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Air Raiders Review

Developer: Mattel Publisher: Mattel
Release Date: 1982 Also On: None

For those of you who think that the FPS genre started with Doom, I’ve got news for you. It didn’t. This Atari 2600 title quite possibly is the true inventor of the FPS genre. True, it isn’t as graphically impressive as many of the later entries in the FPS genre, but it has everything necessary to be considered a FPS, and certainly all the other genres started on the Atari 2600 have been outdone graphically since then as well.

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The concept of the game is quite simple. You man a plane, although all you can see of it is the front dash a window to the outside world in front of it. Other planes fly by in groups of three and your objective is to shoot down as many of them as you can. Both your fuel and your ammo are limited, but you can tell how much of each you have left by looking at that information below the game window. When you are low on fuel, you can land and refuel, but you can only take off again if you shot down at least ten planes your last time up, and you only get as much ammo as the amount of planes you shot down your last time up.

Sound complicated? For an Atari 2600 title, it really is in some ways. The first time I tried to play this game after finding the Atari again, I couldn’t even figure out how to take off. This is one game that you will actually want to take a look at the instruction manual for before you start to play it. However, the very things that make this game more complicated also make it truer to how things would be for an actual fighter pilot, a factor which makes the game more realistic than many games of its era.

Also new is the first-person perspective, something not seen in many Atari 2600 games. Although it is true that the graphics aren’t the world’s most impressive, even for an Atari 2600 game from 1982, they do a reasonable job of conveying the idea of flying through the air, even if you have to look at an altitude monitor to determine exactly where you are. The enemy planes and the runway look reasonably good as well. You can even tell by how the ground and air background colors shift whether you’re flying straight, at an angle down or up, or even at an angle up or down and sideways. The sound of the planes flying, both yours and the ones you are trying to shoot down, sound about as realistic as could be expected from an Atari 2600 title as well.

This game is more challenging in some ways than other Atari 2600 titles as well. First of all, the world you’re in is a lot larger than the screen, so in some cases you’ll actually have to look around for your opponents. Most games for the Atari 2600 that have larger worlds are restricted to either horizontal or vertical scrolling, but Air Raiders, despite not showing it, has the effect of both, thus making your enemies harder to spot. That, combined with the limited ammo and fuel and limited restock of ammo, makes this quite possibly one of the most challenging games on the Atari 2600, at least for those who aim in FPSs as bad as I do.

Also, it should come as no surprise to you to learn that the enemy planes do fire back. It might surprise you though to learn that you cannot be killed by enemy fire. All enemy fire does is cause you to go spiraling down and lose some altitude. You might be wondering how you lose then. Well, you can lose in one of two ways. The first way to lose is to crash into the ground. Since landing requires flying at an altitude of 0 for a few seconds until the runway reappears, any other contact with the ground will result in a crash and the end of the game (no multiple lives in this game). You can also crash by running out of gas. The other way to lose is to land without destroying ten planes. Obviously, if you run out of ammo before destroying ten, you will either do this or you will crash.

Overall, this is, in my opinion, one of the hardest games on the Atari 2600 to learn how to play, but, as such, it is one of the most rewarding to master for those who stick with it. As a revolutionary title that provided the initial impetus for what would become the FPS genre, this game would be good for fans of such great FPSs as Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, or Halo to see where their beloved genre got its roots. Even if you aren’t a fan of current generation FPSs, this game is certainly good enough to be worth at least a look on its merits alone.

Graphics: 6
Sound: 8
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 9
Replay Value/Game Length: 7
Final: 7.8
Written by Martin Review Guide