Ask yourself this question: How well do you know your PC?
What's the greatest threat the modern world has ever faced? Global warming? Nuclear weapons? Corrupt governments? Think again. In the age of the information superhighway there is one common enemy that goes unseen. Everyone who has ever used a computer knows that the greatest threat mankind has ever faced is the computer virus. Information is power, and whoever controls this information can wield the ultimate sword of Damocles.
Virus, the game, takes place inside an individual's virtual PC. It can be spread across a virtual international computer network to other systems and systematically destroy files and data without remorse. It has to be tracked down and stopped. You are the best person for that job, because the source of the infection is your PC.
Taking place inside a full 360 degree, 3D virtual world, Virus is a multi-player strategy game which places you in the very heart of your machine. Utilising an advanced mapping system the game uses the structure and design of your computer files to place you in a true 3D environment.
With the emphasis on lateral and strategic thinking as well as straight ahead blasting, Virus is guaranteed to take you into a world that you never even imagined existed.
- Real time 3D engine that runs under Win 95 at over 25 frames per second
- Virus is different on every computer system it's played on - your data determines the look and feel of the game
- See your WAV files, graphic images and word documents integrated into the gaming environment
- As the campaign continues bases, repair centers, ammunition factories and a whole host of other support facilities need to be built to ensure continued success against the enemy
- Multiple virus-types mean that different strategies must be developed throuhout the game - you have to evolve as quickly as the virus
~ advertising blurb
I remember reading about Telstar Electonic's Virus: The Game in a gaming magazine way back in 1997. It sounded awesome; a 3D shooter set inside your hard drive where levels are actually based on your files and folder structure. Colour me intrigued.
Then the viral marketing began. The cover disc contained a little program called RUSS.exe with a bright yellow smiley face as an icon. So, I clicked on it and was presented with the scariest proposition I have ever encountered on a PC - it began to delete my entire hard drive! Only after a terrifying few seconds did it flash up with something like "PSYCH! It's only a game" and then advertised where you could buy the thing. I thought it would be fun to find this early example of 'scareware' to relive those moments in a less panicked state, but I couldn't find it anywhere. Perhaps rightfully so.
This entire experience sullied my opinion of the game even more so than the atrocious reviews. Scores as low as 10% were not uncommon and the magazine itself eventually gave it around 30% if I remember correctly (my issue has long since composted in a rubbish heap and no archive can be found online). Now that I have played the game, I think they may have been too kind.
As an action game, it offers up some competent if uneventful six degrees of movement. Each file and folder is represented as a randomly generated single room with up to four doors heading off in each directing. One door goes up a directory, one goes down a directory and the other two shift between the files within that directory. It gets a little complicated as it means the level layout is not a static one. For example, all 'up' doors will lead to the same source directory, but the 'down' door from that will always link to the first file in that directory. It's a little easier to understand when you look at the map, which is represented as a Windows-style navigation pane, but I never really got used to it.
What denigrates it to be more than a bland shooter is the strategy elements. Come level 2, you'll be blindly introduced to level building, resource collecting and base protecting. There is very little documentation in either the manual or in-game help system to aid you in understanding this side of the game, but from what I understand you use one type of ship to collect kilobytes from certain files (represented only as a number on the map, not as a visual within the game world). These act as your currency in order to build and expand your base to include health stations and vehicle factories. These will give you an arsenal in which to protect your base and destroy the virus creatures infesting the area.
The problem is there isn't much balance between the fast-paced shooting and the slow-paced strategic management. All too often did I hear a disinterested woman chine in that my base was being attacked only for it to be destroyed before I even remembered where it was located, let alone navigate my attack ship there.
By this time I'd had enough. I didn't want to spend any more time trying to figure out the ins and outs of a game when twelve failed attempts couldn't offer anything up. While I still find the existence of Virus: The Game fascinating as a museum piece, as a game I feel as if I don't want to touch it again. Those low review scores were entirely warranted and Russ was not a viral ad campaign, but a warning.
To download the game, follow the link below. This exclusive installer uses the DOSBox Daum build of DOSBox 0.74 running Windows '95. Manual included. Tested on Windows 10.
IMPORTANT - Remember to shut down the emulated version of Windows before exiting DOSBox. This could potentially result in errors, lost saves and corrupt data. Press Ctrl-F9 when it is safe to do so.
File Size: 328 Mb. Install Size: 832 Mb. Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ
Virus: The Game is © Kidum Multimedia & Telstar Electronics Studios Ltd
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me