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OC HIGH / Student News and Views : VIDEO GAME REVIEW : General Chaos; For Sega Genesis by Electronic Arts, $49.95

January 06, 1994|WILLIAM SCHIFFMANN | ASSOCIATED PRESS

War is hell, said Civil War Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman.

Maybe not, says Electronic Arts.

In fact, with General Chaos, Electronic Arts has turned blood-and-guts combat into a cartoony brawl between small teams of really ugly handpicked soldiers serving either Gen. Chaos or his archrival, Gen. Havoc.

Chaos and Havoc were childhood buddies who played war games, collected military literature and pretty much prepared themselves for a career of bloodletting.

One day, Chaos found an old and valuable combat comic book and made the mistake of showing it to the greedy Havoc. They fought over the crumbling pages, finally ripping it to shreds.

Each blamed the other, and their friendship turned to hatred that eventually drove them to send armies of men into combat for revenge.

Now Chaos serves the lovely land of Moronica, while Havoc plans and schemes for the rival town of Viceria.

This is not, however, your standard combat game.

The two generals have agreed to fight with small squads of men, and that's how you start the game.

As many as four players may take part, using EA's new 4-Way Play plug strip. The best way to start is in Boot Camp, where you get to practice your warrior skills: squad control, using weapons, close combat, medical staff and commandos.

Then it's off to war.

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A map appears on the screen, and the army that won the last battle (or the blue army at the start of the game) selects the next battlefield. There 51 battlefields.

Next, you choose a squad from four choices: assault team, demolition squad, brute force squad and commandos. Each five-man squad has its own skills and abilities; the commando squad is only two men and should be saved for special tasks.

There are five types of soldiers. The gunner uses a small machine gun; the chucker tosses hand grenades; the scorcher wields a flamethrower; the launcher has a bazooka, and the blaster tosses dynamite.

You watch the battle from overhead. At the start, your five men face a similar number of enemies. In a one-player game, the computer runs the red team, while you control the blue.

The D pad controls a cursor that you can position to move highlighted soldiers to make the best use of each soldier's abilities. Gunners can be placed further from the enemy than chuckers, who need to be close to hit the target with their grenades.

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Keep your men on the move, and spread them out. If you hold still too long, you're a sitting duck. There are a limited number of medics available--you can add to the total by collecting a medic icon on some battlefields--to patch up the wounded.

But sooner or later, soldiers have to die. As your GIs are wasted, a small white skull appears in that soldier's slot in the information bar at the top of the screen. If your five die before Havoc's, you lose that round and Havoc picks the next battlefield.

Points are awarded for plunder collected, total acreage (each battlefield represents a certain number of acres) and casualties inflicted.

Graphics are good but not spectacular. One of the high points is the sound of weapons.

Planning is rewarded, and the more you play, the better you get at positioning the proper soldier in the proper place to waste Havoc's troops.

In one of the game's few weak points, getting too close to an enemy soldier brings the battle to a halt while the two have a fistfight. Control is slow and blows seem to move through molasses.

That aside, this is an amazingly entertaining game. The gore level is very low--nothing to damage even the most delicate psyche.

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