by David Braben, Dominic M.N. Prior, Ian C.G. Bell, Mark Wighton, Philip Mochan, Ricardo J.M. Pinto, Tim Boone
Firebird Software Ltd
Crash Issue 22, Nov 1985   page(s) 28,30

Producer: Firebird
Memory Required: 48K
Retail Price: £14.95
Language: Machine code
Author: Torus

Starting life on the BBC, Elite was converted for the Commodore and, has just appeared for the Spectrum, a mere three months late. It will go down in history as the first major piece of software to be supplied with the Lenslock protection device - a cunning way of preventing piracy by supplying a plastic decoding lens which is used to discover the encrypted access code for the game. In essence, after loading you need to look through the lens onto the screen in order to see the code letters which must be input before the program will RUN. The cassette is also accompanied by a slim novella which sets the scene.

Converted by Torus, creators of Gyron, Spectrum Elite follows a very similar format to its other incarnations. With stars in your eyes and a Cobra Mk III in your charge, you've set yourself the task of becoming Elite, a combateer of the highest ranking. To become Elite you'll have to rise through several distinct stages starting with the almost derogatory rating of 'Harmless'. The more ships you kill, the higher your rating will rise, though mindless violence is not the only aspect to the game.

To become an efficient killer you must have a well equipped ship, replete with weapons of destruction. When you start, the ship you're given is a pretty poor machine, not really up to the rigours of deep space combat, so the best thing to do is to buy extra equipment from the space stations you'll find in orbit around every planet. Most of the military hardware doesn't come cheap and seeing as how you only start with one hundred credits you will need to make some money. This is where the mindwork comes into play. You will have to trade.

Every planet in the eight galaxies has a tech rating and some information detailing the world's economy. Using a trader's cunning, you can buy goods at one planet and take them to another and sell them for a profit. To be sure of making a profit it is wise to sell goods naturally rare on the planet you're trading with. For example a tech level 12, highly industrialised planet will probably have to import food, making the market price quite high. If you buy food from a low tech agricultural planet you can ferry it to the more advanced planet for a good profit margin.

Information about each planet's political state is available, which will range from corporate state to anarchy. It is not wise to travel to an anarchic system with little in the way of weaponry as the place will be crawling with pirates. And pirates are doubly aware of you if you're carrying any cargo.

Different cultures aren't too friendly with each - you can't land on planets. This makes trade awkward, so it's effected through a system of space stations. Each trading planet is orbited by a Coriolis space station which you need to dock with - a time consuming and awkward task. Once docked, you can refuel your ship and barter your wares inside the hanger. If you get rich, it's possible to buy a docking computer to make life easier.

Fuel is only expended when you use hyperwarp for interstellar travel. Pottering around in planetary space burns no fuel and trips can be costed in fuel terms on a the short range chart. If you've bought some fuel scoops you can pick up free fuel by flying close and raking energy from the a star's corona - sun skimming.

Bounty hunting is lucrative and simple: jump into an anarchic system and blast away at everything. A kill point is awarded for each ship destroyed and your credit status grows with the bounty. It is, however, best to go in heavily armed, and with a fair amount battle experience. Other loot gathering activities include asteroid mining, slave trading and drug running - but the last two are illegal and harm your legal status.

You see the action from the cockpit, viewing a 3D representation of space. Three other views are available through left, right and rear windows. The display is mainly monochrome; vector graphics represent ships and objects. Colour appears occasionally, in explosions.

To keep track of ships and asteroids not in your immediate vicinity, there's an oval short range chart. Other ships, attacking and friendly, are represented as a bar with small hook at the end showing the height above or below your ship and distance from it.

A wealth of informative documentation comes with the cassette. A book commissioned from SF writer Robert Holdstock gives an interesting story plus a multitude of veiled hints for survival in a rough galaxy. The Space Traders' Flight Training Manual is also included, an essential guide to survival giving hints on docking, trade and combat. You also receive a pretty wallchart to hang in your cabin!

