Nemac IV:The Director's Cut

An OS-friendly game with promise, but room for improvement

By Steve Duff, Contributing Writer,

Screen Shots:

First | Second | Third


Nemac IV: The Director's Cut is a Doom-clone in the sci-fi Marathon vein. Your task is to infiltrate Nemac IV, an automated defense installation gone haywire. The installation will vigorously defend itself with armies of robots and embedded systems. Your task, as in all such shooters, is to kill everything that moves and survive to the exit.


To quote; "Any Amiga computer with 68020 or better, AmigaOS 2.0 or better, 2MB of Memory and 5MB on Harddisk." Worth noting is that a CD-ROM is also required, both to install the game and to run the animations while playing.

System Used For Test:

A4060T, 18MB RAM, CV64/3D 4MB, 4X SCSI CD-ROM.

The Good Stuff, Part One:

Nemac IV is a model of good behavior on the installation and OS-friendliness end. It installs easily off the CD-ROM, supports OCS, ECS and AGA machines, supports Picasso and CyberGraphX standards, supports 3D I-glasses and has a great configuration window. From this window you can set the screen mode, activate I-glasses support, choose to go with CPU or CPU+Blitter, set-up your keyboard or joystick, and basically do everything but set window-size. This is actually a good thing, because the opening animation is a bit finicky. Depending on your configuration, it has very definite ideas about the window-size it wants to play smoothly in. On my machine, it played best quarter-screen on an 800x600 CGX screen, or a 640x512 PAL or NTSC screen off AGA. Actually, the AGA playback was never as good as the CGX, a theme throughout the game. As to the opening animation itself, it was impressive work accompanied by a powerful synth soundtrack. Cranked through my 3-piece Yamaha set, it annoyed everyone in the house!

The Good Stuff, Part Two:

Unlike any other Doom-clone, Nemac IV puts you in the perspective of a 'Walker,' rather like those of Mechwarrior fame. The theme is complete down to the deep bass 'boom-boom-boom' as you walk, which imparts an enjoyable sense of rhythm and power to your movement. There are guns on each side of the Walker and their animation is very nicely done. The game also has sharp textures, which allowed great latitude in window-resizing. I was able to play in a 320x256 CGX screen with the game window expanded to practically full-screen on a 17-inch monitor. Even so, the image was not seriously degraded, and the game ran very fast. The same could not be said if you tried to play on a 640x480 screen with window-size bumped-up. Although the window's default size is 320x240, expanding it on a 640x480 screen resulted in the game becoming a slideshow.

Aside from the sharp textures, Nemac IV had better-looking sprites than most Amiga Doom-clones, though they are still a far cry from those of Doom or Marathon. I'm not quite sure what the problem is, but basically, the monsters in Amiga Doom-style games leave a lot to be desired. Partly making up for this, the game has excellent explosions and some nice associated physics. Blasting a toxic barrel gives an impressive and thunderous blast accompanied by dead robots shooting across the floor! Really cool! Unusually, you can also move the barrels around -- supposedly an important consideration in later levels.

Wrapping things up on the graphics end, the CD-ROM contains over 90 screenshots done in 640x512. They must have been playing on a top-secret multiprocessing miggy when they took those! Also, there are 18 rendered images, some of truly photorealistic quality. Very nice work.

In terms of gameplay, the controls are very smooth. I set all my movement keys on the numeric keypad, since it offers easy and smooth circle-strafing, i.e., circling an enemy while keeping it constantly under fire. Alas, this strategy proved less effective in Nemac IV than in Doom, since nearly all the enemies have rapid-fire weapons and many of them tend to spray fire all over the place. Oh well. As to the feel, Nemac IV gives a good sensation of straight-ahead, rapid-fire carnage. However.......

The Bad Stuff, Part One:

It's actually generous to call this game a Doom clone, since it only has a Wolfenstein-grade engine. The only vertical variable I noticed in 12 levels was ceiling height. Although one assumes the floor could be varied as well, perhaps the engine uses some sort of inflexible deckplane-style reference. In any case, the levels are all flat mazes. Further, aside from the complete lack of stairs, there's also no windows, nor is there open sky. Lighting effects? Nope, not even sector-based lighting. Nor did I see any animated textures. Basically, very little in the way of cool architecture or mood-building atmosphere. Even if an editor existed for this game, it would offer little for the budding designer to work with.

The level design itself is mostly quite pedestrian. The first seven levels are for practice, and while not entirely lacking in charm, they have little to recommend them against games with a superior engine. The gameplay is very easy in these early levels as well, and even though three difficulty settings (Normal, Hard and Impossible) are offered, I saw very little difference between them. However, the designers began to cheat, making the levels harder by hiding necessary powerups behind secret doors. Most of these are nearly impossible to find since there's no visual cue, such as a texture offset or lighting variance, to betray them.

Level 7 is fairly difficult and has a nail-biter ending. After this, the gloves come off. Level 10 is a grueling adventure and Level 12 starts you under heavy fire, after which it only gets worse.

