PART FOUR OF...
MISSION 19 - FOREST BUTCHER BOY
Title: The title of this one, while partly self-explanatory (you're in a big alien forest doing a lot of butchering, duh), actually derives from a classic early Rogue Trooper strip in seminal British comic 2000AD, in which Rogue is asked by one of his biochipped buddies the rhetorical question "Call this a forest, butcher boy?" And it's a little nod to Westworld's classic one-hit wonder single "Sonic Boom Boy", too.
Phase 1 - F KLAMMER STRIKES AGAIN
Title: The F is for Franz, famous Austrian skier of the 1980s. As far as I know he was a downhill skier rather than a jumper, but jumping is what this cunning reader-designed mission is all about. OR IS IT?*
Mission info: It's a bit of a head-scratcher, so skip on to the next stage right now if you don't want it spoiled. The key to freeing yet more of the alien commanders from their fenced compounds is to get to the Dalek-style player tank locked away at the top left of the map. To do this, you'll need to get in the buggy beside the troopers' start point and take the long way round the level, using the ramps to jump all the gaps until you can leap into the tank's compound. The tank can then blow up all the fences, and the rest of the level's pretty much a breeze.
Background: I'm pretty certain that none of the reviewers (nor most of the players, come to that) who criticised the alien planet levels ever actually reached them. We didn't supply any cheats with review copies of CF2, and in the time most reviewers had to play the game, they'd have had to be pretty superhuman to get anywhere near the alien homeworld. My suspicion is that most of them just played the four such levels that were included on the Amiga Power demo disk in the mag's January 1995 issue, and made their judgements based on that. You can check for yourself if you have old copies of the magazines in question - the demo had the map function removed, so if their screenshots of the alien planet levels don't have the little squished globe in the bottom left corner, you'll know they're from the demo.
*Yes, it is.
Phase 2 - ALL THE SAME TO ME
Title: Satire, chosen by Amiga Power reader.
Mission info: This otherwise-unremarkable level is inhabited not only by alien soldiers but also by civilians, who naturally enough don't need to be killed to complete the level. Unlike in previous stages featuring civilians, though, there's no penalty if you DO shoot them. After all, they're all aliens, right?
Background: Little bit of politics, there, and depressingly prescient when viewed from the vantage point of 2005. Like its predecessor, CF2 was trying to put across the odd hint of a political message, albeit in a gentle and frivolous way that most people wouldn't notice. A lot of things can suddenly seem a bit strange when you look at them in a different setting.
Phase 3 - TWO'S COMPANY
Title: Chosen by Amiga Power reader.
Mission info: Quite an old-skool CF-style map here from another reader, with lots of swamp-wading and one-by-one picking-off of rocket-launchers.
Background: I was never a fan of wading through the water in CF1, and alert viewers will have noticed there's very little of it in the sequel, but it seemed fair to have at least one such level in the game. And you did get to pilot a flying saucer to rescue yet another one of those recaptured alien commanders. Surely we've got enough information to destroy the bad guys for good by now?
Incidentally, I don't think there was any particular significance to the little smiley faces on stalks in the alien planet levels, as seen in the picture above. But they do blow up in quite an entertaining way if you grenade them, so give it a go some time.
Phase 4 - CHARLIE WHISKEY
Title: Chosen by Amiga Power reader.
Mission info: …and if you enjoyed rescuing hostages in a flying saucer in the previous level, why not do it again in another, much shorter, one without getting your troopers' boots wet? The competition produced some good solid levels (like this), but ones with the imagination of "F Klammer Strikes Again" were few and far between.
Background: I'm going to take a stab at guessing that this level was the work of a reader listed in the magazine as "Cpl Chris Cameron-Witton". The use of the phonetic alphabet makes me think of another excellent song, although not one in any way at all related to CF2.
MISSION 20 - LOOK AT THAT UGLY MOON
Title: Named from part of a line from "American Music" by the Violent Femmes ("…and every time I look at that ugly moon / It reminds me of you"), because I wanted the alien planet to inspire the same feelings as the 2000AD comic strip where "Bad Company" approached the planet of the Krool Heart. And with a little bit of the first sight of the Death Star from Star Wars thrown in too.
Phase 1 - THE WEB IN FRONT
Title: Pavement soundalikes Archers Of Loaf, and in honour of the tangled greenery which appears for the first time in this stage.
