Game Review: The Last V8 (Commodore 128, Mastertronic)

The Last V8, Commodore 128, Mastertronic - ICD1281
  • 3.5/10
    Score - 3.5/10


The first Mastertronic Commodore 128 release, but it has all the flaws of the original Commodore 64 version of The Last V8, being that the game is let down by the implementation of the controls.  An additional first level and some improved speech may make the presentation nicer, and that does also at least give you a chance to get into the game, but having the likes of Rob Hubbard’s music still being bugged and a lack of attention to detail in enhancing the game does not make for a pleasant experience, sadly.

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With the Commodore 128 being released, Mastertronic were not going to miss an opportunity to see how their games would fare if improved and enhanced from the Commodore 64 versions, with extra levels or a larger challenge with improved graphics and sound, having twice the memory to play with.  The Last V8 was the first of these, based on the original Commodore 64 version but it differs a little from the original too.  As with many 128 only releases at the time, this was on disk only – maybe a bit of a mistake over in the UK, as being able to load the game from tape may have meant the possibility of more sales.

The blurb on the instructions on the back are different, in that although set in the future you are on Mars along with Captain Bortz, your leader, who is the one to give your orders and to effectively send you around Mars before heading to the Earth’s surface and the Under City, where when you reach the sci base at the end, you contact and report to Bortz with your findings.  Bortz had left Earth in 2003 and his family behind to head the Mars mission not realising World War 3 would break out in 2007.  Although a completely different plot line, it is still the same game – but with an extra level twist.

Mission on Mars

Apart from the opening speech being different initially, so is the new first level.  This effectively gives you a better chance of getting used to the controls and to have a different mission to accomplish.  You are on the surface of Mars, and need to get fifteen fuel rods to then get to the launch pad to exit, whilst also making sure you turn off the lasers to get to other parts of the planets, and avoid the craters, which will cause damage to the car’s shield.  At least there is not a time limit, so you can concentrate on doing the mission.  The graphics at this point look good and does make you feel like are you are on another planet, but when you then would have played Red Max by Codemasters a year or so later, the idea of that first level, albeit with graphical changes, feels the same way.  Absolutely brilliant. Not.

Broken Controls

Unfortunately, as the same controls as the Commodore 64 have been implemented, attempting to get all the fuel rods, even without a time limit, proves to be a near impossible task.  Inevitably you will end up steering too fast and hitting an obstacle head on, or driving through a crater and losing most of your shields, or missing the button to turn off the laser and driving straight into one – all of which result in game over very quickly.   Maybe if you did not lose shields via the craters that might have at least given it more of a chance.  It just becomes wall denter territory once again.

You Have Less Than Two Minutes to Get to the City

Survive the Mars section, and it is off to the Earth’s surface to be able to find the Under City.  This behaves the same way as level one from the Commodore 64 version, so inevitably when steering around a corner you will hit the fences near the roads, or a tree, or another object.  It does feel as if just putting in a different starting point was an effective cop out though – it may make the level seem smaller to complete, but there is still the bridge to cross which is notoriously difficult, and the steering just adds to that frustrating experience all round.

Keep an Eye on Your Instruments, and Avoid the Radiation

If you do manage to get to the initial base, the final level opens with some more synthesised speech – informing you to keep an eye on your instruments, and avoid the radiation.  As this level is similar in behaviour to the Commodore 64 version, you still need to drive through the city and at certain points drive fast through any zone that may be radioactive (punctuated by some sound effects also) whilst keeping control and following the road markings that indicate the zones to locate the scientist base and to return safely.  There does appear to be slightly different placings of the radiation which means you may need to drive through quicker – and inevitably you will hit the wall and that is also game over.

Final Thoughts

Although the new first level is somewhat of an improvement, and does add some depth to this game, all the same problems remain.  The controls spoil the playability, and the risk of everything causing the game to end on that first level does not help whatsoever with the longevity.  The Rob Hubbard music bugs in the same way too, so that was not fixed, and whilst the new speech is an improvement (still using the Covox Voicemaster, but at a better sample rate) it definitely feels like a rush job to get something released that would be Commodore 128 only without improving on the playability in any shape or form.  And that is a real shame – there could have been potential to improve everything possible and make it an incentive to buy a 128 in the first place.  Alas, not so.

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