Berzerk- Fast Bullets- Advanced Tips and Tactics

Difficulty Progression

  • Slow Bullets after 5,000 points, Evil Otto doubles his speed, moving as fast as the player while robots remain in the maze, and twice as fast as the player after all the robots are destroyed.
  • The game allow 6 shots max on the screen at one time, including the player. 5 total from any robots at any one time.
  • Dark yellow robots that do not fire
  • Red robots that can fire 1 bullet (500points)
  • Dark cyan robots that can fire 2 bullets (1500points)
  • Fast Bullets incorporates a wider array of Robot difficulty beyond 1500points
  • Green robots that fire 3 bullets (3k)
  • Dark purple robots that fire 4 bullets (4.5k)
  • Light yellow robots that fire 5 bullets (6k)
  • White robots that fire 1 fast bullet (7.5k)
  • Dark cyan robots that fire 2 fast bullets (10k)
  • Light purple robots that fire 3 fast bullets (11k)
  • Gray robots that fire 4 fast bullets (13k)
  • Dark yellow robots that fire 5 fast bullets (15k)
  • Red robots that fire 5 fast bullets (17k)
  • Light cyan robots that fire 5 fast bullets (19k)

Steve Wagner, Berzerk World Record Holder, Arcade Fast Bullets, 350,340  3/12/2009

Note:  This guide is intended for the “Fast Bullets” version.  The fast bullets version of the game has a much larger sequence of colored robots which can fire many fast bullets at once during its peak difficulty (which levels out at a score of 20k).  The slow bullets version (which was part of the initial production run) has a 3 color sequence of robots and is a much easier iteration of the game.

Introduction

As a child of the 1980’s I hung out in arcades.  A lot.  Berzerk was the first game that really appealed to me at around 6 or 7 years old for a number of reasons.  The audio in the game was amazing, the speech of the robots was a bit scary at the time and while the graphics were dated when I started playing the game, about 2-3 years after its release, it did what most golden age games did, it provided an extremely fun (albeit frustrating) gaming experience without being complex in nature.  I stopped playing the game probably about when I was 12 years old when most of the golden age games had disappeared from the local arcade in favor of first the 4 player collaborative games, then later fighting games and soon after that the driving games.  Early in 2008 my love of Berzerk was re-ignited when I was in the Bahamas and the arcade at the hotel had a multi-game machine of which Berzerk was one of the options.  After a few games I was hooked again.  I purchased my own dedicated Berzerk cabinet soon after and along the way I’ve developed a few techniques that should help the average player become a good one and hopefully a good one become exceptional.  As anyone who’s played the game for a significant period of time can tell you, the game basically mocks you when it ramps up its difficulty to epic proportions.  This guide will hopefully give you the tools to mock it back, that is until it decides it is done playing with you and gives you the finger by placing you in an impossible spot.  So with that, enjoy, good luck and fight like a robot.

Overview

The story of how it was created and general game play of Berzerk can be found just about anywhere so rather than regurgitate that within this guide (not to mention this is entitled “Advanced” tips and tactics), I would rather use this section to wax about what type(s) of skills it takes to become a solid player at this game.  Most people tend to think this game is all about hand/eye coordination and while a good percentage of success in this game is due to that trait, I would argue that most of the great players are able to do 3 things rather well.

  1. Immediately recognize the situation their intruder is placed in when accessing a new level and assess in less than a second the correct move to both eliminate the danger(s) and get to a safe or blind spot in order to eliminate other threats.  This takes an uncanny ability to both know exactly at what position the robots extremely fast angle shots can reach your player and which robots possess the most immediate danger to you.  This becomes especially difficult as you become tired and lose focus.  Note:  This is not an issue at <10k points but soon after immediate read and react skill becomes absolutely critical for further success.
  2. Know how to approach and destroy remaining robots after the initial threat upon entering a screen is neutralized.  It is absolutely crucial that a player recognizes the proper way to eliminate positioned threats after the first few seconds of danger are averted.  For instance, players must know that a robot positioned above the player is much easier to destroy than a robot positioned below because the shots by the player are released from the right side which allows you to stay behind the wall when firing up but leaves you open when firing down.  To neutralize opponents below your intruder you must use a different tactic which I will cover later.
  3. Patience and planning are crucial.  Most players think that if they take too long eliminating threats within the maze that once Evil Otto appears they are done for.  This could not be further from the truth.  The good players will utilize patience within a maze either by using the robots to kill each other eliminating potential threats or by using Evil Otto to kill the few remaining robots to collect their bonus.  The more robots that appear on the maze, the longer amount of time you are given to clear it before Otto appears.  While this makes sense, too often players go running through the maze trying to shoot robots on crazy angles and without regard for positioning.  This will not work as you progress in the later levels.  You will not be able to overpower robots with your laser fire, they will simply match it and you will be at a standstill.  The good players learn to coax the robots into positions that will make them easier to pick off.  Always have a plan, at least on the higher levels.  Running and shooting without regard for position and accounting for where other robots are (or will be) will get you killed quickly.

