Who’s going to be the strongest warrior?

One of the fondest memories from my childhood is the day my father unexpectedly arrived home early one wintry evening in October. He was carrying a plastic briefcase embezzled with a shiny Blockbuster logo under his arm. What lay inside would change my gaming life forever.

“The man in the store sold me this second hand, it’s only got one game with it. I think you’ll like it.” my father confidently explained. I cracked open the case eager to find out what lay inside, praying it was an N64, the console my brother and I had originally set our hearts on. We lifted the lid slowly like Link opening a treasure chest only to be greeted by a dull, grey rectangular box.

This wasn’t an N64 but a Sony PlayStation. We were slightly disappointed at first but our mood quickly changed to fevered excitement as the realisation of being a proud new PlayStation owner began to sink in. Our epic ride with Sony had just begun and this would also be our first introduction to 3D polygon graphics.

As we rummaged deeper into the foam covered case, we found the game hidden behind the various wires and accessories. The game was called Cyber Sled – and we’d never heard of it.

As I eyed up the box art, it thankfully showed huge promise; colourful tanks engaged in vehicular combat, surrounded by giant explosions. This game certainly had potential, or at least that’s what I thought, because if my Mega Drive years had taught me anything about video games, it was that interesting box art usually resulted in a decent game. Usually…

Sled Head

“Ladies and gentleman this is today’s main event, who’s going to be the strongest warrior. Let’s hear it for them.” As the announcer spoke these immortal words for the very first time I honestly thought we’d stumbled upon another gem of a game purely by chance, but alas it was not to be.

This was cyber tanks, blocky, cumbersome cyber tanks, fighting it out for machine supremacy.

This wasn’t sweaty, ripped Gladiators battling it out in a giant coliseum surrounded by blood thirsty Roman onlookers calling for their heads. This was cyber tanks, blocky, cumbersome cyber tanks, fighting it out for machine supremacy and their pilots quest to become the strongest of them all and claim glory.

The gameplay had you manoeuvring your tank (sled) around an arena, blowing the crap out of the opposition while dodging behind the pillars and walls to avoid incoming enemy fire. Each tank came with its own unique abilities and there was six to choose from. They all had their own benefits and negatives e.g. speed over more heavy armour.

You had two weapon types, missiles and machine guns. Firing your machine guns too quickly would cause them to overheat and your missiles were limited in supply. Running out of missiles would force you to out manoeuvre your opponent in an attempt to beat them to the punch and restock your ammo.

At the time the pilots and tanks seemed pretty generic to me; I simply didn’t care for them and I didn’t even notice the awesome anime-styled artwork of each pilot. They also had some pretty cool names: Rexer Ironside, Madison Hawk, Alan Striker and Hans Baird just to name a few.

Cyber Sled

You better get used to taking damage.

Maybe I’d been spoilt rotten growing up with a Mega Drive, but compared to the crisp 16-bit visuals Sega’s console had churned out, the polygons seemed awfully blocky and the environments noticeably plain. With a wiser head on my shoulders, I can now appreciate the art direction was chasing a Tron-like aesthetic, and they could have been considered pretty groundbreaking being an early launch title for the PlayStation. Perhaps I expected too much of the next-generation of gaming and possibly the disappointment of not getting a N64 clouded my judgment somewhat. But the honest truth was I found Cyber Sled very repetitive and boring.

Sadly, the PlayStation port didn’t quite muster the same experience it had been famed for in Japanese arcades, and the two player split screen mode resulted in cramped, squashed visuals. The AI, all though technically decent, became very predictable once you’d mastered their moves.

I remember the countless hours me and my brother put into this game, hoping we’d find something more than simply tank duels to keep our short attention spans satisfied. Unfortunately the fun quickly wore off and after a while we simply stopped caring. Newer PlayStation games soon took over and we went back to dreaming off owning the elusive N64 and a copy of WCW vs NWO Revenge. Nevertheless, every time I look back at old footage from Cyber Sled I’m gripped in pure nostalgia, and the 80’s synth soundtrack was extremely modern for its time, not to mention it was the best part of the game and really added to an intense arcade feel.

Cyber Sled will be fondly remembered, then, not for its technical brilliance or amazing gameplay but as the very first PlayStation game I owned and my first real introduction to 3D graphics. It drove me mental because of its rudimentary gameplay and crude visuals, but for the few intensive days I played it, Cyber Sled forged its way into my memory and the soundtrack still kicks ass to day this day.

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