William Shatner’s TekWar: The Game

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BREAKING NEWS!

William Shatner starred in a video game 20 years ago.

Is it a great game? No. Is it a good game? No. Is it an average game? No. Is it a bad game? Hey, let’s just say that it’s a game. Isn’t that enough? Why must we judge a god like this?

Our Shatner, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day, our daily TekWar, and forgive us our trespasses. As we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from properly-designed computer games. For thine is the kingdom, and the toupee, and the glory. Forever.

Amen.

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So I decided to write another video game review. I spent 14,000+ words on melonfarming Daikatana, and now it’s time for William Shatner’s TekWar: The Game! I’ve been thinking about writing this off and on for a couple of months, but I finally sat down and fought through this, this… piece of software over the course of the last two to three days. I was interrupted by Christmas Dinner with my family, though, so it wasn’t two to three days straight.

I’m sorry, Bill. They ripped me away from you. It wasn’t my fault!

Here is my belated Christmas present to you all. As the old Mortal Kombat 2 advertisements commanded, you must “Prepare Yourself”, even though “Nothing Can Prepare You.” It’s true, guys. You must.

I give you… TekWar!

The Backstory

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And it came to pass, as written in the annals of Wikipedia, that a former police officer named Jake Cardigan was sentenced to Cyro-sleep for a crime he didn’t commit. Four years later, he was thawed out by William Shatner and became a private investigator hunting down…

WHO CARES? WILLIAM SHATNER WROTE A SERIES OF AIRPORT NOVELS IN THE 90s AND THEY MADE 4 GOD DAMNED TV MOVIES OUT OF THEM ALONG WITH A FULL SEASON OF A TV SHOW! HOLY SHIT, HOW DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS?

TekWar!

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TekWar!

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TekWar!

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TekWar!

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TekWar!

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TekWar!

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TekWar!

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TekWar.

It is finished.

Executive Summary

It’s the Tattoo Assassins of mid-90s FPSs. It doesn’t let you play as Nancy Kerrigan, though. Shame!

Anyway, I guess you can view this as an early entry in the free-roaming, open-world, sandbox, *insert bullshit marketing catchphrase of the moment here* genre of FPS games. Each mission spans between one to three levels, not counting the subway levels that act as a simple hubs. Your goal in each mission is to find and “apprehend” one of the evil TekLords, who are like drug lords, except they sell Tek. Tek is a drug that hacks into your mind, or something. I’ll watch the TV movies and give you a full report.

This is high art, I assure you.

You are given free reign to run about the levels of each mission, though you lose all collected weapons every time you switch levels. Bizarrely enough, your keycards are not lost, and oftentimes cards found on one level are needed in another. The levels are populated with innocent civilians, explosive androids disguised as civilians, security guards and police that only attack when you brandish your weapon or open fire, and by actual enemies you need to take down. This doesn’t sound so bad on paper. I mean, it’s like Hexen mixed with Marathon starring William Shatner! Right? Right?

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Well, the game is kind of a disaster. It has many telltale signs of being released before being finished, from a gauge on the HUD that appears to do nothing, to graphical glitches, to various bugs with the enemy AI and with the entire programming of the game in general. Granted, it also has lots of lazy level design and poorly conceived enemies. It probably wouldn’t have been a classic even with added development time. Still, with over half of the areas of the game set to full brightness due to the level designers apparently not having the time to clean these things up, it’s obvious that this game was rushed out the door.

Enemies shoot you through walls. Security guards and police officers open fire even when you’re not shooting anybody. At times, even keeping your gun holstered fails to calm their rage. Trams circle the city streets and run over any innocent civilians that wander in front of them without stopping. Sometimes, when an enemy is gunned down on a catwalk, they fall through the catwalk while the ammo they dropped stays upon it. Air vent covers and chain link fences can be walked through. Electricity barriers can be shot down with pistol fire. Everything happens, and nothing happens. It’s profound in its banality. It’s like a dream that you only dreamt you had. And now it’s time to wake up.

You want to know something really crazy, though? Somebody actually read the book this was based on! Look, I found a picture of a cover that looks a little weathered:

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Let it be known that we, the disciples of Shatner, are nothing if not brave.

Oh, Bill

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“I suppose you’re wondering why you’re here.”

Every day of my life, man.

“It’s simple. You’re the best.”

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We’ve been thawed out of Cyro-sleep by William Shatner playing William Shatner playing “Walter Bascom”. He’s thawed us out so we can take down the TekLords who are terrorizing the city with their Tek drugs! He’s going to threaten to put us back on ice whenever we kill too many innocent civilians. Well, I’m sure that will never happen with my expert playing!

Anyway, it’s time for the level select. It’s like Mega Man, except you don’t get to keep the bosses’ weapons after defeating them and the music sucks. I was going to commend them for sticking with two names for each boss, but it looks like Janus on the right successfully performed a Combo Breaker. Maybe they were counting on him having two faces?

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It’s quite a selection. That F.C.I. logo is awesome as well. If you can’t draw a good-looking eagle, just scribble a rough approximation of one and bucket fill it with solid white in MS Paint. Books paint pictures with words. Pictures paint words with Paint. Or something. What I’m trying to say is: it’s genius, it looks great, and it fills me with confidence for the game to come.

I’m playing through this in full 320×200 glory, by the way. It’s not because I forgot to run the setup program before taking screenshots. I have my reasons. They are: I forgot to run the setup program and didn’t want to retake those initial screenshots. Whatever! We’re playing this game the way God intended! 320×200 for everyone!

So let’s get this show on the road! Contestant No. 1, come on down!

Mission 1: Marty Funkhouser Dollar

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Welcome to TekWar: The Game! Great games always start you off in a nice looking area. TekWar starts you off here. In its defense, it does at least have different lighting levels in a few places, as opposed to the unshadowed retina-searing hellscape that makes up 95% of the game. There is that.

The box is right, though. This is 3D gaming like I’ve always wanted! Hang on, I need to go to the bathroom.

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See? This is virtual reality alright! Just like in real life, I’m crouching down to look underneath a stall door in the ladies’ restroom. I find a woman using the restroom standing up. Again, just like in real life, I hang around to take a picture. She’s right. It does last longer.

