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When I first saw this game, I felt like doing a Gary Liddon special all over the keyboard. After a time, however, I discovered that the game contained a variety of previously hidden attractions and that the apparent simplicity of the graphics belied the underlying complexity and skilful design of the campaigns. The malevolent voice and sinister, imposing sound effects add to the sense of urgency and desperation pervading the scenarios. Ultimately, this is a sophisticated
Beach-Head with distinctly yellow overtones. I always express reservations about these militaristic hybrids, feeling that they lack all the potential action of the swiftly moving arcade game and the supposed integrity of the true simulation, but having said all that -- I really had a good time on this one . . .
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Desert Fox is more like a glorified Battlezone than anything else. The digitised speech is one of the most outstanding aspects of this program; it's very clear with a distinct German accent. The graphics are great, with very effective 3D and the colours used nicely. The options on the title screen are very good, allowing you to practise all the different aspects of the game. The game itself requires a combination of strategy and arcade ability, making it slightly unusual to play. I really liked playing this game, and with its multitude of options and varied gameplay, it's something which should keep a budding tank commander happy until the snows thaw.
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Welcome to Game of the Week! Each week there will be a new featured game on this page. The game may be good, average or diabolically bad, it really doesn't matter! Just look at the pics, read the text and enjoy the nostalgia! :-) Game of the Week! is open to contributions so if you would like to contribute a game article for this page you're more than welcome to! Every article we receive will be considered!
Desert Fox
1985 US Gold
Programmed by Marylou O'Rourke, John Harley & Stuart Easterbrook
 
Most text of the present article comes from the review published in the tenth issue of the British C64 magazine ZZAP!64 (street date: 9 January 1986).
 

DESERT FOX
US Gold/Sydney Developments, 9.95 cass, 14.95 disk, joystick only


Desert Fox is one of those 'difficult to categorise' games involving arcade and strategy elements. The game puts you into the heat of World War Two's desert campaign and pits your wits against that most notorious of opponents, Rommel. There are several campaigns selectable from the main menu, but each of these has several constituent parts which may be individually played out in practice sessions, again selectable from the main menu.

Before you get that involved however, there is the option to modify the sound effects used throughout the game. Basically, a joystick is used to toggle envelope settings. After these have been altered to the player's satisfaction, it's best to proceed directly to the first of the practice sequences.

Stuka! Stuka! Lone Wolf's gunner desparately
tries to line up his cross hairs before the plane
can strafe the tank.

The first of these is an attack on Lone Wolf (the code name for your tank -- a fictitious Turbo Sherman) by enemy Stuka dive-bombers. The player is given the tank commander's point of view, as enemy bombers zoom in from the horizon. Guided by a radar display in the bottom left hand corner of the screen and a joystick movable sight, the Stukas have to be eliminated by Lone Wolf's slow firing but powerful gun before too much damage is inflicted by the Luftwaffe. For all the scenarios, damage is shown in a gauge at the bottom of the commander's display.

There is also a tank duel section where an enemy tank (apparently with firepower similar to Lone Wolf's) skirts across the limits of your field of vision, loosing off shots as it goes. Only one direct hit is needed to knock out a tank but apart from the difficulties of finding its range, it seems to be highly manoeuvrable and avoids many shots as a consequence. It does get nearer as the fight progresses but it also tends to achieve more hits, so a balance has to be struck somewhere.

Lone Wolf's twin machine guns are the only thing
that stands between the enemy aircraft and their
potential convoy target.

One of the trickier sections to master is the Convoy scenario. This has Lone Wolf protecting an allied Convoy under attack from enemy fighter-bombers. The screen shows a continuous line of moving vehicles in the middle distance and an absolute traffic jam of fighter bombers letting loose their rain of hell. This time Lone Wolf has two heavy machine guns pointing at the enemy. There are also two sights. Which of the two sights is in operation depends on whether the joystick is toggled left or right. Simultaneous operation of the two weapons is impossible. As usual, the score for this section is displayed in a window in the right hand part of the 'dashboard' -- for want of better terminology. This section becomes horrendously complex because as well as the enemy aircraft (shown in red) there are defending (green) Spitfires, which must not he shot down (unless you enjoy throwing away points).


