Review: Beach Head 2000
Developer: Digital Fusion, Inc.
Requirements: 225 MHz 603 processor, Mac OS 8.1
Recommended: G3 processor, 64 MB of RAM
Beach Head 2000 brings panoramic 3D graphical effects to a shoot-’em-up arcade-style game. You protect a beach head by fighting from a bunker armed with a dual-barrel anti-aircraft gun, an anti-tank gun, and missiles. Your enemies include landing barges filled with troops, tanks, or armored personnel carriers; attack helicopters, jet fighters, and bombers; and troop choppers. Your only ally is a supply plane that drops extra anti-aircraft gun ammunition and shielding for your bunker. The enemy lands troops, tanks, and APCs that move toward your bunker and attack. Fighters, bombers, and attack choppers strafe, bomb, or launch rockets at you.
Destroying all enemy elements (except bombers, which don’t have to be destroyed) completes the level. Everything you destroy earns points that vary with the potential destructiveness of the item. The sixty levels get progressively harder. You can replay levels without experiencing the exact same attack, but the enemy constituents and general assault pattern are fixed for each level.
A CD contains the Beach Head 2000 installer. Installation places the 38 MB “Beach Head 2000” folder on the drive you designate. QuickTime 4 will be installed if necessary. The application itself is small, at only 172KB in size. Three other folders contain Photoshop files, A/V and program code files, and preferences. The CD is not needed after installation.
Look, Feel, and Sound
BH 2000 opens with a scene that looks like the inside of a high-tech bunker looking out on a beach. The areas above and below the beach view contain buttons. This view does not carry over into the game. In the game itself, you see the ends of your weapons and then the beach, sea, and sky (Figure 1). The imagery looks fairly realistic when using the high resolution option.
You pan up and down and circularly by moving the mouse. Your upper and lower fields of view are limited, just as if you were looking out a firing slit from a rotating turret. Rapid rotation of your weapon causes pixellation and blurring. Pixellation also occurs when you look all the way down (Figure 2). I mastered mouse control of my weapon after about 15 minutes of game play. My attempt to use a joystick controller, however, failed spectacularly; I could not find a combination of joystick and game sensitivities that would allow rapid panning and fine control.
Figure 2: Pixellation
The sound effects—bombs, guns, rockets, missiles, tanks, jets, etc.—are high-quality and realistic, except for the dying soldiers’ grunts and yells. The game does not make use of stereo panning or Doppler effects (see “Bugs and Omissions” below).
When you launch the BH 2000 application you get a screen with two top menus, File and Quit, and five on the bottom: Credits, Options, Play, Help, and Scores. Your options include three screen resolutions (trading off better resolution for speed) and an “Invert Mouse” option that reverses mouse control of up and down aiming. Clicking Play starts the game at Level 1. To launch a saved game, select Load Game from the File menu.
The initial levels send only a few barges and aircraft against you. This gives you an opportunity to master the controls, learn your aiming points, and memorize the sound cues (each aircraft and land vehicle has a distinct sound). Be sure to learn what your resupply aircraft sounds like. It drops extra ammunition for your anti-aircraft gun (a crate with a yellow “X”) or extra shielding for your bunker (Figure 3). Shoot the crates before they touch the ground to be awarded their contents.
I found BH 2000 tips on numerous Web sites. Many of those game playing tips would steer you the wrong way. I completed 53 levels in less than ten hours of play, so I feel qualified to give the following tips:
- It is best to shoot the barges with the anti-tank (AT) gun before they reach the beach. The larger barges carry either tanks or armored personnel carriers (APCs).
- Use your anti-aircraft (AA) gun on troops as they are leaving barges or APCs. The troops are tightly clustered and easy to kill with relatively few rounds.
- Unless you are under direct attack by tanks or attack choppers, don’t waste a missile on a jet making a strafing run. Use your AA gun to take it out.
- Don’t waste missiles on troop choppers. Instead, let them fly behind you and shoot them with your AT gun just as they land.
- In the lower levels, don’t worry about the bombers. They aren’t very accurate and don’t do much damage. You can complete a level without destroying them.
- At higher levels the bombers are devastating. Try to take them out with missiles before their first bombing run. This will be difficult, because they typically attack along with jets and choppers which may divert your heat-seeking missiles. It’s best to send a missile when the bomber is at a 30-45 degree angle above the horizon (Figure 4).
- Keep listening for the resupply plane. It alternately drops shielding and AA ammunition. Watch for the parachute and then shoot the crate. However, if you don’t need the crate, ignore it and shoot enemies.
- Attack chopper rockets can heavily damage your bunker, so deal with them quickly. Use missiles from a distance if you have enough of them. The AA gun can destroy the attack choppers, but they are hard to hit from a distance.
