One is a supply depot, that you can touch with your supertank when your fuel gauge runs low. That’s right, not only do you have all of these enemies trying to keep you from foiling their plans, you also can run out of fuel, which causes you to lose a life. Once you touch a supply depot, you are given a letter/position for the fail safe code (more on that later). The other stationary item are the missile silos, which are now under enemy control and must be destroyed. The silo locations are also where your supertank can enter the launch sequence/code entry portion of the game.

If there wasn’t enough going on already with multiple enemies shooting at you, terrain that makes it difficult to pass through, as well as fuel tanks that are quickly being depleted, there is also a launch sequence timer at the top of the screen counting down from 10 minutes once the game begins. Once this launch sequence timer goes to zero, you are forced to enter the 3-digit fail safe code, which is some combination of the letters L-E-O before the time to impact reaches zero. The ways that you can win the game are to either destroy all of the silos before the end of the 10 minute launch sequence, or to correctly enter the fail safe code if timer reaches zero before you destroy all silos or if you enter a silo early. You can approach a silo and enter the code anytime you want, even if you are uncertain what the code is, but if you cannot come up with the right combination in time, you are treated to a death screen that ultimately finishes with a cool looking skull and crossbones graphic. If you succeed in saving Washington D.C., you will be treated to a screen that shows your tank up on a hill and a brilliant glowing moon basking you in your glory.

In terms of controls, “Countermeasure” effectively utilizes both side buttons and the 8 position joystick. The bottom button is used to turn your gun while the top button is used to fire. The joystick is then used to move your tank around the screen. The keypad is used to enter the fail safe code letters when prompted. This is a nice control scheme that works well but does require a bit of practice to become proficient. The graphics are clean, if unremarkable and the game scrolls up nicely as you move your tanks towards the top of the screen in order to reach new sections where additional silos, and enemies exist. “Countermeasure” is a solid game that has a “Combat” feel to it but clearly has much deeper gameplay. The learning curve is steep and it’s a difficult game to master but worth your time if you’re a 5200 owner or aficionado.

Rating: B

Currently in my collection: game, manual, overlay, box

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