Mission info: It turns out that the alien planet is absolutely swarming with hostages. All those people telling stories of being abducted by extra-terrestrials, invasively probed then returned to a disbelieving Earth ever since the 1950s were true all along, and the troopers can't bring themselves to destroy the alien homeworld with humans still imprisoned on it. This large, complex level isn't as daunting as it first appears, due to the inclusion of both a transport saucer and a player tank. The saucer is placed slightly out-of-the-way, the idea presumably being that players will miss it in their keenness to take the first available exit out of the swamp.
Background: Except where noted elsewhere in this feature, I no longer remember exactly which of the alien homeworld levels were mine and which were created by AP readers. The winning reader entries were edited to various degrees, some of them going more or less straight in, and some taking only the most basic elements of the reader's original design and reworking it so it fitted in with the point in the game where it was used. Annoyingly, as far as I can tell AP only listed the names of the winners (of which there were 12, but not all of them designed a whole level - in some cases we cannibalised some good bits of entries together to make single stages, and gave all the contributors credit), not the names of their winning levels, so apart from my unreliable memory there's no obvious way to tell. This may have been a reader level or hybrid that I just renamed, so if you recognise it, write in.
MISSION 21 - SHOCKER IN GLOOMTOWN
Title: From a Guided By Voices song, although at the time I'd only heard the Breeders' cover version. Transporting the rescued hostages back home safely rather than risking saving them only to get them killed in the final battle with the aliens, our heroes get a nasty surprise.
Phase 1 - THERE'S A RIOT GOIN' ON
Title: Sly And The Family Stone.
Mission info: This is monstrous, and I may well go to Hell for it. Like Japanese soldiers on remote Pacific islands still fighting World War 2 twenty years after it ended, the would-be invading aliens haven't all given up. Units left behind as the mothership bolted for home have banded together - and what's more, like some kind of wacky alien A-Team, they've constructed makeshift tanks out of armoured police vans, dustbin lorries and bits of gun turret and have seized control of a run-down part of the city. The tanks are slow, but many in number - but in a sense that's a blessing, because you have nothing to kill them with. The only way to beat the level is to get the tanks to blow themselves and each other up. (Let me at least give you a helping hand here - tanks won't shoot at you if you're standing right next to them, so get two onscreen and stand beside one, where you'll actually be quite safe, to make the other one shoot at it. Don't forget to run away before you get caught in the explosion.) But wait - it gets worse.
There are only a couple of generator doors in the level, and one of them (the one on the town-hall building in the centre of the map) is an armoured one, which can only be destroyed by tank fire. So you're going to have to lure one or more tanks into the middle, get them to blow up the door, and then get all the tanks to destroy each other or commit suicide as well. Meanwhile, hordes and hordes of crazed, desperate aliens pour out of the doorways and manholes in a frenzied last stand.
I'm really sorry about this one, everybody.
EDIT (1-8-2007): Alert
international WoS viewer Jean-Francois Fabre notes the following:
"You say that the level is very
hard, but it is not: There is a player tank at the bottom right of
the level. Avoid first tanks and mafiosos, get in the tank and it
will be a lot easier than you describe :)"
Background: Particularly alert viewers will have noticed something odd about the storyline at this point. How have our troopers gone directly from the alien planet to the gangster city, without visiting the alien mothership in between to use the time transporters? Well, there are two things to realise about this apparent quirk. Firstly, it's easily explained in plot terms - what had happened was, during the previous battle on the mothership which saw our heroes beamed down to the alien planet, they'd managed to wipe out all the opposition and seal off the area, meaning that the alien sympathisers still controlled the transporter and could beam our heroes directly on to the gangster city, before eventually being overwhelmed by more aliens aboard the mothership. (Or hey, maybe they escaped just before the evil aliens burst in, destroying the transporter as they left. Whichever way makes you the happiest.)
And secondly, you didn't notice when the same thing happened between Missions 9 and 10, Missions 12-13, and Missions 17-18, so you're clearly not THAT alert, smartarse.
Phase 2 - SHOPPER'S PARADISE
Title: Named after the looter's anthem by Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine.
Mission info: Violent disorder stalks the city in the wake of the savage battle, and oil-can barricades still lie strewn across the streets. Trigger-happy police shoot at anything that moves, while Mafia goons and alien stragglers wreak opportunistic havoc in scenes of aimless mayhem. Meanwhile, across a wide six-lane dual carriageway, two of a team of scientists who've been analysing blueprints stolen by one of the sympathetic commanders from the alien mothership are stranded. It's no time to be squeamish - blow up civilian traffic if you have to to get them to safety.