- Don’t bother shooting at the distant ships. The game doesn’t recognize attacks on them.
- The empty bunkers on either side of you are not solid. You can shoot through them to hit APCs or soldiers.
- Don’t let your AA ammo drop below 20 rounds. You will need those rounds to hit resupply crates. Your pistol can also shoot the crates, but it has little accuracy.
- If you are low on AA ammo, use the pistol to shoot soldiers close to your bunker; soldiers close enough to throw grenades can do significant damage.
- When you face many simultaneous attacks at higher levels, don’t focus on just one group of attackers. Go for the highest threat, then look at other attackers.
- Your AT gun must pause between rounds. Use the lag time to fire a missile at an enemy aircraft, then go for the next ground target.
- Your AT gun can take out a nearby hovering attack chopper with one round.
Levels 52 and above are incredibly difficult: you have few missiles and AT rounds but many enemies that fire accurately. I was unable to get beyond level 53 without cheating. (I’d like to hear from anyone who gets above level 54 without cheating.) How do you cheat in BH 2000? You can edit the level files located in the Beachhead 2000 folder. These files are named “Level_##” and can be opened in any text editor or word processor. There are four ways to cheat: give yourself more ammo, lower the “aggression” of the enemy units, add an artillery strike, or change the frequency of supply drops.
The second line of each level file looks like this: “Ammo 200 10 8.” The numbers are for AA rounds, AT rounds, and missiles. You can change this to something like “Ammo 999 99 99". The enemy aggression numbers are on the fifth line (e.g., “Aggression 9 9 9 9”). You can decrease any or all of the four numbers to lower the aggressiveness (and accuracy) of tanks, jets, and attack choppers. The sixth line indicates whether the level allows you to call for artillery support. You can change the number from 0 to 1 to add artillery. Finally, the end of the level’s text file has specifications related to your resupply plane. You can shorten the delay number under the “/*** C130 ***/” heading to decrease the wait time between supply drops.
Instructions and Help
BH 2000 comes with a small instruction booklet that provides an adequate amount of information on system requirements, installation, game controls, game play, scoring, enemy unit characteristics, and how to get technical support. The Tips section provides only minimal tactical guidance.
Clicking the BH 2000 Help button reveals a three-item menu: Game Controls, Game Interface, and Game Overview. The first choice shows you the keyboard controls. The second describes the game screen elements such as shield strength and enemy force bar graphs. The third shows a brief overview of your weapons and how to get resupplied. All this information is found in the instruction booklet.
Technical support consists of 24-hour voice response, “Faxback” systems, and Monday through Friday live support from 7:30 AM to 7:30 PM Pacific Standard Time. Support requests can also be submitted by fax or snail mail. Like many other software companies, MacSoft provides no e-mail or Web form support, even for reporting bugs.
Bugs and Omissions
One major bug occurs when BH 2000 changes your monitor’s resolution on launch. A Finder error message appears shortly after launching. When you quit the game your desktop becomes a disaster. Desktop icons on the left are shifted towards the center of the screen. Tabbed folders at the bottom of your desktop become opened folders stacked on top of each other in the middle of the screen. The only way to avoid this bug is to set your monitor’s resolution to 640 x 480 before launching BH 2000.
A second bug is the inability to get through level 56. Even after destroying all enemies, the game believes that at least one enemy remains. Levels 57-60 cannot be accessed without completing level 56.
Minor bugs include the appearance that your gun has cut through your bunker when you pan all the way down (Figure 2) and the lack of solidity of adjacent bunkers (you can shoot through them).
The biggest omission is the lack of aiming reticles for the AA and AT guns. Even WWII era weapons had gun sights. Some users resort to placing transparent tape on their monitor and drawing-in crosshairs! Also, the pistol simply replaces the right barrel of the AA gun. It should be centered at eye level for easier aiming.
BH 2000 does not support InputSprockets or GameSprockets. This may account for the poor joystick control I experienced. You cannot change the keyboard controls. There is no support for using just the keyboard to play. PowerBook users without a mouse cannot play.
Finally, BH 2000 does not use directional sound cues or Doppler effects. This makes it hard to tell from where a plane or vehicle is coming or in what direction it is moving.
BH 2000 joins the long list of games that miss out on greatness because they were ported from Windows. In spite of BH 2000’s problems, I enjoyed playing the game. BH 2000 becomes addicting because it’s fun to blast lots of enemies and to see if you can reach the next level. The ability to save levels decreases the frustration factor: you can reload a level and try different tactics. This game would receive a Very Nice rating if all the bugs and omissions described above were fixed.