Review – Tempest 4000

Seeing an Atari game being released more than four decades after the company’s creation is truly amazing. I’m glad to see the company trying to make a mainstream comeback, both with the announcement of its VCS console, as well as an increased amount of new games being released. This time around, Atari’s new product is Tempest 4000. A new iteration of the company’s most famous arcade series, with Jeff Minter, the man behind the 2000 version for the infamous Jaguar, as lead developer.

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Back when rudimentary polygons were sexy as heck

Tempest 4000‘s gameplay is just like Tempest 2000‘s and Tempest‘s gameplays (did they ever release a 3000? I’m legit curious). Your objective is to survive an onslaught of enemies by shooting at them inside a vector-based geometric tunnel or plane and proceed to the next stage in order to repeat the process 99 more times (there are a literal hundred levels). You have a chance of earning a few extra points in between levels by partaking in a small minigame that actually uses the Dualshock 4’s accelerometer, a feature I didn’t remember that controller had.

In terms of presentation, Tempest 4000 aimed at looking like a throwback to the 80’s, and boy does it deliver.

The graphics are a total acid trip, full of light effects and particles everywhere, as if you were playing Tempest 4000 with one of those older but trippy Windows Media Player light patterns on the background. While the visuals are excellent, the menu design and UI are extremely awkward, with an excessive amount of text being used to explain the simplest of things on menus, just like an older arcade game. That’s a throwback that wasn’t necessary. The soundtrack is what you would expect from an 80’s throwback game that doesn’t use chiptunes. Every single song is synth-heavy, as if you were watching Tron for the billionth time. Jeff Minter clearly aimed for nostalgia when developing this game, and he delivered.

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A videogame equivalent of an acid trip

In terms of gameplay, there’s little that has been added to the table. Have you ever played Minter’s previous Tempest-ish titles, TxK or 2000? Well, it’s basically the same, it’s the classic Tempest with powerups and a “jump” function in order to have a shot at attacking enemy ships that have already reached the top of the map. The controls are, as you would expect, very simple and easy to learn. All you need to remember is that they are slippery.

Granted, it might not sound extremely exciting, but that’s what you would expect from a new Tempest game. It gets the job done but I never felt like playing more than a dozen levels at a time. I had more fun playing this game in shorter bursts, even though the PS4 isn’t exactly the best platform for this type of gameplay.


I would have loved to play this on the Switch, though

Tempest 4000 is a great retro throwback to the golden days of Atari’s arcade dominance as it retains the visuals and gameplay, as well as a fully 80’s-inspired soundtrack to top it off. It’s not exactly the most engaging and addictive of arcade games (neither was the original one, to be fair), but it’s an excellent pastime in short bursts, even though I still think the game would have been best suited for portable systems. If they ever release a Switch version, it’s day one for me.

I’m glad to see Atari coming back with new decent titles not called Rollercoaster Tycoon. It makes me a bit more hopeful for their upcoming Atari VCS first-party library.

Graphics: 8.0

Tempest 4000 manages to mix retro and modern with its extremely trippy visuals and nice particle effects, but it gets too trippy at times. Its UI design is confusing.

Gameplay: 7.0

The gameplay is pretty much the same as previous iterations of Tempest, with really simple controls, even if they are too slippery at times.

Sound: 8.0

The game’s soundtrack is full retro, full 80’s: synths, synths, synths and more synths.

Fun Factor: 6.5

Tempest 4000 is fun in short bursts. It’s a nice arcade title but it would have been best suited for a portable device like the Switch or the Vita.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Reviewed on PS4.
Also available on: Xbox One, PC.
A copy of Tempest 4000 was provided by the publisher.