Costa Panayi‘s final game on the ZX Spectrum was published by Gremlin Graphics in 1989. It is an isometric shoot ’em up in the mould of Zaxxon, and it is technically very impressive.
Generally, games at the end of a machine’s life are usually technically accomplished, predominantly because programmers tend to have a good understanding of the hardware at that point, and H.A.T.E. (Hostile All-Terrain Encounter) is a good example of a modest home computer being pushed to its limits by video game coding.
Developer Panayi uses various techniques to squeeze as much variety into H.A.T.E. as possible, such as providing the player with both an aircraft and a ground assault vehicle to play with. There are narrow ravines, landing strips, undulating hills, and (of course) waves of oncoming aliens to blast. The basic idea is to collect plasma cells (the remains of nuclear generators) as you go, and how many you have at the end of a level determines how many lives you have in the next.
H.A.T.E. has a number of great touches that elevate it above much of the competition. The shadow underneath the ship is superb. It follows the contours of the landscape very convincingly and really puts the ship in 3D space (even though these are 2D graphics pretending to be 3D). The diagonal scrolling is silky smooth and full-screen (instead of contained within a tiny window), and is very impressive for a Spectrum game. There is some slowdown – when there are lots of sprites on-screen at once – but it doesn’t mar the game at all.
Hostile All-Terrain Encounter remains playable and enjoyable to this day and comes highly recommended as a Speccy retro classic. Amiga and Atari ST versions were also published, although I prefer this original version because it suits the machine better.
More: H.A.T.E. on Wikipedia