Monday, June 15, 2009

Havoc (Reality Bytes, 1995) Review

This is the transcript for the video review of the game Havoc by Reality Bytes. Some of the text was taken out of the video review to save time and make it short enough.

So, to start with my first, humble, “review”, I have chosen a rather obscure PC and Macintosh game called Havoc, released in 1995 by Reality Bytes. Cool name huh? By the way, that logo looks like a grue on acid.

Havoc is basically a somewhat upgraded clone of the old classic, Battlezone (and similar later titles). It’s a simple yet challenging first person driving/shooter with tons of weapons, upgrades, enemies, bosses and all things fuzzy. But before I continue with the actual game, I’d like to present another new section of this unbearable blurb, which I so befittingly entitle: BORING TIRESOME FACTS NOBODY CARES ABOUT BUT ME.

The earliest mention of Reality Bytes I’ve managed to dig out is connected to a somewhat unknown game for Mac called Sensory Overload. A Doom clone, with a hint of some sneaking action, set in a medical facility where the player is surrounded by “dead bodies and terrorists”. Alas, I haven’t been able to find more info on this game.
The next game is Havoc, the game I’m talking about right now... And, the last one to come out of this studio is Dark Vengeance, a third person hack & slash, set in a fantasy world where dark magic causes an eclipse and wakes up some grouchy dark elves that seem generally pissed off.

Now, Havoc was made under the guidance of the almighty Microsoft. Bless them. Why Microsoft, you may ask? Well, here be the deal, matey. Havoc was very much pushed alongside the release of the new and groundbreaking OS Microsoft liked to call Chicago (yes, yes, we all know it's Windows 95). MS took Reality Bytes under their wing (or up their ass, all the same really) and gave them new and amazing technological improvements in the form of the Game SDK interfaces of the new and almighty DirectX. It even had support for some VR headsets of the time. Havoc was advertised as one of the games that would really take advantage of Windows 95 and its graphics and networking technology.
That’s why Jason Robar and Alex St. John are also mentioned in the credits.
Mr. Robar worked in M$ since 1994 on relations with game developers, later making a virtual software for DARPA, founding some companies and now making family-oriented online entertainment software.
Alex St. John is pretty well known in the computers and gaming world, being one of the main people responsible for creating the DirectX technology and other stuff. He’s also the CEO and co-founder of WildTangent.

Now, about the people behind this studio:

David Chait is the co-founder of Reality Bytes alongside Jon Chait, which, I assume, is his brother. So, David Chait seems to have moved a bit further in the video games world. He is credited in several later games regarding conversion to MAC, then on two Tourque Engine games, as PRODUCER on Nascar Racing 2003 and an additional programmer for Lords of the Realm III in 2004.
Jason Davis is another name that seems to be closely attached to Reality Bytes and he has sustained a place in the gaming market through beta testing. Namely, working in Absolute Quality Inc, a beta testing and quality assurance company, apparently founded in 1996 by five members of the original MicroProse Software Inc. He’s mentioned in games like Heavy Gear II, Civilization: Call to Power and its sequel and the 2003 Hulk game.
Now this next guy, Bhavin Patel is also credited in some later games. He’s been mostly connected to art and graphics in projects such as the first Command & Conquer, Looking Glass’ Flight Unlimited II and Jane’s Combat Simulations: Attack Squadron and finally mentioned as art director for the Neverwinter Nights expansions.
You see? That’s what the industry does to you. They had their own company and then got scattered around, beta testing for other people and whatnot. C'est la vie, I guess.

So, finally, coming back to the game itself. Not that these unnecessary offtopic detours are boring you or anything. It’s just that I’m mostly out dry right now.

Havoc is set in a wastelandish, cyberpunk future surrounded by post apocalyptic vistas. Corporations wage wars for territorial domination and you are a mercenary, with a task to take over the Tyrakian Global conglomerate. You do this directly by driving one of the three vehicles at your disposal – the heavyweight HyperTank, the speedy yet fragile BattleCycle and the well balanced HoverCraft. I personally like the HoverCraft for its balance between maneuverability and armor but the heavily armored HyperTank might be the best bet for newcomers. So you take your seat in the futuristic pain machine and are presented with the HUD of the vehicle. The loading screen has always been so cool for me, looking at a gradual drawing out of a simplified wireframe model of the terrain. And WHABAM, the action starts.
The first thing you notice are your wastelandish surroundings. Then you immediately notice the very funky fade in filter which is supposed to represent a smooth, fog-like popup. A very very advanced effect, used even today, yeah. Take, for example, GTA4. You see that LOD popup? How about this Alpha-to-Coverage effect on the trees? Or the popup of closer objects? Damn straight. Havoc’s graphics are pretty much up to date, I’d say.

