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.
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