[This screenshot was not part of the original review]

An ambush scenario included in the game is vaguely reminiscent of the Star Wars Death Star Trench sequence as Lone Wolf travels through a canyon, trying to destroy the mortar emplacements attacking him from both sides. There is little else to this sequence but it is one of the fastest moving parts of the game.


[This screenshot was not part of the original review]

Finally there is a minefield to successfully navigate. Mines are just visible and can be destroyed by gunfire, however any that go under the tracks will inevitably do damage to the tank and slow it down by covering the tracks in sand. A blue line appears in the compass window, indicating the course to be followed. The time taken to complete this section also has a direct bearing on the score achieved.

After competence has been gained in each of these sections, you are ready to move up to the campaigns. There are five of these, each harder than the last. To win, it is necessary to relieve any supply depots threatened by Rommel's forces. If a prohibitive amount of damage is done to the 'Super Tank' or if any one of the depots falls to the enemy, the campaign is lost.


[This screenshot was not part of the original review]

At the start of the campaign, a map of North Africa is displayed with several icons and characters on it. A little tank reveals your current position and a swastika, that of Rommel. Grey flags show where the depots are. These turn to blue if the depot has been saved or red if they are lost. To the right of the screen are several icons labelled Move, Airstrike, Radio, and Zoom. Zoom is used to find the status of the depots. If that icon has been selected and the cursor is located over one of the flags, a picture zooms into the centre of the screen to show the number of enemy and allied tanks at the depots and an indication of how many hours it has left before falling to the enemy. Once a depot has been selected to be saved, on the basis of that information, the Radio icon displays a beacon coming from Lone Wolf. The joystick is used to point this in the desired direction and allows the interception of enemy messages indicating the amount and type of opposition likely to be encountered on a given course. Clever use of this feature is used to avoid unnecessary encounters and action. As all the campaigns last at least 24 hours, there are dawn, day, dusk and night sequences. Combat should really be avoided at night and dusk. Incidentally, if there is nothing but static on the radio, it means no opposition will be encountered.

Selecting the Move icon moves Lone Wolf a certain number of units in the direction the Radio beacon was last pointing. Rommel is out to stop you from succeeding in your mission and as a result careful consideration must be given to which route is to be taken. If it begins to seem unlikely that a depot may be reached before it falls to the enemy, then an Airstrike may be called in to buy time. There may only be one Airstrike in the game however, so it's advisable to pick your time with care.

If (or when?) Rommel is finally encountered it's better to have suffered very little damage, as eight direct hits are required to make him surrender. If the Desert Fox does surrender, 8000 bonus points are awarded and one depot is saved. Also, saving a convoy buys a depot more time and reduces the player's damage when he reaches it.

     

.
Desert Fox is an unusual, but very competent, blend of strategy and arcade action, although the former attribute is perhaps mote subtle than the latter but it certainty exists. On playing it is evident that a great deal of thought and time has gone into the game, as it is highly polished in appearance. The graphics are, on the whole, excellent and the sound is befitting and complementary, especially the crystal clear speech. Despite being reminiscent of Beach Head, Desert Fox is a great game in its own right and should appeal to a wide variety of 64 owners.
.

   


Presentation 90%
Plenty of options and slick in appearance.

Graphics 82%
Simple but effective.

Sound 95%
Superb FX and speech synthesis.

Hookability 86%
Easy to get into but demanding overall game.

Lastability 87%
Five campaigns with increasing difficulty.

Value For Money 85%
Oodles of variety in the gameplay.

Overall 87%
An excellent blend of strategy and arcade action.
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Htmlized by Dimitris Kiminas (5 Sep 2004)

Can anybody rip the SID tune out of this one?

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