Retro: Wild Metal Country

By Jim Rossignol on February 11th, 2008 at 3:09 pm.

Tanks. Like armoured farmyard vehicles with rotatable turrets.

While I was recently poking around in retroland looking for old DMA Design stuff, I stumbled across what is pretty old news: ancient DMA, now Rockstar, games for free. Having already played the GTA games to death I immediately downloaded Wild Metal Country, which I vaguely remembered for being over-hyped and too hard back when it came out in 1997. It was one of the earliest games I remember being able to cry “Physics!” when playing, and it was also a game I bought before reading any reviews… Let’s just say that it was one of those titles that made me realise the value of my cancelled Amiga Power subscription (and, as if any reason were needed to emphasise the point, cancelled Amiga Power).

But perhaps, just perhaps, it was a game that would be more comprehensible and digestible from the perspective of a game player now ten years older and wiser. I booted it up to discover that no, my memory hadn’t distorted things over the intervening decade. Wild Metal Country remains a game with astounding promise and a control method that’s simple too complex for its own good. You take control of one of four different types of tanks and fight across a desolate landscape using eight different projectiles and four different mines. Clearing a landscape means collecting a number of coloured “powercores” which are, naturally enough, defended by enemy machines.

The problem with all this was that it’s just so hard to get to grips with. The tanks are controlled with two keys – one for each track – while the direction you fire in is also independently controlled via the movable turret. It’s a pretty faithful interpretation of how tanks actually work, and astonishingly infuriating implementation in what is otherwise a fairly pacey action game. In the worst moments you can actually find yourself flipped over and helpless, like an upended tortoise, requiring a strong flip to get yourself back on your tracks and out of the predatory crosshairs of nearby enemies.

Wild Metal Country remains as a beacon of game history in my head, partly because of the weirdly open design (infinite lives, no constraints on how you went about completing a level) and the splendid physics. It was also the first game I can remember that had weird alien birds circle in the sky, which remains one of my favourite sci-fi game motifs across the years. Nevertheless this is a lost title from the company that would go on to become the largest and most famous of all UK studios. I always feel annoyed that it was so quickly shelved by my younger gaming self, but I can now see exactly why I never persisted with it. (So obscure is this game, it seems, that it doesn’t even have its own Wikipedia page. For a site that otherwise seems to be infested with habitual game-existence catalogers that seems like a fair snub.) Ah, the sad whimsy of nostalgia.

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24 Comments »

  1. roBurky says:

    I remember actually liking the demo of this. The control scheme for moving made a lot of sense to me, although maybe not the controls for shooting.

  2. Chris Evans says:

    I think I remember this game..or at least something very similar to it…hmm…I dunno!

    /strokes chin and puffs on a pipe

  3. Phil says:

    Isn’t this also the title of a god awful musical genre?

  4. espy says:

    Chris, I think you and I are both thinking of Machines.

    e: Oh God, the system requirements: Pentium 200 MHz, 32MB RAM. Oh dear.

  5. Tr1cky says:

    Bah – it was a good game. I played it loads for a while when it came out… but then dropped it like a stone when something else came out that I’d been waiting for. Biazarrely, I can remember this game very well, but not what I dropped it for. Oh well.

    The control method was fine if you changed it – you could set the controls to be simpler if you wanted.

    All in all, an interesting experiment and worth checking out seeing as it’s available for free.

  6. Will Tomas says:

    I remember this being reviewed, way back when, but I never got round to playing it.

    But where-oh-where is GTA: London? And why didn’t that receive a 3D remake? Might go some way to show Rockstar North as a British company (albeit GTA: Glasgow probably would be more accurate)…

  7. james b says:

    I loved this game….i got it free with a dual screen (big deal at the time ) graphics card for work use…i then bought the full version from ebay…and got into tweaking it…tweaking weapons and ai and the physics on levels via a cool set of debug/devloper codes dma put on their website and the txt files that controlled it all…i literally played if for weeks single player and then a fair bit multiplayer as i persuaded people at work…..truely one of my fav games…badly underrated by gameing press…has to be said i used the easy control method…..the physics /collision stuff was so rock solid it leaves a lot of modern games wanting……i could go on and on-….

