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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Flight Sim

 

Publisher

Strategy First

 

Developer

Third Wire Productions

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q4 2002

 

 

- Exhaustive detail

- Will appeal to flight sim junkies

 

 

- No in-game tutorial

- Very limited appeal

- Exhaustive detail, but still pretty bland looking

 

 

Review: Echelon (PC)

Review: Starfighter Special Edition (XB)

 

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Strike Fighters

Score: 6.0 / 10

 

Being a full-blown flight simulator, it goes without saying that Strike Fighters isn't geared towards the casual gamer. My last flight sim was X-Wing and I'll admit that I was daunted by the scope and detail of this game.

 

After selecting a name and callsign, you're given the option of flying missions in either Instant Action, Single Mission, Campaign or Multiplayer mode. Instant Action drops you in the vicinity of enemy fighters, handy for a quick dogfight. Single Player lets you fly randomly generated missions, with the results recorded on your flight record. Campaign places you in the shoes of a U.S. pilot involved in an oil dispute with the Soviet Union in the Middle East.  

 

strike-fighters-1.jpg (19188 bytes)        strike-fighters-2.jpg (16544 bytes)

 

While Instant Action cuts straight to the chase, Single Missions/Campaign modes lets you customize your aircraft prior to the mission. It's pretty extensive: you can alter your payload, paint scheme, markings, squadron designation, even the serial number. Additionally, you can view an aerial planning map and tinker with your flight plan.

 

Furthermore, during Single Mission, you can tailor not only your bird but the mission parameters. You can choose your aircraft type, mission objective, map, number of enemies, starting time and weather conditions. There are a dizzying number of objectives including Fighter Sweep, Combat Air Patrol, Intercept, Escort, Strike, Close Air Support, Air Defense Suppression, Anti-Ship and Armed/Normal Reconnaisance. Exhaustive, to say the least.

 

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Gameplay-wise, it handles, well, like a flight simulator. Your plane moves relatively slowly: this is definitely not for shooter fans. Fly your mission well and you'll receive a medal. Crash and burn and you might receive that same medal posthumously.

 

You get four choices of aircraft: the F-100 Super Sabre, A-4 Skyhawk, F-104 and F-4 Phantom II. Whilst soaring through the skies, loosing sidewinders and chewing flak, you might encounter the Soviet MiG-17 Fresco, MiG-19 Farmer, MiG-21 Fishbed or Su-7 Fitter bomber.

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Weapons consist of the trusty 20mm cannon and a selection of missiles including variations of the Sidewinder and Sparrow models. Also available are cluster bombs, napalm, rocket pods and anti-radiation missiles.

 

Visually, Strike Fighters didn't impress me although, like most flight sims, visceral bliss is never the intention. The requisite lens flare effects and smoke trails on the missiles were nice but horizons seemed bland and uninspired. Enemy craft lacked depth or texture. However, sound effects were plausible and the crackly skipchatter between your wingmates, reasonably authentic. The multiplayer function via Gamespy Arcade is fine although lag will prevail when using dial-up.

 

The interface is good but a no-brainer since, being a simulator, it reproduces by rote an actual cockpit. Housed within this gleaming nest of readouts and dials is the kind of stuff that makes propellerheads dizzy with joy: Radar Scope, True Airspeed Indicator, Altimeter, Radar Altimeter, Angle-of-Attack Indicator, Turn-and-Slip Indicator, Oil Pressure Gauge, Fire Warning Light, Exhaust Gas Temperature Gauge, Fuel Flow Indicator, Airspeed and Mach Number Indicator, Hydraulic Pressure Gauge, the list goes on and on.

 

strike-fighters-3.jpg (20822 bytes)         strike-fighters-4.jpg (9040 bytes)

 

It's all very overwhelming, but the real slap in the face comes with the dire absence of a tutorial. Your average retired Air Force pilot might understand the significance of corner velocity and slip angles, but I was confused, frankly. Granted, the manual is well written and even gives you a run-down of airplane physics and basic evasive maneuvers. But neglecting walkthroughs for essential game processes like landing or targeting enemy craft is sin. And why write about the Immelman Turn when you can demonstrate it in-game?

 

Which is really an indication of the kind of demographic that Strike Fighters aims to please: flight sim diehards and real-life pilots who can't get enough of their day job. Civilians steer clear: this is definitely one for the flyboys. (And judging by the comments we've received, even the flyboys have much to gripe about.)

 

- Justin Liew

(January 2, 2003)

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