Early Stages

The early stages in the game should be a breeze for any competent gamer.  The yellow robots which do not shoot back and move at a snail’s pace appear until the player reaches a score of at least 260.  The sequence continues with red robots which move at a slightly faster pace and fire one slow bullet.  They can be easily overpowered without much strategizing.  At 1200 points light blue robots appear and they fire 2 slow bullets and move at approximately the same speed.  Light green, Purple and Yellow robots then appear in succession each firing one more slow bullet (up to a total of 5 by the last of the yellow sequence).  At a score of 7500, white robots appear thus marking the first time the player will encounter “fast bullets”.  This is the first time a player probably will be taken aback by the increased difficulty level of the game.  The jump from yellow to white robots is a dramatic one and I will cover the beginning of the increased threat of fast bullets in the next section.

In order to defeat the early stages of the game, most gamers just need to eliminate the immediate threat when they enter the screen (normally directly in front of them) and just pick off any other robots along the way.  You should be able to overpower most of them with your fire.

Tips and Tricks

Some early tips and tricks:

  1. Most players surprisingly are not aware of this trick but if you hold down the fire button and move the joystick in any direction, your player will stand still and fire in that direction.  What is the benefit of this?  Simple.  By being able to use the joystick as a Robotron:2084 sort of firing device rather than the button itself, you can keep your player stationary (locked into position if you will) while firing.  You can also hold the joystick in a direction to keep firing much like rapidly pressing the fire button would.  This tactic is crucial in the later stages in order to hold your position without hitting the wall or getting hit by leaving your position and in the way of a robot’s line of site.  By using this tactic, you can position yourself as close to a wall as you like without fear of hitting it while picking off a robot(s).
  2. Most players know that the optimal way to play Berzerk is to move from left to right through the maze.  This is because your humanoid presents a poor shooting angle to the robots firing from the top/bottom (and a good one from right/left).  Thus by moving left to right you’ve essentially eliminated one of the good targets for them (The left side of you) and can easily pick off the robots to your immediate right and sidestep (because of the thin profile of the humanoid) the shots coming from the top/bottom.  Also you want Otto to appear from where you’ve already been, not where you are trying to go as you will die quite easily that way.  Occasionally when you reach the higher levels the game screws you by placing robots directly on an angle with you where they also have a good bead on you when immediately entering a room.  Picking these off (after noticing they too are in range) takes a lot of practice.
  3. When leaving a room in order to present an even tougher angle for robots immediately in the adjacent room you should either exit the room near the bottom of the wall or the top of the wall but never in the middle.  Most mazes have safe areas (or nooks if you will) near the top or the bottom and any time you can save by positioning yourself near that area upon entering a room should help.  Often times this will also prevent you from originating in a room directly in the line of fire of a pre-placed robot but not always as on the higher levels the robots can move into position rather quickly and pick you off even quicker.

Fast Bullets and Beyond

As mentioned earlier the fast bullets arrive with the white robots somewhere around the 7500-8k mark in your score and their arrival is denoted by a huge jump in difficulty for the average player.  No longer can the player overpower robots in a firefight or simply come into a room and casually pick off robots as they move through.  Now that the fast bullets arrive the player must kill any immediate robot threat upon entering a room (within a second or two), be able to strategically play through a maze knowing where the blind spots are for the robots and how to exploit that by controlling their movements and also being able to decide from which position they should be moving in order to easily dispatch any robots that are left at the end of the maze.  I will cover each of those in some detail.