Ok, fine, I’ll go to the “proper” restroom now as a result of your gender-shaming. Fine. Fine.

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Something seems amiss here. I can’t quite place my finger on it. The writing on the wall says, “Map by Ken Loyd”. Ken, would you like to explain this? What does it mean? How come the aliens were able to sit on a toilet properly in Duke 3D, but this guy forgets the whole “pull down your pants” part of the process? Is he one of those exploding simulacra from later on in the level? Why is the door wide open?

I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know!

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“Will work for Tek.” Well, I hope you’re not going to a job interview dressed like that!

By the way, this guy spends the entire level in the subway car. The only other occupant of the car is a security guard. At one point in the level, the security guard walked straight at me, stopping 2 inches from my face. Half of my field of view was blocked by his improperly-scaled sprite. I certainly felt protected.

Long story short, I was so mesmerized by the homeless person’s three frames of animation that I missed the first stop, exiting instead at “Stop #3”. Don’t worry, there are only 2 stops in the mission, even though 6 are listed on the map. This game makes no sense.

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Futuristic Jackie Kennedy up there is imploring me to join the Earth Defense Force or something. Sorry, I saw Starship Troopers. As George W. Bush said, “Fool me twice, shame on… you can’t get fooled again!”

This screenshot really shows off the TekWar aesthetic: as many sectors as possible set to lighting value 255. Don’t worry, we’ll add in shadows in post. We’ll fix it in post. It’ll be awesome!

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See? This is TekWar. It’s just “shit everywhere”. Just put things wherever. If you accidentally clicked the mouse in the level editor and made 10 more exploding barrels than you intended, just leave it. Design, LOL.

By the way, I’ve deduced that the top bar on the bottom left is my health, as it is labeled with an “H”. The bottom bar is my ammo, as it is labeled with an “A”. The middle bar is labeled with a “C” and never seems to do anything. It’s always maxed out. What does it do? Is it my Cool Meter? Does the game know that I’m always 100% cool? Maybe it stands for Cunnilingus. I’m ready for all possible action at all times in this game!

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Behold the world’s first square pool table! It doesn’t have the Duke 3D billiard balls, but who needs things like that? It’s square! This is the pool of the future!

In the future, pool is played without cues, as there are none in the immediate vicinity. What do they use instead? Do I want to know?

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TekWar combat! Just hit Control to unholster your weapon and start blasting. Weapon #2, the Pistol, takes down just about everything without problems. 90% of the enemies are humans that spam hitscan weapons and flail about hilariously as they are shot. They also like to run away when hit, leaving you to repeatedly shoot them in the back as they go through a fantastically detailed two-frame animation cycle. BlazBlue weeps at this level of quality.

The civilians always cower when the weapons come out. This gentleman appears to be trying to clip through the wall to hide as well. Anything to get out of this game, I guess.

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Ed Matus struggles to get his graffiti to obey the laws of physics. In the game’s defense, this may be futuristic graffiti. In the future, you may be able to graffiti thin air! Try painting over that, pigs!

YOU BETTER PLEAD THE FIFTH BECAUSE YOU CAN’T PLEAD THE FIRST!

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Hey, it’s the QVC of the future! Unlike in Blake Stone, though, you can’t seem to buy anything from these machines to regain health or ammo. Why are they here? Well, why is anything here in this world? Some things just are, my son.

At least it’s brightly lit, though. I might have missed some of the detail in the textures if the lights were set to anything less than the maximum. Thank God!

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Don’t you hate it when a nearby window is drawn over half of your face when you’re trying to look future-sexy? She’s not going to get a date with Logan with all these graphical errors!

By the way, somewhere in all of this mess, I found a red keycard. I haven’t found anything else, and I’m running in circles. Let’s try the other level, “Stop #1”!

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Welcome to Stop #1. We’ve got palm trees and light rail trolley cars that run over errant pedestrians and turn them into bloody chunks. Please enjoy your stay!

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These girls are my favorite enemies. They have nice asses and look pretty good when you’re shooting them in the back.

Wait, that came out wrong.

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Welcome to the museum of the future! I was accosted by a hologram enemy in here, which caused all the security guards to start shooting at me in response. It was self-defense! I was standing my ground!

Anyway, I had to murder all of them. Once again, video games turn me into a sociopath without giving me a choice. God, I need to just go back to Harvest Moon.

By the way, when you kill a hologram enemy in the game, a text message pops up that says, “Was A Hologram”. Thanks for the heads up!

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I blasted my way through here and picked up a flamethrower. Did I immediately test it out on this innocent civilian?

Of course not. I tried it out on a security guard out on the sidewalk. See? I’m not a monster!

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After wandering around Stop #1 for another 5 minutes, I decided to come back to Stop #3. After many minutes of aimless wandering about, I found this exciting new area with new enemies! They’re green and… they die when you shoot them with the pistol enough times. The enemy variety is this game is just mesmerizing. How do they keep coming up with this stuff?

My reward for blasting my way through this room? A blue key card. I already found a blue key card back in the other level. It won’t even let me pick up this second one. Now this is game design!

This is TekWar. Wandering about aimlessly with no clue where to go, momentary excitement as you think you’ve found the exit, only to have your hopes crushed by items you’ve already obtained. HOW DO I GET OUT OF HERE?

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Oh, by the way, walking into that light beam takes you to a bonus area with various enemies and tons of ammo and health pickups. It doesn’t take you to the exit, though. No, for that, you have to take a side door near the area with the yellow “Police Line – Do Not Cross” tape. After going through a hidden door unlocked by a keycard, you’ll take an elevator and end up here:

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Take out the gun turret around the corner with Weapon #4, open the door, and blast Marty Dollar to pieces! WE DID IT! WE BEAT… Mission 1 of TekWar.

All of this was only the first mission.

Oh God. Oh God.

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William Shatner admonished me for killing too many innocent people, by the way. Talk about things going from bad to worse! He didn’t even sing “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” as a consolation prize!

Well, whatever. ¿Listo? Let’s do this!

Mission 2: Dallas DiMarco

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Dallas DiMarco has been spotted near the hospital. The only prescription is death.

