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Play Like Your Life Depends On It... It Does!

Crime is rampant. Jails are overpopulated. Enter C.O.R.T., the Committee of Recreational Termination, hell-bent on eliminating the surplus. You've been sentenced: death or DeathDrome™ - your one chance for survival and your only hope for freedom. The rules are simple: play or die.

Enter the arena, the DeathDrome, in a futuristic driving machine, in the ultimate battle to save your life. Embark on a lethal combination of open-throttle driving and high-tech weaponry. Shoot and kill your fellow cons - fighting for the same prize - to advance to the next area. Reach your "kill quota" and you taste freedom. If you don't... well you die.
  • Single/multiplayer (up to 6 players on LAN)
  • 3 perspectives, full 360° vision and unrestricted 3D movement
  • Deadly arenas like Alcatraz II, Purgatory and The Abyss
  • Intelligent opponents programmed by a former U.S. military simulation team
  • Uses MMX™ technology to bring graphics and speed to the next level
  • High energy soundtrack playable in an audio CD player
~ from the back of the box
It's the near future and you find yourself arrested on some trumped up charges. What do the state department do with you? Well, they create a special division called The Committee of Recreational Termination (CORT for short) to devise a deadly battle arena to broadcast their gory execution as sports entertainment to the masses. This is DeathDrome.

The backstory is a highly derivative one seen in many entertainment media over the years. Immediately, The Running Man came to mind, but with the addition of futuristic motorbikes, there's also a smidgen of Death Race 2000 in there too. This is all in service of a rather simple yet immensely satisfying multiplayer arena shooter. It's the first game from Zipper Interactive, a company who would later be acquired by Sony as a first party developer responsible for the SOCOM series before being shuttered in 2012 thanks to the poor commercial reception of their last few titles. In many ways, DeathDrome embodies their entire ethos as a company producing robust multiplayer action. SOCOM stood toe-to-toe with Call of Duty for a while during the 6th console generation and MAG was a rare example of a big budget online-only multiplayer game exclusive to consoles - in this case the PlayStation 3. DeathDrome, in my humble opinion, beats all of them.

Choose your 'Runner' wisely. I suggest focussing on Handling and Armour (left).
You have three rounds in each arena. A new quarter will open up in each (right).

From the off, you have the choice of 8 futuristic motorbikes called Runners. They vary in four differing stats such as speed,  handling, armour and weapons and each change is very noticeable in the game itself, particularly when it comes to handling and armour. Turning circles are smaller with better handling and you don't die quite as quickly with good armour. When it comes to speed and weapons, any differences become inconsequential. You won't need much speed in an arena shooter where it's more about lining up your position and taking aim instead of outrunning your opponent and effective weapon pick-ups are all over the place which more than make up for a weak main weapon.

Regardless of how weak it is, your main weapon - the laser cannons - are still an effective offensive. Spamming the fire button will unleash a flurry on your foe, and unless they're facing directly at you, you could easily whittle down their shield before they can pop back or escape. You can carry a single secondary weapon by collecting power-ups liberally scattered in the arena. Toggle between them using the Shift key (or Up on the d-pad) and fire away. You have targeted missiles called Skorch Missiles, a tool to make you a powerful battering ram called Nitro Ram, a deadly area attack called Shockwave and a couple of weapons that drain an opponent's energy (the Disruptor) or temporarily incapacitates them (the Ion Sword). Each runner also has one other tricksy attack up their sleeve; the Electro Barrier. Anyone who has seen Tron know exactly what this is. Hold Ctrl, and you'll leave a trail of coloured electricity behind you which is insta-death for anyone who careens into it. You only have a limited amount, but if you time it right you can get some great kills.

Death by barrier are ever-so satisfying. Even it if was blatantly inspired by Tron (left).
If a driver leaps from his burning vehicle, kill him again for a 'Mercy Kill' and extra points (right).

All of these explosive armaments at your disposal would make for a chaotically fun time in any 3D space, but the DeathDrome contains some decent arenas to hunt in. There are 8 in total, though you will have to unlock each of them one-by-one. Even though high-scores are save, your progress isn't meaning if you'll have to start from scratch each time you boot up. Unless you paid attention to the passwords that it given to you when you complete a stage by surviving three rounds - or you could just look them up online. It's worth doing too, as each venue hosts some great jungle gyms and skate parks to drive through. The opening stage, Alcatraz II,  features multi-level platforms and raised hills while The Abyss fills half a room with undulating water, its solid waves swelling and surging as you drive over them. It's inventive stuff, and technically rather impressive for a game hailing from 1997.

Each arena has five rooms; four uniquely designed battle areas and a hub room in the centre. Each combatant enters at the hub they'll zoom off determined to make their target kills in the shortest amount of time. To begin with, you'll only need two but it will gradually increase the further you get into the game. Once you'll reached your target, you'll need to find your way back to the hub and drive to the exit. It's a concept as simple as its back story, but it doesn't need to be anything more. 

