Producer: Digital Integration
Retail Price: £8.95
Author: Ian Beynon, Neil Coxhead and Kevin Bezant
Lockheed's Advanced Tactical Fighter isn't even in production yet, and its already being acclaimed as the fighter of the next decade. So Digital Integration hits the runway yet again in its search for the simulated 'real thing' with a 3-D arcade/simulation game, ATF.
Your ATF is at the forefront of futuristic technocombat when two factions go to war in a nameless 'world' of islands (a new world is generated for each game). Your attacks can destroy opposition land and sea forces and devastate their morale, disrupt their communications, destroy arms-producing industry, and obliterate the air bases where they rearm and refuel. But of course what you can do to them they can do to you...
Your own refuelling and rearming is vital, and weaponry must be balanced against fuel supplies so that the ATF can fly within safe weight limits. (The composition of arms and fuel is shown on bar graphs.)
The ATF can be loaded with three types of weapon: fast-firing cannon which can destroy incoming interceptors, visually-guided ASRAAM missiles, and more powerful Maverick missiles which can take out land targets. These Maverick missiles can be guided to targets outside visual range, selected from a database.
Once you're armed and fuelled the main mission can begin. After a takeoff using maximum thrust, the ATF's speed must be kept up if the craft is not to stall, lose height and crash. (If you do stall, immediate thrust is essential.)
Flying low over a vertically-scrolling landscape, the ATF comes under constant attack from enemy forces. It can bank to the left and right, increase and decrease thrust, dive and climb to avoid attack and home in on potential targets.
Enemy radar can be avoided with terrain-following equipment, but this reduces your speed - and the craft's slow reactions could send you hurtling into a hillside.
A head-up display superimposed on the main screen shows engine thrust, the ATF's speed, ground height and altitude. (It's bad news when ground height and aircraft altitude coincide...) The missile system available, the current direction of flight and a target's range and bearing are also shown.
Beneath the main screen, further indicators show fuel level and undercarriage status, and warn of incoming missiles. An inflight message window gives vital information on your mission, and a short-range scanner to the side of the main screen shows the type terrain below and nearby enemy objects.
Approaching ground-to-air SAM missiles register on a warning system, and with skill they can be jammed in time using the ATF's onboard jammer.
Then there's the ATF's flight computer, showing enemy positions on a world map and the status of weapons systems and the ATF itself. The computer also holds a database for locking on to targets.
An automatic landing light is activated when the ATF enters the catchment area surrounding allied bases. When a base has been chosen, an automatic landing sequence can be engaged.
And a war situation report - giving a rundown of all recent gains and losses of allied and enemy bases, ground and sea forces, and communications and industrial complexes - is called up whenever the ATF returns to an allied base. This strategically valuable information can make all the difference between success or failure in war.
Joysticks: Cursor, Kempston, Sinclair
Graphics: the smoothly-scrolling landscape gives a powerful 3-D impression, and enemy fighters are tremendously detailed
Sound: very simple white-noise effects
Options: eight difficulty levels, sound on/off
ATF is awesome - the graphics are superb, and the landscapes give it a futuristic feel. The enemy ships look most impressive and realistic when they're tailing your ATF, darting around at speed and copying your every move. And unlike other flight aims it's fast, responsive and easy to control; it's easy to glance at onscreen information without being shot to pieces or crashing into a mound of earth. ATF is a state-of-the-art simulation, capturing the movement of a supercharged aircraft.
Digital Integration doesn't come out with many products, but every one is a leader in its field - Fighter Pilot is a fantastic flight simulator, Bobsleigh admirably transfers a very hard-to-computerise sport to the Spectrum, and now ATF is a superb shoot- 'em-up. What's most impressive throughout ATF is the construction and animation of the graphics: Digital Integration has found a new way to overcome the graphical limitations of the Spectrum. Gone are the hollow wireframe graphics of Tank Duel and its kind. Here the landscape seems very solid - especially when you hit it! - and colour bands are widely used to add variation. My only gripe is that the gameplay is very repetitive - even more so than Starglider. But, like Rainbird's Smash of a year ago, ATF mustn't be missed.
Like all flight sims, ATF has quite a few buttons to keep your eyes on. But it's not as slow and laborious as other flight sims - such as Gunship - and not that complicated either. Seeing your ship on the screen does a lot for the gems, too. You can see your enemies coming from behind, and tell at a glance how your undercarriage is and how fast the ground is coming up, all without having to look at banks of instruments. Still, as a flight sim ATF demands real involvement - and a lot of reading in the flight manual. Becoming an expert will take some work, but you could play ATF for a long time and still enjoy it.
