Carrier Command

by Realtime Games Software Ltd: Andrew Onions, David Lowe, Derrick Austin
Rainbird Software Ltd
Crash Issue 63, April 1989   (1989-03-30)   page(s) 12,13,14

Take command of a plastic bag

Producer: Rainbird
Thousand Island Dressing: £14.99 cass, £15.95 disk
Author: Andy Onions, music by David Lowe

Okay, think you can handle anything? How about an entire aircraft carrier, including six Manta attack aircraft and six amphibious tanks? The carrier's semi-automated, but you're still responsible for everything from setting repair priorities to remotely-piloting a Manta on its low-level bombing runs. No problem? Well what about strategic command of the entire Carrier Command operation - not only plotting the carrier's course, but also setting production priorities of the factory islands you'll be building?

You still think you're up to it Admiral? ...Great! I'll give you the full briefing then. First the background details. There's a chain of 32 islands in the Southern Ocean resting on a large, geological fault which can be used to produce huge quantities of energy. In 2166 there's obviously nothing more valuable and we've had built, in secret, two automated carriers to set up resource centres on all the islands. But as soon as sea trails began for the Epsilon and Omega the latter 'malfunctioned'. The terrorist organisation Stanza has inserted a virus, turning the Omega into a war machine.

As we speak the Omega has arrived at the islands and may have already begun establishing a network of resource, factory and defence islands. Resource islands use geothermal energy to manufacture raw materials, automatically shipped to factory islands where they'll be converted into various supplies. All the islands have missile silos, but defence islands also have 'Bat Caves' which launch aircraft. To combat the Omega you must set up your own island network, and to produce vital supplies such as fuel for your carrier and even replacement Mantas.

As soon as you've got some islands producing supplies you must set how many units of an item you want, and set priorities for each of the nineteen different products. All the finished items are then shipped to a stockpile island where you can pick them up. Merely keeping your carrier running smoothly is hardly going to win the game though, for that you've got to go on the offensive. And for certain you're well equipped for it. So let's go on a quick tour of the Epsilon. Starting at the top there's the weapons turret, it has a magnification factor of up to eight and allows you to manually aim either a laser or Hammerhead missiles. For defence there's two missile decoys which can be deployed in a variety of patterns. The more they get hit though, the less effective they become and if the carrier gets hit then it's time for the repair screen. This shows a diagram of the carrier and its eight different sections, from superstructure to radar to repair systems. It's up to you to set repair priorities.

The point of the carrier however, is what it carries. The bulk of the offensive firepower is provided by the Multi-Role aircraft for Nautical Tactical Assault, or Mantas. There's room for six onboard, but only three can ever be active at one time. These can be armed with Quasar lasers, Assassin homing missile or Quaker bouncing bombs. As with all the vehicles you can either program Mantas to go to a specific point, or take direct control of them looking out the cockpit window.

Also onboard the Epsilon are six Walrus amphibious tanks. These can be armed with Avatar lasers or Harbinger wireguided missiles (you control the missile in-flight). They can also carry ACCB's which, when planted on a neutral island, will construct a resource, defence, or factory centre.

Most of the combat in the Carrier Command mission is with enemy islands. The most direct way of taking them over is to destroy the command centre, usually by Manta attack leaving the carrier just out of range of enemy missiles. Once the command centre is destroyed the missile launchers blow up and you can use a Walrus tank to plant an ACCB. Alternatively you can provide covering fire, possibly using a Manta to destroy the 'Bat cave', for a Walrus with a virus bomb. If you succeed in getting to the command centre with the Walrus, the virus bomb can be fired into it, turning the island over to your command without destroying all its buildings.

The ultimate objective of Carrier Command is to reclaim all 32 islands, but along the way you've got to take on the enemy carrier which has its own heavily armed aircraft to protect it. Tracking it down and destroying it won't be easy. Fortunately for arcade fans there is an 'action game' which starts with all the islands already occupied, divided into two resource networks for the carriers which are in close proximity.

Over two years in the programming, Carrier Command is something of a miracle. It's taken one of 1988's most revolutionary and complex ST/Amiga games and put it all into a 128K Spectrum. A time acceleration feature has been added so cruising between islands is extremely quick. More important, however, is the dramatic improvement in gameplay with both the strategy and arcade elements significantly tweaked. An example: to take an island on the ST you simply stand offshore in your carrier and use the laser turret on the command centre. On the Spectrum the laser has been weakened, forcing you either to come in range of the island's missiles or use a Manta.

