Remakes or reimaginings of classic, arcade games are a bit far and few between in today’s gaming world. I mean the PS3 had a ton of old, great titles ported up to the system. The PS4 not so much as it’s lacking the 80’s machine scene presence. For instance, as I sit here writing this, with no help from the internet (and maybe a little alcohol), only Inversus comes to mind. Luckily, THE Atari said, “Don’t worry Kyle! We hear your private pleas and understand Chris doesn’t like Horizon! So here’s Tempest 4000!” I don’t imagine they said that stuff about Horizon and all that, but Tempest 4000 is real! An arcade title that was one of the first to utilize a progressive level design instead of harder and harder enemy waves. Just nearly improved upon in every way and more four thousandier.
The base game remains intact as you control a yellow claw on one end of a 3D, geometric field. These levels will vary wildly in shape, but a variety of enemies will appear on the opposite side and make their way towards you. As with any classic arcade game, Tempest 4000’s adversaries will simply try to touch you or shoot you in order to bring about your end. Our claw will be able to move from side to side, along the path of any given level, and fire back projectiles of its own. As is tradition some defeated enemies will drop power ups that make their way forward on one path. Once collected they will give our yellow claw abilities like faster shooting, more powerful shooting, the ability to jump away from the level, obtain a temporary, protective droid, and more.
Also, in between levels will be an opportunity to earn even more points by guiding the claw (which looks like a ball of light) through giant squares coming at you. While interesting and keeping with the beat’s tempo, I found it weird the controls for this were on the D-pad and inverted. Whereas the normal gameplay can be performed with the left analog stick or those silly arrow buttons. Although this is probably to give you a bit of an extra challenge and keep you on your toes. What I don’t feel is like an extra challenge is how loose controlling our claw can be. Moving him or her across the screen doesn’t feel as tight as it should and I’ve messed up many times because of it. I’m not sure if this was done to recreate the feeling of old arcade games, but if so there’s no reason to pay homage to something that was only there because of the technology at the time.
By far and large Tempest 4000’s best aspects deal with sounds and graphics. As I mentioned the many levels I’ve played on (I believe there’s one hundred in total) varied in shape and size. Nearly every shape of some kind with an edge will be represented here in glowing, neon light. Some are even connected and you can travel along the edge of a map all the way around. When you complete any given level a bombastic explosion of light particle effects will take up the screen and make any 80’s fan proud. This is all accompanied by beautiful synth/EDM music which will be its own part of the gameplay. Kind of like what Rez Infinite and Thumper have done.
Tempest 4000 has three different game modes, but you won’t be playing them any differently. Classic and Pure mode are more in line with what gamers can expect for an arcade shoot’em up. Survival mode isn’t much harder to get a grasp on as you have a bit more lives, have to survive as long as possible, and get as far as you can. LIke the original before it you can resume progress on the very last level you reached. Albeit with only one life. So you won’t have to sit there and get frustrated at repeating the same levels if you so choose. Although it may take you a bit to realize this as the game’s menu and UI system is atrocious. Everything here is covered in the neon aesthetic the gameplay is known for and not ordered in a terribly coherent manner.
However, my main gripe on this title is something I touched upon before. The controllable claw kind of moves like a spider alongside the edges and paths of a level. As I mentioned this movement system is a little loose and you’ll find yourself traveling further or not far enough often to some frustration. It doesn’t help that your firing abilities, for the most part unless you get a specific power up, are relatively slow compared to how fast you can move. Yes, there were many deaths because I thought I would have killed an enemy when in fact I was the one to be killed. I can’t help but feel that tighter controls would have solved this issue and would have made Tempest 4000 a truly remarkable return to form.
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Reviewed using base PS4