Making life all the more insufferable is that games can only be saved between levels. While some purists (masochists) enjoy the high difficulty this gives a game, the fact is that for most players it's just frustrating and boring. It would be one thing if skill alone could get you through, but 3D shooters have a high 'random factor.' They never play the same way twice. You can get practically to the end of a level, then get whacked, and then take five more tries just to get back where you were. In the case of Nemac IV, you'll quickly lose interest because the levels themselves are fairly dull. In Doom parlance, they would be termed 'room-by-room' shooters. Open a door, shoot at the enemies inside, then go in and mop up the survivors -- again and again and again. Better level design would offer tripwire traps and complex moving sectors, where you suddenly find yourself surrounded by enemies, but these are not found here.

As luck would have it, the enemies also have terrible AI. They cannot turn corners or open doors. Their typical 'see through walls once awakened' line-of-sight tracking actually causes them to crash into walls and get stuck. It's almost tragic to watch their little metal feet scraping uselessly against the ground as they try to burrow through the walls. Oddly, this actually makes the game more difficult. In Doom, the superior movement routines of the enemy can bring them to the doorway, where you can wait and pick them off. Not so in Nemac IV. You have to blast them to smithereens from outside, but eventually plunge in only to find enemies freeing themselves from the walls to fire on you.

The enemies also have no personality. They aren't named in the manual, so you really have no prior notion what you're up against before plunging into action. Without doubt, the most annoying enemy is what looks like a 'walking rangefinder,' or perhaps a surveyor's telescope. This critter has a pistol on it somewhere that creates an ungodly racket. Get a few of these in a room and they can drive you insane. Most of the enemies are also quite weak. There is a flying teakettle robot with a plasma gun that will account for most of your deaths, along with a tough but seldom-encountered Walker sporting dual plasma guns. Other than that, you really only need to watch out for the 'flying bombs' that resemble giant floating cough drops.

Alas, the game is unambitious in the sound department. There is no music for the levels, no ambient sounds, and the enemies make no noise except the sound of their firing.

The Bad Stuff, Part Two:

Then there's the bugs. Like, call an exterminator for this one! Nemac IV is the buggiest game I've encountered on any platform. First, it was the annoying 'ammo bug.' This one caused my maximum bullet allowance to drop from 800 to 256 once I grabbed bullets on Level 3. Then came the bugs in the clipping and drawing routines. Nemac IV seems uncommonly prone to narrow vertical texture rips around sharp edges. This is true of all texture-mappers, but more in Nemac than the others I've played. Also, if you stretch the window to an odd size, you'll get 'hall of mirrors' effects around wall edges, notably on AGA screens. Using an odd-sized window can also make the doors too small for their openings. If there are any monsters behind these doors, they will see you and open fire, where normally they wouldn't. One positive side effect is that thin slivers of light can betray the otherwise unfindable secret doors!

The biggest clipping bug I encountered was on Level 5, where I was able to walk right through a solid wall! Otherwise, there seems to be a flaw in collision-detection with closing doors. You can easily run through a mostly-closed door, or shoot grenades through it. Once, I saw a flying teakettle pass like a ghost through a door almost completely shut.

Most recently the game has suffered audio and movement bugs that bring the whole affair to a halt and cause a crash on quitting. Another bug (after a recent re-install) can see you start a level surrounded by corrupt textures. You can count the seconds until the crash. Then there's a bug where, if you play several levels in a row, the game can 'load up' and temporarily slow to a crawl.

I took out MCP and most other tools, as the docs suggest, but the bugs persist. Your mileage may vary. Chances are that the A4000 design has some problems here as well.


Nemac IV is a promising first effort by Zentek. They did a lot of things right, but these were outweighed by the things they did wrong. Even if the game was less buggy, it would still suffer from a PreCambrian engine, third-rate level design, poor enemies and an overall sense of boredom by comparison to similar, but superior games. It shows, yet again, why no Doom clone has quite matched the original game. As usual, concentration is placed on extraneous 'features,' such as cool explosions (in this case) while gameplay takes a back seat. This game also lacks support for deathmatch and co-op play online, vastly reducing its lastability. Also, I think it's a good idea for Amiga Doom-clones to include level editors, rather than hoping a third-party programmer writes one. With a level editor provided, it might be possible for players to stretch the engine a bit and get more mileage and excitement out of the game.

I think Nemac IV should also serve as a warning to the teams behind Brainkiller and Genetic Species. Really guys, it's awfully late in the day to be bringing out souped-up Wolfensteins, and it's getting later by the minute. Please, take a look at Breathless, or Trapped 2, and if you still can, get at least a variance in floor and ceiling heights, then throw in stairs, windows, and sky textures. We'd really like that, hint-hint. :>

Nemac IV rating:

Highs: OS-friendly, easy install, cool animated opening, great configuration window, sharp textures, smooth controls.

Lows: Terrible enemy AI, obsolete Wolfenstein engine, lack of atmosphere, supremely buggy and ultimately, just plain boring.

Rating -- 65%