If you are doing well it's possible to save out your progress to tape. This will record all your status attributes including score and credits.


Control keys: Control keys: Front View/Launch (1); Back View/ Buy (2); Left View/Sell (3); Right View/Equip (4); Escape Pod (Q); Energy Bomb (W): ECM (E); Find Planet (R); Fire Missile (F) Target (T); Unarm (U); Galactic Chart (I); Local Chart (O); Data on System (P); Fire Laser (A); Dive/Cursor Up (5); Climb/ Cursor Down (X); Anti-clockwise Roll/Cursor Left (N); Clockwise Roll/Cursor Right (M); Distance (D); Hyperspace/ Intergalactic jump (H); Torus Jump Drive (J); Prices (K); Status (L); Inventory (ENTER); Freeze (SHIFT); Docking Computer (C); Home Cursor (B); Save/Decelerate (SYMBOL SHIFT); Continue/Accelerate (BREAK) Keyboard overlay provided
Joystick: compatible with all
Keyboard play: complicated!
Use of colour: sparse but highly effective
Graphics: excellent, but occasionally produces odd effects
Sound: nice tune when loaded, plus some spot effects
Skill levels: one
Screens: not applicable

Elite is one of the most imaginative games ever to be designed to run on a home computer and Spectrum owners should be pretty chuffed that they've got a superb version. When a ship's destroyed, the explosion looks like an expanding ball of gas and vaporised metal. It's highly effective. There are slightly fewer ships than on previous versions but the graphics move quite fast considering their complexity - they're flicker free, too! All in all an excellent version of an excellent game.

With the Spectrum Elite, Firebird have improved on a tried and tested formula. It must have been quite a risk to take, adapting a cult game from the BBC and puffing it on the Spectrum, but the risk has paid off handsomely. The graphics are excellent of a reasonable speed (not as fast as Starion), and, unlike previous versions of Elite, they are not flickery. So much for Elite the Spectrum version, what about Elite the game? it can be slow to get into, because at the outset you must trade to get on, but once you have achieved a level of skill that allows you better equipment for your ship, the game really hits deep space in a mean, mean way. This is a perfect blend of trading, shoot em up and strategy and if you're not very careful you can find yourself getting badly hooked, spending hours trying to get just that little bit further. Here the SAVE game facility is a great help, and means that Elite is not so much a game - more a way of life. That may sound corny, but for once it really is true! No self-respecting Spectrum owner should be without it because it's worth every penny of the £15 price tag.

Well here it is at last, the Spectrum version of Elite, and yes it has been worth the wait. The graphics are very good, only slowing down a little, if at all, when the screen gets chock a block. The launch/hyperspace sequence is very neat, nearly as good as Dark Star. The screen layout is well-balanced with just the right amount of colour and dots. The addictive nature of the name is increased with 5 missions compared to the meagre 2 of the C64 and BBC versions. My only gripe is that you have to use some stupid lenslock thing to play the game - you could spend hours trying to suss out the thing. You can compare your version of Elite versions for other machines and smile with pride at what Firebird have produced.

Graphics: 93%
Playability: 91%
Getting Started: 92%
Addictive Qualities: 94%
Value For Money: 81%
Overall: 92%

Summary: General Rating: A first class, absorbing game.

Award: Crash Smash

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Spectrum Issue 20, Nov 1985   page(s) 28,29


Are you ready to face the final frontier? Space is a dangerous place so stay at home if you're faint-hearted. But the rest of you should join Commander David Bishop as he battles his way through the infinite variety of Firebird's Elite.

It's taken an eternity but now the sitting around in space station departure lounges is almost over... fellow space travellers, you are grounded no longer. Elite has arrived to prove there's plenty of life left in Speccy software, not to mention the eight galaxies each with two hundred and fifty planets set in deep space.