Most games you play for a few hours and you've seen all there is. Carrier Command you play for a few hours just to mess around with the controls, of which there's lots, but so good is the icon system that you rarely need to refer to the instruction manual. And just as dazzling as the gameplay are the graphics. Apart from wireframe missiles, aircraft and tanks everything is in solid 3-D, yet you can zoom around solid islands and volcanoes in a Manta at ST speed. This is quite simply an incredible game which will take ages, and lots of saves, to complete even in the action game. 200% Value For Money.

STUART [98%]

Joysticks: Cursor, Kempston (joystick and mouse), Sinclair
Graphics: amazingly fast, solid 3-D
Sound: a really catchy title tune and a variety of good in-game effects
Options: definable keys. Action or strategy game.

What? You mean it's actually here? This isn't an April Fool joke, is it? Anyway, after such a long wait it's sure to be a disappointment. But wait a minute, what's this I spy with my little aye aye? All the gameplay from the 16-bit versions and superb solid 3-D graphics, that's what! There's just so much to do; invading islands while controlling up to six vehicles plus the carrier itself. But the huge range of options offered would cause headaches if it weren't for the brilliant icon system. It's dead easy to use once you've found your sea legs, even for an outright landlubber like me! Being a bit of a closet strategy fan, I just love the brain-bending tactics involved in Carrier Command - the game is immensely absorbing without making you at all seasick!
PHIL [96%]

After umpteen years (well two) of waiting for the Spectrum version, you can now pilot your huge armoured ship around friendly and not so friendly (in fact downright hostile) islands. Of course, the enemy carrier gives you plenty of aggro, and I found that most of my games were spent chasing around reclaiming the islands that I had managed to conquer. But Carrier Command has converted surprisingly well from 16 to 8-bit. Especially impressive are the wire frame/solid 3-D substitutes which zip about the screen at a surprisingly fast rate. But what's even more amazing is that all the options and gameplay of the original have been retained. The many icons are a little confusing to use at first but the comprehensive instruction manual soon sets you straight. We've waited a long time for Carrier Command and I'm pleased to say that it doesn't disappoint.
MARK [97%]

Presentation: 98%
Graphics: 98%
Sound: 96%
Playability: 96%
Addictive Qualities: 98%
Overall: 97%

Summary: General Rating: The best sea-faring game ever - it was well worth waiting for.

Award: Crash Smash

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 43, July 1989   page(s) 22,23

Cor lumme oh blimey, what a big game this is. It's so big it's positively throbbing. Oo-er, I don't know where to start. Um, um, um. Nope, sorry - it's got me beat. I'll just have to stop here and say this, Carrier Command - it's big. Very big. Bye bye now y'all! (Come back and face it like a man. Ed) Or? (Or you're fired. Ed). Well, if you put it like that. Um, let's start again.

Carrier Command. It's big (big, big). So big in fact that those of you unfortunate enough not to have Speccy 128's won't be able to play it - 'cos it's not out on the smaller formats. Still, if this means you happen to be a masochist, then you're in the right place at the right time. Read on for a real sufferance session! There's no room to reproduce the rather weighty instruction and scenario booklet here, but I'll give you a precis of the telexed brief you (as commander of the Epsilon aircraft carrier) receive before the game begins.

'It has emerged that the aircraft carrier ACC Omega has been reprogrammed by the outlawed Stanza organisation. It's inevitable that it will attempt to invade the Gamma Base island chain.

"It's imperative that you take charge of the ACC Epsilon and put an end to this scheme.

"Your ship has been specially equipped with a newly programmed computer virus which will allow you to take command of any island which the Omega has already invaded.

"This, combined with state of the art Manta fighter and Walrus amphibious craft will shorten the odds in your favour.

"But remember, the Omega is also a highly developed aircraft carrier - and Stanza will stop at nothing to overtake this archipelago."

So that's the basic scenario. You're in charge of an aircraft carrier and all its onboard craft. Your aim is to gain control of the 32 islands that make up the archipelago and ultimately destroy Omega, the rogue carrier. Piece of porridge? Not on your nelly chum. When I said this game was big, I didn't mean just in the size of the playing area - I meant in all aspects. There's so much to do - and it's all in solid-filled 3D. Yahoo!

Now, if you're a 'left/right/up/down/fire' sort of cove you're going to find yourself beached for a few minutes at start of play - this whole game is icon controlled, and you really need to give it a little bit of thought (only to begin with though, let me stress, 'cos very soon you'll find all the icon switching becomes second nature). Mind you, you can always switch to manual control of a Manta (aircraft) and just fly around (using the joystick) looking at the scenery and taking potshots - but sooner or later you're going to have to come back in, land, and get around to the task in hand.

