Saturday 28 August 2021

ESWAT: City Under Siege (Sega Master System review)

Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1990

ESWAT: City Under Siege is an action game that's based on the 1989 Arcade title Cyber Police ESWAT.

There's five stages and your mission is to stop Balzar the Mad Scientist from taking over the world. Your main weapon is a gun, but power-ups can be obtained that include spray shots, a heat charge and laser blasts. The stage design is nothing special, as it's purely a left-to-right affair with very few opportunities to use strategy by selecting your path via multiple platform levels. Instead, your only tactic is to keep moving to the right and spraying bullets to either side of you in order to hit enemies as soon as they enter the screen. It might sound dull (especially as foes constantly swarm with no real let-up to build the tension), but it's strangely satisfying eliminating them and it almost feels like you're playing a rhythm game by trying to time your bullets perfectly as you learn more about enemy spawn patterns. While you do feel powerful at the start of the game, things really ratchet up a notch when you gain your combat suit as your bullets spray more liberally and the sound effects of your gun firing are incredible! On a similar note, your power-ups feature some gratifying explosions and surprisingly they keep inflicting damage for a while after launch which helps to even out the odds slightly. They're particularly helpful during the many boss fights which are all memorable (some featuring multi-part battles), full of interesting attack patterns, and with some large sprites to boot. However, a more varied range of enemies would have elevated the pre-boss gameplay to greater heights, especially in later stages where the same types of opponents are recycled to an overwhelming degree.

ESWAT: City Under Siege does very little to impress players with its level design and enemy variety, but it never lets up and make you feel like a complete bad-ass thanks to its cool weapons and power-ups. The boss fights are the clear star of the show and it's obvious how much thought was put into making them stand out. 

Random trivia: A version was also released on the Sega Genesis in 1990.

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