Reviewer: Jonathan Davies
It's so well camouflaged, it takes the pilot three hours to find it every morning! it's so secret, even the Americans don't know it exists, and they built it! But DI do, and they've chosen it as the subject of their latest wacko simulation - Advanced Tactical Fighter.
As usual, you're the pilot and it's your job to make sure We win and They don't. The battle is taking place on a global scale, and you can whizz around the continents wiping out the enemy's positions, so your guys can move in and take over. Major targets include factories, land and sea forces and bases, all of which affect Their performance.
For a change, in ATF you actually see your plane on the screen in front of you, skimming along, twelve pixels off the ground. The 3D landscape scrolls past at an enormous speed, and you'll be grateful for the terrain-following radar which should prevent any arguments with hills.
The hardware at your disposal consists of the normal machine gun and two types of missile, one automatically guided by your on-board computer. As well as coping with the hosts of enemy interceptors which swarm around you, you'll also have to deal with SAMs, which luckily are easily jammed.
Even if you've been bored with flight alms in the past, ATF may well be worth a look. Flying controls are minimal, leaving your hands free for downing baddies and generally enjoying the flight. There is even a choice of skill levels for real namby pambies, and landing's automatic too. What more could you ask for?
However, all good things must come to an end, (even this review eventually!) and if you don't watch out, you'll find your aircraft getting more and more knackered as the bullets and missiles pile into it. Sooner or later it gives up the ghost completely and you're just another statistic. (Moving, huh?)
The only real snag with this one is that it all gets a bit samey after a while. Fortunately you can then move up a gear, as ATF, unusually for this sort of game, also has a distinct strategy feel - with the 8 billion page manual to boot (Oi! Shouldn't we be doing this one then? O & A). There's a massive task ahead of you, and the incentive to finish it should keep you going for some time.
A year of design and programming has gone into ATF, and it shows. If not quite as revolutionary as previous DI efforts, it's still a worthy release.
THE COMPLETE YS GUIDE TO FLIGHT SIMS
Oh cripes. Whose idea was this? Couldn't we do it on something else? Nah, we promised. How about putting if off for another month? Or we could make JONATHAN DAVIS do it? Heh heh. Right, where's he got to? Ah ha!
Neeeeeow! Dakka dakka dakka! Kaboom! "Crikey, Ginger, pull up! Over."
"I can't! I think my flaps have gone a bit funny. Over." Neeeow! Boom!
"Bail out! Bail out! Over." Dakka dakka dakka. (Ricochet noises.)
"Er, okay then. Over and out."
Sorry about that, just trying to inject a bit of excitement into this thing because, let's face it, flight sims aren't exactly the most exciting bits of software around.
Or are they?
No, They're not. But there are loads of them about, and people keep buying them. Why is this? Perhaps we'd better investigate.
For thousands of years man has dreamt of flight... (Cut the crap, Ed) Erm, well, perhaps it's because they demand a bit more thought than your average arcade game. Fast reactions are all very well, but what about using your noddle occasionally? Keeping a plane in flight isn't just a matter of wobbling your joystick about a bit, which is the impression that lesser games give. You've got angles of attack to worry about, altitude, navigation, weapons systems, undercarriage... the list is endless. As are the manuals usually. And that's another thing. If you've never played one before you'll need to spend hours wading through one of these breeze-block tomes before you can even get off the ground.
Once you've got the thing up in the air though you're well away. With any luck there'll be lots of scenery to look at and plenty of enemy thingies to 'take out'. You might even like to indulge in a bit of aerobatics to pass the time. The one thing you should always keep an eye on though is the ground. Stay away from this at all costs. Unless you're landing, of course, which is another story altogether.
SO WHAT'S A FLIGHT SIM THEN, EH?
In compiling this guide I was faced with the usual problem - what exactly is a flight simulation? What are the criteria? Where do you draw the line? I decided to seek the advice of one of Europe's leading experts in the field of computer games.
"Er, Matt? (Cough.) Matt?' I ventured.
"Would you have said that, say, Fighter Pilot was a flight sim? Huh? Matt?" I enquired cheerily.
"Er, probably," he replied.
"How about Harrier Attack?"
"I expect it is, yes."
"Or Night Raider?"
"Um, look, I've got to go out. To the, er, shops. I'll see you later. Maybe."
Unperturbed. I decided to try Andy, but he didn't appear to hear me. I also tried ringing up a few friends. They all seemed to be out.
So it's all down to me then. Well, I reckon that really, in a flight sim, you ought to be in control of a plane of some sort. Ideally you'd get a 3D view out of the cockpit, but I'll be flexible and allow ones where you see the plane on the screen from the back (like ATF) and even ones where you see the view in 2D (from the top or something).
