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SummaryTried for too much too far ahead of its time
The GoodAbility to fly both fighters and helicopters, decent strategic shell, decent graphics for its time, the novelty of leading an UN force against drugs (which was a major problem at the time).
The BadThe game tried too much with the technology available at the time. The box describes features that are not really in the game (or are so abstracted it's not really there). The AI is dumb (both your side and the enemy side). The flight model is a joke, and the controls are counter-intuitive.
The Bottom LineATAC is an interesting attempt to mix strategy with first-person sim. While it is possible to play this sim in strategy view only, best performance is achieved through a bit of hands-on operation.
You basically play the strategic map. The drug barons have a pipeline, which has plantation where the drugs are farmed, factories where they are purified, warehouses where they are stored, and ports/airports where they are shipped. Drug barons make money by making and shipping drugs. They need to pay the population for laborers.
Your job is to intercept the convoys linking each part of the pipeline against opposition, without angering the local population (by collateral damage). Avoid civilian casualties at all costs.
Initially, you have only intelligence in the nearby area. You get more intelligence by overflying certain areas, or by deploying DEA agents into those areas (but you'll need to periodically resupply them). You'll receive daily intelligence updates, like a train carrying Z is moving from X to Y. If you hurry, you can destroy the train before it reaches its destination... You must weigh your targets, your available assets, and so on.
Once you chose what targets to attack, you pick the crafts and which pilots to launch against which targets. You can take one of the crafts yourself, and even take over other pilots crafts in midflight if you wish. Otherwise, the AI will play the mission to the best of its ability.
On a full campaign level there can be up to 4 drug barons, though you can play the easy level which has only one drug baron. They are fully equipped with lots MiGs, like MiG-21, 23, and 29's, as well as plenty of other weapons.
Your ultimate objective is to bankrupt all of them by cutting off their pipeline while preserving your forces, without losing popular support.
Unfortunately, the designers bit off more than they could chew. The list of features does not even come CLOSE to what's listed on the back of the box. You hardly "lead" the 250 agents. They're just a couple dots on the map that affects the chances of getting intelligence from that sector. The two crafts modelled don't even fly right, much less effective. The AI pilots don't handle their crafts that well. Most of the time you just wait for intelligence to come in...
All in all, ATAC is a game that was ahead of its time. It has nice features, but the world was not ready for a first-person strategy game yet.