Freeplay Express: ICBMApril 21, 2015
If you lived during the height of the Cold War, chances are you may not find Rebvblic’s free-to-play Nuclear Launch Control simulator ICBM entertaining. But I was born in 1986, and by all accounts am a strict child of the 90s. My childhood was filled with grunge music, a presidential “sex scandal”, and fear of Y2K. And even though the Cold War officially ended in 1991, I never had to realistically live with the fear of nuclear holocaust hanging over my head (classified events notwithstanding).
But even if you’re a gamer who can clearly remember the fall of the Berlin Wall, you should check out ICBM. It’s a quirky little game that puts you in the shoes of US Air Force Lieutenant Derek Evans on his first day in an underground nuclear launch bunker. You’re job? Simple – monitor your station and wait for orders to launch any of the United States’ thousands of nuclear missiles at the Soviets.
Now to truly appreciate ICBM, a little history is required. The game centers around the Able Archer War Games of 1983, a NATO training and response exercise simulating an escalating crisis, eventually leading to a coordinated nuclear attack. However, the Soviets were suspicious of the exercise and thought it was an act of eventual war masked as a simulation. Tensions were high during this period, and that is the historical setting when you play ICBM.
The game is meant to be a realistic simulator, so you’ll be tasked with manning highly sophisticated and sensitive panels of switches, buttons, and screens. You’ll be able to learn about everything at your disposal with the click of the mouse, but you cannot interact with anything until you get that fateful call…but you’ll have to play the game to see what happens.
The game has you playing in 8-hour shifts, but thankfully time is accelerated and you’ll blow through that shift in about 5 minutes. During that time, you’ll be looking at your various screens, getting familiar with what each panel does, and watching your virtual hand tap its virtual fingers on the virtual console.
And while the gameplay as I’ve described it thus far doesn’t sound that great, the graphics and throwback style of the game will have old-school MS-DOS gamers feeling like its 1993 all over again. The visual style of ICBM is clearly influenced by games that ran on Microsoft’s classic operating system, even going so far as to have a menu option called “Exit to DOS”.
But the throwbacks don’t stop with the graphics. ICBM also features some awesome 80s news and television clips. While the purpose of these may do nothing more than give a feel for the time period in which the game takes place, it’s a nice little slice of nostalgia for those that remember classic news programs or old Reagan campaign commercials. Personally, I was simply fascinated by the campiness and low quality of the audio/visuals that I couldn’t bear to look away.
Overall, ICBM won’t hold your attention for long. A single playthough will take no longer than 30 minutes, and that’s with bathroom breaks. After a few times through, you’ll find there isn’t much else to hold your attention, but I suggest you go into with low expectations and just enjoy the ride while it lasts. If anything, you’ll get a nice little history lesson out of the deal, which is bound to help you during a trivia game or two down the road. You can download the game (and soundtrack) for free here.