Missile Command Review

Missile Command on Xbox Live Arcade only serves to illustrate that an analog stick can't replace a track ball.

Missile Command on the Xbox 360 serves as a clear example of how not to do a remake. With its inaccurate emulation of the original game and a completely lifeless "evolved" version of the game mashed together in the same package, it manages to disappoint on all fronts.

The core game is the same in both versions. You move a cursor around the screen and attempt to shoot down incoming missiles before they can hit your cities or missile bases at the bottom of the screen. The missiles occasionally split into multiple warheads. You'll also have to deal with flying craft that cruise by and launch more missiles, as well as smart bombs that change direction to dodge your fire. Your missiles come from three different launch bases, and you have a button for each base.

Clearly, the missile defense shield idea still needs some work.
Clearly, the missile defense shield idea still needs some work.

In the original version of the game, you have to use a little strategy to determine from which base to launch. Your shots have some travel time, so you'll usually want to fire from your closest base. But your center base also launches much faster than the side bases, so that's one more thing to consider. But travel time doesn't appear to be a factor in the "evolved" version of the game, which makes the concept of multiple bases feel totally meaningless. Instead, a bolt of lightning appears between the missile base and the explosion caused by your shot. The new version feels like someone sat down and wrote out a document explaining what Missile Command was then handed it to someone who had never even seen the original game for programming. It's a soulless version of the game that has none of the original game's feel; instead it feels more like some lame free PC download, complete with the same sort of generic techno music track you'd expect to find in something so slapdash.

To add insult to injury, the original mode doesn't play especially well either. The arcade version of the game operates with a track ball, which makes your cursor movement feel sort of like a mouse. The Xbox 360 analog stick isn't up to the challenge, and the faster later levels of the game are much, much harder as a result. On top of that, the sound effects aren't accurate when compared to the arcade original either.

The 400 points Atari is asking for Missile Command gets you two versions of an arcade classic, but with both versions as problematic as they are, it's hard to find a reason to pay up for them. Aside from some passable graphical effects in the evolved version, there's not too much here worth seeing.

The Good

  • Passable graphical effects in the evolved version of the game

The Bad

  • Inaccurate emulation of the original arcade game
  • Evolved version feels more like a student project than an official update

About the Author

Jeff Gerstmann has been professionally covering the video game industry since 1994.