Assault is a multi-directional shooter arcade game released by Namco in 1988 and licensed to Atari Games for US manufacture and distribution. It is the last Namco game that was licensed to Atari.
What makes Assault unique is that the player’s tank always points toward the top of the screen, and when the tank turns the entire playfield rotates around the tank. It can be interpreted as rotating the world rather than the tank. Assault made early use of hardware sprite scaling (preceded by at least Sega’s Space Harrier in 1985) and may be the first game to use hardware rotation of sprites and the background.
The player controls a futuristic tank, attacking the surface forces of an alien environment. The tank is controlled by two four-way joysticks. The standard movements, such as “forward” and “turn left”, are executed in the same manner as those of other tank driving games, like Battlezone. That is, the player pushes both joysticks away for “forward”, pull the left joystick towards and push the right one away for “turn left”. But since the joysticks are four-way, two other moves can be executed. Pushing both joysticks away from one another (i.e. the left to the left and the right to the right) causes the tank to rear up on its back end for a moment. When up in this position, the player can fire a lethal nuclear blast, instead of the standard shots when in the normal position. Afterwards, the tank returns to its standard stance. If both joysticks are pushed right or left, the tank shall roll (or “strafe”) to that direction.
One additional innovation is the way the tank enters and exits the battlefield. The tank is airdropped from above. But instead of the tank falling down from the sky, the battlefield appeared to come up towards the tank. When a stage was cleared, the tank would raise above the surface and then drop through a hatch in the ground. These methods of entering and leaving reinforce the player-tank-centric approach of the game.
Assault was followed by Assault Plus, an upgraded version with redesigned visuals and color palettes, and adding higher-ranked enemies to earlier stages; instead of a linear run through all 11 stages as in original Assault, the game is presented in episodic format, with each episode titled “Rehearsal for the Core” and “Battle for the Core” respectively. Rehearsal takes place in Stages 1, 3, 4, 5, and the first area of Stage 1 – and Battle contains all the stages except for Stage 1. Assault Plus was not given a release outside Japan; however, it was included as a bonus game in Namco Museum Volume 4 for the Sony PlayStation.