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Welcome to Mission 2 of TekWar! It’s… exactly the same as the start of the first mission. Hey, I wonder if that lady is still peeing standing up?

Yes! Same stall, even! The gentleman in the men’s room is also having the same difficulties as before. This is economy in design. Just reuse the same map 7 times! Why not, right? Ken Loyd got some mileage out of this one.

Anyway, the subway train now takes us to the brand-new “Stop #2”! Behold our new level!

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It’s nighttime, but that didn’t stop the level designer from setting the lighting to full-blast on as many surfaces as possible. I guess there’s a full moon tonight.

Luckily, there is only one level for Mission 2. On the downside, it’s this one. It’s not a difficult level in theory; there’s a road that forms a square around it, with a few buildings one can enter scattered about. However, it’s crawling with police and security guards that will turn on you at a moment’s notice. Due to TekWar‘s masterful programming, they will view you as an enemy if you shoot any of the hologram enemies or exploding androids disguised as civilians. For good measure, they’ll also start shooting for no reason at all! Fantastic stuff!

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This is the far side of the Police Headquarters. I’m not sure why the police even bothered with the street lights; they don’t seem to do anything, and this place is pretty bright as it is. I guess you need to spend all of the budget so it doesn’t get cut, though.

Off in the distance, beyond the shadow, a hologram enemy shoots at me or something. This causes a half dozen police loitering outside the entrance to open fire from halfway across the level every time. After trying to get away and dying each time, I resort to my only real option:

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Yeah, I just shot all of them. TekWar, why are you making me do this?

There’s an innocent civilian dead as well. It’s not my fault! Well, I did shoot her in the face and everything, but there’s exploding androids disguised as civilians ambling about! They don’t even say “Frog blast the vent core” or anything! So I’ve just started shooting everybody. Sure, you can tell the androids apart because they walk straight at you at all times, but I’m too lazy for that. I don’t pay attention. Anyway, I’m not prejudiced. I think androids have the same rights as human beings. This is the 21st Century! Everyone has the right to die horribly. This is progress!

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Oh yeah, whenever you shoot an android and it explodes, the game gives you a text message that says, “Was An Android”. You don’t say!

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Here we are in the hospital at last! God, I’ll never get enough of that TekWar aesthetic. I feel like that guy in Sunshine who let himself get vaporized by Sol’s warm embrace. Just take me away

Scattered about the hospital are lots of medikits. If you play this level, just remember that this is your recharge place. Also present in various places are boxes of donuts. When you pick them up, a text message says, “MMMM Donuts”. True story.

The hospital also features a new obstacle: air vents. Now, in games like Duke 3D, you need to shoot the air vent cover to break it before you can enter. TekWar is more civilized. Here, you just walk right through them. That is not a joke. You can also walk right through the little privacy curtains that hang between the hospital beds. Finally, a game with the “No Clip” cheat enabled by default!

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Helloooooooo Nurse!

Unfortunately, due to an oversight in the programming, you can’t, uh, press the Use key on the nurse to, uh, regain health. Come on, guys! Castlevania 2 came out like 5 years before this game!

By the way, these nurses were the only civilians I left alive at the end of the mission. I have my reasons.

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Well, I finished killing everybody in the hospital, and also cleared out a warehouse full of police while I was at it. Where is this Dallas fellow? In here? Somebody give me a sign!

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Now this is TekWaring, son! I’m picking up “Pistol Klips” and shooting catsuit-wearing future-minxes left and right! It’s the future of the 90s and I feel fine!

Where am I off to now? Does it have something to do with that hallway flanked with gun turrets?

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6 gun turrets later, and we’re face to face to five electricity shield barriers. No need to find a switch to turn them off. No, this is TekWar. Just shoot the electricity beams and they explode! (?) Anyway, 5 hallways to pick. Which one leads to the exit? (Hint: It’s the one that has an elevator instead of a room with ammo and health pickups at the end of it.)

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All that’s left to do is to hit the switch hidden behind the desk, go through the hidden door that opens on the left, and apprehend Dallas DiMarco with extreme prejudice. As Bubsy once asked, “What could possibly go wrong?”

I hit space while standing. The switch does not flip. I hit space while crouching. The switch does not flip.

OH! I’m supposed to hit space while I’m going from a crouching position to a standing position! Boy, is there egg on my face!

DiMarco is dead, but is Shatner pleased?

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Uh oh.

“You may have taken down Dallas DiMarco, but you also got a lot of innocent people hurt in the process. You know, the ones you’re supposed to protect? I can’t keep the Law off your back if this happens again!”

Anyone want to bet that they didn’t get around to programming that part in? Let’s find out!

Mission 3: Carlyle Rossi

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Welcome to “Beach1 Map”! The starting subway station was actually different this time, by the way. Our wonder woman was nowhere to be found. An ill omen if I’ve ever seen one.

There are two levels here: the beach, and the park. The stop numbers from the subway are the same as in Mission 1, but the levels themselves are different. No, it doesn’t make any sense. Nothing in this game makes sense.

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Look at that Build Engine speedboat! I took some potshots at the enemy on the back of it, but he was moving too fast to get a good bead on him. Luckily, the bugs in the programming handled it for me as he was somehow crushed by the speedboat that he was standing on top of and subsequently exploded into bloody chunks. I have to give the TekWar programmers an assist for that one!

Anyway, it’s a beach. There’s buildings, water you can walk on, and a bridge that leads to an underwater facility. Let’s check it out!

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Hello fish! We’re in a tunnel built under the surface of the water. For some reason, a hologram enemy appears in the water and begins shooting at me through the glass. How do I deal with this threat? Simple: fire my pistol through the glass at him, taking him out while leaving the glass undisturbed.

This is the virtual world of the future!

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Is that… a ladder? Did the programmers try to implement ladders in an FPS? Oh no. As you can see in the screenshot, I quicksaved immediately at the sight of this contraption.

It actually works, though. You just have to face it and hold down the A key to climb. Very slowly. You can hold down Shift to speed it up, but I’m being careful. Once you’ve reached the ceiling, just run backward off of it. Just like in real life!

One of the keycards is up there, by the way. At least the ladder serves a purpose, even though it serves no purpose.

