Remember Combat for the Atari 2600? Now think about it for a few seconds. There you have it. That's all there is to Mass Destruction. You drive a tank. You blow up everything in sight. You get new weapons. You run over screaming infantrymen. OK, so maybe it's a little more complex than Combat, but not much. That's OK, though. The gameplay more than compensates for its simplicity. There's only one problem: The troubled release of Mass Destruction has brought new meaning to the phrase, "a long time coming." Originally slated for release in early 1996 by BMG Interactive, the game has gone through some tweaks and adjustments to finally hit the stores just in time for Christmas 1997, this time released by ASC Games. The unfortunate result? Well, a lot has happened recently and this old mare just doesn't have what it takes anymore - technically speaking.
For one thing, the game runs in DOS mode. Sure, you don't have to deal with that pesky DirectX or try to configure your joystick within Windows 95, but it also makes for some relatively outdated graphics. The 3D scrolling effects are well done, but otherwise, the choppy, pixelated sprites of good old standard VGA just don't cut it anymore. To top it off, there is no support for 3D accelerator cards - an inexcusable oversight for a game like this. This looks like a game that could have been released in 1995 (perhaps because it really should have been).
The sound is even more dated. The musical soundtrack in its entirety consists of maybe five or six mediocre synth-pop tunes, and the sound effects are laughable at best. Explosions sound more like a hyperactive popcorn machine, and you would swear they recorded a cat being dipped in boiling water to simulate the anguished screams of a dying man.
That said, let me say this: The gameplay is great! Sure, it's repetitive, but what do you want from a game called Mass Destruction? Each of its 24 levels, whether set in arctic tundra, the deserts of the Middle East, a rural area, or an urban metropolis, has distinct tactical objectives. The goal, however, always ends up being the demolition of every last man, building, and tree. Accomplishing this may even open up secrets in the game. Of course, time is ticking away, so you must settle on a comfortable balance between speed and devastation.
Speaking of balance, three different tanks are at your disposal, ranging from a quick, lightly armored model to a slow, heavily armored one. Ammo is also plentiful. With the standard, inexhaustible cannon and chain gun and pickup items like hi-ex (high explosive) shells, mortars, flamethrowers, and guided missiles, you'll find so many delightful ways to annihilate your enemy. Each is as vital as the next, as only certain weapons can destroy certain targets. The game, while earth-shatteringly simple, does require more than a little strategy and ends up offering quite a challenge, especially on the hard difficulty level. Maybe that's why this game just wouldn't die. The gameplay is too good. The graphics are passable, and the sound is terrible, but the gameplay saves the mix and makes Mass Destruction a worthy, if somewhat dated, addition to the pack.