Upon Entry Into a Maze

When first entering a maze on the higher levels, your eyes should be trained to immediately take a snapshot of where the robots are bound to be located before they appear in the maze.  With repetition you will begin to learn where the robots appear in which maze diagram.  Normally the best method of avoiding death within the first 1-2 seconds of entering a maze on the higher levels is to shoot one bullet directly in front of you blindly (left to right before the robots appear) and much like in basketball, follow your shot.  This will help get you out of the line of fire of where your original entry point was and hopefully move you into a safe(r) area from which to operate.  Note that there are always exceptions to this method such as being placed in a maze on a direct angle with fast shooting robots.  In this case there isn’t much you can do except try to pick one off (you normally only have time for one choice and then move toward that empty spot).  If there are multiple robots on correct shooting angles with you then you had better hope you connected with the first shot and got out of their line of sight in enough time.  Most times on the higher levels if you miss with your first shot towards the robot that presents the most danger at the time (normally directly in front of you or close by on an angle) you have no chance of survival.  You get less than 1 second to accomplish surviving the initial entry into a maze on the higher levels, that’s what makes this game so unforgiving.  Once you survive the first few seconds of a maze, you should have no trouble clearing it out.  The next sections will help accomplish that goal.

Picking Off the Rest

So by now you have eliminated the initial threat of robot(s) upon entering a room and are safely settled into a secure area.  Now I’ll examine how to pick off the remaining robots and exit the room with your clear bonus.

Know at which angle and from what direction the optimal approach is for killing off free roaming robots.  That is, to determine the best method of attacking (in terms of playing angles) we must examine all of the different positions and which ones work and which subsequently do not.  If a robot is above you directly (positioned behind a wall) or below you directly (positioned behind a wall) both will have to be killed by firing off a few shots and then walking out from behind the wall in order to get the robot to follow you from behind the protective wall and it will walk directly into the shot.  This can be tricky on the higher levels where the shots are fast and you must take care not to walk into robot fire but this is the only way to defeat an opponent from this angle and will take some practice to get used to.

Attacking a free roaming robot from left to right is probably the easiest (next to free roaming from top to bottom or bottom to top) task.  Just remember that you fire “taller” than the robot will, as such your shot will be toward their head, while theirs will be near your torso so always try to be below them (while still horizontal) to easily dispose of them.  You stand no chance if they are free roaming coming at you right to left but still below your silhouette.  Your shots will fire right over their head and they will destroy you rather quickly.

In the event that you have a robot positioned behind a wall and you are approaching it from left to right, you can simply position yourself near the base of where the wall starts, use the locked fire technique I explained earlier and fire as close to touching the base of the wall as possible and the robot’s head will always be hit and his fire (since it is lower than yours) will always just hit the wall he’s behind.  This is about the easiest position to destroy robots from so always try to use it to your advantage.  Note:  This would be much easier to demonstrate through screen captures but I’m too lazy for that and am already giving away too much information as it is.

Never, I repeat, never try to fire angle shots at robots on the higher levels, you will have no chance of survival.  They fire angle shots at ridiculous speeds and can auto detect exactly when they can hit you and you can’t really do that.  You will notice that the most times you die will be upon entering a room and a robot has a clear angle shot and you don’t realize it.  Angled bullets travel extremely fast.  This is why it is always prudent to stay near the wall, angle shots will still be fired at you but will hit the wall if you recognize where the robots are in relation to your humanoid and where the safety spots are out of their line of sight and especially out of the sight lines of the deadly angle shots.

The last robot in a room is always a little bit of a war because they speed up and sometimes will try to ram you if they are not on an angle in which they have a clear shot.  Consequently this is a good tactic by them because this means you also don’t have a clear shot and they move faster than your humanoid.  If I have one robot left in a room and it isn’t blocking my path to the exit I will usually just wait by the exit and let Evil Otto destroy it for me and pick up my bonus without risking my life.  Remember, it’s better to stay alive than pick up your bonus.  If you’re in a bad spot I would try to move towards the exit and hopefully guide Evil Otto into the remaining robots.

Final Thoughts

This game is a very unforgiving game.  It ramps up its difficulty rather quickly and offers no condolences in doing so.  The best way to survive the higher levels is to recognize and eliminate the utmost threat(s) as soon as you enter a room, even going so far as to firing into where you think the robot(s) will appear before they do.  The game gives you a split second to make that decision before it attempts to end your game, use it to your advantage to get the first shot away.  For advanced players, as soon as the initial threat is neutralized, you should be able to clear the board without much trouble.  Use the walls to your advantage and the fire button trick at every opportunity.  Try to always be in the robot’s blind spot(s) until you are ready to dispose of them.  Make sure you utilize their ability to destroy each other to full advantage whether through their own friendly fire deaths or running into each other.  The game difficulty plateaus at 20k so if/when you reach that score you will at least have the solace of knowing it can’t get any worse.  Good luck reaching those heights and may all your bonuses equal 110 points.

Steve Wagner

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