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Return Fire – 3DO

Return Fire – 3DO

Return FirePlatform:  3DO Interactive Multiplayer

Release Date (NA):  1995

Developer:  Silent Software, Inc.

Publisher:  Prolific Publishing

Genre:  Capture the Flag

Nerd Rating:  6.5 out of 10

Note:  Due to the elusive nature of reasonably priced 3DO games in decent condition, this review is based on a burned copy.  To my knowledge all features are intact and it is an exact replica of the original data.

Return Fire has the distinction of being one of the staples on the shortlist of “Best 3DO Games,” and along with Alone in the Dark is considered by many to be the finest software ever produced for the machine.  The concept is simple.  Use the handful of combat vehicles from an underground bunker to destroy as many enemy structures as possible, all the while attempting to clear a path to the flag so that the flag may be brought back to friendly territory.  The gameplay isn’t particularly new or inventive, and there aren’t mounds of nuance and complexity like one would expect in more modern offerings, but there is a certain elegance to how straightforward and cathartic the act of driving (or flying) around and blowing stuff up is that it’s hard not to like this game, at least a little bit.

Return Fire

Return Fire is actually the sequel for a 1987 game for the Amiga called Fire Power, and was followed by Return Fire 2 in 1998, though by then the 3DO was defunct.  Although originally a 3DO exclusive, Return Fire was later ported to the PlayStation and PC, however many would consider the 3DO version the superior of the three.

Return FireThe player progresses through several different levels, each increasing in difficulty and size.  When the game starts, the player has the choice of controlling 1 of 4 different vehicles stationed in an underground bunker.  Available is a tank, helicopter, jeep, and heavy rocket support vehicle (HRSV).  The player has a small section of the map devoted to friendly military units while the bulk of the map is enemy territory.  Many of the early levels are very straightforward with the player needing only to progress through enemy fire, destroy the “flag building,” and then collect and return the flag.  Later levels have sprawling enemy complexes that can either be razed in their entirety or strategically approached to clear a quick route to and from the flag.  It isn’t necessary to destroy every enemy building, but it is a hell of a lot of fun.

Vehicles are equipped with a finite amount of fuel and ammo.  When the vehicles are returned to the base, their fuel and ammo is refilled after a certain amount of time, although both can be found at various points during the levels.  There is essentially an infinite number of vehicles aside from the jeep.  Since the jeep is ultimately the most crucial piece of capturing the flag, “lives” are measured in terms of how many jeeps are remaining.  Each vehicle of course has its pros and cons, but Return Fire is simple enough to progress through without countless trial and error.

  • Return FireHRSV:  This is the most badass vehicle in the game.  With its superior armor and firepower, the HRSV is the choice when going up against heavily fortified walls, leveling expansive of obstructive trees, and taking the heat when no one else can.  Its rockets are the most powerful weapon in the game, and it possesses the unique ability to lay mines.
  • Return FireTank:  The tank is the second most powerful vehicle in Return Fire with slightly less armor than the HRSV and somewhat weaker shells.  It is more than sufficient in earlier levels, with advantages over the HRSV such as increased speed and maneuverability as well as the ability to rotate the cannon an entire 360 degrees.
  • Return FireHelicopter:  By all accounts a fairly weak combat vehicle, the helicopter compensates with its high level of agility.  With a little practice, it becomes easy to weave the helicopter in and out of enemy fire.  Equipped with both rocket and shells, aiming can be difficult at first and it’s best not to use it as the first line of offense against enemy turrets.
  • Return FireJeep:  The jeep can be blown to bits by even the slightest explosion, so it’s best to have a well-carved path ready before hopping into the fastest vehicle in Return Fire.  Its weapons are simple grenades with strength comparable to tank shells, although the range is very limited.  The jeep is essential as it is the only vehicle that can pick up the opposing flag.  One notable attribute is its ability to drive across small expanses of water, unlike the tank and HRSV.