Another important guideline is the number of keys. Preferably there should be at least 2,452 of them, each with about three different functions. But, again, I'll allow a generous margin of error and set the bottom line at six.
And finally there's the manual. Obviously this should be as large and impenetrable as possible, with lots of incomprehensible acronyms that you have to keep looking up in the glossary at the back. A rough guide to length? Let's say 500-600 pages for a decent one or, if the game comes in an ordinary cassette box, an inlay card that folds out into a thin strip long enough to wrap round Matt's tummy at least two and a half times.
So now we know just what makes up a flight sim, let's take a look at a few…
Once again, the normally-so-versatile YS rating system doesn't really seem too appropriate here (Instant appeal? Addictiveness?). So what we've done is to come up with a revised system, specially tailored to meet the needs of today's flight sim. Let's have a nosey...
The View: Can you see anything nice out of the window? Or is it all just green and blue wiggly lines? And does the scenery glide around smoothly or jerk around like an Allegro with a dodgy clutch?
Realism: This can often be determined by the number of keys the game uses. So that's just what we've done. Counted 'em. As there are 40 keys on your basic Speccy, and each one can be doubled or even tripled up, the maximum comes out to exactly 100. Handy, eh?
Dakka Factor: Is there much to shoot? Or is it all a matter of map-reading, gauge-watching and other such nonsense? And once you've shot whatever it is, does it explode dramatically and plummet to the ground leaving a trail of smoke behind it? Or not?
Net Weight: A crucial part of any flight sim is all the junk that comes with it. So, adding together all the disks, maps, manuals, stickers and the box, what do the YS scales make of it? (All weights are, of course, approximate.) (In degrees.)
Here's the first one of these looking-at-it-from-behind ones, and it's easily the best of its type around. You're in one of these Stealth Plane things, but, spookily enough, you actually get to see it on the screen in front of you, with the landscape undulating underneath. Hills and dippy bits are shown by grid line thingies which bend around. The trouble is that you can only do left and right turns and go up and down a bit - no rolls or loops. In fact, you don't even have to do this half the tine as you can switch on your terrain-following radar and let the plane do it for you. Opposition is provided by planes which swoop around you, hopefully flying straight into your line of fire. (They invariably do.) It's not the most stimulating game around combat-wise then, but underneath all this blatant aracdeyness lurks a strong strategic element where you've got to destroy certain targets and eventually win a war. All this happens over a huge map - lots of islands with sea between them. ATF isn't really a flight sim at all, but it's pretty good fun (for a while) all the same.
Back with a bang, a whizz and a kerpow, Digital Integration's ATF is a stunning bit of work that'll have you pinned to your seat.
Forget those simulations where you have to spend three hours reading the manual and a day-and-a-half working out how to take off; ATF is non-stop action, you may not find it realistic but golly it's fun.
You are caught up in a bitter war between two superpowers. In order to defeat the evil baddies, you must use your Advanced Tactical Fighter to preserve your side's advantage in fighting forces, communications, industry and military bases.
Each mission begins with a world map showing the distribution of forces. This is programmed into your plane's on-board computer for later reference. The War Situation report shows you the latest gains and losses in each of the categories; on this basis you decide the targets for your next mission. The next step is to arm your aircraft with cannon shells, guided missiles, smart missiles and fuel. You can choose your own combinations within the ATF's weight limit.
The main display is a really zippy contoured-perspective map through which your plane zooms convincingly. Taking off is easy; just get up to full power and pull back on the stick. You can then fly manually, or engage the terrain-following mode by which the plane hugs the contours of the ground. The danger here is that if you fly too fast you might smack into the odd mountain.
If you want to get rid of the contour markings you can have a more realistic plain display with waves on the sea; personally, I preferred the contours because they look more high-tech, although without them the game runs even faster.
So it's AKKA-AKKA-AKKA as the enemy fighters zoom up behind you, and you blow them to bits with your cannon. You home in on targets using your radar display computer readout and compass; missiles blast through the air; surface-to-air missiles shoot up your behind; and once you've done a bit of mega-destruction you head for the nearest friendly base and press L for an automatic landing. Then you get another war report, refuel and re-arm, and it's back into the wild blue yonder again.
In case it isn't obvious, I'm wildly enthusiastic about ATF; though it includes many of the aspects of a flight simulator, such as fuel gauges, undercarriage, weapons selection and mission profiles, it's really a very open-ended and hugely enjoyable shoot-'em-up. The scrolling contoured landscapes are fab, features such as the flight computer and weapons selection really add to the enjoyment rather than being a distraction, and because it's not limited to a certain number or type of mission there's an element of strategy involved too. Brill.
