1995 Winter CES Commentary by:
Michael Lambert (mike@bend.ucsd.edu)

Atari Comments

Hiya. I just got back from CES, and wanted to share what I saw.

To let you know where I'm coming from, I don't own a Jaguar yet. Emphasis on "yet". CES convinced me that one day I will. My philosophy towards video games is that I don't care what system it's on so long as it's a good game. I'm no company's advocate. The main reason that I don't own a Jag yet is that I'm not rich :) and can't afford to buy everything I want.

Everything from here on out is my opinion. Opinions were gathered from watching, playing, and listening to other players and designers. I had a very limited amount of time at CES, so on average I had only a few moments with many of the games. This is so you take everything with some reservation -- there's no way to measure depth of play or lots of neato features. I think that many of my first impressions are valid, but there are bound to be games that I mis-judge since I didn't have lots of time to spend on any one.

Phew. Done with the mumbo-jumbo. On to the games, with the good stuff being described first, generally. No particular order, though.


Wow. My favorite Atari game of the show. I won't describe it, since everyone already knows what it is, but I was entranced by this one. The gameplay is great, and I didn't even know what I was doing (but, thankfully there was a summary of the controls on the kiosk). This was better than I'd heard about. Much better than Metal Head, which was more a Doom clone than a mech game. MH had better texture mapping, but IS is a far, far, far, far, far better game. IS is a game that I would buy a Jaguar to play.


This was okay, but not great. Characters looked nice, but seemed small *most* of the time (not all!). There seemed to be less polygons than VF, but the texture-mapping hasn't been put in yet. The arena (the floor) was a simply Gouraud-shaded square -- not visually impressive.

Let me clarify "small." It seemed to me that the camera was a bit further away than in VF, making the fighters look smaller. There were times when the camera came closer and the fighters looked big, but on the whole I got an impression of "small".

Gameplay is hard to judge. I stink at VF type games, but I only seemed to be able to get two or three moves out of my fighter. Still, I liked the fact that I gain moves from fighters I defeat. Jumping is much quicker than VF's moon gravity -- almost too quick!

This looks to be a solid title -- I think they should make it look "bigger", though, and add some eye candy to the floor and the backgrounds. Given that it's not a finished product, I'd guess that some of the visuals will be vastly improved.

How does it stack against other VF type games? It buries FX Fighter (SNES) in just about every department. It is a bit less than Saturn VF, but that's before t-mapping and final touches. FFL could be on equal footing with VF once all the parts are in place. However, it doesn't stack up to Sony's Toshinden, which was the most impressive console game at CES. Toshinden needs to be seen to be appreciated -- discussing it in words just won't convey it, but I'll try in the .misc posting.


This looked better than Kasumi Ninja, although characters still looked a little small to me. It's hard to judge this game based on the limited time I had to see it. However, it looks better and smoother than KN. Promising. I didn't get to play it since there were always people playing it. I'd consider that a good sign :)


Lots of people have bagged on AC, and I can see why. The graphics are unimpressive. However, it looks like there's a pretty good game underneath the unimpressive visuals. There looks like a lot of depth to this one, and the fact that it is networkable is a big plus.

However, many won't be able to get past the graphics. It's easy to see why. I was playing a snow scene, and the screen is mostly white. The sky, the ground, -- everything. Graphics are Gouraud shaded everywhere, but there's a dull sameness to everything. Less detailed than Cybermorph, I'm afraid.

Still, this one deserves a look. The graphics may not be much, but there looks like there's a lot of options and this looks like a killer game to play with your friends (up to 8 of them. I question how many people are going to get 8 Jags and TVs together, but hey -- it can be done). Air Cars is probably going to be one of those titles with a small, devoted following with lots of others saying how bad it is and how it "sucks". If they could improve the visuals, even to Cybermorph levels, this title would probably be a hot item.


This one looks to be very good. Not much to play, since it was a very incomplete game, but what was there looks very promising. I believe it's about 40% done.


Rayman looks nice. Not as nice as DKC, but Rayman doesn't try to scream "I'm SGI rendered" like DKC does. Graphics are beautiful, with regard to color and design. Rayman is well-animated and ultra-smooth. I have a personal prejudice against platformers right now (I'm totally platformed-out) so I can't work up much enthusiasm for it. I played for a few minutes. Nothing noticeably revolutionary or exciting. However, it looks like a solid platformer. Whether you take that as a compliment or a complaint is up to you :)

Incidentally, Rayman will be coming for Sony, Saturn, 32X and 3DO too, but all but the 32X will be in September. Of course, the info sheet I have lists a Jag release date of June... The info sheet I got also says that the price will be $45 (yeah!) but I don't know if that's MSRP or Ubisoft's price to distributors. Hopefully the former! Some more interesting info from the sheet:


Barf. When I saw the CD player in the kiosk and the plane on the screen I knew it was BL, so I ran up to give it a try. I didn't care for it. It reminds me of Afterburner. The play area was flat. Enemies seemed to be flat scaled bitmaps (if they were t-mapped polygons, they were pretty bad ones). It was also entirely forced-forward. This would be like Shockwave minus the terrain, the ability to fly where you want within the constrained areas, and the texture-mapped polygons. Pray that this is not the pack-in.


