Past Blasts

Past Blast: Chase The Express – Staying Above 50mph

Or Covert Ops: Nuclear Dawn.

What to say about the 90’s? Take That, Shell suits, Cassettes, the rave culture, Brit-pop, The X-files, The Outer-Limits, Steps, Strange but True, Sony PlayStation, VHS, Eclipse clothing, tramlines, the ear stud, Pokémon, Nintendo vs. Sega, Eerie Indiana and the Hollywood Blockbuster action movie.

In the 90’s, TV, clothing, music, brands and movies were events; they meant something. One burst out of nowhere, full of high octane action and was all thrill; that movie was the legendary ‘Speed’ starring Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock and Dennis Hopper. An action movie that defined a generation with cheesy dialogue, a simple plot and a 1 hour and 56 minutes adrenaline rush.

I imagine any youth of today may laugh at the above comments on Speed, yet, I’m not kidding. Speed was the must-see movie that even had its own simulator. Speed later influenced one of gaming’s beloved franchises: Metal Gear Solid. With the first Metal Gear Solid soundtrack ripping off the Speed soundtrack (seriously, someone should have been sued) and Metal Gear Solid 2’s Fat Man being inspired by Dennis Hopper’s character.

But there was one game that feels like Speed the game just without the staying above 50mph, being on a bus and Sandra Bullock – that game is Chase the Express.

Covert Ops: Nuclear Dawn (let’s be honest, that title sounds like a prog album) in America, was developed by Sugar and Rockets, and published by Sony Computer Entertainment in Japan/Europe and Activision in America. It was released in the dawn of the new Millennium for the PlayStation.

You play as Jack Morton (maybe I’m reading into it too much but the main character from Speed is called Jack) a NATO officer sent to board the Blue Harvest, a train carrying the Ambassador that’s been hijacked by the KGB who now have access to nuclear bombs.

You are the sole survivor of your team after missiles strike your helicopter, nevertheless, you’ll see many characters on the way, Christina Wayborn – one the ambassador’s special police, Philip Mason – the ambassador’s secretary.  As Jack, your job is to stop the terrorists and ensure none of the nuclear bombs are detonated.

Ok, but what about the gameplay? I hear you say that – I was going to tell you if you calm down and listen. Patience is a good thing.

Chase the Express is a third-person action game with puzzle elements and item management. It features the obligatory tank controls suited for the fixed camera angles you’d expect from a game of the genre and time; however, the environments are modelled in 3D meaning you can slightly alter the camera angle.

The puzzles are your typical ‘find item, and place item in said obvious place’. Firearm combat auto aims at an enemy with a ring that will appear around them – changing to a darker colour, it indicates you can deal more damage and if you run out of ammo you always have your fists.

Stealth mainly consists of you walking to one of the side cabin, waiting for a geezer to walk past, and walking out while his back is turned. Another option is popping out of cover with an action roll or dodging certain attacks; you Souls veterans will feel right at home. The game does it’s best to mix the gameplay up with controlling the speed of a train to match another train, multiple scenarios/endings and a bomb disposal section where the wirecutter is the slowest machine I’ve had the pleasure of enduring.

The highlight of this game is by far the dialogue, writing and voice acting; it’s so terrible in that PlayStation 1 way that it provides the game entertainment and lots of charm. The lines are delivered vacantly with no emotion and are disjointed. The writing – there is a section where you speak to a character about how to disarm some missiles, his reply is just “Screwdriver”. Screwdriver… Genius.

That’s the joy of this game, it doesn’t try to be something spectacular because it knows it isn’t, the gameplay doesn’t try to wow you with some special mechanic because it’s all a poorly done version of something else, the writing and acting isn’t going to blow your mind and they know it.

What the game is, is entertainment, time out of your life for 4-5 hours. In that very 90’s way, it knows what it is and what its goal is, to entertain; not too much, but enough –  it doesn’t swallow your life in the process. If this was a 90’s movie, it would come in a triple VHS with ‘Money Train’ and/or ‘Daylight’; it’s that calibre of video game.

It cost me three pounds. If there is any PlayStation one fans/collectors who haven’t played this game and they want something they can hammer out in a day or two – give it a blast. I’ll be back soon.

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