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Here’s my favorite part of this level. You know how in Duke 3D, Blood, and Shadow Warrior (the big three Build Engine shooters) you swim up and down by pressing the Jump and Crouch keys? TekWar is too good for that. No, in this game, you just walk on the bottom of the ocean, and the Jump and Crouch keys act the same as they do above ground! That’s right: they didn’t bother to program in swimming!

Don’t worry, though: your health will still deplete as you run out of air, unable to tread water up to the surface and take a breath. The quality of this game is just astounding. I realize now, after thinking about it for a few moments, that Marathon 2 did something similar to all of this. In that game, though, you were playing as a cyborg, which made this behavior make more sense. More importantly, Marathon 2 let you swim up for air!

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Some guy with a convertible decided that the windshield was too much, so he took it off. The alarm goes off if you jump on it, but who would want to steal this thing?

By the way, there are vehicles driving around the map that will run you over and insta-kill you without warning. This is TekWar!

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The other keycard is inside this building. At least, I think that’s why I took a screenshot of it. Still, after the customary 5 minutes of aimless wandering, I’m beginning to think that the exit is on another level. Let’s go check the subway! Oh, I’m so excited!

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Welcome to “Park1 Map”! The exit is inside that building up ahead, but this park looks so warm and inviting. The bad guys couldn’t possibly be upset enough to start shooting at me in a place like this, right?

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God, it’s like The Shining threw up in its mouth a little bit. Those hedges are fantastic. This is especially amusing if you ever played Blood, which had a level based on the infamous hedge maze and used the same Build Engine that this game uses. I guess TekWar was going for the “low budget 90s TV show” look. I don’t know. They didn’t succeed, but I can’t fault them for trying.

I don’t know why this woman is encased in glass, either. Is she an exhibit? Is she an android on display? Is this what zoos become in the future after animals are granted full rights?

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TekWar! Shooting ridiculously-attired digitized enemies never gets old! Why did they stop making games like this, again? Imagine the clarity possible with modern technology! They could have D-list actresses in tight clothes firing automatic weapons at you in full 1080p!

See, this is why the world sucks now. This is why we can’t have nice things.

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And here’s Carlyle Rossi himself, shortly before I sent him to the next world. I vaguely remember William Shatner telling me to try to bring him back alive back at the mission briefing. Whoops!

Anyway, Rossi is dead, but apparently I made the park “look like a warzone.” Bill tells me to “use better judgment” when deciding to apply “lethal force”. I’m pretty sure everybody I shot cheated on their taxes once. I’m fine. I’m fine.

Mission 4: Conrad Lowell

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“Tek-dealing and cop-killing is a bad mix! Get down there and show Lowell why!”

I don’t know, Bill. I think I’ve killed more police officers than anyone else in the game. Still, it appears that half the population of the city consists of criminals loyal to the TekLords. I think crime is an important part of this city’s economy. Why don’t we just ask for our cut and look the other way like normal cops? At some point, the politicians and businessmen aren’t going to be happy with their lowered profit margins.

Maybe the TekLords can throw in a few of those catsuit girls to seal the deal. I’m in for that if you are. Just saying!

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By the way, you can check out my character in the bathroom mirror. He’s unanimated and simply slides about as I move, but he’s there. He exists. I understand now why everybody keeps shooting at me: sunglasses, black shirt, and blue A Night at the Roxbury jacket. Cyro-sleep really does mess with your mind!

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Here we are in the first level of three for this mission. It’s Tekwar, alright. 20-foot-tall doors loom over a poor security guard stranded out in the noontime sun without any shade. It’s the future. Everything has to make zero sense!

There’s a keycard in Level 1, another keycard in Level 2, and the exit in Level 3. They tell you none of this during Shatner’s briefing. And yes, you need both keycards to get to the exit and kill Mr. Lowell, so no skipping anything. We’re in this for the long haul! Together.

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One of the catsuit girls attempts to run away from the frightening color scheme of this room. It’s like they jacked into Timothy Leary’s mind… 20 years after he died.

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Say what you will about the “Shit Everywhere” philosophy of TekWar‘s level design: at least it’s an ethos. The designers really believe in this stuff. “Just put things wherever you want. We won’t be constrained by their logic!

Again, I’m glad they’ve got the lighting up to full blast. It allows me to savor every nuance.

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The best part of these revolving glass doors is that they block people, but not bullets. I was worried for a moment, thinking I would have to go through the doors to attack the enemies on the other side. Thankfully, TekWar is expressly designed for the disinterested. Maybe its creators were pre-cogs. Why didn’t they stop Tom Cruise from coming to his downfall at the hands of a couch, though? Why did they make this instead?

To clarify, while there are breakable panes of glass in the game, these glass doors don’t shatter when shot. Bullets pass right through them without breaking them. They’re of that rare breed of non-bulletproof shatterproof glass. It’s the future! What will science come up with next?

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This handrail is clipping through an unfortunate part of that gentleman’s anatomy. Perhaps he likes it that way. At any rate, the keycard we need for this level is around the corner to the left here. It’s guarded by a fearsome catsuit girl that… dies after being shot enough times with the pistol, just like every other enemy in this game.

I’m sad to say that I think we exhausted TekWar‘s complement of enemies back in Mission 1. There are security guards, police, punks, blonde girls in black leather, catsuit girls, guys in green or red or blue trenchcoats with some type of mechanical contraption on their abdomen, girls in black skirts, some other generic 90s-looking douchebags, and gun turrets. Oh yeah, and there’s hologram TekLords and exploding android civilians. It’s one hell of a lineup!

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Before we leave, here’s a look at a security guard on fire! “Why? Why was I made to feel pain?”

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Level 2! I know this looks like a bustling metro area, and those civilians look quite busy, but I’ll let you in on a secret: even though their legs are moving, they’re standing still. Yes, the guy in the grey suit and the woman in puke green are hastily walking in place. The world of the future. The next step in technology. TekWar!

Seriously, though, how do you end up with characters that can’t even walk across flat ground? I know I shouldn’t judge, but sheesh!