Climb aboard your Cobra MkIII trading and combat craft, check your wallet for the 100 credits you start with (hardly enough for a GalacDonalds) and run through the list of weapons. There's the cheap and cheerful Front Pulse Laser, Zieman deflection shields, a Lance & Ferman 'seek and kill' missile system and the Holodirect & Grav-Distort communications system. Sounds impressive, huh? Well, it's interstellar peanuts compared what you'll need to become a member of the order of Elite.

But getting your hands on the hardware you'll need, requires ready cash. Your best bet is to start trading - buying cheap and selling on the other side of the galaxy at a premium. And if you're really out to make a fast buck, you can always try dealing in drugs - but don't be surprised when you find both pirates and police on your tail. In space there's no mercy, and justice is dispensed with the gun.

And as if that's not enough to contend with, you'll find yourself faced with special problems that can spell death if a solution isn't found - and fast! How will you react when your ship is infected with the plague, for example?

To win at Elite, you're gonna need the commercial acumen of a merchant banker, the stategic skills of a chess grand master and the combat reactions of a jet pilot from Earth back in the pre-dawn days of the 1980's and 90's. But then nobody said it was going to be easy!

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Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 44, Nov 1985   page(s) 23

Publisher: Firebird
Price: £14.95
Memory: 48K
Joystick: Kempston, Cursor

The Cobra's huge engines moan into life as you sit tensely at the controls waiting to be shot out of the space station.

Your ship is the best of the medium-range, medium capacity, fighter traders and is ideal for transporting legal and illegal cargoes across the universe. It incorporates defensive screens, pulse lasers and missile launch facilities, while also being able to handle the jump to hyperspace.

Once you have cleared the Coriolis space station, orbiting around the planet Lave, you can look out into space, turning your 3D display window to look at the star fields.

Space travel can be achieved with small spurts of engine power or hyperspace, but only if aliens or police are not in the vicinity. If they are you must stand and fight. At the bottom of the screen you will find the flight grid scanner which displays other space ships or stations in your area. It is by using that, and the compass located on the right side of the screen, that you can track aliens.

You will know when the enemy approaches as everything is shown in gory graphic glory. The craft grows from a speck to a shape which is barely recognisable. Then it grows bigger until you can identify it as one of the 10 ships in the game. Those include Adders, Mambas, Pythons and the deadly Thargoid invasion ships.

Each has its distinctive shape which is illustrated in the bulky, but indispensible, Space Traders Flight Training Manual. If you miss it with your lasers or missiles it will approach quickly, trying to keep out of your sight, and either spin past you or fire its weapons systems.

The authors have built range factors into the laser systems so that you cannot, for instance, use them to destroy a ship which is small and hundreds of light years away.

In some ways Elite can be described as a simulation. You are piloting a space vehicle which will only take so much stress and strain and steering is more complex than in most space games. You can even become disorientated and have to rely on your instruments if you bank too sharply.

The aliens will not sit still while you target your weapons and you will find that on many occasions you must control your ship's movement as well as operating the lasers or missile guidance system. You should be careful, too, not to over-compensate on the controls. Such action can send you into a wild spin.

The alien ships react in a believable manner. If hit hard enough they will not explode into nothing but break up. You can pick up the odd piece of cargo in that way, but beware the larger debris.

Fighting the forces of law and evil in space is only part of the game. You must earn a living, by buying and selling commodities from different planetary systems.

Home in on the planet of your choice, using the long range scanner, and ask for a report on inhabitants, the political climate and products.

The political climate is important and can influence trading links and attitudes. If you warp into a system where anarchy prevails you will soon find pirate ships on your tail. Goods are there for the taking.

To get to a particular planetary system, you must switch your display to the long range scanner, position the cursor over the planet of your choice - which is within range - and press the hyperdrive activation key. You will, however, only get to a new system if you have destroyed all the aliens in the current sector.

When you arrive at a planet you can look at the list of available commodities. They include shipboard resources such as fuel, textiles, food and even illegal substances. If you decide to traffic in black market goods you will be regarded as an outlaw.

