Pushing The Limits: Robocop 3
The 16-bit version of Robocop 3 proved that movie adaptations needn’t be one-dimensional
How this movie licence stretched the Atari ST’S capabilities
» Platform: Atari St » Developer: Digital image Design » released: 1991
Ocean scored a hit with its Robocop tie-in, and it repeated the formula when it came to the games based on the movie sequels. Robocop 2 featured side-scrolling ‘Robo on patrol’ stages interspersed with token minigames, and Robocop 3 did exactly the same – or at least it did on consoles and 8-bit computers. It was quite a different story on the Atari ST, Amiga and PC however, where 2D Old Detroit became 3D Delta City.
This version of Robocop 3 was developed by Digital Image Design, which had previously developed flight sim F29 Retaliator. Studio director Martin Kenwright has revealed that the company was working on a 3D concept titled ‘Mechadroid’ which they demoed to Ocean at the CES show in September 1990. Martin suggested that the robot in the game could become Robocop, and the guys at Ocean went for it. Robocop 3 was released the following year, just in time for Christmas.
Like most movie adaptations, it was made up of sub-games based on the script. So there was a driving bit, a shooting bit, a flying bit and a fighting bit. But unlike other adaptations, this one was in full 3D. There were no sprites, just solid polygons, and it worked brilliantly.
The opening driving scene, which saw Robo patrolling Delta City in his cruiser, was hugely impressive. The following on-foot section was even better, delivering basic but effective FPS thrills before the term was even coined. The flying and fighting scenes were less successful, but were still technically remarkable for the time. Unsurprisingly the title was raved about on release. Ed Ricketts of ST Format magazine awarded it 94%, saying: “Robocop 3 is perhaps the first example of what can really be done with a licence with some thought, time and programming excellence.”
We’ve chosen to highlight the Atari ST version here because, like a few pure polygon games, it runs marginally faster and smoother than the Amiga version. Moreover, we like to champion the underdog when we can. We also like to celebrate that rare thing – a movie licence that’s more enjoyable and inventive than the source material. This is by far the best product to carry the Robocop 3 name.