Game Review - by James Allen
Remember the early days of gaming? Where shooting aliens/alien ships/tanks was the order of the day. We go back to those golden days with MAD: Global Thermonuclear War. This game concerns itself with two sides lobbing nuclear missiles back and forth, and an epic struggle to research new technologies for offensive and defensive purposes. Nothing could be closer to good, clean fun than an all-out nuclear holocaust! Come join the peacekeepers at Small Rockets and hop on a bomb with me! Yeehaw!
MAD features both single and multiplayer warfare. And that's pretty much it. All of the "scenarios" are the same with no variations in gameplay; the only difference is the relative starting point. You can choose to start each game by selecting territories (like Risk) or randomly assigning them. And off you go! Not much more to report here.
The most memorable sound is the wailing of the nuclear launch alarm. Other than that, it's a mishmash of distorted voices and background noises. Not that it ruins the atmosphere at all; they are well done and have a futuristic flair. All they really do is support the overall global missile warfare, and that they do admirably.
The basic premise of MAD is to annihilate your opponent by sending enough nuclear missiles onto their territories in a quick fashion. There are several levels of interaction that you will encounter, each with their own purpose. The city view is where you start your Star Wars program. In each city, you mine minerals, and construct nuclear missile silos and launch pads. The brunt of your work takes place in the space stations. All of these components are launched from the ground, and hover directly above the respective territory. You can conduct research and launch defensive mechanisms from here. Your research consists of six different disciplines: nuclear missiles, kinetics (projectile defenses), electronic countermeasures, space station infrastructure, research (researching research speeds up research), and commercial applications (cash). The variation in gameplay one finds in MAD is buried in the decision on which improvements to research. You can have each space station (with a science lab on board) researching a different topic, or all focusing on one specific goal. It's important to choose the correct technology path, so that you can keep up with the competition.
The actual flow of the game is fast and furious. Keeping up with the computer is an exercise in speedy clicking, and switching between the different views with ease. Thankfully, the interface provides for efficient switching to specific areas in all your territories. Cities slowly regenerate their strength over time, so, to effectively destroy them (and overload the opposition's defensive systems), you need to launch several attacks to the same location in succession. The AI controlled defense (especially for your side) is very weak, and it's better to jump into the chair yourself and take the helm against opposing nuclear missiles. There is rarely an awkward pause during MAD: Global Thermonuclear Warfare and this frantic pace adds to the charm of the game.
The graphics hold up pretty well for this simple game. All of the facets of international warfare are depicted in arcade-like "accuracy." The earth, present beneath your omnipresent view, looks believable enough. All of the space stations and assorted missiles look decent enough. The explosions are neat to watch, and convey the destructive nature of the game. Overall, the graphics do not hinder the experience, but also are not mind-blowing.
For what it's worth, MAD does a good job at presenting a very arcade and fast paced game of nuclear warfare. As you can imagine, a game such as this does not have much depth, but that's certainly fine. The gameplay does tend to get repetitive after a couple of rounds of play, but enough research options are present to mix things up and make it interesting. If you're looking for an arcade encounter in the same vein as Missile Command, then MAD: Global Thermonuclear Warfare may just be for you.