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Terminal Velocity

DOS - 1995

Also released on: Mac

Alt name Terminal Velocity (Legacy)
Year 1995
Platform DOS
Released in Germany, United Kingdom, United States (1995)
Worldwide (1998)
Genre Action
Theme Flight, Sci-Fi / Futuristic, Shooter
Publisher 3D Realms Entertainment, Inc., FormGen, Inc., U.S. Gold Ltd.
Developer Terminal Reality, Inc.
Perspectives 1st-Person, Behind view
Dosbox support Fully supported on 0.72
4.7 / 5 - 49 votes

Download extras files
Manual available

Description of Terminal Velocity

Read Full Description

I looked forward to playing Terminal Velocity ("TV") with much anticipation... Who could blame me? The previews in the major PC gaming magazines and press releases over the Internet roused my interest. But, the screenshot slideshow really got my attention. How could I pass up the opportunity to fly a high-speed fighter over and through beautifully rendered 3-D landscapes generated in real-time... and, of course, to blast away the bad guys, get more weapons, and blast away even more bad guys?!

Now that I have actually played Terminal Velocity, I must say that the screenshots do not do it justice. You must see it! More about TV... just as soon as I can tear myself away from it long enough to finish writing this review....


Terminal Velocity is a new and completely different game. Attempts at classifying it as a clone make me bristle. However, comparisons to Parallax's Descent are inevitable. In both games, you pilot a futuristic craft in a completely three-dimensional environment. However, an obvious difference is that the combat in Descent is confined "indoors" -- to the mineshafts on various planets. In Terminal Velocity,however, most of the action takes place "outdoors" -- where you fly over open terrain, through canyons, over mountains, punch through the cloud cover, even straight up into space. The rest of the action in TV occurs inside tunnels.

The second difference is the object of the games. In Descent, you receive briefings at the before entering a new mine, but the goal remains constant: to blow up the reactor, while defeating all opponents along the way. In Terminal Velocity, the mission objectives vary for each level: you are typically assigned specific targets to destroy before you can proceed to the next world. Naturally, you are expected to eliminate those that impede you in fulfilling your assigned mission.

The third difference is the plot. In Descent, you are hired by a mega-corporation to destory renegade mineral mining operations. The story behind Terminal Velocity also takes place in the far future. However, you are a pilot from the Ares Squadron, flying a TV-202, the fastest and most dangerous fighter ever made... and you must save Earth from destruction by its interstellar neighbors.

As far as I am concerned, Terminal Velocity should be judged on its own merits. However, as an avid Descent-fan myself, I cannot help but consider Terminal Velocity in light of Descent. Be forewarned that this review is written accordingly.

GRAPHICS: Very cool!

The graphics, particularly for the landscapes are impressive, even on my lowly 486dx33. The rush of skimming over the terrain at high speed reminded my of many happy hours flying sorties in Comanche Maximum Overkill. The sensation of sailing through the open sky among the clouds and around mountain ranges felt very much like Magic Carpet.

The sky is not a mere bitmap pasted in the background. If you fly upward, you will punch through the cloud cover and into the upper atmosphere. It's often fun to dogfight the enemy ships that follow you up there (and safer too, since there are no mountains to slam into). I find it exhilarating to afterburn through the stratosphere until the radar indicates a mission target is directly below, and then dive through the clouds straight down onto the target with weapons blazing.

"Tactical Strike" is the shareware episode for TV, and consists of three worlds, each having three levels. The first is Ymir, an ice planet. Because Ymir is mostly gray and white with a sprinkling of pine trees, it is nowhere as stunning as Crythania, the second world, which is a lush mountainous planet. I thought it was humorous that many of the Crythanian ground-based targets have what appears to be giant bright-yellow bull-eye's painted on them. The third "world" is actually a humongous starship with the power to incinerate entire planets. While the surface of the Moon Dagger, as it is called, was fun to whiz through and blow up, the real fun comes when you fly through its tunnels. This in no way minimizes the spectacle of making Moon Dagger's surface towers erupt into mushroom-shaped fireballs.

Tunnels exist on all three worlds, and provide powerups, as well as the opportunity to shoot at more enemies, including bosses. Unlike the labyrinths in Descent, the tunnels in TV are rather straightforward. There is only one route from the entrance to the exit -- no branches and no forks. There are more than a few moving doors and irises to make your trip interesting, especially if you like to travel at full afterburner like I do.

The tunnels of Ymir and Crythania pale in comparison to those on the Moon Dagger. Indeed, the Moon Dagger's tunnels are the only ones in the shareware version that are spacious enough for aerial dogfights.