  8. Arnulf says:

    I remember playing the demo. The controls was what turned me away… otherwise I’m very much into this weird kind of game.

    /strokes chin and puffs on a pipe… yes, really!

  9. po says:

    Bleh. Data harvesting bastards. If I have to give them my address it’s not free, because I have given them something in exchange.

  10. terry says:

    @Will, that would be GTA: Edinburgh, as they are based in Leith. Admittedly the only excitement you’d get in a game based on Edinburgh would be incessant buslanes, extortionate parking charges and your car sticking to the road by way of discarded chewing gum.

    What happened to GTA London, anyway? I only just realised its not part of the Steam pack…what a swindle! :(

  11. Will Tomas says:

    Sorry, my mistake. Racing round the winding hilly streets of the Old Town would probably be a laugh. Or a world of frustration.

    Is anyone else trying the two free GTA games and getting horrible frame rates with the original GTA? GTA 2 seems to be fine, but the original is crawling along. Frustrating, because I never owned either at the time…

  12. realmenhuntinpacks says:

    GTA Glasgow? Isn’t that what the council’s renaming the place anyway?

  13. trig111 says:

    hey will thomas !
    yeah this happened to me too.
    gta 2 is fine but gta one and london 1969 are lagging because it has an inconsistent frame rate. do you know how to fix the frame rates for them?

  14. Rhieghland says:

    Well the only way it worked for me is to play it on a 11 year old laptop with a pentuim III processor and a 16mb graphics card… But It won’t work right on my Dual core 512mb system… so, just by an old computer That’ll do you good.

  15. Anthony says:

    Y

  16. KBKarma says:

    I remember actually liking the demo of this. The control scheme for moving made a lot of sense to me, although maybe not the controls for shooting.

    Me too!

    Why does the Revisit an Old Story link consistently point at articles that came from the early days of RPS?

  17. Cryptognome says:

    Just found the WMC download at RockStar. I remembered being amazed at the physics and game play. Now I also remember the motion sickness. ;-) I originally got it free with a TNT2 graphics card.

    XP doesn’t like the installer much (I had to click “ignore” on some schmutz about a 16-bit subsystem not being registered correctly) and the “hardware detection” utility kept crashing. I eventually ran the game anyway. It worked, but I think the graphics are sub-optimal. I believe the HD util creates a file called “3DMA Settings”.

    My favorite tank was always the Roadrunner, the weird jet-propelled ball.

  18. PEPE says:

    Pepe loves this game. I have played it for years !!! Wish I could restart it from the beginning though. I have collected all the powercells and am ( I think) in the final screen which leads me nowhere. I’d love to remove it from my registry and reinstall it. They hide that log file really well though.
    Simple game..nice to just goof off and relax playing it.

  19. Jukka says:

    This is by far the best 1st person shooter. I’ve actually played the whole massive thing over few times. And the greatest reward is that after completing the final battlefield you get to drive around with the enemys arsenal, even the mighty minotaur. This reminds me of Myst and esp. Uru that also showed a huge potential and somehow just disappeared.

  20. BillKist says:

    Wish I could reload this and start over. I’m running around with the minotauer now and cannot restart the dang game. Anyone know how to do that ?

  21. Ykerzner says:

    Wow. I didn’t know there were people out there still playing this. I loved WMC – got to like level 20 before I realized I was spending too much time on it, and this was just two years ago. Does anyone know where to get saved games, since as fun as shooting the minotaur to get the light blue core out on level 8/9 on the first planet is, it’s a drag to do it all over again. To BillKist – just load a saved game and start over from it – that should work. Also, does anyone still play networked games with Wild Metal Country?
    BTW – controls are really easy to use once you get the hang of it, and just don’t use the turret if it’s that hard.

  22. yoshimi says:

    I still play this game every day.
    It is simply awesome.
    Be the pod.
    You are the pod.

  23. hypurbeing says:

    dude this was like my fav game for at least a solid year. i remem beating it and everything i loved it haha. it was the first game i was like holy crap 3-d awesomeness!! im trying to download it now but tis now working =[

  24. Trinba says:

    Wohoah i loved that game been tryna remember what it was called for ages – sweeet – Im trying to find the original for download cos the new altered version from Rockstar doesnt install on my laptop hmmmmm – Qiao