Thursday, January 16, 2014

Blast Corps

Blast Corps, known in Japan as BLASTDOZER (ブラストドーザー) is a 1997 video game for the Nintendo 64 developed by Rare and published by Nintendo. It was released in North America on February 28, 1997, in Japan on March 21, 1997, and in the PAL regions on September 1, 1997. The object of the game is to destroy a series of buildings using a variety of unique demolition vehicles, mainly in order to clear a path for a truck carrying a pair of defective nuclear missiles. Some stages require other tasks to be completed in a time attack, most of them being time attacks (e.g., racing, destroying objects, etc.).

The game starts on a world map with only one accessible carrier level. Beating this level opens the "easy" set of carrier levels. When these are beaten, the next set of carrier levels is opened. Bonus levels are earned by finding and activating communication devices hidden in some levels. And so, the game expands from a single carrier level to many different levels of two types (carrier and bonus). Each level is initially marked with a shadow, but this can be filled with a medal by fulfilling the secondary requirements of a carrier mission (by destroying buildings, freeing survivors, and collecting RDUs), or by getting a good enough time in a Bonus mission. Each level is also circled in a green or red outline.

A green outline means that there is at least one comm. device in the level that has not been found, whereas a red outline means that all of the satellites in the level have been found. The first objective in the game is to clear all of the carrier levels, but many more tasks await afterward.

The carrier levels form the focus of the game. Here, the missile carrier has a set route, which takes it through a series of obstacles, usually including a number of buildings. The player starts in a demolition vehicle, such as a bulldozer called the Ramdozer, but may find other vehicles in the level. The main focus on such levels is action, as the player must destroy buildings in the path of the carrier, before it crashes into them, but some obstacles require the solving of puzzles. Some of these obstacles require the use of TNT blocks that can be pushed into the object to destroy it, while sometimes holes must be filled in with blocks, or a route across water or over train loading ramps must be bridged. There are even some courses where the player is required to push TNT boxes on to a crane, then use the crane move the explosives towards a target building. Clearing the path of the missile carrier earns the player a gold medal.

Once the route is clear for the carrier, there are still tasks for the player to complete. On each level there are secrets to find. To fully complete a carrier level, and earn a second gold medal, all buildings must be destroyed, which will also free anyone trapped inside. In addition, a number of radiation dispersal units, (or RDUs), which are activated by proximity to the player, are placed around the level. Some of these are placed to guide the player around the level. Once the carrier's path is clear, a player can return to a level, with no time limit, to complete objectives and find secrets. 100% completion of the tasks results in a gold medal, meaning that the player can get a total of two golds in each carrier level.

The bonus levels mostly involve a race of some sort. Some of them are straight races, where the player must complete a course of four laps in the fastest time possible. In others, the player must demolish a certain number of buildings, or activate all RDUs. In some of these bonus levels, there are enemies or obstacles, such as water or lava, which, when touched, will cause the mission to fail. Practice levels are time trial levels that introduce some of the more unusual demolition vehicles. These give some instruction in operating the particular vehicle, and sometimes have arrows to guide the player. These levels function in a similar way to a normal demolition-style bonus levels.

Before each race level, the player can choose the vehicle they will use. Here, vehicles are only available if they have been found and driven on one of the Carrier levels. Some race levels restrict the choice of vehicle. Finishing bonus levels will result in a bronze, silver, or gold medal, depending on the finish time. Other time trial levels include clearing a path for a space shuttle to land, which unlocks a demolition time trial level, set on the Moon. This, along with later levels set on Mercury, Venus, Mars and Neptune, have lower gravity than normal (although the real Neptune has higher gravity, and the real Venus has gravity almost equal to Earth). Here, as with the bonus levels, a single medal can be won on each level. Eventually, after the carrier levels have been fully completed and other tasks have been completed, they become time trial levels.

The task is again to clear a path for the carrier, but the player only has to destroy all buildings in the path of the carrier; bridging gaps is not required (though the player will fail if the carrier hits one before all buildings are destroyed). This must be done within a time limit. Bronze, silver and gold medals are awarded according to the time taken. Once all of the carrier levels are completed in gold medal time, platinum medals become available for all levels.