This was a blank screen when I went by. Oh well.


Yuck. While I didn't find the controls to be *that* bad (I was expecting awful city), I did crash a lot and had a genuinely un-fun time. Graphics were not very good, and the frame rate was awful. I've read that there is depth to the game if you play it long enough, but I didn't *want* to play it any longer.


This one would have been really good with a little polish. Graphics are a bit *too* flat looking, and it is way too disorienting when your car falls/crashes/spins/does anything but drive on level ground. Still, I liked the idea of the game and exploring it looks fun.


I love the headband :) The game seems .. okay. Characters seemed a bit small to me, but the monitors on the kiosks weren't very big to begin with. Background graphics were nice, fighters were okay. Jumping was very choppy (looked like a strobe effect). I wish there were a guide to special moves, since I couldn't seem to pull off any. I also didn't see many others successfully belt out special moves. The intro sequence (choose your fighters) seemed excessive.


Just looked at it for a moment, but it looks good. I have TP on the PC, and it's an addictive game that can really waste large amounts of your time :) Fans of amusement parks will probably like this a lot. Jag version seems a solid bet.


Didn't play it. Looks like Flashback. If you don't have another version, go for it. Flashback is a good game. However, if you already have it somewhere else, I wouldn't bother. The Jag version doesn't look like it's too different, and once you've solved Flashback, there isn't a real need to play it again.


These games were present. I didn't really take a close look since I wanted to spend more time with Jag-only games.

VAL D'ISERE (however you spell it)

Saw it on the showcase monitor, but didn't seek it out. I'm not into sports games. What I saw looked nice :)


Why? I looked at these for a minute, and then walked away. There were *waaaaay* too many platformers at this show, and these two look like more average crap. Granted, if you read the Rayman section, you know I have had enough of these...


Atari's display area was nice. There were *lots* of Jags (around 50 or more), and multiple machines with Doom, IS, KN, AvP, and T2K. There was also a *huge* TV display with lots of screens making one big screen at least 20 feet high! Although Atari didn't ooze money like Nintendo or present a showcase like SNK (who managed to make a little look like an awful lot), Atari presented lots of substance and lots of playable games.

I expected to find 5 CD titles, and was a little disappointed in what I found. Blue Lightning looked pretty bad, Varuna's Forces wasn't working, and I somehow missed BattleMorph. I expected to see more, and I would think twice before getting a Jag CD. There doesn't seem to be much in the way of software yet, to say nothing of *good* software.

(Aside: I've read that Creature Shock has been announced. CS combines a Total Eclipse like flying game with an FMV exploration game. There's tons of FMV, but it is one of the better FMV games. I consider this a Good Thing for the CD, but I have to admit -- even though I like CS on my PC, it's not as addictive as, say, IS, T2K, etc. If someone wants a better description of CS, I'd be happy to post.)

One thing I really liked about the Atari display was that there were a lot of game designers present talking about their games. Moreso than other companies. Also, the designers talked to just about everyone. At some other displays, some of the designers/officials ignored me or (worse) walked away since I wasn't someone Important. Here, I got nice talks about Air Cars, Battle Sphere, Hover Hunter, FFL, and I saw other people talking about Doom and other games. I was impressed that of all the exhibits, it was the Atari exhibit that treated everyone like they actually cared and wanted you to care regardless of Who You Were.

Listen up Atari -- you *must* get Descent for the Jag. Descent was my hands-down favorite game of CES, and it would be a perfect match for the Jaguar. Forget Heretic, Rise of the Triad, Dark Forces, Doom II. Descent is the successor to Doom, and if the Jaguar could offer networked Descent with the VR helmet (I played this on the PC at CES), the Jaguar would be a force in the marketplace. Start it now! Have Descent + Voice Modem + VR available for Christmas and you'll definitely rake in the cash.

Speaking of the Voice Modem, I expected to see that too. What's taking so long? I'm a bit worried about this one... what does this say about the VR helmet (also a no-show). Other notable no-shows were Mortal Kombat II (*if* it exists), Primal Rage, D2K (I didn't expect to see it, but it would have been a fun surprise!).

Atari had some cool stuff at their display. I got those AvP and Iron Soldier posters, and they're wonderful! I like my Kasumi Headband too!

All in all, while there aren't any new killer things on the horizon, I was impressed with Atari's display. I love Iron Soldier, and this game reinforced my hope for the Jag. If this could be cranked out in 6 months, then hopefully the next six months will show some really cool stuff. Atari needed a few killer titles that didn't materialize, and it needed more CDROM games. Nevertheless, I walked away with more positive feelings toward Atari than when I walked in.

Hope you found this informative. I'd be glad to answer any questions on anything I wrote here, or anything else you can think up.

- Michael

Return to the 95' WCES page. or read on for more WCES commentary.

[ New Contents ]
[ Classic Contents - Articles - Reviews - Comics - Codes ]