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Warlords


Warlords is another classic arcade title from Atari redesigned for release on Xbox Live. Warlords originally came out in 1980 for the arcades and 1981 for the Atari 2600. It also made an appearance on the Nintendo DS packaged in a group of classic Atari titles. The title combines a Breakout style of play with a 4 player Pong layout.

For those unfamiliar with the basic premise of Warlords, there are four corners to the game board and you are tasked with defending one of those. Each corner is filled with colored blocks that act as shield units. The player controls a half paddle, half glove device that moves horizontally and vertically on a fixed rail. Metal energy balls are released into the arena one at a time and rapidly bounce from side to side tearing into the shield units. The player can repel the balls from their corner with the paddle or catch a ball to charge it up and send it at high speed into an enemy shield bank.

Gameplay

Atari offers the classic mode for the arcade purists as well as a glitzy enhanced mode for the younger generation. Each mode has two levels of difficulty, your default user settings from the dashboard (Easy, Normal, Hard) and Throttle Monkey. While the first mode starts the player out with a customized amount of difficulty, Throttle Monkey jacks the setting to max and sends the speed of the game into overdrive. Sadly, you need the reflexes of a ninja on 13 Red Bulls to even bother Throttle Monkey.

I had a bit of a problem adapting to the control scheme with the 360 controller. I recall the paddle controllers on the 2600 to be much more appropriate for controlling the in-game, sliding paddle glove. The directional sticks really donít capture the same feeling and portray a much more lethargic experience. Itís completely useless in Throttle Monkey mode.

Warlords also went beyond the standard leaderboards and added an online mode. Up to four players can compete in ranked or unranked matches. The developer also included support for the Vision camera. If you dare look away from the frantic action, you can peek at your opponents and perhaps see obscene gestures when you destroy their base.

The achievements are evenly balanced to provide challenges to both casual gamers and arcade junkies; although the gamerscore points are weighted toward the latter. There some real basic achievements in the beginning, such as making it to level 3 in evolved or level 2 in classic. The tough achievements include tasks like finishing evolved with a half a million points or completing a wave without losing one single shield unit. Overall, the layout of the achievement set is well thought out.

Graphics & Audio

The high definition revamping of the visuals is definitely appreciated. The designers took their time to add cool additions to the game board like shadow effects of the metal structure or the fancy lighting effects sure to send a few youngsters into epileptic seizures. The enhanced version also handles the widescreen layout very well. Instead of standard black space on either side of the game board, the metal background continues to the edges of the screen. This area also houses the Vision video feeds, assuming the entire online group has the camera.

Thereís nothing terribly notable about the sound effects in the classic or the evolved version. I actually thought it seemed a bit quiet for an arcade title, especially compared to custom creations.

Conclusion

Warlords is priced correctly on the marketplace, considering the amount of work that went into revamping the core game. I certainly give Stainless Games some credit for redesigning the core game and being one of the few arcade titles to have camera support. Unfortunately the gameplay still becomes stale after a couple rounds of play and the controls are definitely frustrating for new or old players. Unless you are