It’s amazing in hindsight how some games served as litmus tests for bigger projects down the road as well as setting modern-day standards that are often overlooked in games today. NBA Live 95 and NHL 94 redefined sports games into a more simulated structure, encompassing seasons modes, real rosters, realtime stat tracking. The 3D0 version of Road Rash included the first soundtrack featuring licensed musicians’ cuts on the game. And then there is General Chaos, probably the first real-time strategy on a major console that layed down the groundwork for Command & Conquer and Dune.
Available only on the Sega Genesis, General Chaos pits two opposing armies against each other on a single screen battlefield with an isometric view. The overall presentation is physical comedy, which is a giveaway when looking at the box art, and the first thing that might cross your mind is Hogan’s Heroes. You don’t see this kind of comedy in video games nowadays out side of the Lego series of game spoofs, and even then, those are direct parodies of the respective material, which is fine if you like that sort of thing. To me, the Lego series’ brand of style parody is on par with light-hearted versions of Scary Movie or Meet the Spartans, whereas General Chaos (While being a direct parody of aforementioned show) feels more like Naked Gun.
VISUALS 7.5/10: The animation moves smoothly enough and the action can be pretty easy to follow. Each stage has various obstacles and obstructions to plan your battle strategy accordingly. Nothing ever felt too cluttered or restrained, and despite the field taking up one screen, you can really move around. The five soldiers are well-marked, so telling your crew apart isn’t an issue. when the action picks up, there is some notable slowdown, which can get annoying. Character animations are great, with downed soldiers dazed and loopy to getting blasted into a skeleton from a critical rocket blast (drives me nuts!!!). The whacky comedy adds some levity to ease the carnage.
There’s some great attention to detail as well, like when you Flamer trudges through the water and emerges, his flamethrower shoots bubbles temporarily. I laughed when I first saw this. General Chaos’ art style is provided by Brian Colin of Game Refuge, who also worked on Rampage World Tour and Star Trek Voyager: The Arcade Game.
SOUND 8/10: Sound-wise, this is just one of those games I would not want to hear on the SNES. While there may not be music during gameplay, that Chaos theme will be looping in your head for hours. On field sounds, exploding grenades and grunting soldiers, are crisp and clean coming out of the good old Genesis.
GAMEPLAY 6/10: The single player and two player coop modes focus on defeating enemy forces and taking control of a region before taking down their city’s capital. The battles can become a tug of war as it gets harder, and it determines who you decide to go into battle with. You can select four different five man teams with varying degrees of attack and defense, depending on your preference. The commandos are probably best to select for a two player coop game, as you have free control over the combatants as opposed to the point and click. Speaking of the point and click, it’s all resorted to one button. It is simple and accessible enough, with only five soldiers to select from, it’s not that big a deal. Perhaps I am spoiled by today’s RTS games, but I would’ve preferred to be able to select said soldier with my cursor and move as opposed to pressing the C button four more times to get my man out of danger. Yes, it only takes about a second or less, but that second could mean life or death!!!
Gunners: Standard grunt soldiers that have decent attack range and speed. If used in a swarming fashion, they can be dangerous. A must to have on the team for a well-rounded attack.
Chuckers: These guys hurl grenades and can attack over obstructions. The grenade can be slow, but its range and damage can make up for it as long as they are protected.
Launchers: General Chaos’ equivalent of snipers can attack from across the screen. They do massive damage but have a slow reload time. Best to put a Gunner or a Flamer near them for protection.
Flamers: The most deadly combatant on the field, Flamers have a low attack range, but they do serious damage if they get in close. They are also great for blowing up side mission targets.
Blasters: The most worthless units in the game! Not only do they have shorter range than the Chuckers, but their dynamite takes about a full second to detonate!! They have to be constantly protected as well. My advice; pass on these guys if you can!!
At certain points, two opposing units will collide and engage in hilarious hand to hand combat. The punches, kicks, and blocks all have a slight delay, so you can’t just mash the buttons and hope for a victory, I guarantee you’ll pay for it. If you are (un)lucky, you or your opponent will take a final punch, but will shoot the victor in the stomach for a cheap kill!! I laughed so hard when this first happened to me, and I believe it’s random, I have not found a way (if any) to do it on command. Overall, as far as controls go, it’s responsive enough.
DIFFICULTY 6.5/10: I found the CPU to be a bit too easy the first time around, but replays after the first victory over General Havoc increases the challenge considerably. It mostly comes down to trial and error, depending on the team you go into battle with (Stupid Blasters). Medics are used to save downed soldiers, but be careful, there’s only so many times you can do this throughout the game. You can find icons, which gives you an extra medic, but nothing hurts more than when a man is down and you desperately click over his head to see that you are out…..and you’re outnumbered 4 to 1!!!
FUN FACTOR 8/10: If you have some buddies to play with, look for a Sega multitap and you can all go in and defeat Havoc together or war against each other!! General Chaos is a game that is at its best as a two player. You don’t have to worry about someone else remembering all the juggles and chain combos in a fighting game, or knows how to pick apart opponents in Madden 13 because they play the game 72 hours a day, memorizing playbooks in and out and you’ve played Madden only three times……in 1996!! General Chaos puts everyone on and even playing field and you only have your wits to piece together a winning strategy, so there are no cheap wins!!
IN CLOSING: General Chaos is lost gem on this console and is a wildly entertaining game, single player or coop. I strongly recommend adding this one to your Genesis library. Its comedy and high replay value makes this an easy play for retro gamers.