I’m pretty sure there’s a thin, subtle underlying layer of irony in all this… but I’ll let you figure it out by yourself.

The controls are pretty simple. Forward/reverse, turning, shooting and you can look upwards for airborne enemies. The cool thing is the targeting computer which shows a red triangle on screen and actually has a bit of autoaim on it. You can also use two smaller screens in the lower corners of the HUD. The leftmost can be switched to a rear view or target view while the other one shows the overhead map or radar of the level. The very movement speed depends on your choice of vehicle and, seeing as you are mostly driving around wastelands, you have to be careful not to drive too fast all the time. It’s very easy to hit a minor obstacle or higher ground and the worst thing is you loose armor by doing that.

Oh, and there are those spinning 3D points, very arcadeish. Also, I think the game uses the Arial font for all the text. Funny stuff. Me and my brother always used to laugh how the C64 had awesome fonts and cool shaded letters while the PC games mostly used the basic DOS font or other similar, generic fonts.

The game is really packed with tons of weapons and upgrades, as well as enemies. You got two or three upgrades of some of the basic weapons such as lasers, umbrellas, rockets, flame thrower and some more exotic stuff like mines, the mortar and the terrain deformer. That’s another cool feature. The terrain is partially destructible, along with accordingly changing textures. An explosion or a rocket blast bends the polygons a little and there’s the weapon that makes spikes come out of the ground as it rises the terrain. Pretty awesome for the time. There aren’t many games that do that today.
Remember Red Faction? Real holes in walls, wow.

Also, there are tons of buildings to blow up for points and the occasional item they spawn. The thing is, blowing up stuff can also hurt you. Not so much from the explosion than from the debris it creates. Every destroyed enemy or building blows up in chunks of metal which fall to the ground then hurting you on the way down and then you smash your keyboard. The debris tends to take just a small amount of armor, but this can become very tedious in the later levels where everything is packed with enemies and blows up all around you, so you can find yourself with just one precious line of armor. So, just a few hits of that debris can kill you.

So, you got this frantic shooting gameplay which is horrendously stretched to 30 levels. Yeah. Not kidding. That’s about as much levels as that game with a mushroom called TOAD and an elusive piece of fruit with a fetish for royal jewelry. You know, I spent most of my childhood playing the original Mario called The Great Gianna Sisters. Then those Nintendo bastards ripped it off (FACT).
Remember when action games had over 10 levels and 5 hours of gameplay? That was pretty much a standard in those days. Not that I’m voting for quantity over quality (which is probably the case here) but I’m not really hot for weekend brainkillers either, with no replay value whatsoever. Those are 30 levels with different environments like wastelands, ice-scapes, the Tyrakian colorful yet dark and hellish world which reminds me of the old ZX Spectrum games, nocturnal graphics with a lot of the base colors… mostly yellow though. Those also remind me of the later 3Dfx and Nintendo 64 graphics. Using lots of colors and gradients was considered very cool at the time. Just showing what the technology can do with new, exciting and colorful effects. Today’s games are mostly brown. Or blurred. Or both.

Although, in those 30, you got 6 boss battles and also 6 bonus levels where you run around, gathering crystals and Havoc letters for bonus points. I swear, these bonus levels are nerve wrecking and downright impossible to complete.

The enemies are somewhat diverse, even though they’re just a bit different models of the same enemies really. There are some nifty refreshments from the recycled hovercrafts like the metallic beasts in the Tyrak zone which, instead of the drive-by sound, give off that popular howling cheetah scream. Heavy tin cans modeled after snakes, spiders, a hedgehog (I presume) and a butterfly. You’ll also encounter some annoying ground and wall turrets, and even though they’re static, they got a pretty big detection radius.
Speaking of turrets… the objective of every level is to gather three keys guarded by special boss turrets, so the collected keys spawn a gate to the next level, and ultimately the boss of that world.