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Hey, it’s Futuristic Jackie Kennedy again! I guess she doesn’t look so much like Jackie O up close, but whatever. I guess she’s a movie star, as her movie consists of a couple frames of animation looped over and over. There were a half dozen bad guys in here lined up to watch this. It must be good stuff!

The key for this level is through a door at the back of the theater, by the way. In other words, this is the only part of the level that matters. Next!

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Level 3! You can use one of the keycards to enter the facility through this second entrance. I’m not sure if it really helps matters, but it does seem to take you closer to the exit than the other one. I died as I traversed the other one, by the way, hence my usage of this second entrance now. As Spock says, “Fascinating.”

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Long hallway is long. In a true clusterfuck of level design, the finale of this mission consists of a bunch of hallways that all look like this. The best part? They’re not all the same width! Yes, if you check the map, you can see that the hallway sometimes changes width after a right angle, presumably because the level designer was too lazy to check such things. It happens more flagrantly elsewhere in the game, and I’m not entirely sure why I’m bringing it up here. It’s just so… TekWar.

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At any rate, Mr. Lowell is behind a keycard-protected door at the end of this hallway. I know what you’re going to say: it looks just like the previous screenshot. In fact, it looks just like every other hallway in this area. How do you find this correct one? Honestly, I have no idea. But I’ve got one point of health left, so let’s just get this over with!

Conrad Lowell is no more, but is William Shatner pleased?

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Oh, man.

Mission 5: Sonny Hokouri

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“Take him down! Hard, if you have to, but take him down!”

Bill’s getting upset! Apparently, a colleague was captured by Mr. Hokouri. Time to get serious!

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The subway station is leaking water. The music is ominous. There are poor people about. This must be the bad part of town.

Yes, folks, it’s the subway station to Hell. There’s graffiti all over this mission, by the way. “Map by Ken Loyd”. “Katie”. “Kevin was here”. “Carlos + Raquel”. I have a feeling that some of these people may have worked on this game!

Anyway, let’s see what awaits us at the first stop!

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It’s a god damned sewer level! Fuck!

Why is the sewer a subway stop in the first place, you ask? Because it’s TekWar, that’s why!

I actually tried to avoid swimming in the shit when I showed up here initially. I didn’t want to mess up my character’s A Night at the Roxbury jacket. Alas, TekWar left me with no choice. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for everything.

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Look at this place! I can’t believe they actually put this level in the game. Well, I can, actually, but Good Lord. It’s crawling with annoying rats that swarm at you in herds. Rats are herd animals, right? They are in TekWar, at least.

I have no idea what I’m doing, there’s not much health available to pick up, and I’ve died twice already. I’ve finally deduced that if you drop off a giant shit-waterfall at some point, and go up the stairs on the left by the giant rat swarm, you end up on an out-of-use subway platform:

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Here you can see a lone rat fearlessly tracking me from whence I came. Rats are excellent trackers! It’s true, I read it on the Internet.

The graffiti says, “Amy Smith”. I’m not sure I’d want my name immortalized in this level! Christ!

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Anyway, after the subway platform you’ll find a blue keycard! I already picked it up in this screenshot, but it was there. Trust me.

There doesn’t seem to be anything else in the level, and I’m tired of this place. Let’s see what the next level has for us. Let’s just get out of here.

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On the subway, I find a gentleman laying on the ground, apparently using Tek drugs to get high. The nearby security guard seems uninterested. Hey, if he doesn’t care, I’m not going to care. If it’s ok with him that this guy is tripping balls on the floor of a public subway car, it’s ok with me. I respect The Law.

Seriously, though, that looks unsanitary. I know I just waded through an entire city’s shit, but still. I’m just saying!

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“Save the Whale”. “Bow Wow Wow”. “D.R. is a bum”. Useful information as always, guys. By the way, “Witchaven” was scrawled near the entrance to the level. Apparently, TekWar was designed by the same guys who made that game! Let it never be said that this review is not educational!

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Level 2 appears to be a sewage treatment plant. It’s a nice meta-joke. This is where TekWar was made! I think it only made it halfway through before being released, unfortunately.

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I’m pretty sure that if shit is leaking from the ceiling, your sewage treatment plant is in need of repair. Then again, I’m not an expert on this topic. Maybe it’s supposed to be like that. What I really want to know is: who was the guy who decided to graffiti the wall above a pool of shit inside a sewage treatment plant? Did Tek make him think that was a good idea? Is that why I’m trying to stop this crime wave?

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At last, I find something of note in this level: a blue keycard! If you recall, they already had a blue keycard in Level 1. Um… thanks?

After running around the level in another circle, I find nothing else. Well, time for Level 3!

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Welcome to “Inds1 Map”! At least it’s not another sewer level! This place is crawling with enemies. I got blasted to pieces at least 10 times trying to get through it. Granted, most of that was blasting my way to pointless dead-ends or loopbacks to places I’d already been. This is TekWar at its purest. Confusing, ridiculous, and above all, depressing.

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Where am I? Oh, just hanging out somewhere in one of the Circles of Hell. Welcome to Capstone and prepare to witness the future, today, in Hell: The Game, a multimedia experience on CD-ROM. YES! GIVE ME ALL YOU’VE GOT, GUYS!

(Note: I know there actually was a game called Hell, but TekWar is a long way from A Cyberpunk Thriller, let me tell you!)

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Why are there civilians in this place? Who knows? Sometimes you just feel like going out for a walk through a dank, dark factory crawling with armed criminals. Sometimes you just need to get some fresh air!

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Guess what I just found, guys? Another god damned blue keycard! I’m so opening the shit out of the first blue door I find. I’m opening it HARD, if I have to, but I’m opening it!

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I fought my way through a force larger than the North Korean army to get to this place, and it turns out to be a dead end. There is a nurse hanging out on that far platform. There’s no way down from there. Was she deposited up there by a malevolent birdman? Was it one of those birdmen from Zelda II? I never liked them. I always knew they were up to no good, those nefarious avians!

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Time to think outside the box! It turns out that you can run on the electric railways in this level. They’re not instant death like they are in the subway. Running around it from the start, the first stop is this place. Three guesses what the middle door leads to…

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That’s right, the blue switch! I can hear the trumpets blasting down from the heavens! YES!

