Have You Played… Wild Metal Country?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Jim has. He auditioned it twice, and it failed to impress on both occasions. I, on the other hand, was bowled over. In fact I’d go so far as to say WMC is one of my all-time favourite games.

I love its atmospheric alien trundle spaces, its non-existent narrative, and its haunting sounds. Most of all though, I love the way that the tank that you control, scurries and skitters, spins, slides, teeters and tumbles as it tears about collecting the rainbow-coloured pods scattered across each level.

Wild Metal Country has fabulous physics – depending on your perspective – enhanced/undermined by a marvellous/hateful control system. There’s no bland WASD here. Like many WW2 angry houses, the majority of WMC AFVs have two caterpillar tracks each of which can be controlled independently. Brake or reverse one while accelerating the other and the vehicle veers towards the stopped/reversing side. By constantly juggling the four control keys (left forward, left reverse, right forward, right reverse) it’s possible to pull off some wonderfully fluid and satisfying manoeuvres. You can weave between foes, dodge bouncing munitions, narrowly avoid cliff edges and restore stability when speed and bumps are doing their damnedest to send you arse over TIT (Totally Infuriating Turret).

If WMC had a strategy guide I imagine it consisted of just one sentence “Don’t bother turning your turret”. The combination of the unconventional movement controls and a weapon that could be traversed and elevated undoubtedly explains why DMA Design’s design alienated so many. The game clicked for me when I realised that it was best, early on at least, to treat your trundler like a turretless SPG rather than an MBT. Aim the vehicle not the gun.

There was a time not so long ago when DMA – or Rockstar North as they are now known – were giving away this gem. Sadly, that time has passed, and today, even if you manage to obtain a copy, you may struggle to get it to run on a modern 64-bit machine.

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  1. Jekhar says:

    I’m a sucker for vehicle based games which are trying to be a bit more “simmy”, so i quite liked WMC. It even got a Dreamcast port, which i could test a while back. The full analogue control (move and turn with stick, turret rotation via triggers) made things a little easier in that version.

    Although i must admit, this is a game for short play sessions, it’s very repetitive. Combat would usually be over with the first real hit. Enemies could seldom recover from that and could be picked apart easily.

  2. The_Great_Skratsby says:

    Revisited it this year, can confirm it works perfectly fine on Windows 10. Turret turn and circle strafe or bust!

  3. inspiredhandle says:

    Oh my god! Have been trying to find this game for years! Played the demo forever ago. Thank you so much for doing this one. 😄

  4. inspiredhandle says:

    Is there anywhere I can get a download of this nowadays?

  5. Vorrin says:

    So pleased I’m not the only person on earth that played and liked this a lot :)

    • tigerfort says:

      Yeah, I loved WMC too. I found it easier to play using some … less conventional controllers (IIRC the MS “Strategic Commander” was best) than with keyboard & mouse, though.

    • inspiredhandle says:

      I guess there’s nothing for it. We need to reach out to one another and LAN this shit. My place? 😎

  6. Bobtree says:

    WMC is a lovely little game stuck at an awful 20 FPS.

    • Phasma Felis says:

      Where are you getting this from? The only mention of WMC’s framerate I can find anywhere is a 1999 IGN review that said “the frame rate is high.” Any hitches certainly weren’t noticeable when I played it back in the day.

      • inspiredhandle says:

        Playing the demo back in 1999 on shitbox resolution, on a potato. Memories.
        The one on abandon ware sites is the 2003/2004 (whichever it is) version. The explosions look different. Less pixelly. Not keen on the updated look.

      • Windows98 says:

        From Pat Kerr, one of the original programmers:

        “…the original build would run the logic locked to a mere 20Hz (hey, it was the 90s.. and we needed a fixed time-step to maintain network sync in multi-player), although the main-loop was capable of running at any rate if it had to.”

        “We had to pick a single rate, and 20 was considered best compromise given P133/P166 min-spec (and software rendering).
        Rendering *would* actual scale on faster boxes, but no real point drawing more than were being logically calculated.
        Higher frame-rates were a clue that you could/should increase the res.”

      • Bobtree says:

        I got WMC on the DMC website when it was free, and I played it. Comparing videos on youtube, the Dreamcast version is noticeably smoother. I’d pay for a better PC port.

  7. TΛPETRVE says:

    WMC does have its fans. But who on the other hand remembers Tanktics?

    • inspiredhandle says:

      This is fucking insane. I’ve had 2 games I played the demos of stuck in my head, that I couldn’t remember the names of. No shit, one of them was WMC, the other turns out to be tanktics.
      I came this close 👌 to asking on this article if anyone remembered what tanktics was called.
      Bless you my friend.

    • inspiredhandle says:

      Loved tanktics btw. Loved metal fatigue too. There’s nowhere near enough rts’s that allow you to build modular units. Games like battle realms sort of count I guess. Loved seeing all the training combinations for units in that game.

      • Darloth says:

        Warzone 2100?

        • inspiredhandle says:

          Looked up videos of war zone 2100. At first was just staring at the screen like, “I didn’t play this.”

          I definitely played this. Strangely enough, the first familiar thing I noticed was the hexagon arranged buttons at the left side of the screen. This was probably the first full 3D rts I ever played. Would love to have another shot of it. I tried to get tanktics running on Windows 10, obviously had no luck. Has anyone got war zone 2100 running on modern machines, I thought maybe cause it went open source someone might’ve kept it going?

          1999-2000 were great years. Didn’t realise I played so many random games back then. Another 2 games I just remembered (found on abandonware sites) were ground control and mech commander. Spent a lot of time in the map editor in MC.

          Good times


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