An arena's four quarters will each have a doorway back to the hub. They're not all as easily signposted as this (left).
Drive into the dead centre to complete the stage. Earn points for any time remaining, or stay to kill some more (right).

Graphically speaking, it is locked at 640x480 with only a details slider in the options menu offering up any visual upgrade. Upscaling it from within DxWnd - the program in which I got it working - doesn't help much graphically either. This means that you're stuck with a pixelated image where it gets hard to define whether that red pixel in the distance is an enemy or a piece of the level geometry (I say shoot it anyway). Being made for Windows '95, computers were capable of outputting higher resolutions but I suspect this newly formed company prioritised framerate over graphical fidelity. Out of the box, the only multiplayer option was via LAN, but in my research I have managed to find a way to transform this option into a facsimile of online multiplayer. Naturally, my oft-cited disdain for competitive play (and a lack of similarly-minded friends) means I haven't tested it this way, but I've included instructions in the ChamberNotes should you wish to do so.

In the end, I was pleasantly surprised by DeathDrome, even if I only played in single player deathmatches against computer-controlled opponents. Their A.I. was pretty decent, increasing in competency and aggression the further along you get. I can image returning to it every now and then to boot up a match or two to kill some time, and I would be thoroughly entertained in doing so. Almost better than a trip to Hawaii.

To download the game, follow the link below. This is a custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses DxWind to run on modern systems. Untested online multiplayer option included. Read the ChamberNotes.txt for more detailed information. Tested on Windows 10.

File Size: 120 Mb.  Install Size: 150 Mb.  Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ


Death Drome is © Viacom International Inc
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me

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  1. Installed, but can't get game to launch properly. Process will start, but the game window doesn't show, requring task manager to force quit the game. Have tried to toggle the DxWind settings for run in window and desktop position, neither have worked for showing the game

    1. I'm afraid I can't replicate what you're seeing on my system. Does the initial Death Drome window pop up when you launch the game? If you've altered the DxWnd config file, does it still correctly link to the game's .exe? The only other thing I can think of is that your system is missing one of the Microsoft Visual Studio packages. See tha DxWnd section of the FAQ for more info.

    2. https://collectionchamber.blogspot.com/p/faq.html#QUESTION7

    3. Have tried installing all the Visaul Studio packages, but it doesn't seem to change anything. As it would before, launching the game doesn't bring up the initial window. The only evidence something was launched was for me to check Task Manager and find a background process for 'ddrome' was started. Otherwise, there's no other visual evidence the game has even started. A second attempt at launching the game suggests elevating to admin privelages, then asking to recover gamma ramp.

      This was done after uninstalling and reinstalling the file, should add

    4. Quick addenum to previous comment, I should add that the second attempt was equally unsuccsessful

    5. I believe the game might actually be running beneath the surface, though without looking at your system, I'm only guessing. It could be the Acquire Admin Caps flag that's causing the havoc. Here's what the DxWnd help page says about it;

      " (...) When you confirm this, DxWnd will automatically terminate and restart itself. If you don't see the window anymore, look beneath other windows, as it may lose its Z-order when it restarts."

      It's possible the Z-order is causing issues when the admin prompt pops up. I suggest unselecting this flag (in Main tab) and see what happens. If this is the cause, you might have to run the game as admin instead of letting DxWnd do it.

    6. Tried with the Admin Caps unticked, game still doesn't launch properly. Even tried with 'run as admin' on both the ddrome exe, as well as dxwnd from the start, both produced the same result.

      If it helps, I could maybe send a DxDiag over, but otherwise, not really having much luck on my end ^^;

  2. Thanks for the interesting history lesson! I do love learning about what developers were up to before they hit the mainstream. Can't say I've heard of this one before but it seems like it was possibly just a year or so ahead of its time? It seems to me a LAN-only game would have limited appeal without a robust single-player mode, whereas once people started getting on-line en masse they might have had an easier time selling it to the multiplayer crowd.

    1. I think this game's release was on the cusp of LAN multiplayer making way for Online. Ultima Online came out the same year which completely changing everything. I remember attempting to do this for the first WipEout way back when (before I got my PlayStation) then realising everyone else just wanted to play Doom or Duke Nukem which weren't exactly my bag (guess I've always been something of a hipster...). It was such a monumental hassle, I don't think I did it again.

  3. I played the demo of this so many times back in the 90s. You could put a music CD in the CD-ROM drive and it would just grab tracks off of that and play them instead for the soundtrack, which I loved. I mostly listened to Garbage's first album, if I recall correctly. Good times, thanks for bringing back some memories. I should check out the full version.