There are several types of enemy fighter craft, all different from each other in appearance. My favorite are the Sky Hawk and Grey Gull - they are menacing and bat-like. Some that you will encounter on the later levels look like they escaped from a classic George Lucas film. What I like best about the enemy fighters are the way they react when you hit them. If the enemy is not blown out of the sky by a direct hit, it will often leave trail of smoke, break apart, and plummet towards the the planet's surface. A very nice touch.

Ground-based enemies include tanks, various installations, and even Stone Henge's cousin! The tanks looked diappointingly flat when you get very close, but by then, you are busy applying liberal doses of laser-fire. The installations, include different types for artillery, power, radar, and storage bunkers. They look nice from a distance, but will become pixelated when you get a close enough peek... which will be quickly terminated by you crashing into the structure. ;-)

The cockpit interior strikes me as utilitarian and a bit odd-looking. The bland rounded shapes of the interior contrasts starkly with the sharp lines of the exterior of the TV-202 you fly. The cockpit graphics can be quickly toggled on and off, depending on how much you need the information from the easy-to-read gauges.

Terminal Velocity is one of the few games that offer two resolutions: 320x200x256 and 640x480x256, with the higher resolution offering tremendous graphic detail. However, the 640x480x256 mode is only available in the registered CD-ROM version. Unfortunately, you need a Pentium to properly appreciate the extra detail at an acceptable framerate. Players with 486 class machines will be limited to the 320x200x256 mode. Forget about playing it on a 386 -- the real-time calculations required for generating the graphics will bring the 386 its knees, if not an outright meltdown. Keep in mind that TV was designed for high-end 486 CPUs with VLB.

CONTROLS: Simple and easy to learn.

I admit to being one of those people with too little patience to ever really learn how to play games with complicated controls. This meant that most flight-simulators proved frustrating and less than enjoyable for me. What I prefer are games that are easy-to-learn and with intuitive controls (and, of course, lots of action), which are exactly what Terminal Velocity promises and delivers.

The control scheme is very simple. You can use keyboard, gamepad, or joystick. I wish mouse were supported though: it's my favorite control method for action games, and I think it would work well here.

So for Terminal Velocity, I use the Gravis GamePad, which turned out to be a perfect match. The primary controls are mapped to the four buttons: fire, afterburner, accelerate, and decelerate. My hands rarely need to move from the gamepad, and are quite happy that way.

I have heard more than a few complaints about the lack of "reverse," "hover," or "slide" keys. Yes, I was initially among those who complained. After having spent so much time with Doom and Descent, those maneuvers are second nature and are sorely missed. However, I have since changed my mind: the lack of those keys give Terminal Velocity a distinct personality. Remember, you are supposed to be flying a futuristic high-speed aircraft... and it will handle quite differently from a spaceship in zero gravity or a space marine on his feet. However, I will concede that I wished for those controls when battling the diabolical ice-planet boss... you will see what I mean when you get to that point.

SOUND EFFECTS and MUSIC: hhhhmmmmm.

The music and sound effects in Terminal Velocity are generated by a sound engine Apogee has never used before. Instead of using General MIDI, the game uses a digitized music engine that can mix music at up to 44k in stereo, allowing high-quality stereo music.

The music is cool digitized synthesizer (okay, so I don't have a wavetable) and appropriate enough for a game like this, but the same 7 or 8 bars cycle quickly and gets a bit monotonous after a while. It may help to have wavetable music. And definitely to have a larger soundtrack. Personally, music matters little to me, since I generally switch it off so I can better concentrate on the aural cues that help me destroy my foes.

The sound effects are appropriate. What I particularly like is the Doppler scream when zooming by enemy craft. That was a sound effect I had gotten hooked on ever since playing X-Wing, and as far as I am concerned, it adds greatly to the sensation of high-speed flight.


I managed to find four types of weapons in the shareware version of TV. The Plasma Assault Cannon ("PAC") appears to be a laser with infinite ammo. You are always armed with a PAC, and can increase the PAC's effectiveness by grabbing the PAC power-ups. The Ion-Burst Gun ("ION") throws "balls of lightening." The Rapid-Targetting Laser ("RTL") is a supercharged dual laser. The Manual-Aim Missile ("MAM") are dumb-fire missiles. My favorite is the RTL because it is the easiest for me to fire accurately... plus it makes those lovely purple streaks! ;-)

Power-ups include weapons, shields, power, and afterburner. Generally, these appear as the result of destroying enemy fighters and installations. They are also available in the tunnels.