The bosses are the most interesting guys here. A large tank with EMP bombs that fuck up your targeting and radar systems, a very annoying teleporting flying bastard, or more exotic stuff like the living fire in Tyrak or fighting your doppelganger! It’s also fun that the boss weapons get unlocked after you beat them so there’s a chance they’ll pop up from a killed enemy later on.

Now, for me, the greatest part of this game is the music. The sounds are pretty shitty and can slowly eat your brains with repetition. But, the music is awesome. That’s another thing you don’t see (or hear) these days. We get a shitload of different titles every year, games made by hundreds of people, can buy a small island with the amount of money involved and most of these games have no memorable musical scores at all. It’s just full of the generic orchestral, intense crap that should create some sort of a quick emotion with the player, like feeling intense during a shootout or sad when a space marine teammate dies.
Did you feel sad when a teammate died in some newer game? Didn’t think so.
There are exceptions, but all of these are minor musical gems in a sea of mediocre themes.

You know, as far as I’m concerned, sound and music are key aspects of the gaming experience, and there’s not nearly enough work spent on composing as it is on graphics. I come from a history of Commodore 64 and a bit of NES gaming and these games were packed with really, really awesome songs. This isn’t just out of nostalgia here, I’m talking about musical scores that have defined those games, that time, and they sound amazing even today. Not to mention that these sounds are getting pretty mainstream today, which pisses me off, and I want to massacre those bastards for butchering the 8 bit sound, and feed them to the dogs… Not to mention those things.

The music is made in a kind of module format, with chunks of samples put together. Most of the game files are packed in an old Fast-File format (which I managed to unpack with the help of a very cool guy) so you can really hear the pattern samples one by one and see how the songs are actually put together.

I don’t really give a fuck if you don’t like techno, industrial or electronic music altogether, or if this sounds too repetitive to you. I love it. I’ve read that a lot of people also hate the System Shock 2 music, as it somehow ruins the scary atmosphere. Yeah right. System Shock 2 has one of the greatest game soundtracks to date. Anyway, this music is awesome.
You know, I’ve had a pretty hard time finding Havoc and haven’t played it in years, but the one thing that stuck to me was the music. Reminds me of Terminal Velocity. Hell, the whole games is like Terminal Velocity, only on land. Now THAT’S another cool game. So yeah, phreakin’ great music.

Now, this game was interesting for some other things as well. The game itself came in a pretty big and empty box with two discs inside. The thing is, Havoc used a networking technology that enables up to 16 players online and is cross platform ready as well. This means that Mac and PC players could play against one another in multiplayer deathmatch, which was pretty awesome for the time. The second disk, called the friend disk I think, was put there so you could give it to your friend and play with him online instantly.

Oh yeah, one more thing. Running this game on a modern PC is a major pain in the ass. The main issue is how the game handles the CPU cycles. In other words, it’s too freakin’ fast. The best solution I’ve come up with is running Windows 98 or 95 as a Guest OS in VirtualPC and using a CPU throttle software, like WinThrottle, to significantly slow down your CPU. You can try just using WinThrottle in Windows XP, Vista or whatever but I found that to be much more uncomfortable and skippy.

So there you go. I’d say Havoc is one of the more obscure titles I’ve run into while browsing the web. There are no video clips of the gameplay found anywhere… well, until now, that is. Also, getting a hold of the game is a feat by itself. I guess there are some advantages when living in an undeveloped country. There’s a guy selling an original copy of the game on eBay for a whooping 70$ but I have a feeling you can get a hold of it by some other means… who knows. ;)
Havoc by Reality Bytes, ladies and gentlemen. A cool shooter that deserves a bit more attention, if only for the music. That’s it for now folks. Hopefully, this video won’t be taken down in the first five minutes coz’ of the sheer amount of people and companies mentioned here. Fair use! FAIR USE!


  1. I remember when i play this game, glorious gold times!!!
    You have it??
    I search on google but i can´t found it, you can help me?

  2. Sorry for such a late reply. Go to and search for HAVOC or go by year (1995). There's a full rip of the game there. You may want to register on the forums there, I think I posted a short tutorial on how to run the game on modern PCs.

    Good luck :).

    1. The link no longer exists :/ PLEASE help me find my childhood game!!!

    2. The link no longer exists :/ PLEASE help me find my childhood game!!!

    3. I have the game on cd and can upload it if you wish

  3. thanks for the link! This was my first PC Game :_)