Oh, the task in hand.

As you already know, you've got to 'liberate' the 32 islands - but just how do you go about it? Stick around and I'll tell you. Actually no, I won't. (Yes you will Ed) Okay. Here goes.

The Base island is where your carrier is initially anchored when the conflict breaks out (at the start of the game). It's very important to you as it's from here that you build up the Resource Network (sort of shipping lines between islands) which serves your carrier and other forces throughout the battle. This Base island has a Command Centre along with some defensive forces and a runway. It's capable of producing resources and equipment itself, but not as efficiently as the 'specialist' Resource and Factory islands. (See next paragraph.)

Hello. That was quick. Right, Resource and Factory islands. Resource islands are constructed by planting Resource ACCB's (Automatic Command Centre Builders) on unoccupied islands. Once the Command Centre has been built, it then goes on to construct mines. rigs, fuel dumps and ancilliary buildings to store the mined raw materials. These raw resources are then shipped to Factory islands.

Factory islands are constructed by planting Factory ACCB's on unoccupied islands. Once the Command Centre has been built it then constructs factories to manufacture equipment and refine fuel for the carriers forces. Up to three factories can be constructed (depending on the island's physical size).

Defence islands are a different kettle of fish altogether in the sense that they don't actually produce anything to help your war effort. What they do do however is construct all manner of weaponry which will automatically home in on any enemy forces who get too close. This means that it's a good idea to have a band of defence islands protecting the non-defence islands.

To populate an island in the first place, you have to get to it and land. Lucky for you then that your Carrier contains six Walruses (amphibious tank type craft) and six Mantas (aircraft). These craft can be given co-ordinates (and lots of juicy weapons) and sent off on their own to 'do your bidding', or you can select 'total control' and float, trundle about or fly to your heart's content with the view of the outside world seen as if through the cockpit window.

All the time you're setting up your island resource network, guess what the dreaded Omega carrier is up to? The same thing as you by jiminey, that's what, but at the other end of the archipelago. Build up enough strength though, and you might be able to invade its islands and take some of them over. Build up even more strength and you might find yourself ready for an all out attack on the carrier itself. It's your decision - you might get yourself killed. I'd personally stay far out at sea and relax with a mug of cocoa - but that's just the 'devil-may-care' sort of chap I am.

Carrier Command is basically the biggest, bestest strategic shoot 'em up ever to appear on the Speccy. Most people said it could never be converted from the original 16-bit format, but it's here (in glorious monochrome) to prove them all wrong. The animation is great, and so is the gameplay. It'll have you glued to your keyboards and joysticks for months - I guarantee it. (But don't forget to give the manual a good read before you start!) Me? I'm off to the Speccy to do some more icon jiggling.

Life Expectancy: 96%
Instant Appeal: 66%
Graphics: 92%
Addictiveness: 96%
Overall: 94%

Summary: An action packed solid-filled 3D strategic shoot 'em up that 'they' said could never be successfully converted down to the Spectrum - except that it has! Astoundingly brilliant stuff!

Award: Your Sinclair Megagame

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 87, June 1989   page(s) 6,7

It's taken eleven months of sheer hard work and programming, but it's finally here. Despite what certain other magazines claim (spit), SU brings you the first complete, definitive, review of Rainbird's Carrier Command, the sixteen-bit epic now converted to the Spectrum. And boy. has it been worth the wait!

Carrier Command is a paradise for the wargamer or the arcade fan, because it presents you with a complex strategic challenge played out in an all-action format. Using filled and vector graphics to represent a totally realistic world, the gamer puts you in command of an enormous aircraft carrier, the ACC Epsilon. Its sister ship has been stolen by a terrorist group called Stanza - your task is to stop them taking over a strategically vital chain of 32 islands. You must use all the resources of the Epsilon to defeat the enemy carrier, the Omega.

When Carrier Command appeared on the Atari ST it was hailed as the best sixteen-bit game yet; amazingly, the Spectrum conversion comes pretty close to the original, but was not surprisingly it's 128K.

Written by Realtime Software (Starstrike, Starglider) it scores well in all categories. First off, the graphics; they're fast, smooth and accurate. The game is fully icon/joystick driven. The centre of the screen shows you views from your vehicles - the flightdeck of the carrier, your Manta jets or your Walrus amphibians - while the border is surrounded by icons which access the function screens. Here you can arm your vehicles, monitor repairs, examine charts, arrange supplies and check your strategic position.