GAMEPLAY: Not bad, let's see more!

TV's flight characteristics are quite simple, and as such will not be as complex or involving as in Descent. In TV, you learn all there is to know within a few minutes, whereas, in Descent, you can spend many hours ironing out the finer points of slide/turn combinations. I shudder to think how long it would take me to feel comfortable with flying a real flight-sim like Falcon 3.0!

I also noticed that the flight model does not seem to account for gravity, stalls, momentum, or g-forces. Personally, I did not miss them too much, because those are among the very things that make ultra-realistic flight-sims painful for me. However, an option to toggle those characteristics on/off would still be a welcome feature.

Flying around is sometimes difficult and sometimes your ship is reluctant to respong to your input. Not only does this make the tunnels a tad tricky, but it also forces multiple passes in order to grab power-ups. This may be related to the relatively choppy framerate on my slow 486, but I have heard this complaint from several people on faster machines. TV permits you to toggle various features, such as shadows, sky texture, and terrain detail to compensate for the speed of the your computer

A useful feature for the open skies is the mission radar and HUD radar. The mission radar has a chevron that points to your next mission target as well as provide some information on enemy craft and installations. The HUD radar is activated with a tap to the TAB key, and superimposes enemy positions as colored dots (actually minus and plus signs) on your main viewing screen.

To help you track opponents during combat, you can "pivot" your view up, down, right and left. These are most useful for keyboard-users as they are a bit out of the way for gamepad- and joystick-users.

The computer-controlled craft seem to favor the tactic of swarming around you, without much regard for taking evasive measures. I have racked up quite a few airborne kills by simply firing my PAC or RTL continuosly. Oftentimes, the computer-controlled enemies straight through the kill-zone! I guess "suicide runs" are part of the AI... or perhaps I should try it again at a higher difficulty level. There are four difficulty settings: easy, normal, hard, and terminal.

When you collide into objects, your screen goes momentarily red and you get bounced away. It is disorienting because you will end up heading in a completely new direction. This also happens when you are rammed by enemy craft. I don't like the "red-out" effect, and neither do other players I have spoken. If you collide with the walls of the tunnels, your ears will be rewarded with the appropriately nasty screeching of metal. I also noticed that sometimes I can not go back down through the cloud cover, and will be bounced away.

Unlike Doom or Descent, you cannot control when you respawn after you die. You simply regenerate automatically. Further, people have mentioned that they often find themselves hurtling directly into the side of a mountain. I have not experienced this, but then again I did spend a lot of time bouncing off various objects. ;-)


Operating instructions are handily accessible during the game by pressing F1. This is handy for when I forget a particularkey in the midst of flying... during a battle, it's too late.

TVHELP.EXE provides installation and setup information, and is accessed from the DOS prompt. As for the installation itself, I had no problems -- it was quick and uneventful.

MULTI-PLAYER: Fun, fun, fun!

What really gets me excited about Terminal Velocity is Comm-bat, as its multi-player option is called. Modem and network play add so much to games, especially action-oriented games like this one. Imagine pummeling your "best friend" in a vicious aerial dogfight in the open sky, and then diving through the clouds to chase him or her through treacherous canyons in order to deliver the fatal blow... now, that's hot pursuit!

Terminal Velocity supports modem, serial cable, and network multiplayer games. Network sessions require the IPX-protocol and can support up to 8 players. The shareware version is limited to 4 network players.

Comm-bat lets you select one of several fighters to pilot. Although the ability to choose is nice, I have not been able to discern any difference between the various fighters: same weapons and flight characteristics. In the shareware episode, Comm-bat has two specially designed levels.

In trying the modem/serial options, I noticed that TV will stay stuck at 9600 baud regardless of how I try to change the settings. Perhaps, it was an error on my part... but I'm no newcomer to multi-player games. In the end, an intrepid acquaintance provided assistance in resetting the baud rate to 19200. And it worked fine, even over the Internet Head-to-Head Daemon ("IHHD").

Comm-bat can get a bit tricky. It can be difficult to actually track and kill an opponent, because there is so much open terrain. If you fly at full throttle, you will often whiz right your target without ever firing a shot. What to do? As any veteran jet-sim pilot will tell you, learn to use the throttle properly. One of my favorite tactics when being pursued is to go immediately from full throttle to no throttle: my pursuer usually flies by me and into my crosshairs.

And don't forget to press the Enter key to select your target. That way your radar will lock onto an opponent so you can continue to pound away on his or her shields and finally rack up a kill. What a thoughtful feature!

