It’s been over twenty years since the Bitmap Brothers classic, The Chaos Engine was first released on Amiga. With many of its peers (Superfrog, Flashback, Speedball) already having received remakes, remasters and re-imaginings, it was only a matter of time before a classic like Chaos Engine was revitalised.
So a quick overview for those (probably many) of you that aren’t familiar with The Chaos Engine. It is a top-down co-op shooter. You have a choice of six characters with different stats, guns and special abilities. There’s the quick and somewhat flimsy Gentleman and Preacher, the strong and slow Navvie and Thug, and the all-rounders Brigand and Mercenary. If you play single player, you get an AI buddy to replace your co-op partner. This also might be one of the only games I can think of where you get friendly AI as a stat you can improve. The faster characters tend to start off a little smarter anyway, but investing upgrade points in their AI will stop them running into enemy fire, allow them to go off the path and pick up coins before they disappear and generally be smarter. I’m sure a lot of people would’ve been thankful for such a mechanic in Resident Evil 5! There is a degree of competitiveness to the co-op as the money you collect goes into a pot and then is split based on your performance in the level. The game is four world broken into four stages. It is quite a challenging game; you can’t move and shoot and the numbers of enemies can get quite overwhelming later on in the game. Not to mention the bullet hell of the final boss!
While the game sounds quite straightforward as a shooter, there is a huge level of complexity with the amount of alternate routes, hidden treasures and ways of completing levels. There’s enough variety to make sure that your playthroughs don’t always end up the same and enough mystery in the levels to have you wondering how on earth you can get to an area you can see just at the edge of the screen.
You might wonder just what kind of a remake this is (then again you might have looked at the screenshots and figured it out already) the bad news is that this isn’t a Halo Anniversary or Another World style remake – where new graphics are overlaid perfectly over the classic gameplay. The good news is that this also isn’t a Flashback style remake – where the original gameplay is tossed aside for some generic ‘modern’ trappings. Chaos Engine is very much the same game as was released back in 1992. You could be forgiven for thinking that this is no different from running the game on an Amiga Emulator. It certainly wouldn’t look very different. The addition of the ‘Enhanced Mode’ seems dubious at best. The screen filter is mostly unnecessary and just makes the graphics look blotchy – and I myself couldn’t get on with the new control system, that is supposed to allow for more freedom in movement.
As a package released on Steam, this re-release offers enough to warrant the asking price. Cloud saves, steam achievements, steam badges, local and online co-op, pad support ready to go, screen-scaling options, subtitles for a few extra languages and a continue option so that you don’t have to play the entire world to save your progress in the form of a password. On the subject of passwords – it was a little disappointing that they seemed to have changed the form of them, so that the passwords I had from previous playthroughs on Amiga didn’t translate over, but it’s a small gripe.
Verdict: It’s Chaos Engine. It was great then, it’s great now and the additional Steam extras make it nice and convenient to play the hell out of in the coming weeks. It’s easily worth £6.99. Get it…and then complain about how hard it is so I can talk about how gamers were more hardcore back in my day 🙂