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"Intruder alert! Intruder alert!"

Stern's 1980 Classic Berzerk is instantly recognisable to a generation of gamers. Video-gamedon's first catch phrase which emanated from those dumb robots on the screen pursuing your game character proved an almost irrestiable invite to most tesosterone fuelled youths of the day.

 

Gamers queued to test their mettle on this cabinet as the game spewed out a constant string of expletives which were aimed squarely at you, the gamer! In fact the game boasted a vocabulary of 31 words all carefully selected to inflict the maximum insult "Chicken! Fight like a robot!" being another classic call-out that went down in the annals of gaming history.

Bezerk Screengrab
One of 64,000 mazes in Bezerk

Luckily the robots proved to be pretty low in the artificial intelligence stakes - well it was 1980 after all - as they frequently blasted each other to death and appeared to blindly commit ritual hari-kari by walking directly into the blue energy charged walls of death.

If you took up the challenge and dropped a credit you would find that Berzerk was a sparse and clinical looking game, totally devoid of any comfort, this was partly due to the limitations of the days graphics chips and partly because that was how the game designer Alan McNeil wanted it to look. Basically scary, sparse and rock hard!

Bezerk Uprifgt CabinetThe games only boss character was an oddly named bouncing smiley face called Evil Otto. Who the hell was this strangely named Otto character anyway and why was he smiling so bloody much? Hell who cares really, either way the boss was a bastard to duel with as he could not be shot killed or injured as he chased you for all he (or it) was worth across the screen. The best defence - the only defence - was to run like hell and get off the edge of the screen to safety which would naturally enough result in some more verbal mocking by the machine.

As an incentive to hang around in each maze a bonus score was given if all the robots in the maze were destroyed. But if there were any robots left in the maze when you (the humanoid) escapes through one of the open doorways, no bonus would be given.

Amazingly the game had 64,000 different mazes, each with a level of difficulty that constantly increased.

Personally I never really enjoyed playing this game as I found the controls very frustrating to use. You could only shoot in the direction that you were traveling in, which often resulted in daft feinting movements around the screen trying to tee-up your shot. The difficulty setting was also fairly high which meant that your credit never seemed to last for very long.

Bezerk Screengrab
Another typical maze in Bezerk

However, the game sold 25,000 units and was the first successful game to use a voice-synthesizer. The game is also credited with having paved the way for more advanced hunt-and-shoot games such as Robotron 2084, Gauntlet and modern classics such as FPS shooters Doom and Quake.

Bezerk Screengrab
Robots can appear in many colours during the game

Gaming Trivia:
Berzerk is known as the first video game to be linked with the death of a person. 18-year-old Peter Burkowski collapsed at Friar Tuck's Game Room in Illinois from a heart attack while playing the game. At least he posted the day's High-Score before he passed away!

Berzerk was originally designed for the 6809E CPU, until it was discovered that the processor did not work properly. The board was then redone to run on a Z80.

The speech was crated using LPC coding, which cost $1,000 per word to compress at the time. So that's $31,000 in old money by my maths!

Technical Spec:
Manufacturer: Stern Electronics
Year: 1980

Class: Wide Release
Monitor: Orientation - Horizontal, Type - Raster, Standard Resolution, CRT - Color
Conversion Class: unique
Number of Simultaneous Players: 1
Maximum number of Players: 2
Gameplay: Alternating
Control Panel Layout: Single Player Ambidextrous
Controls: Joystick: 9-position optical, Buttons: 1 [Fire]
Sound: Amplified Mono (one channel)
Cabinet Styles: Upright/Standard, Cocktail

Legacy:
Berzerk's sequel, Frenzy, improved vastly upon the original's bland game play by adding in walls that deflected laser fire, introducing simple tasks such as destroying a nuclear reactor and now Otto could be had with 3 or 4 shots…Great!

Summary:
Although not a pesonal favoutite the impact of Bezerk cannot be denied
. The game had many first's to it's name, and a lasting legacy. The mocking speech is still remembered to this day and is still as chillingly robotic sounding. Ask any gamer who was a desciple to this game back in the 80's and they will tell you frankly that it was one of the all time classics. So I guess who am I to argue with that assessment!

Overall Classic Game Rating - 7.0