Background: This stage features the residual evidence of a new gameplay idea I wanted to implement in several of the missions, but which was eventually binned as everyone else thought it was too demanding. The idea was that the player would have to take out gun turrets, but wouldn't have any rockets or grenades. The solution would be to get in a vehicle and charge the turret with it, jumping out at the last minute - the turret would shoot at the vehicle, but its momentum would carry it so close to the turret that the turret would also be destroyed in the explosion. That's why the turret has such a wide open area in front of it. "Ambush City Limits" was another initially designed with the same premise, I think.
Phase 3 - CHEDDINGTON
Title: No idea. Maybe a Sensible in-joke, or possibly something to do with classic Amiga Power reference Ted Chippington. Sorry. Hey, it was 11 years ago, man, you should be grateful I remember as much as I do. Often, I forget what I went into the kitchen for.
[EDIT! Alert WoS viewer Dan Bolger writes: "This
was a 'winning' entry of mine, based on the small
village where I growed up. Rotate the map 45 degrees clockwise,
and you're roughly there. The railway is the river, it seems, and
you start at the station. It looks like the high-walled haven is
Brownlow Lane, perhaps?"]
Mission info: As panicking townsfolk flee by car in random directions to escape the continuing mayhem, making even standing in the roads lethally dangerous, the final two terrified scientists cower in the shadows of alleyways. The only secure refuge is behind impenetrable high walls, but the boffins are in such a state of panic they must be brought out to a place of safety to coherently share their knowledge.
Background: I hoped that by now I'd got players used to the idea that you should never stand still at the beginning of a stage. Anyone who still hadn't learned that lesson, standing in the middle of a road with the sound of vehicles all around, I had no sympathy for at all. (As far as I know, incidentally, the idea of civilian vehicles - which didn't chase the player but just stuck to pre-programmed courses along the roads - was an innovation of mine that was exclusive to the sequel.)
Phase 4 - KISS KISS MOLLY'S LIPS
Title: From "Molly's Lips", a song originally by the Vaselines in the mid-1980s, but covered during the Britpop era by Nirvana (although without the child's-bicycle-horn noises, which made it somewhat less charming). The relevance of it to the level temporarily escapes me.
Mission info: As our heroes, carrying the scientists' vital results, head out to rendezvous with the UFO, the very last aliens on Earth launch an all-out assault to stop them. Ambushing three troopers on a rooftop near the landing zone with all the firepower they can muster, it's an all-or-nothing battle. There's a fine line between sending out a single soldier to tackle the fast-firing rocket launchers, and leaving everyone else exposed and defenceless.
Background: Something I was guilty of during the design of CF2 was not thinking of the troopers as a squad often enough - I was slightly prone to seeing the game more as a sort of sequel to Commando, rather than to Cannon Fodder. In a few too many of the levels, you're effectively just playing a single trooper with a long, vulnerable tail. At least in this stage you do have to think (very quickly) about the implications of that. You have just about enough time at the start to get to one of the bottom corners without anyone being rocketed, and then the rest of your guys can sit there, out of the reach of the other rocket-launchers and picking off some of the guys in the courtyard and luring them away from the ladder so that the single trooper (after running around taking out the other rocket-men, while their shots detonate uselessly in his wake) can get down it and blow the generator doors.
MISSION 22 - A STAR FOR EVERYONE
Title: From the first line of "Superglider" by the diminutive yet mighty indie poppets Drugstore, and meant to foreshadow the set of short - but extremely intense and brutal - stages the troopers are about to tackle, which will surely result in accolades, medals for heroism and promotions (which in CF, of course, are indicated by stars beside the trooper's name) for all. Or at least, for all who make it through, as the song ("There's a star for everyone... but some get lost in darkness") soberingly warns.
Phase 1 - TAKE IT TO THE BRIDGE
Title: Not now James, we're busy.
Mission info: After the troopers' first assault on the alien homeworld, a defence ring has been put up around the planet which the UFO can't penetrate. The only way to get back there and attack the main alien base is by sneaking onto the first mothership and transporting down from there. Unfortunately, a disastrous miscalculation sees the UFO beam the troopers directly onto the mothership's bridge, a huge open area crawling with alien soldiers. With sirens blaring and all hope of surprise lost, they run for their lives, ducking desperately from cover to cover behind banks of computers and looking for a way to prevent enemy reinforcements flooding into the bridge area.
