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Tunnel B1 - Ocean

by Kevin Ip (kevin.ip@utoronto.ca)

Lowdown:

    Developed by Ocean and published by Acclaim, Tunnel B1 is essentially "Doom in a tunnel". This game is not a classic by any definition of the word, but it does sport some of finest graphics the Saturn has ever produced.
TB1 kicks off with a crystal-clear FMV intro of Acclaim's logo (an extreme departure from the grainy mess that graced their Alien Trilogy game), followed by Ocean's amusing logo sequence, and finally the actual game intro. All of this is full-screen, razor-sharp FMV at its finest, easily rivalling or beating the nice Duck Tru-motion compressed FMV found in Sega's more recent AM division Saturn games. True, the intros to the AM games probably have the edge content-wise, but sometimes technical brilliance must to be recognised, and Tunnel B1 is one of those times.

In-game graphics are equally impressive: Lightsourcing and faux transparencies (which still look very nice for some reason) abound in a fully polygonal, all running at a blazing fast 30+ frames/sec, slowing down only _slightly_ during very intense action. The speed during slowdown is still faster than most games at top speed, however, so even the pickiest gamers are unlikely to complain. So, it has the technical side down pat, but does it look nice? You bet. Overhead lamps and gunfire light-up towering brick walls as you unleash a salvo of missles at the nearest enemy. A rotating red light turns green as you hit a switch, illuminating the area in an emerald glow. Lights twinkle and rotate in the distance. Bottomline, the graphics will not disappoint you.

On the other hand, gameplay very well could. As mentioned earlier, this game is best described as "Doom in Tunnel", except you control some kind of spaceship instead of a whacked-out space marine. In that sense, one might be tempted to call it a Descent-clone, but that would be misleading since movement in TB1 is restricted to the ground as in Doom. Why this is so when your ship is clearly flying through the sky in the intro is not understood. In any case, TB1 has you moving through fairly linear & simple tunnel systems, trying to complete primary and secondary objectives while avoiding death at the "hands" of various automated gun systems and futuristic-looking machines. All of this is done from a first-person perspective from what would be the very front tip of your ship. That's right - You can't change views and the one you're stuck with seems to be around ankle-level. Annoying.

Play strategy also differs somewhat from Doom in that all enemies require multiple shots to kill. This means most battles will probably occur at distances nowhere near Doom's up-close-and-personal shotgun battles, but rather become a contest of who can get within shooting range, fire off a few rounds, and run away the fastest. Not quite as exciting, but not necessarily bad, either.

There is nothing glaringly bad about the gameplay - It simply is not particularly exciting or fresh.

Control is a bit tough to get used to. Your ship slides around a lot, as if you were walking on ice. Of course, what this is supposed to simulate is the floating aspect of your ship. Again, this brings up the question of why you can't change altitudes, especially when there are flying enemies which cannot be hit until they land (your guns do NOT auto-target). Whatever the reason, it really serves no purpose, but it does not hamper the control significantly, so it's not a big deal. The control layout is fully customisable, right down to the directional keys. This allows you to tweak control from a more human-like feeling (forward is up on the control pad), or a spaceship-like one (A button is the acceleration). More games should offer the player this type of custom-tailored control.

Sound/Music settings are similarly comprehensive, with volume controls for everything from enemy vehicle noise and weapon noise to in-game speech and music. Nice. The music tracks are appropriately intense and movie-like, while the sounds are adequate.

Seeing as how gameplay and game design are what make a game a classic, whereas graphics usually become obsolete within a year, there is little doubt a gorgeous but mediocre game like Tunnel B1 will be forgotten in a year or two. However, right now it is one of the prettiest 3D games around, easily besting many in its genre (on the Saturn, at least). For this reason a, Tunnel B1 is worth a night's rental.

Graphics: 9
Sound/Music: 8
Gameplay/Control: 6.5
Lasting Power: 7
Overall: 8

-Kevin




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