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Written by  :  Maury Markowitz (251)
Written on  :  Aug 26, 2002
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars

2 out of 2 people found this review helpful

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Too bad it wasn't the Mac version...

The Good

There's so much to like about any Parsoft release it's hard to know where to start describing it. The physics and flight dynamics are excellent, the damage modeling superb, great UI as always, even great graphics. But the hallmark of every Parsoft release is the way you feel you're in an actual "world". In most games if you leave the narrow confines of the mission layout there's nothing going on, the world is empty except for a few hand-placed items. Not so in a Parsoft game. Fly anywhere around Cuba and there's always something going on; trucks driving around, ships coming into dock, maybe even someone shooting at you.

Realism of the planes and weapons is excellent. The A-10 is an old plane with no radar, and this makes the game considerably more interesting in my opinion. To many of the modern aircraft sims consist of pressing keys and then pulling the trigger, but this isn't the case in this game.

Likewise the cockpit was excellent, almost a blueprint of the actual plane. Realism was helped further by the UI they used for running systems in the plane. Holding down the Control key turned the mouse into your pilots hand (a hand cursor actually) and you could click various buttons and switches in the cockpit. Since the A-10's systems are so simple you didn't have any instances of confusing controls or menu navigation, so this system worked very well and saved you from having to remember too many keys. Want to drop the bombs you have? Flick the Master Arm switch to "on", click the buttons for the weapons stations with bombs (they light up), turn the gunsight knob to CPIP, and off you go. Not a single keypress.

In the included missions you fight it out with planes, ships, oodles of ground based anti-aircraft weapons of various sorts, and at one point even have to stop a paradrop. No campaign system though, which was a continuing problem for all Parsoft products.

The Bad

Sadly A-10 Cuba had the bad luck of being released on the PC at about the time that the game world was moving onto hardware acceleration. So while the graphics were out of the world for 1995 when first released on the Mac, they were becoming dated by the time they were released on the PC. The game ended up in that netherworld of fantastic games that looked ancient, with Su-27 being the other obvious example.

Another problem is that there was no "original" A-10 on the PC. On the Mac this game was an update that plugged into the existing A-10 engine (suitably patched of course). In the Mac version you had a full mission editor, maps, waypoint control, etc. In fact it was really two games in one based on a common engine, in "game one" the UI was the aircraft, and in "game two" it was a large 2-d map with moving icons. You could switch between the two games on the fly using the Escape key.

For the PC release they simply whipped up a UI shell for "game one" and stuck it in a box. Game two they never ported. So one of the best things about the A-10 engine, the mission system, was simply thrown in the trash on the PC.

What allowed the games to be "plugged together" on the Mac was a system called VBE - Virtual Battlefield Environment. This was an API that allowed the missions, planes, weapons etc., to be plugged into the basic engine. The missions for both Germany (from the original Mac version) and Cuba were in this format, but without the mission editor (and some associated UI) you couldn't put those Mac missions on the PC.

Worst of all the VBE format was never published. A few people tried to reverse engineer it, but no such luck. The real power of the A-10 engine was never placed in the end-users hands.

As to the missions themselves, I just think they were too hard. The ones in the earlier (Mac based) German pack were tough, but fairly easy to understand. Cuba's are out of the world though.They have dozens of waypoints and special events you need to do at the right time or they don't work. It definitely stole some of the fun out of the game, notably compared to the German missions.

The Bottom Line

This is still a great game any way you look at it, and tonnes of fun. But sadly this just isn't the game that it was on the Mac.