There are a number of demolition vehicles in the game. Each has a different method of demolition, from the Ramdozer, which is just a simple bulldozer, to the J-Bomb, a robot that flies up to stomp on buildings.

On foot, the pilot is slow and can only destroy things under rare circumstances by dropping on them. It is necessary to exit the vehicles in order to get into other ones, except when in levels outside planet Earth. The pilot is unable to interact with human survivors or the rest of the environment while on foot.

There are two types of demolition vehicles, those based on conventional vehicles (such as bulldozers and motorcycles), and those based on a large robotic exoskeleton.

The vehicles in the first category can destroy smaller buildings and obstacles, and larger ones with the help of TNT blocks. The Ramdozer is a bulldozer that can destroy obstacles by ramming them, and can easily move blocks to fill in holes, and TNT blocks to destroy larger obstacles. The other vehicles in this category can all ram, but do most damage when they use their signature move. The Backlash is a fairly slow-moving dump truck that destroys obstacles by going into a skid and swinging the armored back end of the vehicle into the chosen obstacle. Alternatively, it can use terrain as a ramp to get the truck airborne allows it to crash through buildings with ease.

The Skyfall is a small and fast dune buggy, with a booster, which destroy obstacles by launching itself up a ramp, and landing on them. The Ballista is a motorcycle that destroys obstacles by firing missiles at them. The Sideswipe is an articulated vehicle that destroys its targets by using extending rams on the left and right sides of its rear section. There is a limit to the number of times these three vehicles can use their abilities. Skyfall has a regenerating fuel supply, while the ballista and sideswipe have to collect ammunition boxes located on each level.

The three robotic vehicles are the Thunderfist, Cyclone Suit and J-Bomb. They are better suited for destroying larger obstacles. The Thunderfist destroys obstacles by running at them, then tumbling into the side, sometimes swinging the arm like a boxer's uppercut as it collides into the building. The Cyclone suit can destroy obstacles by somersaulting into them, and the J-Bomb has a jet-pack, which is used to fly above a target building, and slam into them. It can also use the jet-pack to explore the levels.

A number of other vehicles are also available, primarily used for the race levels, consisting of various cars and trucks. Each vehicle differs in handling, speed and acceleration, making some more suited for certain levels than others. The Muscle Car has the unique ability of being able to drive off-road and underwater without slowing down. Certain levels also contain trains or barges which run on a fixed track, and are used primarily for transportation, as well as a fixed-position crane that can move things via its hoisted platform.

Blast Corps rewards the player by giving them ranks as they go further in acquiring medals. There are 31 ranks. The 30 promotions follow a predetermined order, as the player's number of points get higher. This number depends on the quantity and quality of the acquired medals:

1 point for every bronze medal
2 points for every silver medal
3 points for every gold medal
4 points for every platinum medal

Every 12 points, the player is awarded a new promotion.

Two defective nuclear missiles are being moved to a safe location for a controlled detonation. The missiles begin to leak and the carrier vehicle transporting the missiles is automatically set onto a direct course to the detonation site. As the course takes it through many built-up areas, there are many obstacles on the way, and a single jolt could be enough to detonate the missiles and trigger a nuclear winter. The Blast Corps demolition company is given the task of clearing a safe route for the carrier and its missiles.

Blast Corps was worked on by no more than 7 developers at any one time, developed mainly by 4 recent graduates including Martin Wakeley (later Free Radical) as lead designer.
The initial concept was to create a game that required the player to destroy buildings; this concept developed out into the 'constantly moving object' mechanic in order to give the player a reason to destroy buildings.

The gameplay mechanics were reverse-engineered to create a group of characters.
Lead designer Martin Wakeley has stated that he has toyed with ideas for a sequel to Blast Corps; the game would have been based on a persistent city environment that would deviate into more of an action-based combat game.

However, he also stated that the gameplay has been pushed as far as it can go and that perhaps Blast Corps was a bit of a "one-trick pony".

Blast Corps was rated the 71st best game made on a Nintendo System in Nintendo Power magazine's Top 200 Games list and 84th on Official Nintendo Magazine's top 100 games on a Nintendo System. Metacritic gave Blast Corps a score of 90, placing it in the top 15 N64 games of all time.

Similarly, GameRankings assigned the game a score of 89%, placing it in the website's top 20 N64 games.

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