Elite is an unbelievably complex game with arcade, strategy and adventure elements. It will, inevitably, be compared with games such as Starion from Melbourne House. The graphics on both games are similar, but Elite has the edge with its 3D control panel, instruments which are constantly updated, and denser star field.

When you are not playing the game you can read the novel included in the package. The Dark Wheel by Robert Holdstock, a noted science fiction writer, develops the background to the game.

Take up the challenge. You are unlikely to find another space game of Elite's calibre this year.

Overall: 5/5

Award: Sinclair User Classic

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 54, Sep 1986   page(s) 47

Label: Firebird
Author: Torus
Price: £14.95
Memory: 128K
Joystick: Kempston
Reviewer: John Gilbert

At last, 128 owners can take a Cobra Mk III for a spin in Firebird's new version of its classic Elite trading and combat strategy game.

The new version uses the same plot and trading missions as before but the graphics and action have been improved. You start the game docked at the space station in the Lave system. Short-range scanners tell you where your fuel can take you and a trading list gives information on the prices of goods you can acquire on the planet of your choice.

You are a trader, of course, and the aim of the game is still to buy from one planet and sell at a profit on another and you still take part in speedily fought space battles in glorious 3D white on black.

On the 128 version. Firebird has included three special missions and to become an 'Elite' you must kill 6,000 ships, which seems an almost impossible task.

Firebird has also incorporated a couple of novel features into the new version. The first stops you from using the famous bug at the start of the game to amass thousands of credits in a matter of seconds.

The company has also made some concessions to players who find it difficult to stay alive before and after hyperspace travel from one planet to another. Just leave the space station in Lave - don't touch the movement controls - and slowdown.

Select a new hyperspace destination, pull the joystick up to loop-the-loop and come back on a heading for the station. As you re-enter the station press hyperspace and you'll be transported automatically to your new destination. This feature doesn't work with all of the planets - you may crash into a station if you pick the wrong one.

Otherwise the usual rules for playing Elite apply. You can select your moral class - you can be good or bad - and become involved in battles between space police and pirates if you become a rogue, trading in drugs and other illegal substances. You should be thoroughly wary of any ship which hoves into sight. There are nine major types some of which will require more laser blasts than others to destroy, or even be impervious to your missiles.

In the old Elite ships such as Vipers appeared from nowhere. More attention to detail in the new version means that ships appear from the hatches of space stations and, if you wait around long enough, you can knock them off as they exit.

You get a few credits - the universal monetary unit - for bumping off other ships if they're owned by pirates but the mega-credits are made in trade. The type of goods available on a planet depends upon geological environment, level of civilisation and type of administration, and you need to take these three aspects into consideration when you sell on a planet. For instance, you could sell computers to a culturally dormant society at a huge profit.

Elite is still as gripping as when it was first released. The shear volume of detail included - the histories of hundreds of races, details of planetary geometry, culture and government - make it still the most complex arcade strategy game ever devised.

Overall: 5/5

Summary: Re-release of a stunning arcade simulation. The yard-stick by which to measure other strategy games.

Award: Sinclair User Classic

Transcript by Chris Bourne

ACE (Advanced Computer Entertainment) Issue 7, Apr 1988   page(s) 68

Spectrum, £14.95cs
C64/128, £14.95cs, £17.95dk
Amstrad, £9.95cs, £12.95dk
PC, £24.95dk

If this 3D space epic is a shoot-em-up then Michelangelo was an interior decorator, but for all that trading and mining you can do there's still a cracking blast in here. You can shuttle between safe systems carrying legal cargoes if you want, but the only way you'll get that coveted deadly or elite ranking is by going out there and wrecking other ships. This isn't easy: the combat is 3D tactically as well as graphically, so marauding pirates can attack from any direction There's no up, no down, and absolutely no quarter. Kill the enemy, run for home or die in the process. Tough, cynical stuff that'll have the palms of your hands in a sweat. Graphics have come on a bit since the slowish wire frames of the 8-bit versions - the PC Elite is in solid 3D - but for deep-space dogfighting the game still gets top marks.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

C&VG (Computer & Video Games) Issue 50, Dec 1985   page(s) 33

MACHINE: Spectrum
SUPPLIER: Firebird
PRICE: £14.95

Combine a strategy/trading game, a flight simulator, a space shoot'em-up and what have you got? The answer is, of course, Elite, originally for the BBC B from Acornsoft.