Background: They don't show Airplane 2 on TV often enough these days, if you ask me.
Phase 2 - NO QUARTERS GIVEN
Mission info: With the generator door blasted and the bridge secured, our heroes try to gain access to the ship's main computers, but the hail of rocket and gunfire has caused security systems to shut everything down. They crawl through a service hatch and come out in some crew quarters. For the first time they realise that the alien soldiers are of both genders - the quarters are divided down the middle by an unbroken line of disintegrator pits, which the troopers have landed either side of. "This might be a good time to split up", suggests one.
Background: This was programmer Jools' favourite level in the whole of CF2. The need to separate the troopers into two groups and make slow hand-over-hand progress along the level, covering each other until they get to the rockets, is a major test of co-ordination and skill. You have to be accurate with the rockets once you get them, too, since each one has to take out two generator doors.
Phase 3 - FEEL THE PAIN
Title: A single by Dinosaur Jr, whose opening line is "I feel the pain of everyone". Here, similarly, a solitary trooper is bearing the entire squad's burden.
Mission info: Still divided into two groups, the troopers split up further, following the blueprints for a way to link up again and get to a transporter. With the alien mothership now on maximum alert, there's no more time for subtlety. Kamikaze lines of alien soldiers rush our heroes' guns.
Background: As with the first game, it's worth going to the trouble of keeping at least one soldier alive for a long time, as the increased range and accuracy that comes as a trooper rises through the ranks is invaluable in missions like this where there's no place to hide. To that end, we left in the "JOOLS" cheat from the first game, where you could at least improve your chances a bit by getting your squad some instant promotions. It wasn't quite an "Easy" difficulty setting, but it was a little break for players overwhelmed by what was by this stage an extremely tough game by any standards.
Phase 4 - GARY GILMORE'S EYES
Title: The Adverts' famous punk-rock ballad for the murderer executed by firing squad at his own hard-fought request rather than spend the rest of his life in prison. Meant as a little foreshadowing of the final level.
Mission info: Encircled by small black circular hatches spawning alien soldiers, the troopers pause for moment to reflect on the good fortune of spending their youths playing Robotron before pouring fire in all directions.
Background: Another tribute level. It doesn't actually look much like Robotron - the design puts the troopers at the centre of an "eye", in keeping with the mission title, and the hatches are supposed to resemble smaller eyes too. But that's what it was meant to play like - frenetic, all-out, no-brains, 360-degree blasting for your life.
Phase 5 - CLOSING IN ON DEATH
Title: From "Heroin" by the Velvet Underground - although more specifically Billy Idol's brilliant/hilarious cover of it ("Don't touch that NEEDLE!") - signifying that we're about to reach the final showdown on the alien homeworld. Who will survive?
Mission info: Reunited at last, the four troopers enter a hangar which looks as though it might provide the means for exiting the mothership. Flying across the stage in a captured attack saucer, the troopers spy an alien engineer, apprehended by soldiers while trying to beam himself out to safety and about to be shot for desertion. Flying to the rescue, they take him to the central transporter tower, where he sets the controls to beam himself back to the safety of the planet. Apprehensively the troopers follow on the same settings, leaving all their grenades and rockets behind in a stack at the main hangar door on a 30-second fuse to blow the mothership's hull open and send it to kingdom come.
Background: This is the level that caused me to pour scorn on AP reviewer and CF fanatic Cam Winstanley in the pages of the mag, for failing to notice that it contained the air-to-air combat he'd been longing for ever since the original game failed to implement it. The aerial battle here between the troopers' saucer and a pair of alien ones is brief, but it does the job. Shame on you, Cam. (Though it later turned out to actually be J Nash's fault.)
MISSION 23 - EVE OF DESTRUCTION
Title: Because it's the penultimate mission, obviously. I had the Dickies' fantastic cartoon-punk cover version in my head, rather than the original.
Phase 1 - SIX MILLION AND FOUR
Title: Because it feels like how many have died so far. (But the phrase itself is from a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon)
Mission info: Starts with a vicious assault as the treacherous alien engineer repays the troopers for their kindness with an ambush, and gets worse. An insanely savage level with all the alien soldiers programmed for maximum viciousness, relieved only when (if) the player manages to get troopers on three switch pads and summons down a player attack saucer, with which the rest of the level can be obliterated with impunity.
