Sabre Team (AGA)

Title		Sabre Team (AGA)
Game Type	Combat simulation
Players		1
Compatibility	AGA (ECS version exists)
Submission	Angus Manwaring Profiled Reviewer

Sabre Team, originally released in 1992, is really a 3D isometric
interpretation of the classic strategy game from the Gollop brothers,
Laser Squad. Certainly the setting was changed from Science Fiction to a
contemporary Special Forces scenario, but the influence of the earlier
game is surely undeniable. In 1994 Krisalis spruced up Sabre Team,
expanding it from two disks to five and released the AGA version. I should
add though that in presentation terms the original ECS game was actually a
very respectable effort, and the biggest criticism levelled towards it at
the time was the delay that occurred while the AI processed the enemy's
game turns.

Like its ECS predecessor then, Sabre Team AGA puts you in control of an
eight man team from the legendary British Special Forces unit, 22 SAS.
Although this organisation was actually formed in World War 2 by David
Stirling in the North African desert campaign, it probably only recaptured
the public's imagination after the successful action against terrorists
holding a number of hostages at the Iranian embassy in London, in 1980. No
surprises then that the first mission involves rescuing a number of
hostages (Americans in this case) from their London embassy.

As the game loads you are presented with a number of static graphic
screens, nicely produced with plenty of anti-aliasing with a punchy
background tune. A sampled voice then briefs you on the essentials of your
next mission, and although the sample is understandably quite short, it is
of excellent quality further enhancing the atmosphere of the game.

It is now decision time. You must select your team, choose their weapons,
and deploy. The team selection screen displays portraits of your eight
men, but only four of them can take part in any particular mission.
Clicking on their pictures displays detailed information about their past
experiences and their capabilities; like physical strength, marksmanship
action points (more on this in a moment), and general awareness which
relates to the range at which your men are likely to detect enemies.
Moving to the weapon selection screen enables you to choose from a fair
variety of weapons, (SA80, M16, G3, MP5, L96 and various grenades etc.) as
well as other useful equipment like flak jackets, first aid packs and gas
masks. Once you've finished your selection its time to click on the deploy
icon and embark on the mission itself.

 As stated, the action is presented in isometric 3D, the ground area
actually being made up of a network of tiles, and this system works very
well. This is not an action game however, and you do not play in real
time. Instead each of your team has a number of action points which you
can expend during a turn to perform various actions. When these are used
up the relevant soldier must stop what he's doing (even if he's just
pulled the pin from a grenade) and wait for the next turn (or, in the case
of the grenade, the afterlife). The wise player will leave some points in
reserve though, enabling their soldier to make an “opportunity move”
during the enemy's turn, which means being able to respond to threats as
soon as they appear rather than helplessly watching while an enemy soldier
emptys his magazine into your chest.

On the main screen, underneath the 3D isometric display are two rows of
icons used to control your team. These include the obvious controls like
movement, dropping and collecting items, throwing grenades, taking an
aimed shot at somebody or a snapshot, which is less accurate but uses less
action points and has nothing to do with amateur photography. In addition
to this there is a mapping device that shows a ‘blue-print’ of the area,
be careful though, as scrolling around on it will consume action points at
an fearsome rate. Next to these control icons is a compass like device,
with 8 direction arrows. Clicking on one of the arrows will turn your
soldier in this direction, or if he is already facing that way, advance
him one tile’. Additionally, if your soldier sees somebody, the arrow
that points in the relevant direction will turn red, or blue if he simply
hears something. It is worth mentioning that the ECS version of the game
only had the ‘compass’method for movement which in all fairness is rather
more fiddly than the 'click on the tile you want to walk to' approach
featured in the AGA version. The sound is generally good with various spot
effects doing their job as well as an atmospheric music track that can be
turned off.

Although it isn't documented the game has an almost RPG element in that
the various soldiers each receive points for killing enemies and rescuing
hostages. After your mission these points can increase the amount of
action points that particular soldier has available in future missions.

Sabre Team is an enjoyable game to play concentrating as it does on the
tactics of a small infantry team, albeit a special forces one. Reasonably
enough the player that keeps the principle of mutual support in mind and
forsakes the Rambo impulses, from which we all occasionally suffer, will
be rewarded. The ‘game is well named, as good teamwork is the key to
success. The presentation is of a high standard and although the five
missions included are the same as those in the original version, nobody
could say that Krisalis haven't made a worthy effort in improving the look
and sound of the game for the AGA Amigas.

The irony is that while Krisalis 'borrowed' much of the game's approach
from the Gollop brother's classic Laser Squad, those same Gollop brothers
apparently took revenge in 1994, the same year Sabre Team AGA appeared,
by borrowing much of the look and feel of Sabre Team for their highly
successful UFO: Enemy Unknown title. In comparison UFO is most certainly a
worthy successor to 3D isometric combat games, offering deeper
gameplay, more features and a great dealmore besides. There are people
though who will prefer the down to earth approach of Sabre Team with its
immediately accessible real life scenarios, and complete lack of resource
management, research projects and annual budgets.

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