|Leo Salinas & John Seghers
(Programmers), Alan Murphy (Graphics)
When the Atari 5200 was launched in 1982 the initial library
of games was small, but soon the 5200 had numerous sport,
action, and arcade titles to its name. However one thing
the 5200 lacked was a good war game. Since Combat was a
pack-in in the early days of the 2600, Atari knew that war games
sold, and sold big. Therefore it was no accident that
Atari planned to release a game called Tank at the launch of the
5200 (shown in ads for the Video System X), but after many
months this mysterious war game never materialized. Atari
needed a new game to fill in the void left by Tank, and that
game was Countermeasure.
Although the title may conjure up images of some
kind of missile war, Countermeasure is really an action game
featuring tanks. Your goal is to stop a nuclear warhead from
being launched and destroying the world (hey that was a big
concern back in the 80's!). Your tank is armed with a
high-powered turret gun capable of blowing up enemy vehicles,
pillboxes, and missile silos with a single shot (now that's
power!). But all the weapons in the world won't do you any
good if those terrorists launch that missile!
To stop the terrorists from launching the missile,
you must quickly blow up all the silos on the map before the timer
runs out. However this is easier said than done since you
must not only deal with enemies along the way, but must constantly
maneuver through rough terrain which slows your tank down.
In the latter levels getting to all the silos in time is a near
impossible task. Thankfully there's a plan B...
If time is running out you can dock your tank with
a nearby missile silo and attempt to disarm the missile before it
launches. The missile code consists of thee letters L, E,
and O (gee what does that spell?) and is three letters long.
This leaves you with 27 possible combinations to guess in a
span of only a few seconds. Not good odds. However
each time you touch a supply depot you'll be given on letter to
the code in the proper position. These clues can help you
reduce the number of possible combinations and allow you to
successfully figure out the code. However sometimes it's
worth letting the world blow up just to see the cool death screen.
As mentioned earlier, there are a number of enemies
standing between you and victory:
||These guys are the absolute worst!
Not only are they quick, but they shoot fairly far
and quite often. Thankfully they're stationary, so
try and approach them from an angle.
|| These slow moving enemies will start
chasing your tank after the first few levels. They
only have half the firing range of your tank so you can
easily take them out (assuming you're not distracted).
||Jeeps are similar to Tanks, but
move much faster. Jeeps can quickly become a
nuisance if left unchecked.
||Appearing later in the game,
Cruise Missiles are fast and deadly! Thankfully
these roving warheads will blow up if they hit a tree or
other obstacle on their way towards your tank. Try
and take cover if you see one coming.
Since this is still the 20th century (well at least
it was when this game was made), your tank requires fuel to
operate. If your tank runs out of fuel for any reason it
will blow up and you'll lose a life (so much for getting out an
pushing!). Thankfully there are supply depots scattered
through the levels which can quickly refuel your tank.
However take note that you can accidentally blow up your
supply depot with a poorly aimed shot, so be careful.
Strangely, running out of fuel is one of the leading causes
of death in this game.
Recently a prototype of the skull graphic was
discovered on a disk in the collection of former Atari artist
Jerome Domurat. This skull appears to be exactly the
same as the final skull graphics with the exception of a lit
cigarette hanging out of its mouth. It's doubtful Atari
would allow smoking to be shown in one of its games, so it's most
likely just a joke mocked up for fun. Interestingly this
skull was later reused in the Atari XE game Crime Buster, but with
Alan's initials removed.
While it may not be the in-depth war strategy game
some people were hoping for, Countermeasure is an interesting mix
of action, strategy, and a little luck. Also of note is that
Countermeasure is a 5200 exclusive, and was never ported to
another system (not even the Atari 400/800). This may have
been due to the unique control scheme that Countermeasure used
(one button was used to rotate the turret, while another was used
to shoot), which wouldn't have been possible on systems with only
a single fire button. Countermeasure truly is one of the
sleeper hits of the 5200 and is one of the better titles for the
to 5200 Software