Background: The first mission of the entire game in which your squad comprises five troopers. I have no idea of either why it has five troopers, or why it's the first - in fact, the only - one to do so. (Initially I thought that perhaps the corresponding mission in CF1 did, for some plausible reason perhaps relating to switches, and that the absence of new code in CF2 meant that it had to be that way here too, but on checking back, CF1 has five-trooper missions from very early on.)
Phase 2 - PLACES NOT TO GO TO
Title: Named from a line in the Frank Black song "Two Spaces", because there are two bottomless canyons to be jumped.
Mission info: This level would certainly be high on anyone's list of destinations to avoid visiting. A series of isolated plateaus linked only by precarious buggy jumps, and with almost no room for manouevre, this would be a Hell on Earth, if it was on Earth. The nastiest bit is after the first jump, where there's pretty much zero chance of avoiding the buggy being destroyed by the gun turret it lands right beside. The trick is to send an expeditionary force of one trooper out before you make the jump, standing right on the lip of the ramp in order to take the turret out with a rocket. (Firing from anywhere else will just cause the rocket to detonate harmlessly on the far cliff edge.)
Background: There are two "hostages" in this mission, but the plot would have revealed that one of them is actually supposed to be the treacherous engineer, who you capture in order to exact revenge, while the other is an alien officer who holds the maps giving the location of the main base which you'll assault in the final mission.
MISSION 24 - WISH THEM ALL DEAD
Title: An ironic reference to the furore over the first Cannon Fodder, and my own small part in it.
Phase 1 - FARAWAY BUT TOO CLOSE
Title: From a U2 song.
Mission info: I felt the player deserved a last reward for surviving the extreme brutality of the preceding stages, so I put in this little turkey shoot, with loads of alien marines struggling through the purple sea and not quite making land before being cut down. (These were crack alien soldiers - their skill levels were set so high that if you were slow-witted or careless enough to let one make the beach, they'd put a bullet clean through your eye socket first time, but anyone who'd made it this far was unlikely to be so unskilled.)
Background: Unusually alert viewers will have spotted long before now, incidentally, that the troopers' flying saucer changes colour on the intro animation screens between levels. There's a really good explanation for this.
Phase 2 - RETURN TO BLOODY DOVE
Title: Chosen by Amiga Power reader
Mission info: The alien leader's bunker base. Following the "unique combination of elements in every stage" rule, now that we're close to the end of the game this reader level offered almost the full complement of player vehicles - a buggy to cross the long bridge to the base, a transport saucer to get over the electrified fence, and a Dalek tank to blow the hell out of everything when you got there. The trick in this stage of extremely fast-spawning and fast-firing enemies is not to get your vehicles blown up before they perform the necessary tasks. This only requires keeping them intact for about five seconds each (and strictly you can do without the buggy altogether), but even that isn't an easy task in confined spaces with rockets and grenades going off everywhere. The tank is the only thing that can destroy the armoured generator door, so if you lose that, you're scuppered. (A vital thing to know is that the aliens can't blow up the tank before you get in it, so clear the way before you board.) And don't forget to save a couple of rockets for the two isolated gun turrets on towers either side of the bridge.
Background: This level kicks lumps out of me - you have to be pretty much pixel-perfect all the way through it, and the timing is demanding too. Part of me was a little annoyed that much of the game's climactic finale took the form of levels I didn't design personally, but I was happy enough with them all by the time the tweaked versions went in. At least, compared to the alternative of having to come up with another dozen or so myself, anyway.
Phase 3 - HOTDOGS WITH EVERYTHING
Title: Comes from a foul-mouthed punk rock song by the Pogues (though you'd never know to listen to it) on the soundtrack of "Sid And Nancy", Alex Cox's semi-true biography of Sex Pistol Sid Vicious and his junkie girlfriend Nancy Spungen. Why? Goodness knows.
Mission info: Compared to "Return To Bloody Dove" it's a simple and relatively easy mission, as you chase the escaping leader to his airfield. There's some more air-to-air combat, and there are a couple of hostages here, but it doesn't seem to be necessary to rescue them, just kill everything else. You blow up the leader's escape saucer, but the plot would have revealed that on close inspection of the corpse it turns out to be a doppelganger. The real leader has run for the hills, like a coward.