...And while hunting for other humans in a multi-player session, be sure to use the Remote-Ridicule feature!... It is hilarious, and adds tremendously to the fun. This feature lets players send digitized voice messages to other players. The ten Remote-Ridicule wav's range from maniacal laughter to a thunderous "Bow down before me!" They must be experienced to be fully appreciated. The first time I heard them during a head-to-head match, I burst out laughing and nearly fell out of my chair! For those so inclined, you can make your own wav files to use for Remote-Ridicule as long as they are 8-bit mono, 11 kHz, and less than 64 k in length. Although Remote-Ridicule sure beats having to type out taunts, you can still use the "chat" and "macro" features for transmitting typed messages to other players.

WISHLIST: Suggestions for version 1.1

In addition, to various items discussed above, there are several areas that need work.

The flight model could use some more tweaking for responsiveness. In addition, I did not appreciate the auto-leveling feature. Although it may be very helpful to many, it seemed to have the tendency to flip me over in hard turns and keep me upside down. An option to toggle it off would be nice.

TV's outdoor graphics fade into the foggy distance. Perhaps the designers of TV made this compromise in order to maintain a high framerate. However, if my recollection is correct, Comanche provided beautiful landscapes, generated in real time, clear to the horizon at high framerates even on my lowly 486dx33. I think those with fast Pentium machines would appreciate an option to select the amount of render-depth for the outdoor graphics.

Comm-bat target-identification should be added. It would be nice to "know" that it was your friend's fighter that you just blew out of the sky. I suggest displaying the player's name anytime they pass through the targeting reticle. An alternative would be to use color coding. Almost anything would help.

More multi-player options would increase the longevity of Terminal Velocity among gamers. Currently, there are no options for including computer-controlled enemies (as in Doom and Descent), or for varying the Comm-bat itself (as in Apogee's Rise of the Triads).


Despite the need for more refinement, Terminal Velocity is a very enjoyable game. Good proof of this is the fact that I have been playing it exclusively over the past few days since its release on May 1, 1995... and everyone knows that I am very picky about the games I play. I recommend TV to gamers seeking quick and easy action. It's definitely worth a download... even if to do nothing else than to fly through the grassy canyons of Crythania, the gorgeous second planet.

Needless to say, I am eagerly awaiting the registered version. =)

Review By GamesDomain

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Comments and reviews

Jason 2020-07-13 -1 point

POOPOOHEAD, want to talk to us about it? That is some serious shit. Glad you enjoyed the gaming though.

Rombus II 2020-04-16 0 point

Grew up in Houston and I used to catch the city bus to the Compaq Center just to play the demo version of this game.

Roozy 2018-09-07 1 point DOS version

Excellent 3D game.

poopoohead 2017-07-30 -2 points DOS version

I remember seeing this for the first time, my best friend took me to his uncles house who had a 486 pc computer.He showed me and my friend this game. I was amazed, the graphics were like nothing else I had seen before and the music was kick ass. My friends uncle let me play the game for a while, then he raped me. best afternoon ever.

777kluless111 2016-02-13 1 point

this was another game that ran really well on my old 486 computer, but of-course I could net enable svga and Pentium shadows and all the bells and whistles back then, I bought it only for one reason, I DID NOT want a RAIL-SHOOTER, I wanted a complete 360 degree FOM game and this game delivered, too bad it is so ARCADEeee in gameplay, wish it had more depth,story....something.
I still have my original cdrom.

indstr 2014-02-12 2 points DOS version

Oh yeah! Definitely a solid game. Used to play this quite a bit and had some memorable modem-to-modem games. Still not as good as Descent, but it was different too so you can't really compare them directly. Solid game, I believe the later Microsoft "Fury" game used the same engine.

DarkMatter 2013-11-21 3 points DOS version

Spent sleepless nights with this gem.

Kicklighter 2013-04-16 0 point DOS version

Hi folks,

Still got mine orignal in the shaft....but i'm afraid on the cd-rom can come some nails....hopefuly oneday i can solve this problem,


Leitbild 2013-02-13 2 points DOS version

Right after Descent my top favorite of 3D space fighter action!

Huge areas to explore, a non linear solution possibility for the missions and not too hard for beginners makes it a nice and entertaining blast fest throughout space! All in all one of the best 3D games of it's time! :)

hugo 2012-09-10 3 points DOS version

this was a really good 3d game

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Buy Terminal Velocity

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Game Extras and Resources

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ManualEnglish version 10 MB (DOS)

Other Releases

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