When I was thirteen, circa 1981, I spent many afternoons at the community center near my house, dropping quarter after quarter into the now classic arcade shooter Tempest. So it is with great sadness that I must tell you that the latest updated remake, Tempest 4000 (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC), failed to grab me in any way.
Like the original, Tempest 4000 has you moving what looks like an emaciated Pac-man along the edge of a multi-segmented geometric plane or tube, shooting down said shape at enemies who are coming to kill you. And in case ramming into you doesn’t work, they also leave spikes in their wake that will take you out when you’ve cleared a level and go flying towards the next level. Good thing you can destroy those spikes by shooting them as well. Or, y’know, just going down a non-spiked path.
Aiding you in your survival, Tempest — and by extension Tempest 4000 — gives you a single smart bomb per level, a magical explosive that will destroy every enemy on screen while leaving you unscathed.
As for what Tempest 4000 adds to the proceedings, the most significant is a simple mini game when you’re flying to the next level. Instead of giving you a moment to catch your breath, it tasks you with trying to fly through a series of rings.
Tempest 4000 also includes the ability to jump, which was first added when the previous updated remake Tempest 2000 came out in 1994. When utilized, your Pac-self pulls back from the edge of the playing field, albeit with your ability to shoot still intact. Like the smart bomb, it’s not something you can do all the time, only once in a while, though it does come in handy.
In addition, Tempest 4000, like Tempest 2000, also adds a techno soundtrack to the proceedings, albeit a new one specifically made for this version of the game.
Sadly, this is where the problems with Tempest 4000 start to arise. That techno soundtrack I just mentioned? It’s terrible. Just terrible. And not in an “all techno is terrible way”; I mean it’s terrible techno. Thankfully, you can turn it down or off.
More importantly — or may that should be “More egregiously” — Tempest 4000‘s controls don’t work as well as they should. Granted, it could never perfectly recreate the original, not unless every copy included a spinning knob like the one on the original arcade cabinet, but using the left thumbstick or the directional pad is a poor substitute, as both are clunky and imprecise. And while some people may get used to them after a while, the operative word there is “may.”
What’s aggravating is that Tempest 4000 doesn’t give you the option of using the triggers to move left and right, which would seem like it would work really well…though without being able to test this theory, this is pure speculation.
It’s also odd that Tempest 4000 has you hitting the left bumper when you need to pause the game, especially since the “Start” button isn’t used. And while yes, while like all unconventional button switches, it is something you’ll get used to, eventually, there’s no good reason for this switch. It’s not like the “Start” button is used for something else that only the “Start” button would be good for.
The mid-level minigame in Tempest 4000 would also count as a problem — since, as I said, it stops you from taking a much-needed break between rounds — except that you’re thankfully under no obligation to engage in it. Ignoring it, as I did a couple of times, has no adverse effect.
Even the price — $29.99 for the Xbox One and PS4 editions — seems like it might be a problem for some people, though less so when you consider that Space Invaders Extreme and Extreme 2, which update that arcade classic in similar ways, cost about that much on Amazon, and those games are 10 and 9 years old, respectfully.
In the end, Tempest 4000 is a big letdown, especially in light of how its problems seem so easily fixed. Which is made even sadder by the fact that otherwise the game holds up rather well. Certainly as well as other updated arcade classics. Maybe they’ll do better when Tempest 6000 comes out in 2044.