Background: In the novella, there would have been tons of stuff here about the alien leader, and why he wanted to conquer Earth in the first place, all tying in with the first CF and revealing that it had been his abortive and subtler first attempt at achieving the same goal, and who the sympathisers in the UFO who recruited our heroes were, and that sort of thing. Man! I really hate those little Virgin guys!
Phase 4 - JESUS HAD A TWIN
Title: From "Sister" by Sonic Youth, now usually known as "Schizophrenia" (ironically). The choice of song was related, for plot reasons, to the paragraph above. (Throughout the game, the mission and phase titles were supposed to be a little bonus for those who got the references. For anyone else they were perfectly serviceable level names, but if you knew where they came from, thinking of the song or film or whatever would put its mood in your head and hopefully add to the atmosphere.) This dark, melancholy tune captured exactly the sort of feeling I wanted for the last few levels.
Mission info: The leader is cowering somewhere in the wilderness, and now you have to take out the last stragglers of his army. The level gets its name from the huge crucifix-shaped pattern of alien Exploding Egg Trees in the middle of the stage, forcing the troopers to take the long way round. Again, nothing too clever going on here to worry about - the player tank at the bottom centre is a dirty trick, because if you try to take it out of the small enclosure it'll sink in the purple swamp, but that's about it. Soldiers will spawn wherever you've been until you take out every generator door, and hunting down the little green guys camouflaged among the vegetation can be occasionally tricky (as on all the alien planet stages), but it shouldn't delay you very long. Just two more levels to go.
Background: I made sure that the last two were mine, though.
Phase 5 - A SEA WITH THREE STARS
Title: Deeply conceptual, this one. The name is borrowed from a song by obscure Scottish art-poppers The Nectarine No.9, and is a phonetic euphemism for… well, you'll get it when you look at the map. The alien leader is responsible for many thousands of deaths, after all. (And the level itself's no Mister Nice Guy.) I'm pretty sure CF2 is the only commercial videogame ever in which the word has appeared even obliquely.
Mission info: All out of places to run on land, the leader's been forced out, via a damaged saucer, onto a group of tiny islands where his personal bodyguard fight a last stand. It's prudent to send out a single trooper here until either the alien attack saucer has been destroyed, or the player transport saucer is reached (which in turn will provide access to the player attack saucer, for the THIRD air-to-air combat mission, Jonathan Nash), otherwise troopers can be pinned down on the small islands, forced into a corner and bombed. With either of those tasks accomplished, it should just be a question of meticulously mopping up all the generators and soldiers, and snatching the leader from his final hidey-hole.
Background: This is the last "proper" level of the game. From walking into the Sensible offices for the first time to delivering the finished CF2 disks for review had taken roughly five months, and I was proud that it was the first (and last) Sensible game completed by its original deadline. After that, in truth, there wasn't a lot left for me to do at Sensible. I contributed some ideas and testing to Sensible World Of Soccer (which in any event only occupied another month), and fought against a wall of indifference in trying to make Sensible Golf less mediocre, but without success. I'd even taken clandestine and tentative steps, when a coder wrote in telling of his own Amiga golf game, towards seeing if he might want to sell it to us for possible use as Sensible Golf, because the "real" SG was wildly behind schedule, on account of the fact that we couldn't get Jools to come in and do any work on it.
Sensible was run almost like a family company, and while Jops and Chris Yates despaired of Jools' indolence (after the success of CF1 he didn't need the money, and so preferred to spend his time gallivanting around the countryside in his new canary-yellow Porsche 968 Club Sport with his 16-year-old girlfriend of the time), they lacked the will to actually penalise him in any way when he couldn't be arsed to show up, so he often didn't.
This had also been a problem during CF2 - one afternoon, faced by a coding bottleneck which meant we couldn't do anything without Jools, artist Jonny Watts and I got so frustrated when he still hadn't shown up by 4pm that we smashed one of the row of club fruit machines in the Sensible games room to matchwood, using pool balls and the four-foot-long metal pole from the middle of a weightlifting barbell. (Try it sometime - it's a heck of a workout. Those things are built solid.) Chris Yates, who'd paid for all the machines, came into the room just as we'd finished, at which point we fled out of the window into the carpark. To his credit, and perhaps understanding our frustration, all he did was yell "Oi, you kids!" and shake his fist at us like a comedy caretaker as we scarpered, although he did make us pick up all the jagged, splintered wreckage and broken glass afterwards. There wasn't a single piece left bigger than the size of a mobile phone.