Label: Digital Integration
Author: Ian Benyon
Price: £8.95 cassette, £12.95 disc
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
Digital Integration fly out.
Lockheed fans must be having a fine old time of it just at the moment: scarcely have MicroProse got their F-19 game Project Stealth Fighter airborne when Digital Integration wheel this one out of the hangar. Based on the Advanced Tactical Fighter, the F-19's stealthy successor, the game's something of a departure for DI. Rather than producing another simulation in the mould of Tomahawk or Fighter Pilot, this time DI have gone for some very arcade-ish blasting action - combined with the strategic depth you'd more normally associate with them.
The move away from slavish simulation takes you out of the cockpit so that you view your plane from above and behind. The viewpoint is fixed so that the horizon stays level no matter how you climb, dive or bank and is far enough back that you can see enemy interceptors on your tail. Aside from the joystick your only aircraft controls are the keys for throttle, undercarriage up or down, and two very handy auto-pilot modes. The first of these, terrain-following, makes landscape hugging a cinch while the second lands your plane automatically for you.
Once you've got the hang of flying - steer, dodge opposing fire and don't fly too fast at low level - you're ready for the game's real guts: combat. The wrap-around game 'world' of sea, snow, beaches and scrubland is the setting for a full-scale war, your task being quite simply to swing the odds in your own side's favour. You won't be given mission objectives: you'll have to work out priorities from intelligence reports and your own sightings, arm up appropriately and get stuck in.
Once you've loaded up with cannon shells for air-to-air combat, ASRAAM and Maverick missiles for surface targets and fuel to get you there, you can home in on a suitable foe taking your bearings from your onboard computer. Enemy interceptors will harass you along the way, pouncing on you from behind or bearing down on you from dead ahead, guns blazing. Cannon shells will finish them off nicely, but being of little strategic value interceptors are often best simply avoided. Your real targets are the enemy's ground and sea forces, air bases, communications centres and - most important of all - the factories he depends on to replace his losses.
Once you're within 100 km or so of one of these you can let fly with a Maverick: they home in of their own accord, and can usually do the job without your ever actually seeing the target. If you've loaded up with ASRAAMs instead you'll have to close in until you can see the target, and then guide the missile in manually. This means a greater cost in fuel and (to start with) an awful lot of misses, but since they weigh far less ASRAAMS can be an attractive choice for short range heavy-duty missions.
As you gain in experience you'll soon find that, even on the lowest of the game's eight levels of difficulty, you can't defeat the enemy simply by destroying the targets intelligence reports tell you about. The only way to make real progress in the game is to fly into known enemy hotspots - you can pinpoint these on the map before each sortie - and find the targets yourself. The onboard computer will inform you of enemy installations or forces as you approach them, and you can then proceed as before.
Interceptor shots will decrease your engine power and damage other systems until you're forced to land for repairs or brought down altogether, but they aren't the only hazard. SAMs (Surlace-to-Air Missiles) will wreck you outright if you don't hit the jammer key in time, and since losing three planes ends the game regardless of the way the ground war's going it's vital that you stay alert.
Though the size of the task is limited - the game world is always the same size whatever level you play on - the initial disadvantage you start at steps up from nothing on Rookie to drastic on the ATF Ace setting, giving plenty of lasting interest. It's got the same instant addiction and strategic depth of Durrell's old Combat Lynx wedded to state of the art graphics: very playable stuff!
Reviewer: Andy Wilton
Spec, £8.95cs, £12.95dk, Out Now
C64/128, £8.95cs, £13.95dk, Imminent
Amstrad, £8.95cs, £12.95dk, Imminent
Predicted Interest Curve
1 min: 75/100
1 hour: 90/100
1 day: 90/100
1 week: 80/100
1 month: 70/100
1 year: 30/100
SUPPLIER: Digital Integration
PRICE: £8.95 (tape), £12.95 (C64/Spec disc), £13.95 (Ams disc)
VERSION TESTED: Spectrum
Digital Integration take to the air again after toying in winter sports with the brilliant Bobsleigh simulation. Sad to say that ATF isn't one of DI's best releases, although it does offer a depth of play missing from many full-price games.
It's just that we've come to expect more from the company who created Tomahawk and TT Racer.
ATF is basically a shoot 'em up with some clever frills - not one of out and out flight-simulations that have made DI's name.
The reason could be that the game is based on a jet fighter that won't fly until 1990!
