Company: Atari
Model #:
Leo Salinas & John Seghers (Programmers), Alan Murphy (Graphics)
Year: 1982
Originally called Failsafe


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:

Pillboxes 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.
Tanks 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 Jeeps are similar to Tanks, but move much faster.  Jeeps can quickly become a nuisance if left unchecked.
Cruise Missiles 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 system.


Version Cart Text Description
8/20/82 Countermeasure Final Version


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