Missile Command

Missile Command

Missile Command

Shall we play a game?

Back in 1980 the world was a very different place, and it could be said that Missile Command was a product of its volatile time.

Twenty-seven years ago mankind was in the grip of The Cold War; a period when it seemed that the slightest political blunder would tip the planet into World War III, and the excitement of global thermonuclear war. With tensions between East and West at breaking point, Atari's Dave Theurer designed and programmed what would become a legend amongst video games.

Your goal in Missile Command is a simple one; defend six cities from the incoming nuclear missile attacks using your trusty track-ball, three fire buttons, and a limited arsenal of 30 rockets. The first couple of levels are wonderfully designed: the enemy attacks drop down from the top of the screen in a slow and pondering fashion. It's at this point you have a chance to get to grips with the innovative controls, and pick off the enemy at your leisure, before things really get underway.

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Missile Command

Missile Command

No Cities Left.

On its own terms, the idea of a standalone Missile Command re-issue over Live hardly sounds like something to get excited about. It may well have entered the arcade Hall of Rose Tinted Fame about nine hundred years ago, but unless you were there at the time (man) it's hard to convey to anyone under the age of 28 exactly what the fuss was about. But isn't that always the case with early '80s retro offerings? Frankly, sod them if they're too young to get it. There's enough of us out there who do, and Microsoft knows it.

What's interesting about this particular offering isn't so much the original version (any retro gamer worth their salt will have MAMEd it to death, or bought it via a compilation, surely?), but the other parts of this deceptive little package. Ported and redeveloped by Stainless, the UK developer has done for Missile Command what it did a couple of months ago with Centipede, and it demented brother Millipede. If you gave it a spin, you might have been mildly impressed with the sympathetic, squelchy graphical makeover, and the absolutely insane Throttle Monkey mode which somehow made playing it at high speed more fun than it had any right to be. It's the same deal with Missile Command. Nothing fundamental has changed, as such, but a few well placed tweaks have turned Atari's 1980 shooter into a fun diversion that's worth a few quid for the retro obsessed - just.

In case you've somehow managed to avoid playing it at any point in gaming's rich history (in which case, have a Star Bar, followed by a banana), it's not your typical single screen shooter; i.e. it's not another tedious twist on Space Invaders. For a start, the game originally used a trackball in its arcade form, lending the cross-hair shooting antics the kind of furious analogue precision that was practically unheard of at the time.

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Missile Command for XBLA

This Wednesday.

Atari has announced that Missile Command will be this week's addition to Xbox Live Arcade, with the game set to go live on Wednesday, 4th July at the usual time. It will cost 400 Microsoft points (GBP 3.40 / EUR 4.65).