The sound is pretty amazing too; the programmers have obviously tried to mimic as closely as possible the sound of the Amiga and ST versions, and believe it or not, in some places it's identical (Are you sure about this, Tony? - JD). Certainly this is true of the engine noise made by the Manta, and the explosion effects (Oh, the buzz and the boom - JD).

Fortunately the gameplay has survived intact too. The aim is to take control of all 32 of the islands in the chain, and to do this you will inevitably come into conflict with Stanza's forces. Islands can either be friendly (if you already control them), neutral, or hostile; your computerised map tells you which is which, and keeps track of your vital supply links. The options screen lets you choose a more arcadey or more strategic version of the game.

To take over an island you have to equip a Walrus lander, launch it from the carrier and set up a command centre. You then have to defend it against enemy attack using your Mantas. Just the Manta flying routine would have been enough to make a decent game, but this is just part of the action; you also have to control the Walrus landers, the carrier's laser, automatic defence drones - the list is endless.

To take over an island which is under enemy control you have to destroy their command centre with a laser attack or virus bomb. You can then move supplies closer to your carrier - after all, three Mantas, three Walruses and a carrierload of fuel aren't going to last you very long.

What can I say? A masterful piece of programming, one of the finest products I have ever seen on the Spectrum, and a game which is on a par with Elite

Label: Rainbird
Author: Realtime Software
Price: £14.99 cass, £15.95 disk
Memory: 128K only
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Tony Dillon

Graphics: 95%
Sound: 89%
Playability: 94%
Lastability: 96%
Overall: 96%

Summary: "------------------!" (So brilliant, I'm speechless!)

Award: Sinclair User Classic

Transcript by Chris Bourne

ACE Issue 22, July 1989   page(s) 76

Rainbird £14.99cs, £15.99dk

Microprose must be thanking their lucky stars they now have the publishing rights to excellent strategic software like Realtime's brilliant Carrier Command. It wipes the floor with anything the Tetbury based outfit have come up with themselves in the last two years.

And the marvellous thing about Carrier Command is that the game play is just as brilliant on the Speccy as it is on ST and Amiga. However, it is not all sweetness and light as it will only work in 128K mode.

You are in command of an enormous futuristic air craft carrier, the SS Epsilon. The bad news is that the enemy have taken control of the Epsilon's sister ship, and are set on using it to take control of a strategically important set of 32 islands.

Using the immense weaponry of the Epsilon - including its jet fighters and land assault vehicles - you must defeat the now renegade Omega carrier.

You view the action through a central window which shows you all of the fighting in amazingly smooth vector graphics. Commands are implemented weapons selected and vehicles chose trough a system of icons that surround this central window.

Carrier Command is that rare thing - a game that successfully blends exciting arcade game play with a serious cerebral challenge.

Overall: 923/1000

Transcript by Chris Bourne

The Games Machine Issue 18, May 1989   page(s) 38,39

Spectrum 48/128 Cassette: £14.95, Diskette: £15.95


It pushed the ST let alone the Spectrum, but the Realtime team haven't wasted their time. Andy Onions hasn't just converted the game, he's improved on the original 16-bit versions in a healthy number of areas. Ever more advanced programming techniques have brought the game up to ST standards in speed although the graphics are obviously not as smooth flowing.

Unbelievably the sound effects work better than the 16-bit counterparts and lessons have been learnt. Similarly, Dave Lowe's superb musical piece really shows what can be done with the 128K's sound chip.

The carrier's lasers have been toned down making the game considerably harder, even the gameplay has undergone slight tweaking in places which improves playability and the game's fluid running no end. And there's the time acceleration option which ST and Amiga owners were crying out for. Well defined, neatly shaded solid 3-D objects, faultless presentation and gameplay which betters its 16-bit counterparts makes Carrier Command as much of a breakthrough on the Spectrum as it was on the ST - if not more. Brilliant.

Overall: 96%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Crash Crash Annual 2018   page(s) 61

Rainbird, 1989 – 97% #63

In 1989 the boys at Realtime did it again, creating another wire-frame graphics extravaganza (LMLWD) for Rainbird. Carrier Command is a futuristic simulation as the player takes control of, well, an aircraft carrier, defending against enemy attacks while launching deadly Manta attack aircraft against the various island defences. Originally a 16-bit game, Carrier Command took a while to reach the Speccy, but is nevertheless an excellent and thoroughly absorbing strategy-cum-simulation.

Overall: Not Rated

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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