QUARANTINE CD-ROM from Gametek/Imagexcel

Reviewed by Pasquale DeMaio

          Computer        Graphics       Memory           Disk Space
Minimum     286             VGA        4 Meg. Ram       CD-ROM: <2 Meg

Control: Keyboard, joystick, game pad, thrustmaster steering wheel
  Sound: SB, SBpro, SB16,  AWE32, Gravis Ultrasound
  Notes:  Copy protection, no music unless playing CD version, you can 
          play your own CDs with a full install on the CD version.  The 
          manual states that you must have a 486-50 to play the intro 
          correctly.  This game is incompatible with smartdrv (Smart 
          Drive), and EMM386.

Reviewed version on:  Full install, 486DX50 w/ISA bus, 8 megs memory, 
                      MS-DOS 6.0, SB-16ASP, NEC 510 3X CD-ROM, Gravis 
                      game pad 
Reviewer recommends:  Digital soundcard (SB etc.), game pad or joystick,  
                      you need a 486DX50 for the intros, if you intend to 
                      play from the CD.  I would recommend at least a 
                      double speed.

With out a doubt the past twelve months have been the year of the first person perspective or 3D game. This sudden leap in popularity is mostly due to the huge success of the game DOOM. Doom revolutionized what people came to expect from a computer game. Like most huge successes, Doom generated a series of knock offs. QUARANTINE, by Gametek and Imagexcel , is definitely one of those knock offs. Does that make it a bad game? The answer is a definite no.

Quarantine is set in the city of Kemo. Kemo, as the name would suggest, has been the target of bizarre government chemical and germ warfare tests. This has rendered the city a biohazard area full of mutants. This is where Omnicorp, a corporate giant with all the trimmings, steps in, guaranteeing a return to normalcy for the residents of Kemo. Of course this isn't their true intention or else we wouldn't have much of a game would we?

Where does the player fit into all of this? The dashing hero, isn't exactly Sean Connery in James Bond. He is, however, very close to Robert Dinero in Taxi Driver. Yep, a lowly cabby, and he has only one thing on his mind, survival.

The player starts the game with about 100 bucks, a hover cab, with headlight mounted machine guns, and hopefully a healthy respect for his life. I personally found the early part off this game very frustrating.

Driving the cab was difficult and not very intuitive. I kept driving in to walls, and when I wasn't, I was constantly being toasted by other deranged motorists. Worst of all the stock machine guns are pitifully weak. As I got used to the controls and the other motorists driving habits, however, I began to make my way around the city. I picked up my first customer. He was a rude punk, with a bad attitude. In Kemo, this is the average resident. Needing the money, I decided I would give him a ride anyway. This makes up the main portion of the game. As things progress the player also makes deliveries and takes on special missions for various patrons. Those are the really important missions, but the player can't ignore the general passengers. He needs the money.

This brings me to my favorite part of the game. Going shopping and then enjoying my purchases. As soon as I got some cash I headed for one of the "Weapon King" shops. There I found one of the areas where this game really shines: lots of very different weapons. I upgraded my headlight machine guns to a higher caliber. This made a for a much more enjoyable jaunt about town. The improved machine guns also came with a free UZI submachine gun allowing a more effective spray out the windows to help keep down pedestrians. Other weapons include mines, many types of missiles and something that shoots a napalm like substance. There are other weapons I won't mention. I liked the variety of weapons. None seemed too much like the others, and the AI involved with some of them is pretty impressive. There are various non-weapon upgrades also. These are necessary to succeed in the game but aren't as much fun to talk about. They certainly aren't as much fun as the hood mounted rotary saw.

What a mess.

One of the things that I liked about this game is that killing things is a necessity but the player must do so selectively or else he will run out of ammo or just plain fail at the mission. However, I still found it impossible to curb my violence when some hover bike would side swipe me and then take off while I skidded off the road into a building or a tree.

After you get really good at driving a cab, i.e. being a hack, you earn enough money to inflict a lot more damage, i.e. hack some beings. Graphically the game is very similar to doom. It has about the same speed of movement, except that you can sustain higher speeds for longer because of the layout of the game. The graphics are generally well done and I like the fact that you are outside. Like ARENA: THE ELDER SCROLLS, as you approach things from a distance the just pop into view; however, this is done at a much farther distance so the effect is more one of distant haze than magically appearing obstacles. I didn't find that I noticed this enough to be put off like I was with Arena.

Unfortunately, so far the far off backgrounds lack color. The nearby buildings are very detailed, though. The other vehicles are done effectively. The pedestrians are also well done. They splatter all over your windshield but they wipe right off. Little things like flaming engines as a car explodes, make this game more satisfying. If you are getting the feeling that this is a very graphically violent game, you are dead on target. Keep this one away from the 5 year olds and Tipper Gore.

Neither could handle it.

As far as I'm concerned, sound is just as important as any other part of a game. This is another good point for Quarantine. Most of the sounds are very well done. They are generally clean and appropriate. They also don't cause any hitches in the action. An undocumented feature is the ability to vent some frustration by pressing one of the upper function keys. I'll let you figure it out. One important note is that there is no music code specifically for the game. If, however, you do a full install with the CD-ROM version of the game music is played directly off the disk. This should also be the case with the mini-install, but I haven't confirmed this. I found the mini install too slow between scenes to be enjoyable. With the full install you can also put your own CDs in the CD-ROM reader and there are controls built into the game for advancing tracks. This is of course a fairly subjective statement, but I will say it anyway. The music on the CD is actually pretty good, and in general much better than your average game soundtrack. The musicians are Australian grunge bands. The music is very good for setting the mood that the game is trying to create. I also found Pearl Jam, Offspring and Jimi Hendrix made for good driving tunes.

The mood that the music and the game are going for is one of a more violent version of Blade Runner. A dismal and dark future, with little hope and no real justice. It does a fine job of this. The game doesn't try to pull to many punches, but it all so tries to keep a lightness to it. The statements the fares make when they get in and when you check the map are pretty humorous. It certainly didn't keep me rolling on the floor, but the humor is more subtle tongue in cheek stuff.

Now some bad points about the game. Firstly, some of the missions are virtually impossible at certain times. The player can choose to defer them, but it is kind of annoying to accept a mission to discover that you had no chance and will have to do it again. The amount of damage that the player's car takes is ridiculous. It has the amour characteristics of a Sherman tank with a kevlar car bra. Modem play would have probably helped this title. I would certainly like to toast my friends cab. Finally the instruction manual is not nearly as good as good as it could be. It seems like it was made before some of the final decisions were solidified. Things like armor are not really explained at all. It is no where near as bad as something like OUTPOST, but it could use a touch up.

The game is not overly complicated, so this is not a major problem. One technical comment I would like to make is that this game has been relatively crash free. I have a pretty good handle on my system, but high end games generally have a tendency to crash once and while no matter what. This one has twice, but only immediately after restoring a game, which is the best time to do it. It seems very stable during actual game play. This is only anecdotal evidence, but that is the only kind I can give.

Over all I would say Gametek and Imagexcel have a real winner here with one reservation. There's no modem support so I don't know how replayable this game will be to the average action addict. However, this is one of the best action games I have played, and I didn't really expect much. If you liked Doom, but want something a little different and with a little bit better plot and better weapons, this would be an excellent choice. It takes a little getting used to. Give it a chance, though, and it is worth the trouble.

This review is Copyright (C) 1994 by Pasquale DeMaio for Game Bytes Magazine. All rights reserved.