Phase 6 - CATCH 23
Title: From the book of nearly the same name
Mission info: It's time to pay the piper, Evil Alien Leader. The only mission in the entire game to feature six troopers, and by a distance the easiest.
Background: If, by some miracle, you've managed to beat the game without losing a single soldier, the six troopers in the firing squad will be the CF2 development team - Jools, Jops, myself, JL, Richard "RJ" Joseph and Jonny Watts. The six troopers are then framed for the end screen. I definitely wrote a longer text for the end shot, but we scrapped it for reasons I don't remember. Maybe it used characters that the game's font didn't support or something.
But that's all of Cannon Fodder 2, folks. For the next six months I was pretty much just a glorified office manager at Sensible, and while I enjoyed the whole of my time there enormously (I spent most of the second half playing pool and two-player Virtua Racing on the 32X with Jonny Watts, and getting paid a lot of money for it), when the contract was up I happily went back to Bath without even trying to negotiate another one. I did warn them before I left that Sex, Drugs And Rock'n'Roll would destroy them, but they didn't listen.
THE END (IN A VERY REAL SENSE)
So how was it for you? Playing through the whole of it again for this feature (albeit with a cheat - hey, we're none of us as young or fast as we were in 1994), I'm still hugely proud of CF2. With hindsight I'd probably have ratcheted the overall difficulty down by a notch or two (I could breeze it at the time, but playing it now it starts kicking my arse from somewhere around Mission 4), but not THAT much - remember, this was a game near the end of the Amiga's life, for people who'd already mastered Cannon Fodder, a game which could be pretty damn mean when it wanted to.
Do I think it's a better game than the original? Yes. Go back and play the original again. It starts with a lot of pretty boring missions involving a lot of trekking across massive levels with not much happening in them (which is fair enough - it was introducing a whole new kind of gameplay that people had to get used to, after all) and then suddenly you come up against the hateful Mission 8 - a sheer cliff face of sudden and unfair difficulty that I just couldn't summon the bloody-minded persistence to conquer when I played the first CF. My goal was to make CF2's level of challenge progress in a more even curve and to keep it hard-but-fair all the way through, and I think I achieved that. (With the possible exception of "There's A Riot Goin' On", but at least if you got stuck on that one you'd seen 20 of the levels you paid for before giving up instead of seven...) If it hadn't been hard, it would have been like Oh No! More Lemmings, insulting gamers with laughably easy tutorial-type levels wasting over 20% of the game's entire content before they got to anything worth playing.
I actually think of CF2 as the Perfect Dark to CF1's Goldeneye - in any measurable sense Perfect Dark is a superior game, but because it lacks the groundbreaking nature and instant storyline appeal of its predecessor, it's remembered less fondly. It's not very fair, but that's life, and I've got no complaints - I had a great time making CF2, with some fine people, got well paid for it, and got to leave behind something I'm proud to have my name on. Not everyone is so lucky, either in the world of videogames or in life in general.
And it's often forgotten that CF2 was a massively successful game. Going straight to No.1 on release, it stayed in the charts for an age and sold by the truckload. The PC conversion, in a budget-release incarnation, stayed in the upper reaches of the charts for about five years or something. That it got a mixed critical reception (in hindsight, that is - most of the reviews gave it high marks at the time, and almost none of the criticisms were of anything I personally had any control over, so I felt I'd done a good job) is something I blame mostly on Virgin's hopelessly inadequate handling of the whole "plot" issue. It took so much away from the game that we had no way of replacing, that it hung Sensible out to dry.
Some blame also rests on my own shoulders for a handful of misjudgements in making specific parts of it a bit too unforgiving (beyond the overall difficulty mentioned above) and some in Sensible's reluctance to have Jools do any coding on it that might have provided some new features to justify it as a proper sequel, rather than relying on the (unexplained) plot and any retooling I could do with the existing elements at my disposal. But if the game has one real failure it's that failure to hang together as a coherently-plotted whole, and I hope the background and story exposition in this feature finally rights that wrong. (If you want to see for yourself whether it does or not, why not try playing the game again now that you know, using these disk images for the Amiga emulator WinUAE?) Also I hope that it makes people want to give me boxes full of diamonds, but that's probably optimistic.
Hmm. Never did find that Victoria Park level, though. Better have another look.