Thursday, 19 May 2016

Chaos Heat (Arcade)

If you think way back, you might remember when I wrote about a terrible Playstation survival horror game named Chaos Break, and how I mentioned that it was a vastly inferior "adaptation" of an arcade game called Chaos Heat. This is that very game. Obviously. Before I start, I should also mention that the emulation of this game isn't totally perfect yet, but it's definitely good enough to play.

Anyway, it's a 3D action game, that's structured like a beat em up, but you mostly shoot stuff, rather than punch it. I guess kind of like the later Capcom game Cannon Spike? It's got the same plot as a million other 90s videogames: you're a member of an elite military team, and you've been sent to some remote lab full of genetically-engineered monsters. There's three characters to pick from, and they're different not just in movement speed and attack power, but in the weapons they carry.

To elaborate, the weapons can be shot normally, by tapping the fire button, or they can be charged by holding it down. So different are the characters' weapons, that even the way charging works is different for each of them. For example, one character's charge attack is a powerful laser that fires continuously for however long you held the button before releasing, while another character's charge attack only works if it's charged all the way, and it increases the power of their normal shots for a short time. The third character doesn't have a charge weapon, instead firing a powerful flamethrower that uses up ammo at a much higher rate than their normal gun when the button is held.

As you play the game more, you'll encounter various other interesting things about it, like how there are branching paths through levels, that diverge based on your ability to perform timed tasks, like protect an NPC teammate for 30 seconds while they hack an electronic lock, and so on. Different paths through stages can even lead to entirely different boss fights, too, which is more impressive than the "same boss fight, different background" offered by the likes of House of the Dead 2!

The most interesting thing from a historical standpoint, though, is a mechanic that's way ahead of its time for a game released in 1998: the player has an invincible dodge roll move. I know Chaos Heat probably isn't the first game to have such a thing, but it's still something I associate with more modern action games, like Dark Souls or Bayonetta (actually, is the DS roll even invincible? It's been years since I played it). Once you know that this move is there, it totally changes the flow of the game, as it does in most games where it exists. The only downside to it is that it's performed with a double direction tap, rather than a single button press, which does feel slightly unwieldy.

Chaos Heat isn't a great all-time classic, but it is a bit of a hidden gem, and it's a crying shame that Taito decided to make that horrible survival horror game rather than give this one the home port it deserved. As it is, though, if you can tolerate playing a game in less-than-perfect emulation (or if you somehow gain access to a real cabinet), Chaos Heat is definitely worth a look.

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