At the time, most frustrated C64 and Spectrum owners listened to BBC owners talk of the delights of having military lasers and being "Dangerous".

This almost caused several suicides and dumped machines, but soon word came about that a bunch of bright young sparks called Firebird Software had gained the conversion rights.

So, what makes this game so special that it seems to sell on any machine? Well, it is highly original and totally addictive for a start, secondly, this is not a game that you pick up, play and finish in a month. This can be a lifetime's experience and an enjoyable one too.

You are placed on a space station with 100 credits, a space ship called a Cobra MK III, and a rating of harmless and clean, these ratings are actually very important because you are hoping to attain the ranks of Elite.

This is done by trading in a number of options available to you such as a long and short range chart, several equipping and trade menus, and the ability to look out from all four points of the compass through appropriate scanners.

Now you must select a planet from your short range chart then find out its details, This will help you select goods for trading (this is logical so I'm not going to give you any clues).

Also, the state of the government is an indicator of how much trouble awaits you. Having settled on which planet you are off to and what goods you're taking, you're off.

Overall, a really good game. The Spectrum version is slightly faster than the Commodore version but not quite as fast as the BBC. Some of the missions have had to be cut down to conserve memory and there aren't so many graphic tricks as in the C64 but still worth every penny of the £14.95 you will have to fork out.

This is definitely a game that no-one who owns a computer should be without. Take my advice, buy it and you probably won't be seen for six months.

Graphics: 9/10
Sound: 9/10
Value: 9/10
Playability: 10/10

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Computer Issue 1, Jan 1986   page(s) 41


A year after the battlestar Elite was launched, it has at last made contact with the universe of the Spectrum owner. Perhaps the most talked about computer game ever, has it lost anything in translation?

The game has virtually been rewritten by Firebird's Torus team, and is a very impressive piece of programming. All the best features of the BBC game are there - very fast vector graphics, good instrument display and of course tremendous depth.

You start off as "Harmless" with a real bucket of a ship and 100Cr to your name. Your ambition is to attain the fabled combat status of "Elite" and line your pockets at the same time. The game starts slowly while you get the hang of the controls and make a paltry profit shuttling between safe planets, then the pace begins to quicken as you fill you hold with highly profitable cargo, and equip your ship to allow you to go where no man has traded before.

To attain the status of Elite you have to blow away some 8,000 ships. To break up this somewhat monotonous process, you are called upon to perform a couple of missions for the Galactic Navy.

What, of course, sets this game apart is the use of vector graphics and challenging combat sequences with, if you're unlucky, up to a dozen ships and general bits of debris floating around the place. The number of ships is a reflection of your legal and combat status, the type of planet and your cargo.

Shooting peaceful traders and trading in narcotics are good ways to get rich quick, but the police take a dim view of it. Things can soon get sticky with half a dozen ships whittling down you energy as you twist and turn trying to escape. However, once you're equipped with a military laser - affectionately known as The Can Opener by pilots everywhere - life becomes a little easier, if it really gets nasty, it's time to hyperspace out, or perhaps try out the smart bomb.

Although it's difficult at this early stage to tell whether Firebird have succeeded in bug eradication, there does seem to be a problem with the space stations which are sometimes placed too far away from the planet, and on one occasion in the middle of the planet.

On the plus side, your status is constantly displayed on all screens and the display is very fast, even when a lot is happening on the screen.

Frankly a program no self-respecting Spectrum owner can afford to be without.

Graphics: 5/5
Sound: 3/5
Playability: 4/5
Value For Money: 5/5
Overall Rating: 5/5

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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