£9.99 tape/£14.95 disk (128K only)
Reviewer: Jonathan Davies
The first flight simulator I can remember playing was Psion's, erm, Flight Simulator. Or was that Flight Simulation? Something pretty innovative anyway. It was full of little quirks, such as a compass with 370°, but the 'crash' effect was brill.
Then Digital Integration appeared on the scene with its F15 simulator. It was pretty much the same, really, but there were things to shoot down if you hung around for long enough. Various successors then trickled out until finally (as always) the Americans appeared on the scene. Project Stealth Fighter, luckily for this intro, is MicroProse's contender.
Unfortunately, MicroProse seems to have jumped the gun a bit when launching this one, and must have cringed when the real Stealth Fighter was rolled out looking nothing like the piccies on the box. Still, as you're not meant to be able to see it anyway it probably doesn't matter.
Being American, most of the game revolves around trying to knock some sense into the Russians, Libyans, Iranians and whosoever else currently happens to be irritating our friends across the pond. It goes without saying that the game is dangerously complicated - the sort of thing that only a real pro like me should be entrusted with.
With your fingers strategically placed above the vast battery of keys you have at your disposal, and your plane squatting at the end of the runway, aircraft carrier or whatever, it's time to confront the foe. Prodding the right combination of buttons does the trick, and soon you should be off the ground.
At first sight the graphics just look like a load of squiggly lines crawling all over the screen. This is a mistake that anyone could make unless they've been in the business for as long as I have. So don't try this at home, kids. Closer inspection reveals an array of ships, mountains, tanks, buildings and everything else you'd expect to find. There are enemy planes too, but these approximate more accurately to pre-WWII airliners than MiG-whatevers. They look a lot better while being 'taken out', I reckon.
The next job is to decide what to blow up from the millions of flashing dots that plaster your instrument panel. On the subject of graphics, I thought a rather unsightly touch was the way that the whole screen goes blue when you're flying over sea, and green when you're flying over land. Quite how else they could have done it. though, I'm not sure, so p'raps I'd better shut up.
Once in the air your fab Stealth Fighter seems to handle pretty much like any other fighter I've flown, Stealth or not. Considering the number of lines that are being heaved around the screen things run pretty smoothly, at least until one of those planes appears, at which point the game goes over to slow motion.
One of the things MicroProse has always been particularly hot on is cramming lots into its games and Stealth Fighter, as they say, is no exception. The scope is positively enormous, what with the dozens of different land-and sea-based targets, a wide selection of combat areas and a huge range of flashing lights.
I reckon that Stealth Fighter is the best Speccy flight sim to date, and coming from me that really means something. Not quite up to the standards of Falcon of course (Never heard of it. Ed), but a great achievement for those content to remain faithful to Sir Clive.
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.)
Project Stealth Fighter
If an award had to go to the most comprehensive, option-packed and, quite simply, darned complicated flight sim around, it might just get pinned onto Project Stealth Fighter's uniform. Which is handy, as that's just what we're looking at now. Like most recent flight sims it's all about the legendary Stealth Fighter (which actually turned out not to be so legendary, and completely different to how everyone thought). This doesn't actually make a lot of difference to the way the game works - it's really just an excuse for another flight sim. Technically PSF doesn't break any new ground. We've all seen wireframe graphics before, although these ones are about twice as detailed as anything before, and a bit faster. There is, however, masses to see/shoot. You can fly over land and sea, which means there are destroyers and aircraft carriers to take out as well as the usual tanks and buildings, and there's also a huge range of weapons and missions to use them on. Ideologically though, this one goes out the window. You have to spend the whole time beating up Russians and Arabs when really it ought to be the Welsh. (Just kidding.)
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