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Now, those electric barriers look rather foreboding, but don’t worry. This is like the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. You just need to have faith. You just need to do a running jump right through them. That is not a joke. They’re just… for decoration, I guess.

TekWar!

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“Passage requires red keycard”. GOD DAMMIT. Three blue keycards and no red one! Is there item forging in this? Please? Please?

While I despaired for a moment, dreading having to crawl over all three levels again, don’t worry. If you take one of the side doors instead of the middle one back where you went to the blue switch, you find yourself in a room like this:

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A little bit past that, you find…

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The red keycard! For those keeping track, this means that Level 3 has both of the keycards and the exit for the mission. In other words, the first two levels in this mission are completely pointless. That’s right: the designers of TekWar managed to include two giant sewer levels that serve absolutely no purpose in the game! They’re a complete waste of time!

I’ll admit that I just started laughing for several minutes after figuring all of this out. It’s just amazing. Let’s give the TekWar designers a slow clap for this. It’s been some time since I’ve seen such masterful game design.

Take a bow, gentlemen. You’ve earned it.

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Oh yeah, Sonny Hokouri is behind the red door. The End.

Worst mission in TekWar? We’ll find out…

Mission 6: Miles Connor

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Miles Connor also lives in the bad part of town. This mission starts in the same rundown subway station as Mission 5, and the first stop on the subway is covered floor to ceiling with graffiti. It’s the Sistine Chapel of Crime. Time to take out the trash!

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I feel like there’s a deeper meaning to this graffiti. Is it a Zodiac cipher? If I type this in as a text message to myself, will I summon Sadako? Like everything else in TekWar, the world may never know.

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Hey, check it out! We’re underneath the lower-class-infested city streets at a subway platform that has fallen into disuse, and we find actual Build Engine shadows! I knew the level designers could do it! I knew you guys had it in you!

Why didn’t they do this on all of the other levels? Well, they had to get this thing out the door before TekWar became uncool. Hey, stop laughing!

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Red keycard… check! If I seem to be writing less about this level, it’s because there’s really not much to discuss. It’s a slum with graffiti on every other wall and lazily textured subway tunnels to run around in snaking about underneath it. It’s certainly better than the disaster that was the last mission, but that’s not saying much.

Oh, there is an insane asylum or something in this level. If you go up an elevator, you find three small rooms without occupants, powerup items, or any purpose to their existence. If you play TekWar for too long, you end up trapped in one of those for eternity. Luckily, nobody is trapped in there yet. We’ll see what happens by the end of this review…

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I’ve been trying to get a decent screenshot of one of these girls’ asses to no avail. It’s hilariously fat and dumpy looking. Yes, we’re being harassed by chubby punk girls in black leather. At least that main bad girl from Revolution X worked out once in awhile!

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Blue keycard… check! Bizarre scaling of the recently deceased woman’s sprite… check! Excessively bright lighting… check! Everything seems to be in order here. You are clear for Level 2!

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Who is Katie? Did she work on this game? Was she a girlfriend of one of the designers? Are they still together? Do they have kids entering college now? Where’s Ken Loyd? Ken, can you shine some light onto this? I honestly want to know. Katie, Carlos, Raquel, Ernie, D.R., Amy Smith… who were they? Who were the people that made TekWar and the women that loved them?

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Level 2! We’re inside the second level of Streets of Rage 1, as envisioned by the Spirit of the 90s. This place is crawling with police that open fire at the slightest provocation. Like in every other level of TekWar, the police never open fire on criminals. If a bad guy is shooting at you, the police officers just stand around doing nothing. It’s only when you return fire that they activate, choosing you as their sole target. After dying several times, I just started shooting everything that moved. Let God sort their sprites out!

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Why do I have to pay to use the Adway? Don’t the ads pay for it? This is cable TV all over again. The future is bleak.

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What am I doing here, again? Oh, I know, I can go check out the shops! The terminals don’t work, so I can’t buy anything, but I can use my red keycard to run around and shoot some more punk girls in black leather. A fair trade.

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Miles Connor is inside this building. I have no idea how I got the door to open. I thought I tried pressing Space on it earlier without success, but maybe that was another door. Whatever. It’s open now! You know, it’s TekWar. Just run around aimlessly until something happens. You’re in a tightly designed, fully immersive virtual multimedia experience powered by the next step in technology. You’re in the 3D gaming of the future that you’ve always wanted!

Shoot Mr. Connor. Get warped to William Shatner within one second of his death. No warning. No need for a warning. Shock cut to Shatner’s warm embrace!

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He’s still upset about the rising civilian body count, by the way. He’s going to put me back on ice! Any day now! I’m beginning to suspect that he’s waiting until I save the day before sending me back to Cyro-sleep. He was probably going to do that anyway, though, so whatever!

Bill, it was the cops! It’s all their fault! They’re out of control! NO PEACE WITHOUT JUSTICE. NO JUSTICE WITHOUT PEACE.

Mission 7: Janus

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Once again, we’re in the bad part of town, though this is actually a different trashy subway station than the one from the previous two missions. It doesn’t have water leaking from the ceiling; no, this one has a drum on fire! See, it’s a nice display of opposing elements. The water and the fire bring to mind the inherent duality of Man. We can have the water or the fire, but not both. Whoa. TekWar is deep stuff.

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There is a guy sleeping on the floor of the subway station bathroom. He was placed here by a level designer without consent. He is a victim of Fate, but he uses this opportunity to become one with the filth and grime of this city. He knows that the only way to truly understand this world is to immerse himself in all of it. The highs, the lows, and everything in between. I encounter him and I understand. TekWar is a place where kindred souls may gather and come to such understanding. It is a place where we all may become whole.

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Enough philosophizing. It’s time to blast our way through “Ware1 Map”! Now, I know what you’re thinking: did they really make a warehouse level? Did they really go with that cliche? Of course not. This is TekWar. The designers are going to take us to operatic heights only whispered of in other games. TekWar is going to take us to the next level! They’re not going to waste their time showing us what we’ve all seen before! They’re going to give us the experience of the future!

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Spoiler: It’s a warehouse level.