In reality the ATF is planned as the most technologically advanced aircraft ever built. It is being developed for the US Airforce by Lockheed, Boeing and General Dynamics. It will have an electronic co-pilot designed to take away many of the more mundane tasks currently performed by the pilot.
The game attempts to simulate this electronic gizmo - but this means you have to spend as much time hitting the keyboard as flying with the joystick. Many of the controls are keyboard based. For example you have to select and fire missiles, access your onboard data-base and jam enemy missiles using the keyboard.
Fortunately there is a sort of "automatic" pilot which, if engaged, guides your ATF over the terrain at an optimum height, avoiding natural hazards - you still have to deal with the man-made ones. The object of the game is to defend allied forces and installations against the enemy, maintaining the balance of power and maybe defeating them totally.
At the beginning of each mission you can call up a war report which shows how the allies are doing against the baddies.
You use this to select which targets you want to aim for.
For example, if the enemy has established more bases than the allies it might be a good idea to take a few out, or perhaps they have suddenly overtaken your bosses in the communications stakes - then it's time to zap a few satellite stations.
The war report will show gains and loses, the status of allied and enemy forces plus intelligence reports which may help you decide on your strategy.
Remember you'll always need a base to land and refuel at - so protect them well.
Good targets to aim for are communications centres and factories. Knock out communications and enemy forces won't be able to find out about your movements so quickly. Destroy factories and the replacement of war-machines will slow down. The same applies to the allies - so watch the gains and losses closely.
Once you are airbourne this information is not available but land at a friendly base and you can call it up between flights, as well as being able to re-arm your ATF.
Re-arming and refuelling is a simple joystick controlled action and is carried out at the start of each game, after one of your ATFs has been destroyed or when you land at a friendly base. You have a choice of weaponry - machine-guns and two sorts of missiles.
There is a weight limit - so you have to select the right sort of firepower for the strategy you intend to follow.
The cannons are used to un-down enemy interceptor aircraft while the missiles are good for ground targets.
ASRAAM missiles can be guided via the joystick while they are in visual range - a fiddly business. Maverick missiles - the most powerful type much loved by the pilots in Top Gun - are computer controlled. You can lock them on to a target displayed on your on-board database and fire. They have a longer range than the ASRAAMs and I found them a lot easier to use.
Once you've loaded up with weapons, it's time to fly into the dangerzone. The main display shows you a view of the ATF, plus a heads-up readout. Unlike other DI games you don't find yourself actually "in" the cockpit of the jet fighter, you see it sitting in front of you on the landing strip. The heads-up display shows thrust, speed, altitude and ground height - useful when you are indulging in a bit of high speed low flying under enemy radar.
This display also shows you your current heading plus the bearing and range of any target currently selected in your on-board database, more about this later.
At the bottom of the main display you see your fuel level, SAM missile warning light, automatic landing mode and terrain following mode indicators plus undercarriage status.
Immediately above this is the in-flight message window. This tells you things relevant to enemy targets and incoming missiles - if you've managed to jam them or not! - while you are airborne.
Bottom right of the screen you'll see a window which displays information from your onboard computer. You can call up a world map, weapon status, ATF status and the all important database. The world map shows you where you are and the position of the object currently selected in the database; the weapon status shows you just what's left to blast away with; the ATF status is really a damage report; the database is possibly the most important bit of kit you've got on board and deserves a longer explanation - so here goes.
Once you've selected the database screen you can call up enemy or allied database mode using the D key. The allied database mode is useful for finding friendly bases to land at. Enemy database mode allows you to find and lock on to targets. There are five categories in each mode - dealing with bases, factories, communications, ground and sea forces.
Key G will select the nearest target to the ATF but you can pick your own using the bearing and range co-ordinates shown on the database. Match these with your HUD and you're on the way to a kill.
To enable you to react quickly to in-flight messages there is a database lock on key. For example, if you get a "enemy target" message, you can hit the lock-on key and the targets range and bearing is instantly displayed. All this without having to be in database mode.
Above the computer screen is a short range scanner. This shows you instant info about your immediate surroundings. Interceptors appear as flashing dots, ground installations as steady dots.
A new world is generated for each game and consists of sea, islands and polar regions. The islands consist of beach and scrubland. You can choose to see them as "computerised" terrain relief lines or "real" terrain with bushes and such like.
I preferred the "computerised" style of graphics. The world "wraps around" - if you fly off one "edge" you end up on the other side. Useful to know if you are tracking enemy targets and want to calculate the shortest route.
Each of the allied bases is surrounded by a catchment area. As soon as you enter one of these, the automatic landing indicator starts flashing. If you want to land you can hit the L key and you'll be guided gently down to the landing strip to refuel and re-arm.
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