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Review by: Jonathan Houghton
Published: August 12, 2000
Stories are ingrained within the American psyche of the bravery and sacrifice made by our troops at Omaha Beach when D-Day came during World War II. As our men disembarked from their Amphibious Carriers, many of them were brutally struck down by machine-gun fire from nests of Nazi soldiers fortified in strategic positions near the top of the beach. Movies such as the recent Saving Private Ryan did well in depicting the sheer hell experienced by our marines as many of them were picked off almost immediately after the doors to their carriers swung open. The shores ran red with blood, the beach was slowly taken and the rest is history. Though technological advancement has thankfully rendered this style of invasion obsolete, its brutality lived on within the 80s’ video gaming classic, Beach Head. Keeping with the recent trend of modernizing the hits of yesteryear, WizardWorks has updated the weaponry and the time period, bringing Beach Head 2000 to gamers worldwide.
In World War II invasions marines would be landed on beaches via troop transports without any support other than the occasional bomber fly-by. Gigantic asterisk-shaped spikes would be laid along the coastline to prevent the enemy from landing any heavy equipment on the beaches. The military force that you serve in Beach Head 2000 has placed no such defenses in the breaking waters, leaving you to be assaulted from all sides by helicopters, tanks, personnel carriers, jets and the ever-present infantry. The game positions you atop a machine-gun nest on the front lines of an enemy beach invasion. You are given command of several offensive tools, such as a high-powered anti-aircraft gun, which serves as your primary weapon. Also in your virtual armory are a very limited number of missiles and anti-tank rounds to assist in destroying fast-moving aircraft and the heavier artillery. In case of emergencies you are also armed with a pistol.
The bane of every machine-gunner’s existence is rapid depletion of bullets, a fact which certainly holds true in the fictional war created by Digital Fusion. The supply of ammunition in your bunker is very limited, lasting only long enough to stave off each wave of assault, even in the hands of the most flawless marksman. Not everyone is a crack shot, and often times gamers will find themselves running out of munitions at a critical moment. Fortunately, supply planes drop shield refills and ammo boxes at varying intervals. However, the ammunition dropped is only for the anti-aircraft gun; no refills for the anti-tank cannon or the missile system can be obtained. Players will be forced to keep close watch on the number of missiles and tank rounds left, as some enemies are vulnerable only to these weapons.
Beach Head 2000′s obvious objective is to eliminate the enemy invaders as they advance on your bunker. However, the enemy grows more numerous and becomes better organized with each passing round. In the first levels, enemy soldiers seem to stay together, making them easy targets for the primary guns. In later levels the AI improves, making soldiers spread out on the battlefield to surround your position. Choppers provide cover fire as troop transports unload their squads, and bombers fly overhead, raining fiery death upon the bloodstained sand of the beach. Increasing difficulty is not the only reward of a completed level, as points are awarded for the number and type of enemy killed. Scoring is based on the power and ability to damage possessed by each enemy unit. For example, Attack Choppers are worth 100 points for each one you dispose of, whereas an individual infantryman is worth a meager 10 points. Though the premise may seem quite simple, using basic strategy is required while playing Beach Head 2000. To fight effectively against the enemy, players must develop the ability to prioritize targets. The heavier machinery can do more damage to your bunker, and aircraft are difficult to hit with any weapon but missiles. Concentrating your fire on the individual enemy soldiers while attack choppers are strafing over your position will quickly earn you the dreaded game-over screen. Discerning players will be able to develop their own stratagems with which to decimate the enemy.
The enemy arsenal is much more diverse then the tiny little turret and howitzer given to the player. The primary ground forces sent in with an invasion are always marines: Beach Head 2000 has no lack of tiny soldiers shooting rifles and throwing grenades. The soldiers are delivered to do battle in several differing ways. First is the standard, “Unload ‘em right at the beach with no cover” method. This works no better in the modern age than it worked in Normandy, and the soldiers quickly become target practice for your machine-gun. Secondly, soldiers will be delivered out of their transports via armored personnel carriers. These carriers provide better protection for the enemy, but can still become victim to a well-placed 76mm round. Finally, soldiers will unload from the back end of helicopter transports, usually landing in the opposite direction that your turret is facing. Aircraft you will face include fighter-jets, attack-helicopters and bombers, all of which do a significant amount of damage when they attack. The final enemies that will seek the destruction of your bunker are tanks, treaded death-machines that despite their low rate-of-fire can quickly destroy what little strength your reinforced concrete bunker may have left.
One of the only noteworthy features in Beach Head 2000 is that all of the enemy units are famous models from different wars. The bomber flying overhead in later levels is modeled after the infamous B-52 used throughout the Vietnam and Gulf Wars. The tanks are shaped in the likeness of the allied M48, a Vietnam War tank. The last ‘real’ model is the APC, which was built around the M113. Even the plane that drops supplies for the player is a real model, the C130. Though it is difficult to tell how much detail went into the creation of the models, knowing that the art of research still lives in game design is encouraging.
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