||Apr 11, 2004
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Chris Roberts creates an enjoyable world of mercenaries and jet fighter pilots. Just please don't play off of floppy.
Okay, let me first give you a little history. In 1993 or so when this game was first released I bought a copy, the version that came on 3.5" disks. Unfortunately due to reasons that I will describe later in the negative part of this review, it didn't get much play. It was a year or two later when I managed to snag a copy of the CD-ROM version (including Speech Pack & Tactical Missions) and was blown away. Here was the game I was hoping for... full of fun missions and beautiful landscapes.
Not to mention a story that positively made me go "wow". The story is this... it's the year 2011 and for the past 10 years, there has been enough war in the world to make a mess out of things. Pilot Mercenaries become just as valid a job as anything else, and in that vain... the city of Istanbul passes laws of diplomatic immunity and tax breaks in an attempt to become the "mercenary capital" of the world. Outside of the city at an old air force base, there is one such squadron, The Wildcats... who are more selective than the others. They won't do anything for money. They won't accept missions of unacceptable civilian danger. They won't commit outright murder. Led by Commander James Stern and managed by the accountant, Virgil... The Wildcats are your squadron... a bunch of F-16s and some other planes. Just trying to make ends meet.
In fact, being a mercenary never felt so much fun. Because you're not just a mercenary pilot... you're the mercenary co-commander of a squadron. Eventually you'll need to decide which missions to take and which armaments to buy. Every plane you lose in the air costs your insurance company money... and after enough of them, they'll decide that your squadron is high-risk and will pull out.
Your missions will take you to all parts of the the world... in a variety of missions. There are civil wars going on everywhere it seems. From Alaska hording off the invading United States to the middle east, africa and south america. Not to mention the occasional trouble in your mercenary home of Istanbul.
As for flight itself, the gameplay tends toward "arcade" more than true simulation... however every effort is made to give differences in types of weapons. Sidewinders act differently and must be targeted differently than AMRAAM. IR Smart Bombs act differently and must be targeted differently from Cluster Bombs. You'll also get the chance to shoot down many different types of enemy planes. Well over 18 models of planes... with different markings. Unfortunately you won't get to fly (m)any of these.... the Wild Cats are primarily an F-16 Squadron... with NPC support planes.
Missions are picked up via Selim's... a local bar in Istanbul, where your contacts will meet with you. In fact, the meeting of characters is VERY similar to Wing Commander: Privateer... but a minor issue. For most jobs, you will have the option to accept or reject and find somebody else... and all missions have variety with full storyline mission briefing and wingman selection.
Let me start by recapping what I mentioned earlier. When this game was first released on 3.5" disks... it had a couple of flaws. The Installation routine was notoriously buggy (I only ever managed to installed it once myself) and the game was slow, being designed for computers too powerful for the average system at the time. Thus most people couldn't get it to run and those did found it to not play very well at all. This is the reason most reviewers of the time never gave Strike Commander a good rating. And as well they should. However, this was all fixed when a CD-ROM version arrived. Most of the bugs were fixed and the game itself ran faster by about 33%. Additionally, included were the speechpack, tactical operations and a new CD intro movie. But unfortunately most people's opinions by this time were set... and Strike Commander never got the respect it deserved due to that premature initial release.
That being said, what don't I like about the game? Not a whole lot actually. Runways actually frustrate me a lot in this game. First of all, the principal way to destroy and enemy's runway is with so-called Runway Bombs... aka Durandals. You drop a few bombs on the runway and the resulting craters ruin the landing strip. However in practice, the game doesn't always seem to "count" the hits with runway bombs. And it's nearly as easy to destroy a runway with simple cannon fire (how does that make sense?), in fact... you might have to, after you've dropped all your Durandals.
Futhermore, mission objectives success are signaled with an audio cue. It can sometimes be very difficult to figure out which targets need to be destroyed to "success" a mission waypoint. Tanks and other vehicles are especially bad as they tend to travel away from the waypoint with time. Honestly though, this is no worse than trying to figure out the exact objectives of a Wing Commander mission.
Also, as far as minor nitpicking goes, in "dogfight mode" of your HUD makes shooting down enemies with your cannon too easy... however that's easily fixed by the player by switching to "Strafe mode"...
The Bottom Line
This game has plot, atmosphere... fun flying and good graphics when you do. At the time of this writing in 2003, it is my second favorite game of all time and I look forward to playing it all over again soon. In my opinion, it's a game impressive enough to make up for it's initial buggy release. If you like Wing Commander
, this is more of the same, but with unique plot and flight model. Oh, and *please* get the CD-ROM.