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There’s not much to say about this place. Both of the keycards are here in Level 1, but the level isn’t that big and the cards are found in less than five minutes. More than any other mission, this one feels very short and perfunctory. There’s a real lack of imagination here. There’s also a lack of innocent civilians for me to accidentally shoot in the face. TekWar, I am disappoint.

This mission does have one bright spot: there’s a metal grating at one point that you can’t walk through. If you shoot it with the pistol, it breaks and allows passage to the other side. If you remember, way back in Mission 2, the air vent covers couldn’t be shot or broken. In that mission, we could just walk right through them. This game was programmed by the best!

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There’s also this false wall. Yes, you can just walk right through that wall to take a shortcut to one of the keycards. They had similar walls in games like Doom, but Doom involved demons with supernatural powers invading from Hell. In Doom, such weirdness fit with the aesthetic of the game perfectly. In TekWar, it makes no sense. Then again, nothing in TekWar makes sense!

I’m sorry. Carry on, gentlemen!

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Level 2! This is Janus’ hideout. There’s a truck that circles the lot and makes a hilarious Build Engine turn whenever it reaches a corner. Someone should make an animated GIF out of its turn, because it’s simply amazing.

Hey, don’t look at me. Please don’t look at me!

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And the award for “Not Giving A Shit Anymore Level Design” goes to TekWar, Mission 7, Level 2! Yes, let’s just lay out a bunch of corridors with the same lighting levels, the same textures on everything, and right angle turns all over the place. Really, who cares? All of this is just something to do between Shatner appearances. Let’s not strain ourselves trying to come up with anything interesting!

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At last, the red door is found! Behind it lies a teleporter that takes us to…

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The blue door! Guess what’s behind the blue door? Yes, it’s Janus hanging out in a room with no furniture, no enemies, and no other objects of any kind. How does he go to the bathroom? How does he conduct his evil business without any contact with the outside world? Only TekWar knows, and its secrets are likely lost for all time.

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William Shatner congratulates us for not shooting any innocent people, or at least, he doesn’t chastise us about such things. There weren’t any innocent people to shoot, though. I’m not sure I can take all of the credit here, Bill. It was a group effort!

So that’s the main seven missions of TekWar complete! We’re done here, right? Right?

Wrong.

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There is one other location available to us: the “Matrix”. What is the Matrix? After playing through it, I’m not sure I want to show you. It’s just too much. But the lords of comedy demand a full report. We’re going all the way down here, folks. You are free to turn back now if you want. There’s no judgment.

For those souls brave enough to see the worst TekWar has to offer, it’s time to…

Enter The Matrix

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Yes, that is the first thing you see after selecting The Matrix from the menu. There’s no mission briefing by William Shatner here. You’re just dumped into this mess with no idea what to do.

There’s no FAQ written for this game anyway, so it’s not like it matters. I did discover after finishing the game that you are supposed to come into the Matrix after each mission. You’re not supposed to do it all at once. Whoops! Anyway, the overall goal is to place 7 symbols (one for each TekLord) on a corresponding pedestal hidden somewhere in cyberspace. I vaguely recall reading that bit somewhere prior to playing through the game; armed with only that general knowledge, I faced down one of the most incomprehensible FPS missions ever made. It’s almost beautiful in its ridiculousness.

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There are seven teleporters in the main room, and no apparent way to ever get back to this room once you leave it. I expected the Minotaur to start stalking me several times during the three god damned hours it took me to finish this place. Here we go!

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In The Matrix, the A and Z keys aren’t used to Jump and Crouch. No, they let you fly up and down. Remember back in Mission 3, where we couldn’t swim upwards in the water to get air? For some reason, they successfully programmed in swimming for cyberspace, but not for water. I can’t even articulate my feelings about this.

The enemies consist of various grey blobs that shoot at us from all directions. This shaft probably takes around 30 seconds to traverse from top to bottom given your slow movement speed. At times, you will be repeatedly fired at by an enemy that you can’t see for a minute straight, though as a silver lining, the enemy can’t hit you and just keeps firing anyway. You get to listen to the looping blaster noises in the absence of all music, because I guess they didn’t feel like composing a music track for this map. God, this mission is glorious!

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“Access Required”. Well, that’s true. I do require access. How do I go about getting that, again?

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This is the greatest visualization of The Net ever composed. Sandra Bullock weeps at its beauty. There are things just arbitrarily placed in all sorts of locations. The goal appears to be hitting yellow spiral switches that are scattered about, and then flying around while trying to figure out if a door opened. The “energy pellet” health pickups don’t even give you a full bar of health back, and I’ve encountered enemies that shoot at me from inside the walls. This is cyberspace! This is TekWar!

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If you can figure out what’s going on in this screenshot, you win the prize! I don’t know what the prize is, though. How about one of those bouncing pulsating grey ball things on the lower right? They don’t seem to do anything. They don’t damage you and they don’t react to your attacks. They’re just… hanging out.

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I went through a teleporter, and now I’m hopelessly lost in this blue cube maze. Don’t worry, it could be worse. I’m not really sure how, but there must be something.

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Oh no! Cyberspace has a virus! If you fly anywhere near the virus texture, you health drains extremely fast. That’s just what this level needed! Damage tiles! YES!

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At last, we find a pedestal and awkwardly fumble about hitting Space to get the symbol placed! 1 down, 6 to go!

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Now, we’re… somewhere. Those cyber-spiderwebs aren’t walls, by the way. You can fly through them. You can fly through half of the walls in this mission. The designers just flipped a coin to decide whether a given wall was real or not. Just like with actual computers, everything is arbitrary. Things just happen with any logic or reason behind them. Again, this is one of the most accurate representations of the World of Computers ever made. Great job, gentlemen!

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This is the most computery image this level has produced yet! IT’S FULL OF STARS.

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I love these little pre-rendered spike traps. They don’t damage you; you just have to fly up and down to get past them. Still, they’re adorable. They clash with the look of the rest of the mission, inasmuch as this mission has a look, but they don’t care. They’re here, and they’re here to stay. Just deal with it.

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2 down, 5 to go! We can do this, guys! WE CAN DO THIS!