It is truly surprising how entertaining this simple game is.  Hours of enjoyment can be derived from driving around blowing stuff up, and without a bunch of lives to worry about the difficulty is toned down while the fun is cranked to 11.  While Return Fire has no built in save feature, it does utilize a system of simple passwords to keep track of one’s progress.

Return FireThe most unique and defining aspect that sets Return Fire apart is its use of classical music to add to the drama and bombast of the war-like situation.  Each vehicle has its own “theme” which plays while it is in play; “Flight of the Bumblebee” for the jeep, “Ride of the Valkyries” for the helicopter (an homage to the film Apocalypse Now), “Mars” from “The Planets” for the tank, and “In the Hall of the Mountain King” when using the HRSV.  Additionally, the “William Tell Overture” begins playing once the flag has been obtained making for a truly majestic and triumphant experience.  Seriously, it may sound kind of silly, but there’s nothing like hearing all the ups and downs of classical music in the midst of explosions and gun fire.  Accordingly, the sound quality of Return Fire is of the finest quality.  Oh and how could I forget the glorious “Halleijullah!” that resounds when the game is won!!

For those more accustomed to the driving schemes of more modern games, the use of the D-pad for movement can feel a bit antiquated at first.  For instances, “up” is held to propel the vehicle forward, regardless of which direction it is facing.  It seems cumbersome at first, but it poses no problem after some extended gameplay.  Otherwise it’s a simple matter of pushing buttons to shoot, which the occasional use of the L and R buttons to direct the helicopter and rotate the tank’s cannon.

Return FireThe graphics are quite decent for the time.  Although many of the buildings and maps have a certain “sameness” about them (despite the staggering number of levels), the level of detail is more than acceptable and looks great.  While the game is played from a somewhat overhead perspective, the view is slightly skewed giving Return Fire a degree of depth reminiscent of early 3D games.  Unlike early 3D shooters however, there are no weird shapes or sharp lines.  Everything is rendered very smoothly and it’s easily one of the finest looking games I’ve ever played on the 3DO.

Return FireReturn Fire also includes a 2-player mode where human opponents can go head to head in the same capture the flag battle via split screen.  I haven’t had the opportunity to play against anyone yet, but I can imagine even higher replay value compared to the single player campaign.

Aside from the fact that many of the buildings and terrain begin to look the same very quickly, my only other issue with Return Fire is the camera angle.  There’s no way to adjust the perspective and this can often lead to some difficulties when it comes to aiming, where the enemy is able to fire easily but the player can’t quite see far enough to correctly line up shots or even tell if the projectiles are connecting.  This is a problem that can’t ever really be overcome, but through some inventive maneuvering it’s possible to work around the faulty point of view.

Return FireBlowing shit us is the only reason Return Fire exists, but it’s a damn good one.  It may not have enough variation in scenery or interwoven strategy to appeal to purveyors of today’s tactical warfare titles, but it excels at being a simple and effective game (and good looking, too) in a time when games were making leaps and bounds in complexity at the expense of decent graphics.  I’ll end this similarly to my take on Alone in the Dark:  is it worth the price of a 3DO?  Probably not.  But if you do insist on having this wildly powerful but under-utilized console from the depths of commercial failure, be sure to get a hold of this title.

Reviewed by The Cubist

Written by The Cubist

The Cubist

Co-founder, Head Author, & Site Technician

Find out what these ratings mean and how I rate video games.

I collect as much video gaming paraphernalia as I can get my hands on, especially when it comes to hardware. With over 40 systems including oldies like the ColecoVision and Intellivision, obscurities like the CD-i and 3DO, and the latest and greatest including the Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, and PS Vita, I get easily overwhelmed. Most of the time you can find me firmly nestled sometime between 1985 and 1995 when it comes to my games of choice, but I’m also having a great time seeing what the 8th generation has to offer.

Currently in love with: Mortal Kombat

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