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SCENE
GENRE
GRAPHICS
SOUND
PLAYABILITY
VALUE
OPINION



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LIFEFORCE
TENKA

Developer

Psygnosis

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Distributer

Psygnosis

1 Player

Game Type

Shoot-em-up

Mem. Card

Review Date

September 1997

Setting the Scene

The year is 2096 and Earth is polluted and war torn. The remaining colonists have only one wish, to leave the barren planet Earth and rebuild their lives on Extrevius 328, an off world colony that is rumored to be the promised land.
Joseph B. Tenka is from Extrevius 328, and the planet is far from the paradise that was promised. It is actually a corporate conglomerate manufacturing plant for deadly warriors, known only as Bionoids. Tenka has been listed for transformation into a Bionoid, which is a half man - half droid, and that prospect does not please him one bit. In fact he dons a warfare suit and goes berserk, then sets off to destroy the corporations plans. The story is explained by some rather nice FMV cut scenes throughout the game.

Genre

Lifeforce Tenka is a first person perspective shoot-em-up that is set over 20 large sprawling stages. Each level is mission based and is described by a mysterious female talking computer named Zenith. The briefing is accompanied by a graphical display of your objectives.

Graphics

Tenka is set in an enclosed world that features curved walls, domed roofing and multi level floors. Narrow twisting corridors rise and fall leading to high open areas and appear as graphically smooth as Wipeout.
There are a couple of minor irritations that I feel must be mentioned concerning the scenery. Some of the areas are dimly lit which add to the atmosphere, but others are so dark that you often believe you are venturing into the unknown when in fact you are actually stuck in a corner attempting to walk through a solid black wall.
Also, you feel a little cheated when after completing a well designed level you find that the very next mission is staged in exactly the same surroundings with only a few slight variations.

The enemies on the other hand are splendid. Rather than the usual 2D sprites, the enemies are constructed entirely of texture mapped polygons which give them a true 3D appearance.

The movement of the Bionoid Aggressor soldiers are so realistic as they march back and forth, patrolling well guarded areas. Once alerted to your presence they will dive for cover, dashing out into the open with guns a-blazing.
The Aggressor varies wildly in ability from individual to individual. Two distinct attacks make the Aggressor a tough opponent. They are all equipped with standard rocket launchers and rapid-fire lasers. However, be aware that not all Aggressors carry rockets and those that do only carry a finite supply - when they run out, the laser is all they have.
They constantly fire their laser guns while strafing sideways, making them a difficult target to hit but occasionally they will crouch down for a few seconds and prepare to launch a highly destructive rocket in your direction. This is the time to cause them as much damage as possible before throwing yourself out of the way of the oncoming missile.

Brain Eaters are disfigured heads with spiders legs that race towards you at a tremendous speed. They are another remnant of the gene experiments and a nasty piece of work that will attempt to bite all intruders.
The best defense is crouching and pumping a few shots into its head but it can also be slowed down by shooting its legs off one by one. This provides an amusing reaction as the Brain Eater loses balance and can now only run around in never ending circles. You may now approach the creature and view the amazing detail of this mutation before putting a bullet into it's head and splattering the surrounding scenery with blood and brains.

The Robotic Freezor is a laboratory droid used mainly to administer anaesthetic. The company now uses these droids as a defense mechanism, utilizing their Freezing shots to temporarily stun any adversaries, thus leaving the way open for an attack by another droid or bionoid - in conjunction, they can be lethal. The Freezor has a tough metal shell which may take a few shots to dispatch and results in a bright explosion that looks a little blocky and is the only effect that spoils the otherwise splendid graphics.

The Hibernator is the smallest of the bionoids but makes up for his lack of mass with an excess of speed. With two attack moves, Hibernator makes full use of his caustic poisonous bodily fluids by spitting them at any foe in the vicinity. Hibernator spits in both a single and a spray form, the latter covering a wide arc around him. In addition, upon his death, the fluids explode from his body which must also be avoided. Due to his speed and natural tendency to circle adversaries, Hibernator is a difficult creature to shoot cleanly. The best way to attack him is to spray an arc of bullets towards him with the rapid fire weapon or alternatively, attempt to circle him with mines. 

