Just remember: It’s only a game…
Virus: The Game, by Sirtech, plays off of every system administrator’s worst fear: a rapidly spreading computer virus. Apparently your computer has had the misfortune of contracting a virtual virus (some nasty stuff I hear) and now it’s your job to eliminate the threat. Assuming the role of some sort of anti-virus program, you enter your very own hard drive: image files, text files, sound files, the whole enchilada, and battle it out with the virus.
Virus: The Game combines elements
of first person shooters, such as Descent or Duke
Nukem, and strategy games, such as Warcraft
or Command and Conquer. What’s different
is the fact that you interact with your own files. Bitmaps, text files, and
wav files from your hard drive are actually incorporated into the game, appearing
on walls or being played as music. All the other files in your computer are
turned into rooms, and you get to travel throughout the system hierarchy. You
travel throughout your computer in little, flying ships and you see everything
from the first person perspective. Sounds interesting huh? Well, it’s not all
that the hyped up packaging makes it out to be.
I ran the game on my Cyrix P166 CPU with 16 megs of RAM, which was well above the system requirements (the CPU at least, 24 megs of RAM is recommended), and the game still crawled along at times. The game runs fine when you’re flying around, but when you switch to command different vehicles there is a terrible slowdown. Also, the incorporation of your own image files and such is quite overrated. Yes, image and text files do appear on walls, but who gives a damn? If you wanted to see these images, you could use the Windows paint program or some other graphics viewer. And I seriously doubt that you’re going to sit there and read one of your own text files that has appeared upside-down and backwards on some pixelized wall. I was pretty stoked at first about seeing all my great image files (clean ones, mind you) and interacting with them, but it’s not that exciting after all.
One interesting thing is how you travel through your computer. There are different colored doors corresponding to ways that you can travel to folders or files (up a level, down a level, forward, backwards) and you simply fly through the doors to get to where you want. You can even enter your A: drive. On your display is something very similar to Windows Explorer and this serves as your map. All of your installments and vehicles are shown for user-friendly access.
As mentioned earlier, elements from strategy games are utilized in Virus: The Game. You can set up a base, vehicle factory, ammo factory, defense room, and repair facility. In order to build these structures you need to gather KB, or kilobytes of data. For this purpose you have a KB collector that you can send in search of the precious information. You also have ships to defend your files from the virtual virus monsters. Finally, you have a ‘convertor’ ship that flies around and disinfects corrupted files. Files are corrupted when you don’t kill the viruses and they take control of a room. At any time you can switch between installations or vehicles by clicking on them in the imitation Windows Explorer. You can also send your vehicles on to various locations without having to control them, or you can have them patrol areas.
The game is very much like Descent
because during the action parts you fly around in an enclosed area and shoot
at various things. This is where the biggest problems occur in the game. Each
room is tiny and, to make it worse, there are pillars that always get in the
way. What makes this especially frustrating is the fact that your ships often
get caught on objects that don’t seem to be in your path. Sometimes you just
get caught on a pillar and get annihilated by the virus. What’s stranger is
that your ships appear to be these tiny little micro-machines from outside,
but when you’re in one they act like space freighters.
The graphics in Virus: The Game are pretty average. I guess they thought you would have a million bitmapped images to cover up the walls. Every room looks as if it comes from one of 5 different designs, which aren’t especially interesting in the first place. The viruses and your own ships are run of the mill bad guys and good guys.
Gameplay involves strategy and straight out dog-fighting skills. Imagine Warcraft where you could control your little guys’ fights. One good thing about this game is that it was designed with multi-player fanatics in mind. You can play other people over modems or network. As for the controls, they’re done pretty well. As said before you do have a tendency to get stuck on things, but aside from that you have good control of your ships.
The music in this game is awful. I strongly recommend you turn off your speakers when playing. Since I don’t have very many wav files in my computer, I didn’t hear very much except for the viruses taunting me and the horrible background music. Unfortunately, if you turn off your speakers, you won’t hear when the viruses are attacking your base. Oh well, it’s worth it.
Virus: The Game seemed promising at first but quickly turned sour. There are still some neat things: For example, one time I was flying around when a window appeared asking me if I really wanted to send some file to the recycle bin. I quickly clicked ‘cancel’ but nothing happened. All of the sudden a little animated virus popped out and clicked ‘yes’, tossing that file into the trash. I guess that’s why their catch phrase is “Just remember: It’s only a game.” Too bad that one aspect doesn’t make the game any better.