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Have You Played... Wild Metal Country?

Hungry caterpillars

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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