Another nice touch is the inclusion of location beacons, rather than the usual map system, this allows the player to drop flashing cones in the areas where you have explored, which show up on the on screen radar. With the inclusion of intelligently designed lighting and slick animation, Tenka excels in the graphical department.

Sounds and Effects

The music is pulsating heavy rock score that works quite well with the shoot-em-up genre. I didn't mind listening to the deafening tunes when plodding through endless tunnels blasting away at the enemy but when the game reaches certain tension points it became a little distracting. A touch of silence, broken only by the superb sound effects would have been much more atmospheric.

Playability

The main thrill from playing Tenka is destroying the enemies and to do this you are given a single multi-purpose gun rather than a varying selection of weaponry. The first weapon he will come across is a single shot gun that has a low damage capability, so he must use this to hold back the enemies until enough green cubes have been collected to upgrade to a double shot gun. Now this weapon can take out the Bionoids in a couple of blasts and if Tenka should find the further upgrade, a rapid fire machine gun, he should stroll through the opening levels. Eventually the action on Extrevius 328 will become a little frenetic and to succeed to the later levels, Tenka must arm himself with the more powerful weaponry available, such as the laser gun, which can be upgraded three times.
There are also missiles, grenades and mines which, when discharged, will clear a room in seconds. Each weapon features a digital counter which lets you know how much ammo remains. During upgrading a helpful laser sight will be attached to your gun which allows you to precisely aim at certain enemies from a group of potential targets, thus taking out the most dangerous threats first.

Keeping a watchful eye over the on-screen information is vital to your survival. A small heart beat monitor is surrounded by a red band which records your present state of health. Boosts for your health are a rare commodity, therefore special attention must be taken to your radar which offers advanced warning of enemy positions. The radar is surrounded by a blue band which represents the strength of your armor. This can be boosted by the collection of armor power-ups which are thankfully in abundance.

Progression is achieved by the usual shoot-em-up routine of collecting colored keys to unlock sealed sections of each level. Once you have completed your mission, an exit door will unlock to allow you to escape from the sector.

The missions are divided into four categories.
The first style of mission is the aforementioned collection of colored keys.
The second involves Tenka retrieving coded data or pass cards, then installing them into a computer terminal.
The third sets a task to destroy selected reactors or machinery.
Your final set of tasks involves a race against the clock, collecting and defusing bombs that are littered throughout the levels.

Control of your character will be fairly straightforward to those who have played first person shooters before, however there are one or two extras that are worth a mention.
Tenka can look up and down. Now this didn't quite work in Dark Forces causing a great deal of frustration when aiming a enemies above and below. It does work with Tenka because of the inclusion of the laser sight which cuts through the dark, targeting not only individual enemies but which part of the body you wish to hit.
Tenka can jump and crawl. Jumping isn't unusual to this genre but there are only a few games that include the ability to crawl. Once again Dark Forces included this motion but it was really only a 'duck down' movement. In this game, crawling allows you to lie flat on the floor and sneak up on your enemy undetected. During one of the later levels I was struggling to pass a Bionoid Aggressor who kept blasting me with missiles. Lying flat on the floor, I crept up and took him out with a grenade first time.
Tenka can strafe. Why, oh why do developers not listen to the people who play these games. Listen! Strafe does not work when one shoulder button must be combined with the D-pad. It's too fidgety. It doesn't feel right. You shouldn't have to think about strafing left or right. USE TWO SHOULDER BUTTONS!
Tenka can run. Yes, Tenka can run but not very quickly. Tenka can also stick. Stick to the walls when racing against the clock and time is of the essence.

Value for Money

Tenka is a worthy first effort from Psygnosis in the shoot-em-up genre. There may be one or two flaws with the design but nothing that couldn't be easily corrected in future projects. As it stands Tenka has more than enough good points to be recommended as a highly entertaining shooter.

Opinion

MARTIN

GRAPHICS:

Brilliant

Lifeforce Tenka promised to be the next generation Doom shooter but in fact it turns out to be the next generation Alien Trilogy. Set in similar surrounding of a network of dark tunnels, Tenka is packed with atmosphere and varying missions. Once the annoying single strafe button is perfected the gameplay becomes quite challenging and varied.

SOUND:

Average

PLAYABILITY:

Good

VALUE:

Good

OVERALL
8/10

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