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Hey, we’ve found our way into a Virtual Boy! There are flying dandelions that don’t do anything, don’t react to our attacks, and are just there for decoration, apparently. In a game that makes no sense, The Matrix manages to make the rest of the game seem almost normal by comparison. It really is something.

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Now we’re being treated to spinning brown spheres that form a binary system suspended in the middle of space while walls painted with the colors of the damned burn themselves into our minds. This is cyberspace. More than that, though, this is William Shatner’s cyber-masterpiece!

Anyway, I have no idea what’s going on, but they’re not shooting at me, so they’re ok in my book.

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3 down, 4 to go! One saving grace for this mission is that every pedestal room looks exactly the same on the automap. Since they give you the entire automap at the start, and it doesn’t fill in gradually like it does in most games, you can usually figure out where you need to go. Actually opening the doors to get there is another story entirely…

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It’s red! Red for everyone! You know you love it!

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There are tripwires scattered about these halls. If you trip one, a computery voice says, “Intruder Detected” while enemies come out of side panels. Doors will also drop down behind you with the message “Intruder Captured” written upon them. It’s a fearsome place! I want to go home!

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These metal gratings are just there for decoration. You can fly right through them to find this switch hidden at the bottom. I guess they’re cyber-gratings, or something. I’m sure this must make sense to somebody, somewhere. Actually, I’m not sure of that. I’m not sure of anything anymore.

But we can hope!

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4 down, 3 to go! God, do I really have to keep playing this? AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

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The blue thing bounces up and down the hallway. You need to pass through the barriers that line the hallway along with it. In a world that makes no sense, this… is actually somewhat logical. Well, a little bit. Maybe. Then again, maybe my mind is just melting. Stranger things have happened.

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5 down! Almost there!

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This area has four giant rooms full of enemies. I was running low on health and ammo by the end of it, but I made it. Anyway, you hit switches on the walls to open up each of the four “flower petals” you can see on the automap. They have these hilarious green buzzsaw enemies mixed in there; they fly around like flying saucers. What?

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6 down, 1 left! Let’s finish this!

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And… it warps me back around to somewhere I’ve already been. Which one did I miss?

After perusing the screenshots, I’ve deduced that I must have missed the first one. Now, I discovered a great thing about this mission: if you quit to the level select and restart it, the symbols you’ve successfully placed remain there. In other words, you don’t have to do all of this in one pass! I did 6 of the 7 symbols at once for no reason! YES!

Anyway, let’s just jump back in with a health recharge and try to find the last one!

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Well, we’ve managed to get this door open now. What could possibly lie beyond?

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After an overlong traversal of an elevator shaft, we find ourselves in Red Cube Land! Bad guys annoy us at every turn, but this place is stuffed with health pickups and ammo, so whatever!

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Get ready for the part that stumped me for a good twenty minutes! There’s a switch on the wall of this room, but it doesn’t open the door to the pedestal. No, it actually lowers the outer portion of this column in the center of the room. You have to wait for it to slowly descend and expose the switch that does open the door we need. Well, that makes perfect sense!

That bad guy is just hanging out, by the way. He doesn’t attack, and my shots pass right through him. I think he’s just here to observe.

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Anyway, this is the door that opens; I forgot to take a screenshot of it afterward. I was also unable to take a picture of the 7th Symbol placed on its pedestal, because the game shock cut to:

The Last Level

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William Shatner tells us that some Tek terrorists are about to broadcast a signal that will get everyone addicted to Tek. Or something. I have no idea what’s going on. Shatner says something about “the finest cyber-jocks on the Net!” Ok, Bill. Let’s just get this over with!

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The last level is a dingy slum. It’s completely different from Mission 6, because there’s like 6% less graffiti. TekWar‘s creativity is just boundless!

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There are exploding barrels all over the place, but this addict remained unperturbed after a dozen of them blew up right next to him. Tek must be some good stuff!

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Yes, this is the finale. This is it. This is it!

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This truck has a ladder leading underground at the back of its trailer. Does it make any sense? No. Do the holograms of the seven TekLords that accost you throughout this level make any sense? No. Of course not! They had the Robot Masters reappear in Wily’s Fortress in the Mega Man games, so why not here? Just go with it!

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Anyway, just past this door is the last boss. He dies after you shoot him a couple times with the pistol. Shock cut to:

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Happy William Shatner! He congratulates us on a job well done, and tells us that he convinced the parole board to let us remain unfrozen. However, while he acknowledges that we stopped the worst threat to the city since “that nuclear bomb scare back in the 90s”, he also notes that for every TekLord we killed, there are 10 more ready to take their place. He also briefly rambles on about TekLords operating throughout the world. It sounds like we’re going to be working with Shatner whether we want to or not… forever.

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Then the game jumps to this credit screen. It’s every bit as incomprehensible as the rest of the game. It never transitions to another screen; the game just stays here. Any guesses as to what happens when you press a key?

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That’s right: it kicks you back to the DOS prompt! No fanfare, no anything. Just the cold feel of an unceremonious exit. TekWar is done with us. Just go back to DOS and get out of its life!

Whatever. We made it, I guess. We made it!

Final Thoughts

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TekWar is TekWar. What can you say?

It’s not the worst game I’ve ever played. It’s messy, unfinished, unpolished, and embarrassing, but it does have its charm. The general ideas of the game are interesting, even if those ideas were not fully realized due to the limitations of the technology of the time and the limitations of the designers themselves. Still, the idea of a near-future city with civilian and police NPCs mixed in with the enemies is an interesting concept for the time period. There were other games, like Strife, that were more successful on this front, but they didn’t have low-res videos of William Shatner yelling at you for murdering too many people while Getting The Job Done!

Of course, Deus Ex would eventually do everything TekWar was trying to do and go down as one of the best FPS/RPG hybrids of all time. The Elder Scrolls games, which started up around the same time as TekWar, were more advanced than it, then and now. TekWar itself doesn’t have all that much going on. Really, after you’ve played through one level, you’ve seen the game. It’s a rough concept for an idea that was released before they were actually able to make it, you know, good. Details!

Anyway, I got to hear William Shatner say “cyber-jocks”, so I have to say that this was time well spent!

About Vandel

I am an insect who dreamt he was a man, and loved it. But now the dream is over, and the insect is awake.