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Front Line Review

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Developer: Taito Publisher: Coleco
Release Date: 1984 Also On:Arcade, Colecovision, Famicom, MSX, NES (pirate form), Wii

I remember first playing this game on the Famicom and laughing at it. Front Line had one of the goofiest looking characters I’ve ever seen and some of the strangest walking sounds ever. It made the whole Commando genre so funny looking, but in fact was one of the first titles of its kind released. The Famicom version has not aged well at all. The Atari 2600 version, well, it hasn’t necessarily aged well, but it’s a fun title overall and probably the best in this genre for the system.

Front Line has great graphics. Your character looks a lot better than even the original in spite of the limited capabilities of the system. The silly look is eliminated for a more straightforward, realistic feel. There are lots of colors, it’s easy to tell what’s what, and the levels are nice and expansive with a variety of terrain to go over. I had no real complaints here. The original was pretty repetitive, but in spite of its limitations they pulled off a good looking game on the 2600. I’m surprised there was no flicker at times, they programmed it well.

I’m also happy overall with the sound quality in Front Line. Decent little tune going on there, and great effects. I kind of miss the silly walking sound from the original, but that’s okay, feels a bit more serious as you stomp along. Overall, typical and well-programmed.

Front Line was one of the first commando-type games. Basically, you have to run upwards, shooting down enemies. There are no power-ups to speak of but you can enter tanks a little later in each level (two types), so that’s a nice bonus. There are four main enemies; opposing soldiers, tanks, gun tanks and the gun battery on the fortress at the end of ever level. The first setting isn’t easy and things get more taxing from there. One thing I like about Front Line is the difficulty curve. Even for seasoned gamers it’s not easy to get past the first level, and after this you get a great challenge as you go further. The controls are responsive and easy to master, and it takes a bit of strategy too. Overall, Front Line is a great title to try out if you’re looking for something in this genre. Check out a bit (poor video quality, but that’s all that’s online):

Front Line was a pretty creative game when it first came out. The majority of military-styled arcade games involved planes or some sort of vehicle, this was one of the first to feature infantry, and it would be eventually a staple that led to titles like Ikari Warriors and Contra. It has some interesting features and is one of the few titles like this on the Atari 2600. The ability to jump in and out of tanks is novel, as well as how the game switches from your gun to grenades when tanks appear.

As for replay value, it’s quite fulfilling to complete this game if you’re good enough. In addition, the levels in Front Line are just the right length. You can run through each of them in about five or ten minutes, making for a nice, short, but challenging title to sit down with now and then. My only problem is that it hasn’t aged well. I’m coming from a generation that primarily played the NES. When you have a more complicated version of Commando and several titles like it, Front Line doesn’t look as good nor is it as engaging. Though it’s fun, it doesn’t have the timeless quality of something like Kaboom! because while trying to be entertaining, it was also showing off grahics, graphics that aren’t exactly spectacular anymore and the gameplay has been superseceded by many different titles. Something like Kaboom! doesn’t need a graphics upgrade, but games like Front Line did, and that’s what happened. Still, this is definitely playable, just not something I decided to keep.

Front Line is probably the best military-style title on the Atari 2600. It has a lot to offer in spite of system limitations and will give even the casual gamer something to come back to, especially if you’re looking for a well-organized challenge. However, if you’re used to more modern titles and grew up with something like Gun.Smoke or Contra Hard C.O.R.P.S., this won’t interest you for very long.

Graphics: 7
Sound: 8
Gameplay: 8.5
Creativity: 7.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 5
Final: 7.2
Written by Stan Write a User Review